USA Wrestling’s response to the sport’s threatened ouster from the Olympics has been impressive.
They’ve done some international networking at the freestyle World Cup in Iran. They’re organizing at the grass roots. They’ve got an organization with a catchy name (CPOW, pronounced “ka-POW!”). They held a media conference call today and struck all the right notes, sounding polished rather than bitter.
Former USOC president Jim Scherr is now working with international organizer FILA to save the sport’s Olympic status. He speaks convincingly of wrestling’s “Olympism” — the goodwill created through respectful international competition. Anyone who has seen footage of the competition in Iran would have to agree.
Anything wrong? Perhaps. It’s clear from today’s conference call that they don’t really know why wrestling was the one existing Olympic sport excluded from the board’s list of “core sports” guaranteed a place in the Games beyond 2016.
Scherr can tell us why baseball was removed — doping scandals, lack of “universality” (number of countries that play it and play it well), the cost of building a venue. Wrestling has none of those issues.
So … why?
Here’s the shocking point: The IOC gathered extensive data about each sport. And Scherr says wrestling’s federations haven’t had access to the data.
And so wrestling is flying blind.
Scherr thinks the IOC will give some direction. IOC President Jacques Rogge will meet with FILA’s new leaders March 7.
But this lack of information rendered my question moot. I asked if wrestling’s lobbyists were considering changes to the Olympic program, such as the grappling-for-Greco idea I floated a couple of weeks ago. Short answer: It hasn’t come up.
Why should it, if they don’t know why the ax is hovering?
None of this is USA Wrestling’s fault. This conference call should assure people that USA Wrestling is doing all it can. Everyone can help — in response to a question from an elderly gentleman who didn’t identify himself and said he didn’t have a “medium outlet,” Scherr and company pointed everyone to its donation/political action site at keepwrestlingintheolympics.com
And in a minor but helpful point, USA Wrestling has released a good explanation of the process from here on out, explaining and debunking the “three sports” rumor:
Two dates are vitally important to reverse this recommendation. Between May 24-27 in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Executive Board will hear presentations from the following sports: baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, squash, sport climbing, wakeboard, wrestling and wushu. Up to three of those sports will move forward for final consideration at the General Session of the IOC in September.
In its meeting Sept. 4-7 in Buenos, Aires, Argentina, the 114-member IOC General Session will have two votes. The first is to accept or reject the Executive Board’s recommendation to drop wrestling from the Games. If that’s upheld, the IOC members will then vote to select one of the three sports forwarded by the Executive Board for inclusion on the Olympic Program in 2020.
Got it? Good.
Now if we can find out what wrestling needs to do to score a little better on the Olympic box score, we’ll be in business.