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The meltdown over the IOC purging wrestling from the Olympics

By Zach Arnold | February 13, 2013

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MMA stars not happy about wrestling’s fall

The USA Today headline says it all. I can only imagine what the late Jeff Blatnick would be saying right about now.

The decision by the IOC to ditch one of the Olympic’s original competitions has caused the uproar of all uproars. So, where was this level of passion when the sport has been in trouble and getting cut as an athletic endeavor at all sorts of universities? Yes, there have been elements in the wrestling community who have tried their hardest to help out with fundraising efforts to save wrestling programs from getting the ax across the States. However, many of those efforts haven’t panned out as planned.

Maybe the uproar in the mainstream media & social media will have a positive effort. However, the safest answer is to say that the impact will be muted at best. Money talks and the IOC sees no money, no revenue in keeping wrestling around as a sport in the Olympics.

It was interesting to see that the sports media’s most popular angle to approach on the IOC wrestling story was to tie MMA into the headlines & conversation. Luke Thomas has a good round-up of reaction here.

The most interesting conversation in sports radio talk I heard yesterday was on Dan Patrick’s radio show when they brought up the IOC cutting wrestling. It was supposed to be mentioned in passing but it quickly moved into a discussion about the role of wrestling and potential role of MMA in the Olympics. The prevailing opinion on the show was that if you’re going to cut wrestling, replace it with MMA or keep both around and get rid of other sports. Dana White’s long-time crazy pitch of having MMA fights in the Olympics actually paid off yesterday because there were multiple sports media outlets that approached the wrestling/MMA connection in positive terms.

(The one person on a major sports talk platform acting like an idiot on the matter has been Mike Greenberg on ESPN Radio.)

Obviously, the biggest question to be asked is what kind of blow axing wrestling from the Olympics will mean for the sport of wrestling and what it means for developing new amateur wrestlers into the MMA circuit.

Eddie Goldman says that no one should be surprised by the IOC’s decision:

“In a way, I was not that surprised by this because I’ve been saying all along and I said this directly to people from FILA, I’ve said it to USA Wrestling, I’ve said it to everybody on every level of wrestling and I’m not alone in this… wrestling is not being properly marketed. It’s not being properly promoted to the public and the people involved in running wrestling often have very bad communication skills. For example, in response to the decision of the Executive Board of the IOC, USA Wrestling set up a web page to save Olympic wrestling. You won’t find a FILA web page, it was closed down last year and one of the things that wrestling has to do is adapt or change or die. It’s very simple. And it’s taken a step towards death because if wrestling is not on the Olympics, it will be in the Olympics in 2016 in Rio, but if it’s not on the Olympic program after that funding from governments and all the people that fund the Olympic sports will dry up and it will begin to wither away.

“And if we look at the criteria that the IOC uses we will see that wrestling was delinquent in many, many different areas. The IOC has a report which they said will be released in full later analyzing 39 criteria of all the sports on the Summer Olympic program. They look at things like TV ratings, how much wrestling did you see on TV from the Olympics in the various countries, how much of it did you see online, how much communication was put out about when wrestling would appear on these networks or online, ticket sales.

“If you look at also the media coverage, how much media coverage is there of the sport of wrestling? Wrestling internationally and in the United States and in a number of other countries is run as a semi-secret sport! It’s run as something where it is almost a hobby for a bunch of rich, elite guys rather than building it up on the grass roots levels using social media, using all the tools that are available today in the 21st Century to communicate what a great sport this is.

“Wrestling is a very universal sport, one of the most universal that’s out there. But it also maintained two styles in the Olympics, freestyle and Greco. There was both men’s and women’s freestyle but there’s no women’s Greco. Nobody even trains in it and there are no competitions for it to my knowledge and I wonder whether that was a factor also for the IOC which is looking more and more to include women on the Olympic program.

“There are all sort of blunders that were made and it’s not too late to save this sport because, for example as we said, when baseball and softball were kicked out a couple of years ago, they’re trying to make a comeback. But it’s going to be very, very difficult for wrestling to do so because it’s going to require a change in the culture of those running the sport of wrestling. Some of us have been saying this for many, many years and now the chickens have come to roost.”

Topics: Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 18 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

18 Responses to “The meltdown over the IOC purging wrestling from the Olympics”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    Every year the Olympics is becoming more and more of a joke.

    Horseback riding? Table Tennis? You have to be kidding me…

  2. Jonathan says:

    I for one am outraged at this. To me, wrestling was probably THE most Olympic of Olympic sports. That or there Marathon. It was man vs man, one on one.

    • Steve4192 says:


      The Olympics were founded on the marathon and wrestling. Those two sporting events should be grandfathered into the Olympics for all eternity just because of their traditional importance.

      The thing I find most hilarious about this whole mess is that the first Olympics without wrestling might take place in Istanbul. Seriously? No wrestling in fucking Turkey? Outside of Russia and possibly Iran, there isn’t a more wrestling friendly country out there than Turkey.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        I had a college professor from Turkey. I wore an amateur wrestling shirt one day to class and she commented on how popular wrestling was in her home country….

  3. PizzaChef says:

    Hey Zach, how about posting The Iron Sheik’s twitter rants on this subject?

    IOC I fuck you up you disrespect the legend and my only sport Wrestling. They have no dick they make new sport of go fuck yourself

    Intelligent TMZ call me to I talk about the fucking rice dick IOC.

    You see the legend you know I break the ICO back make them humble. Go fuck the Badminton and the walking they are not sports like wrestling

    Olympics so joke now that the new sport is who fucks chris brown mother best #SaveOlympicWrestling

    Olympic so joke now who paint their ass like ultimate warrior best now a sport #SaveOlympicWrestling

    New olympic sport is who has smaller dick than Hulk Hogan #SaveOlympicWrestling

    New Olympic sport who fuck more white women than the RGIII tell me or go fuck yourself #teamsheikie

    somebody intelligent tell me what new sport instead of the wrestling so i tell IOC they are dumb son of a bitch no good motherfucker

    only the @piersmorgan and the @bettywhite only 2 people that help the Sheikie baby bring back sport I love the wrestling from jabroni IOC

    New olympic sport who can take a shit better to the Michael Bolton music

    Goodnight and IOC gonfuck yourself don’t ever insult the legend Iron Sheik or I break the Olympics back make you humble.

  4. The Judge says:

    I don’t think team sports should be in the Olympics and athletes should complete without flags/country identification. Doing otherwise violates the point of international bordercrossing peace event. We should celebrate the greatness of human achievement and not the petty artificial unity man can also create.

    Until this changes, I ignore Olympics as much as I ignore synchronized swimming.

  5. Chuck says:

    It’s terrible that wrestling was booted from the Olympics for 2020. At least rugby is back in 2016! As well as golf (whatevs).

    I will say this…..if the IOC wanted to make a compromise when it came to wrestling, then maybe they could get rid of Greco-Roman but still keep Freestyle (men’s and women’s). Or, screw the both of them, and replace all of that with Folkstyle wrestling. But let the competitors suplex each other to make it entertaining. That business with the wrestlers being told by the refs to dig into a bag, grab a ball, then the ref open’s the ball to see what wrestler gets to choose the next round’s position was extremely silly and confusing.

    I do have to mention that the IOC voted on a choice from four sports which one to get rid of. The four were wrestling, pentathlon, field hockey, and taekwondo. Personally I would have voted to get rid of TKD, but it is a very popular sport internationally. My second choice would have been field hockey. How synchronized swimming wasn’t on the cutting block list, I have no idea…

    • Dave says:

      TKD is such an awful sport to watch. I’m a striking guy and even I agree that it should have been cut over wrestling.

      • Chuck says:

        I know that Wushu has been trying to get in since 2008. So….maybe cut TKD and replace it with full-contact Wushu/Sanda?

    • ttt says:

      i think how pentathlon stays in is a travesty considering it has five sports that are already in the olympics

      • Chuck says:

        HAHA good point there man. Or they could cut the five individual sports and just keep the pentathlon. Naw! Just cut the pentathlon.

        The weird thing about wrestling is that it is very popular throughout the world…….but it is only VERY popular in a few countries (where it is in the top three). They would probably be Russia, Iran, and Turkey. USA (Iowa to be exact), Japan (especially with females), and a few other former Soviet block are close up there. Not like Soccer which is huge EVERYWHERE (besides USA and Canada). Or Judo which is popular EVERYWHERE (except, again, USA and Canada). If I am not mistaken, Soccer and Judo are the two most popular sports in the world (judo may be third, behind Taekwondo?). Boxing is probably in the top five or six. Track and Field obviously is up there.

        • The Gaijin says:

          “Not like Soccer which is huge EVERYWHERE (besides USA and Canada).”

          I’m not sure that’s really the case anymore, either.

          US and Canada won gold and bronze in women’s soccer and their semi-final game was one of the more exciting games of the event.

        • Chuck says:

          Re-read what you just said. WOMEN’s soccer. Big difference. And just because the American and Canadian women’s teams are very good doesn’t mean women’s soccer is popular in North America (besides Mia Hamm some years ago).

  6. RST says:

    Never cared for the olympics!

    The olympics always seemed just a smidge “effete” to me

    Wouldn’t this just mean more wrestlers for MMA?

  7. Black Dog says:

    I will never understand the IOC, but what is worse is my homeland’s attitude about the “Games.” When they decided that the other, oh, 180+ countries didn’t matter, and focused on every aspect of the US teams down to bathroom breaks, it stopped being worth watching.

    Wakeboarding…hmm…why do I think a lot of these “sports” are being pushed on the IOC by the US, because it means more Americans winning gold medals, and more times hearing the National Anthem?

    • chuck says:

      Favouritism towards the US? Please! That is absolute malarkey! If the IOC was being favouritist towards the US then why did they get rid of women’s softball? The US (along with Japan) dominated that sport in the Olympics. And the US always did well in freestyle wrestling (not Greco, always did poorly in Greco) so that may be a few less medals for the US. And why hasn’t there been a Summer Olympics in the US since 1996 (Atlanta, Georgia) and 2002 for the Winter Olympics (Salt Lake City)? Hell, for 2020 the United States isn’t even in the bidding to hold 2020! The cities left are Istanbul, Madrid, and Tokyo.


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