This is just…un-Greek. See here as well. Isn’t wrestling one of those sports that we think about when we think about the competitions in old Greece? Not only was it represented in Greece, but wrestling is one of those sports that exists in virtually every country’s history, whether we’re talking about the Greeks, the Chinese, the Mongolians, the Indians, the British, the Russians, the Japanese, the American Indians…every country has wrestling. My very first real post on this site was about Chechan wrestlers. Granted, not all cultural forms of wrestling look like freestyle or Greco-Roman, but still–you can’t have an Olympics without some form of wrestling!
And as much as I love watching MMA, I hope it never becomes an Olympic sport. There is no sport that damages an athlete as much as MMA, and it’s always been more about entertainment than sport. I also don’t think MMA’s “popularity” will ever extend beyond the U.S. and Japan. It’s just too niche.
Sure, wrestling isn’t popular. It’s never been popular. Even in the U.S. which is a wrestling powerhouse, wrestlers struggle to stay employed after their wrestling careers are over. But it’s tradition. It’s not the same without it. Wakeboarding is a fine activity, but it’s not a fundamental part of the Olympics. Let’s hope the governing bodies think this through before they replace wrestling with whatever flavor-of-the-month sport is pulling in fans.
Update: I submitted a comment to the NY Times. I was hightlighted. See it here. I also read through some of the other comments and found it interesting that some wrestlers are calling for those in charge to make the sport more exciting. I actually agree with this. I remember the Rulon Gardner match where it was decided on points. Not to take anything away from Rulon’s victory–rules are rules–but the match was quite passive. Judo is becoming somewhat similar, as most of the men’s matches I saw during the 2012 Olympics were decided based on who had the least number of penalty points. Interesting stuff. Judo basically eliminated morote-gari and stiff-arming in this past Olympics, and I think that actually makes the sport more boring. I guess each sport has to find a middle ground between what is entertaining and what is pure.