The International Olympic Committee has turned itself into a reality show. For money and approval from the networks, it has pushed one of its oldest partners off the island.
The shameful ban of wrestling after the 2016 Summer Games is the next logical step since admitting professionals in the 1990’s. Once the Games opened the door for Dream Team basketball types and Grand Slam tennis stars, there was not enough room in the village for old friends like wrestling, which has merely been around for over 2700 years.
Wrestling is a great sport. I covered it for years early in my career, had great respect for the training and intelligence of the athletes. It is also a sport for various body types. The I.O.C. dumped it over the side.
In all its sanctimonious self-promotion, the I.O.C. cites history. But now it is clear. Under Jacques Rogge and his masters from the networks, nothing is sacred. They are not caretakers for so-called Olympic sports. They are hucksters on the corner saying “check it out, check it out.”
I realized that in 2012, the first time I ever watched the Olympics on television after a childhood of following baseball and a working career of being at the Olympics.
When you cover the Games, you don’t watch canned network television. Instead, you eagerly choose to spend a day in the blessed company of weight-lifters and fencers and wrestlers, the odd sports you never see from year to year, but love when you get around the true believers. The I.O.C. was always prattling about being caretakers of these sports, but they were lying to us.
I also noticed in 2012 that the television production involved an endless loop of women’s beach volleyball, the same shot, from a camera held close to the sand -- legs and butts and swinging ponytails. Sure, beach volleyball is great competition among real and deserving athletes, but the I.O.C. was telling us something: it will scuttle old friends, with no conscience. Think of that when they come around again.
I didn’t mean to write this long, but I got carried away. For the real inside look at wrestling and the Olympic movement, please read the column by Mike Moran, the long-time spokesperson for the United States Olympic Committee, still the repository of conscience and tradition. Over to Mike:
“They may hate the cultural context they now find themselves teaching in, but they love their work. The Achilles’ heel of schoolteachers, one all too easily exploited by politicians, is that they love their students.”
(One of the best reads in the NYT these days is Margaret Renkl, in Nashville. In her latest post, Renkl describes the dedicated core of “born teachers” – the majority, she submits.)
(From Madeleine Albright in one of her final interviews in February):
“Putin is small and pale,” I wrote, “so cold as to be almost reptilian.” He claimed to understand why the Berlin Wall had to fall but had not expected the whole Soviet Union to collapse. “Putin is embarrassed by what happened to his country and determined to restore its greatness.” – Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, recalling her first meeting with the relatively unknown Vladimir Putin in 2000. – The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2022.