By Zach Arnold | February 13, 2013
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.”