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Olympics, wrestling, and the International Olympic Committee

Olympics, wrestling, and the International Olympic Committee

What a Girl Wants

Faster, Stronger, Higher: that’s the motto of the Olympic Games; a motto that has dictated games past and present. The Olympics are so much more than Michael Phelps and Gabby Douglas: the Olympics are about bringing nations and athletes together to celebrate and unite the world.

Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) came under scrutiny after announcing its shocking decision to drop wrestling from the official roster of sports for the 2020 Olympic Games.

In the past few decades, the Olympics have grown substantially. Sports are added, more and more athletes participate, and the television audience has continued to skyrocket. The IOC decided to drop a sport to limit the size of the event, capping the number of athletes at 10,500, and to sustain the relevance of the Olympics in the modernized world.

Based upon 39 criteria, ranging from doping instances to ticket sales, wrestling lost out to the modern pentathlon, taekwondo, and field hockey. This decision, lacking transparency from the IOC, has left many fans of wrestling and the Olympics speechless and blindsided.

Angered fans rashly commented on blogs, the anonymity of the internet allowing people to rant without substance and deeper thinking. Rather than bash the remaining sports and IOC, it is best to delve into the very purpose of the Olympics and make a thoughtful critique.

I have always loved the Olympics, a love so strong that my career aspiration is to work for the IOC. Through my Olympic curiosity, I have long been acquainted with the Olympic Charter, the very essence and mission of the Olympics.

Emblazoned on the cover of the charter are the words: “Olympism is a philosophy of life, which places sport at the service of humankind.” These words are known by few fans but are the basis of the Olympic Movement.

This is a movement much greater than the sporting tournament run every two years. It is a movement at work everyday; it happens at the grassroots level bringing children from the farthest corners of the world together through sports, teaching them social responsibility, human rights, and bringing them joy in the face of hardship. All of these are in an effort to build a better world through sports.

The Olympic Games are the pinnacle of the Olympic Movement, governed by the IOC and inspired by Olympism. The Olympic Games are deemed by the charter as a “bringing together [of] the world’s athletes at the great[est] sports festival.” The famous five interlaced rings represent the games and symbolize the union of athletes and the world for a fortnight of friendship and peace.

The fourth fundamental of the Olympic Charter is perhaps the most apropos in regards to Tuesday’s decision. It is quite simply: “The practice of sport is a human right.” Every human being has the right to be empowered and touched by sports.

Anyone can participate in wrestling, no matter what your nationality or your socioeconomic status. Every child has wrestled with a friend; it is a natural and time-honored pastime. Wrestling is one of the original Olympic sports—a staple since the first games two millennia ago. It carries with it a great tradition and epitomizes “stronger” in the motto of the games. Wrestling is a pure sport: two athletes competing in a true test of strength and skill.

Taking this into account, I am dumb struck by the decision of the IOC. Removing wrestling goes against the very core of the Olympic Movement. Wrestling is an international sport: accessible to everyone and not dominated by any one country.

Furthermore, the Olympics are the pinnacle of sports; there is nothing more validating in wrestling than winning a medal at the Olympics and simultaneously representing your country on the world stage.

Rather than eliminate wrestling, I suggest that the IOC consolidate by dropping the men’s soccer competition. Nations are not allowed to play their first teams, rather they play their U-23 team with two senior players. Winning Olympic gold in men’s soccer is certainly an achievement, but it is not the pinnacle of the sport—the FIFA World Cup is.

While soccer is arguably the most beloved sport on Earth, its place in the Olympics is questionable. Male soccer players dream about winning the World Cup, and wrestlers dream about winning the Olympics.

All hope is not lost for wrestling, the IOC will vote two more times this year to select a sport to be added to the 2020 Games. Wrestling goes up against softball and baseball, karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wake boarding, and wushu (whatever that may be).

Among all of these contestants, wrestling is truly and easily the most global, accessible, and traditional. Global outcry and support for wrestling will surely support the sport in the upcoming votes.

I have not lost faith in the IOC; they are capable of reversing their decision. In the upcoming months, Olympic fans can only hope the IOC will set politicking and revenues aside and revert to their core values.

In the words of one enraged blogger, “The IOC controls the Olympics, but they are owned by the world.” The Olympics were designed to bring the world together through the purity of sports. Let’s keep it that way.

Heather O’Keeffe is a freshman studying biomedical engineering. Soccer is her favorite sport, and she has recently submitted an application to work at the 2016 Rio Summer Games.

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