Few human athletic contests are as old, as storied or as noble as wrestling. It is the ultimate one-on-one test of fitness, strength, skill and endurance. It was one of the first modern Olympic sports and one of the original ancient Olympic sports. Zeus became king of the gods by defeating his father Cronus in a wrestling match. Alas, in our modern television age, ratings and revenues are now king, and they have defeated the mightiest of sports.
The International Olympic Committee voted on Tuesday to remove wrestling from the Olympic games starting in 2020. According to news reports, factors considered were television viewership and ticket sales. Another possible factor: The United States has excelled in wrestling, winning 125 medals, including 50 gold. The IOC dropped baseball and softball almost certainly because of U.S. dominance. Perhaps wrestling suffered the same prejudice.
New York Times sports writer Ron Dicker has written that wrestling "virtually defined the original Olympic Games as the marquee event." These days, being a marquee event seems to be key to maintaining Olympic status, even though one of the points of the Olympics is to provide a showcase for amateur athletes who participate in sports that are not professionalized. But who needs intellectual honesty or consistency when there are billions of dollars in television revenues to be had?