The More You Know…


The more I learn about the Olympics as a result of earth-shattering stories the less I actually want to save wrestling being a part of it. Just for fun, here’s a Cracked.com article about five things you probably didn’t know about the Olympics. Onto more serious topics though, FILA is meeting with the IOC to discuss what changes they can make to save their sport.

Facing a wave of criticism from around the world, IOC President Jacques Rogge will meet with the head of wrestling’s governing body to discuss ways the sport can fight to save its place in the Olympics.

Rogge said Wednesday he has been contacted by Raphael Martinetti, the Swiss president of international wrestling federation FILA, and was encouraged by the sport’s resolve to make changes and fight for its place.

“We agreed we would meet at the first opportunity to have discussions,” Rogge said at a news conference at the close of a two-day board meeting. “I should say FILA reacted well to this disheartening news for them.

“They vowed to adapt the sport and vowed to fight to be eventually included in the 2020 slot.”

Let’s discuss: for openly political reasons wrestling is on the chopping block. For a long time the IOC has been talking about reducing the number of sports by eliminating redundancies, and Greco was suggested as one that should go. Now wrestling may be able to save itself by bending to the will of the all powerful IOC? Something’s rotten in the state of Switzerland.

What changes should we expect from wrestling? I’m not really sure. Paying the IOC more money probably. Based on the fact that the decisions were based on lobbying I think it’s safe to say that FILA just didn’t grease the palms enough.

The recent changes to the rules of judo have leaned towards a simplification in scoring and a limitation to the techniques. If there are actual rules qualms it’s probably based around the scoring system and other aspects that may be too complicated for the average viewer at home to know what’s going on in a match. It’s much easier to know that the guy on top is winning and the match is over when someone gets a successful throw or pin. Even judo has the problems of subjective scoring due to the minimal differences between a half and full point. It wouldn’t surprise me if we saw wrestling try to adapt to a more objective scoring system. The rules are actually pretty well codified, but I can definitely see where the sports opinion page writers this week have been noting the scoring system as confusing except to those few dedicated fans. The one hope is that we don’t see wrestling reduce the number of legal techniques.

Even with potentially logical rule changes I think something else is afoot. This latest news makes the whole situation look more like a power struggle where the IOC just wants FILA to roll-over than a legitimate desire to reduce the number of sports. I think it would also be important to distinguish between limiting the number of sports or the number of events. Aquatics for example has four sports, and swimming has 17 men’s events alone. With seven weight classes even if we combined judo and wrestling into one super set the whole category of three sports would only have 21 mens events and 11 womens events (14 women’s events if female wrestling were to use the same weight classes as women’s judo). That instantly reduces the number of sports and the whole wrestling category (even if we assume 35 events) still has about the same number of events as swimming alone (34).

Groupings by number of events:

  • Athletics (47)
  • Aquatics (46) – Diving (8), Swimming (34), Synchronized Swimming (2), water polo (2)
  • Cycling (18) – BMX (2), Road (4), Track (10), Mountain Bike (2)
  • Gymnastics (18) – Artistic (14), Rhythmic (2), Trampoline (2)
  • Wrestling (18) – Greco-Roman (7), Freestyle (11)
  • Canoe kayak (16) – Slalom (4), Sprint (12)
  • Shooting (15)
  • Weightlifting (15)
  • Judo (14)
  • Rowing (14)
  • Boxing (13)
  • Fencing (10)
  • Sailing (10)
  • Taekwondo (8)
  • Equestrian (6) – Dressage (2), Eventing (2), Jumping (2)
  • Badminton (5)
  • Tennis (5)
  • Archery (4)
  • Table Tennis (4)
  • Volleyball (4) – Beach (2), Volleyball (2)
  • Basketball (2)
  • Football [Soccer] (2)
  • Golf (2)
  • Handball (2)
  • Hockey (2)
  • Modern Pentathlon (2)
  • Rugby (2)
  • Triathlon (2)

I don’t know about you, but I see quite a few sports we could take some events away from because they’re not really that distinct. It’s also pretty clear why the record for most olympic medals is held by a swimmer – no weight classes and 17 events per gender means it’s one of the only sports an individual can actually win more than 2 events per Olympic season. What was even more fascinating was evaluating the number of events compared to how frequently I think “Olympics” when I think of that sport. In fact, the Olympics is defined for me by athletics (track and field), swimming, gymnastics, wrestling, and weight lifting. I kind of vaguely remember what other sports exist when I’m watching the games or compile lists like this. That’s only five of the top eight. To me that means there are three sports which could do with fewer events (also, we could kill synchronized swimming and water polo). Here’s a list after a few proposed mergers:

  • Athletics (47)
  • Aquatics (42) – Diving (8), Swimming (34)
  • Wrestling (32) – Greco-Roman (7), Freestyle (11), Judo (14)
  • Rowing (30) – Rowing (14), Kayak Slalom (4), Kayak Sprint (12)
  • Cycling (18) – BMX (2), Road (4), Track (10), Mountain Bike (2)
  • Gymnastics (18) – Artistic (14), Rhythmic (2), Trampoline (2)
  • Shooting (15)
  • Weightlifting (15)
  • Pankration (14) – replaces boxing/TKD
  • Tennis (14) – Badminton (5), Table Tennis (4), Tennis (5)
  • Fencing (10)
  • Sailing (10)
  • Equestrian (6) – Dressage (2), Eventing (2), Jumping (2)
  • Archery (4)
  • Volleyball (4) – Beach (2), Volleyball (2)
  • Basketball (2)
  • Football [Soccer] (2)
  • Golf (2)
  • Handball (2)
  • Hockey (2)
  • Modern Pentathlon (2)
  • Rugby (2)
  • Triathlon (2)

From there we could pretty easily parse out extra events, but it reduces the list of “sports” to 24 (from 28) without dramatically touching the number of events. I clearly didn’t care about anything with fewer than 10 events, and I don’t really get why kayaking isn’t part of rowing (the individual equivalent at least). Trying to reduce the number of sports by cutting them instead of making intelligent merges just doesn’t add up, and as pretty much everyone has discussed at this point, there are much better sports to cut before wrestling (I’m looking at you equestrian, TKD, sailing, modern pentathlon, and table tennis).

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