Wrestling is likely to be removed from the 2020 Summer Olympics, which Tokyo is bidding to host.
We believe this is regrettable, as wrestling has long been a sport Japan has excelled in, with many of the nation’s Olympic gold medals coming from wrestling victories. For instance, Saori Yoshida and Kaori Icho both won their third straight women’s golds at the 2012 London Olympics.
At an executive board meeting of the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday, members chose wrestling from among five candidate sports to be dropped from the 2020 Games, in a bid to revitalize the Summer Olympics by replacing the core sports.
Now wrestling has to compete with seven other sports such as baseball and karate to win one open spot for the 2020 Games, but its resurrection is likely to be difficult.
Wrestling is a sport with a long history, and was even part of the ancient Games. It also has been part of every Olympics since the inaugural Modern Olympics in 1896, except for the second Games. Since the sport is so closely related to the history of the Olympics, many people were shocked by the voting results.
Apart from wrestling, modern pentathlon, taekwondo, hockey and canoeing were voted on as potential sports to be dropped from the Games. The executive board reportedly studied data of each sport such as statistics regarding athletes and viewers of televised games before making its decision.
Pentathlon and taekwondo were seen most at risk of losing out, but both sports had advocates among the 14 members with voting rights on the executive board. The sports’ support organizations also lobbied the executive board for their survival.
In contrast, no one represented wrestling among the 14 executive board members. Wrestling organizations were not careful enough, believing it would never be dropped because of its status as a core Olympic sport. Representatives of the sport in Japan said the voting results seemed to come out of the blue.
The executive board might have felt wrestling was no longer attractive for the IOC because athletes from West European countries, which comprise a major force in the committee, have performed poorly in recent Games.
The latest development is also due to Japan’s declining influence in the IOC. Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda is a member of the body but does not hold an executive board post.
It will be very difficult for Japan to lobby its interests and obtain accurate information within the IOC unless it gains a spot on the executive board.
Japan has a similar disadvantage within other sporting organizations besides the IOC. The nation has already suffered from past experiences, such as when the rules on ski jumping were changed to allow taller athletes to use longer ski plates.
It is a general truth that one must quietly accept the rules made by somebody else unless he or she joins the side of the people making and changing the rules. This is not limited to sports.