It was a baffling decision Tuesday from the International Olympic Committee to drop Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling — some of the original Olympic sports — from the Olympic Summer Games.
It’s even more perplexing considering the elitist sport the IOC chose to keep. If any sport deserved to be booted from the roster, it is the so-called “modern” pentathlon, an archaic event that sees competitors engage in a series of activities straight from the late 1800s. It, too, was on the list of consideration for removal from the games but was mysteriously spared the cut at the expense of wrestling.
Modern pentathlon sees competitors take on events like pistol shooting, show jumping and epee fencing. The event was created by Pierre de Coubertin, the originator of the Olympic Games, in 1912. He wanted a competitive Olympic event for cavalry soldiers, according to Wikipedia.
The event was even designed to evoke romantic notions of a cavalry officer caught behind enemy lines, who might find himself required to ride a strange horse, shoot a pistol other than his own, fence with a sword and do a little evasive cross-country running and open-water swimming (the other two components of the five-stage event).
The modern pentathlon has limited appeal around the world. The reason for that likely stems from the fact it is not easily accessible. To gain proficiency, competitors must have access to a strange mix of expensive equipment and training. Show jumping in itself is an expensive activity not open to all, by virtue of the fact not all can afford a horse. Pistol shooting is also difficult, especially in Canada considering the nature of firearms legislation. And fencing? When was the last time anyone even saw a sword?
By comparison, wrestling is easily accessible. Most people will try it in school. There is no special equipment.
Success requires fitness, strength, agility and exceptional physical technique. Both men and women compete.
It is a cheap sport (if any Olympic sport can be so considered), at least when compared to modern pentathlon.
The Olympics, to remain relevant to as many people as possible in countries around the world, must keep sports that allow as many people as possible to dare to dream. The medal counts reflect the dreams-potential of each sport. The Games have awarded 1,078 wrestlers with medals in that sport’s history, while pentathlon has handed out just 114.
And ironically, wrestling is one of the events in which Canada has had great success. We’ve had many Olympic wrestling champions over the years, and it is heartbreaking to see the legacy of those athletes lost to preserve the archaic dream of a dead elitist soldier.
Let’s hope the IOC reconsiders its decision and brings wrestling back into the Olympic fold. The sport has earned its place in the Games.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by editor Robert Koopmans, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, news editor Mike Cornell or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.