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Grappling for survival
March 19, 2013 7:33 AM   Subscribe

Wrestling Out Of The Olympics - The Gods Must Be Crazy Mad
The whole lucrative sham of it all was exposed once again this week when the executive board of the IOC — Informal Motto: "Me Some Too, Yes?" — recommended that wrestling be dropped as an Olympic sport in the 2020 Summer Games, which are supposed to be held in Istanbul, Tokyo, or Madrid, depending on whose checks clear first, I believe. According to the board, wrestling is no longer a "core sport" in the Olympics and it will have to petition for inclusion in 2020 along with, and I am not making this up, sport climbing and wakeboarding. This is terrific. Why don't we just hold the Olympics in an REI outlet store somewhere?

Fight To Save Wrestling From Olympics Cut
The International Olympic Committee announced [February 11] at its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, that its executive board had voted to cut wrestling from a core group of 25 sports for the 2020 Games.
That means wrestling, which has been in the modern Olympics since they started in 1896 and was part of the ancient games in Olympia, Greece, as early as 708 B.C., now must vie with seven other sports for one spot in the 2020 program.
IOC Drops Wrestling From 2020 Olympics. This has prompted a hunger strike by the Bulgarian coach and the return of two gold medals.
How Wrestling Lost The Olympics
Wrestling Goes For An Olympic Reversal
Meanwhile, the IOC's decision prompted an international outcry. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a committee to protest the decision and make a presentation at the May IOC meeting in Moscow. Quietly, but just as decisively, calls to action came from unlikely allies: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and novelist John Irving.
How Can Wrestling Stay In The Olympics? Let's Start With Vacations And Hookers
posted by the man of twists and turns (94 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Characterisation of IOC so very, very true.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 7:43 AM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Pretty ridiculous. Boxing is what they should drop, after the whole Azerbaijan thing.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:45 AM on March 19, 2013


Well, it's not like the ancient Greeks wrestled or anything...oh...wait...
posted by Thorzdad at 7:45 AM on March 19, 2013


Yeah they did, in between bouts of fucking synchronised swimming.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 7:47 AM on March 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


But steeplechase, archery, throwing a big heavy lead ball, and dressage are all so relevant to our modern world?

I lol'd at the REI line.
posted by dry white toast at 7:50 AM on March 19, 2013


What if they held an Olympics and nobody came?
posted by boo_radley at 7:50 AM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


As an aside, that link in the first paragraph of the Grantland article ("herd of pianos") is pretty amazing.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:50 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I spent an afternoon at a bar last summer watching the Crossfit Games. This is an exercise competition. Some people, apparently, are better at exercising than other people. Maybe that's what the IOC is going for.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:51 AM on March 19, 2013


Wrestling is an original sport, it makes no sense.

As someone who fenced for years, I shocked they haven't dumped it. It's not spectator friendly, lots of whining and grandstanding made it really annoying to watch this time.
posted by KaizenSoze at 7:51 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


God forbid we get rid of the equestrian events which ensure a steady supply of medals for European aristocrats.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:54 AM on March 19, 2013 [11 favorites]


Wrestling is an original sport, it makes no sense.

Wrestling, like running, is also one of the few sports that requires no special equipment, no special arena, and which is accessible to pretty much every human being on the planet.

To compete at dressage you have to be married to Mitt Romney. To wrestle all you need is an opponent.
posted by three blind mice at 7:57 AM on March 19, 2013 [38 favorites]


There must not be any American medal contenders for this event.
posted by ceribus peribus at 7:59 AM on March 19, 2013


Could the opponent be Mitt Romney?
posted by zippy at 7:59 AM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]



Wrestling, like running, is also one of the few sports that requires no special equipment, no special arena, and which is accessible to pretty much every human being on the planet.

To compete at dressage you have to be married to Mitt Romney. To wrestle all you need is an opponent.


I completely agree, fencing also requires a decent amount of equipment and lots of one on one training. Nothing like dressage, but it isn't a cheap sport, think tennis.
posted by KaizenSoze at 8:00 AM on March 19, 2013


The only way removal of wrestling could be considered acceptable is if it was to make way for Turkish oil wrestling. Because, well, obvious upgrade.
posted by explosion at 8:01 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


This could be the most brilliant wrestling pr campaign ever.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:01 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


There must not be any American medal contenders for this event.

Two golds and two bronze in 2012. Twice what those communist Cubans won!
posted by three blind mice at 8:04 AM on March 19, 2013


Wrestling, like running, is also one of the few sports that requires no special equipment, no special arena, and which is accessible to pretty much every human being on the planet.

My thoughts exactly. You don't need fancy facilities or equipment or pools or horses or anything that only rich countries can afford.

Isn't attending the Olympics very cost prohibitive for countries in the first place?

How can the Olympics be really about seeing the best human athletes competing against each other if there's such a high level of pay-to-play and exclusion of ACTUAL athletes?!
posted by jillithd at 8:05 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Considering that wrestling is a pretty entrenched high school and collegiate sport in the US I would think this isn't even an option.
posted by PenDevil at 8:09 AM on March 19, 2013


What I'm trying to wrap my head around is the possibility of holding the Olympics in Istanbul without wrestling.
posted by sfred at 8:14 AM on March 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


Actually, it's a rare bit of common ground between the US and Iran. Perhaps this is just a clever ploy by the IOC to foster productive discussion between our two nations. That or the IOC is bought and paid for and there isn't enough bribery in wrestling circles.
posted by cmfletcher at 8:16 AM on March 19, 2013


There must not be any American medal contenders for this event.

Americans are second in the all time wrestling medal table. This was eliminated to make way for golf and rugby sevens, one sport that Americans have a halfway decent, but not amazing chance of medalling in, and one that they almost certainly do not. Given that they also eliminated baseball, I don't really think pro-American bias is the problem at the Summer Games.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:16 AM on March 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


There must not be any American medal contenders for this event.

Watch out, your knee is jerking. There is no rational way to spin this as a pro-American, anti-American or basically at-all-American decision. The IOC is an actively global organization whose corruption and nepotism and petty infighting transcend national boundaries in ways that would make Baron de Coubertin weep with joy.

However, if we must lead the world to right this wrong, I personally am desperate for a bipartisan committee co-chaired by Donald Rumsfeld and Al Franken to protest this.
posted by Etrigan at 8:18 AM on March 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


When this came out, Tokyo was in the middle of it's big push to get the Olympics. As the public face of their campaign, Saori Yoshida was front and center. She's won three consecutive gold medals in the sport. Ouch.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:19 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wish I were young again and the strength still unshaken within me
as once, when great Amaryngkeus was buried by the Epeians
at Bouprasion, and his sons gave games for a king's funeral.
There there was no man like me, not among the Epeians
nor yet of the Pylians themselves or great-hearted Aitolians.
At boxing sportclimbing I won against Klytomedes, the son of Enops,
at wrestling wakeboarding against Angkaios of Pleuron, who stood up against me.
In the foot-race bmx, for all his speed, I outran Iphiklos,
and with the spear frisbee I out-threw Polydoros and Phyleus.

posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:25 AM on March 19, 2013 [13 favorites]


When the US and Iran get on the same page against you, it's a safe bet that you've seriously screwed up.
posted by jquinby at 8:25 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Footrace, pankration, poetry slam.

Done.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:26 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't really pay much attention to the IOC (nor the Olympics, in general, except for Olympic Hockey), and maybe that's why I don't really understand the IOC's motivation here.

Are they trying to extract bribes or fees from Big Wrestling? Or have they already accepted same from Big Wakeboard?

Baffling.

Everybody loves Baffle!
posted by notyou at 8:30 AM on March 19, 2013


At last, golf will finally get some much-needed exposure.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:36 AM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think every citizen in the state of Iowa is either in a mess of tears or ready to storm the IOC headquarters.
posted by Foam Pants at 8:37 AM on March 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


My suggestion for a new olympic sport: The Modern Triathlon: you start by running a marathon, then you ride a 20 km bike-race and then finally watch all 15 hours of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's seminal 1980 miniseries Berlin Alexanderplatz.
posted by gkhan at 8:41 AM on March 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Oh! If they host it in Tokyo, they can add tire ski jumping!
posted by orme at 8:50 AM on March 19, 2013


The main problem with Olympic wrestling: it is a solved game. Basically defense is easier, safer and more reliable than offense. This is why, for instance, you never see a pin and you almost never see points scored outside of the end-of-period tiebreakers.

My solution to this is simple: King of the Hill (aka a "point zone"). Draw an 8' diameter circle in the center of the mat. If any part of your body is touching that circle and your opponent's is not, a clock starts ticking. Every five seconds you score a point. The timer resets when this circle is touched by both wrestlers (including restarts, which happen in the circle) or when neither wrestler is touching the circle (because you engage your opponent and take him down outside of it, for instance).

Problem basically solved. Having an objective like this prevents stalemates. SOMEONE has to do something.
posted by andreaazure at 8:54 AM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


In a shocking decision, wrestling has been replaced with a dark-horse event, Giving Bags Of Money To The IOC.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:55 AM on March 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


What if they held an Olympics and nobody came?

Sounds like a question for Dan Savage.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:56 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Re: defense uber alles, my experience is with high-school wrestling, but isn't that what cautions (and after that, penalty points) are for? Do refs not have discretion to penalize keepaway at higher levels?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:57 AM on March 19, 2013


It isn't "keepaway" as such. They do lock up. But then they don't advance into a point-scoring position (usually) because doing so is not worth the risk of the (likely) counter/reversal/escape.

So if they had a lock up and then PUSH to get the other person out of the (newly created) center circle... that makes things quite interesting. Someone counters the push with an escape and go-behind, etc. etc.
posted by andreaazure at 9:00 AM on March 19, 2013


Re: defense uber alles, my experience is with high-school wrestling, but isn't that what cautions (and after that, penalty points) are for? Do refs not have discretion to penalize keepaway at higher levels?

In light of this new knowledge, I really do not understand the IOC's decision. The sport seems tailor-made for graft and corruption.
posted by notyou at 9:01 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I tried to watch wrestling at the last Olympics. Really I did. But it was unwatchable. They changed the rules to make the matches so subject to the referee's caprice that every match I saw had coaches challenging the referee, and one even got a red card for it.

The only way to save Olympic wrestling is to completely reform it. The rules for American high school wrestling (and NCAA) are far less subject to capricious referee calls. I believe the same can be said for Russian Sombo wrestling. The US and Russia should come up with a new rulebook and propose that for the Olympics.
posted by ocschwar at 9:04 AM on March 19, 2013


I hear they're replacing it with sponsorship, since that sport is truly at the core of the modern Olympics.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 9:04 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


According to IOC at least, the decision is based largely on objective criteria like ticket sales, TV ratings, which are low. I mean, if it is legitimately one of the least popular sports and more people are interested in wakeboarding, I'm not sure it's it's a bad idea. Now, I have no idea how wrestling could be more popular than dressage or modern pentathalon, but if it is, maybe it's time to try something else.
posted by skewed at 9:06 AM on March 19, 2013


They have to make room for "spandex sports" where cute girls wear sheer clothing.

Things like "Synchronized Swimming".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:10 AM on March 19, 2013


In defense of synchro- it is fucking difficult. It requires an incredible amount of lung capacity and breath control, not to mention the strength and coordination to elevate one's body vertically out of the water, upside down.

It only looks ridiculous.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:16 AM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


To compete at dressage you have to be married to Mitt Romney. To wrestle all you need is an opponent.

I'd wrestle Mitt Romney in a heartbeat.
posted by bricksNmortar at 9:28 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


TheWhiteSkull: In defense of synchro- it is fucking difficult. It requires an incredible amount of lung capacity and breath control, not to mention the strength and coordination to elevate one's body vertically out of the water, upside down.

It only looks ridiculous.
And "is". You forgot "is".
posted by IAmBroom at 9:41 AM on March 19, 2013


There are valid concerns about rule changes in wrestling (and other combat sports), but the way they're framed is telling. I understand that people want to watch the Olympics, but the point of the Olympics should not be making rules that produce exciting matches to watch. The reason the Olympics should exist is to be a venue for competition, with viewership providing a convenient financial support and a little bit of entertainment for those not competing. But the point of the Olympics should not be to watch.

I'll repeat that because it's a little radical: the point of the Olympics is for the competition itself, not for watching the competition.

When we stray from that philosophy, when we invert it, we have failed in a fundamental way. The point of the 100 meter dash is to discover how fast people can run, not to produce exciting television. The point of wrestling on the highest world stage is to prove you are the best at one of the singularly most human activities, not to entertain couch potatoes. The stunning footage is merely a fortunate byproduct.

We find this to be particularly true in the case of combat sports: judo, wrestling, and tae kwon do most of all. (I'm not familiar with how much of a problem it is in fencing and boxing.) In these sports, there have been many attempts to penalize television-unfriendly strategies and reward photogenic techniques. Generally the results have been lackluster in achieving that goal, but quite productive in changing those sports for the worse, often towards referee's decisions.

To take the case I'm most familiar with, judo outlawed an entire class of attacks (leg grabs, pick-ups attacking the legs, and hand-assisted trips) and has progressively narrowed the range of techniques allowed to defend yourself (including stripping grips with two hands, bending over, "unorthodox" grips, and stiff arming). Since these techniques are so useful and often have been ingrained for years before they were banned, we actually saw in the last Olympics that the most successful technique for winning a judo match was forcing the opponent to take a penalty. Judo, wrestling, and so on should be about defeating the opponent with strategy, tactics, technique and physicality. Instead, these rules encourage playing to the judges, strategic stalling, trying to get away with skirting or breaking the rules, and more conservative fighting. Trying to railroad contestants into using specific techniques in specific, television-friendly ways turns these sports into shadows of themselves and ignores the very reason we are engaging in combat sports in the first place. If we took away or rejiggered many these restrictions, we'd see more exciting and dynamic attacks and defenses because players would have to rely on themselves (instead of the referees) to score points.

I apologize for ranting, but if we want to change the rules of wrestling, that's fine, let's change them to encourage more fighting and less referee intervention. But please don't try to make those changes with the goal of making the sport more cameragenic or pleasing to the Average Viewer At Home. Micromanaging combat sports doesn't work, and only hurts the sport in the meantime.
posted by daveliepmann at 9:42 AM on March 19, 2013 [26 favorites]


This might not be about how important wrestling is to the Olympics, but how important the Olympics are to wrestling. I mean, everyone knows that Andre the Giant was the best wrestler ever, and he never won a medal, right?
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:55 AM on March 19, 2013


If the wrestlers were naked and oiled up, this wouldn't be a question.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:13 AM on March 19, 2013


I'll repeat that because it's a little radical: the point of the Olympics is for the competition itself, not for watching the competition.

I agree to an extent, but as andreaazure points out, when the competition comes down to "Who makes one tiny mistake first?", I find it less compelling on both an aesthetic level and a competitive one. When the rules restrict a competitor to forcing penalties, then the rules need to change. But when they restrict a competitor to not risking an offensive move for the entire match, then they also need to change.

Trying to railroad contestants into using specific techniques in specific, television-friendly ways turns these sports into shadows of themselves and ignores the very reason we are engaging in combat sports in the first place.

No Olympic combat sport will survive judging against reality, because they all have artificial rulesets that restrict competitors to specific techniques used in specific ways -- wrestlers can't punch; boxers can't take down; judoka are restricted to a 10x10 area. But few people are legitimately arguing that we need to scrap all of them and introduce MMA as the Sole Legitimate Olympic Combat Sport.

Similarly, every (good) sport changes its own rules when it becomes apparent that people are using the rules in unfair ways or when they simply become "solved" -- witness the shot clock in basketball.
posted by Etrigan at 10:15 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Summer Olympics have gotten too big. They should eliminate sports where there is another, more valuable championship already (football, I'm looking at you), but those bring in too much money. They could eliminate obscure aristocratic sports (hi there modern pentathlon -- by the way, since you're a simulation of an idealized day in the life of a Prussian cavalry soldier, you need to drop "modern" and pick up "Napoleonic" as a qualifier; true Modern Pentathlon in a martial vein would be more like running, shooting, driving, filling in forms and Halo.)

They've also gotten too big in terms of infrastructure. One point of an Olympics is that it's the two weeks when people care about canoeing or mogul skiing or whatever, but the other, equally important one is it's when a city can simultaneously improve transportation infrastructure, build sports venues and other facilities, and get a shot in the arm of global publicity. No city that is big enough to host the Olympics (and there's only about 20 that are big enough these days -- Atlanta and Athens, ~3M people each, struggled) needs more global publicity and most of them already have great athletic facilities and transportation. The Winter Olympics are small enough that they can be held in someplace like Sochi (or even Turin or Vancouver) where they can have a real local impact.

So they need to break the Summer Olympics up. We need four Olympics, one each 16 months. That adds room for a couple more sports, gives the obscure sports a little more prominence, is small enough that midsized cities can host it, but still big enough that it draws the world's attention. The Spring Olympics get the grass and dirt sports; track and field, field hockey, cycling, shooting, rugby, archery, equestrian, tennis. Still has some obscure sports, but there's the big highlight track events like the 100m and the marathon for prominence. The Summer Olympics get the water sports; swimming, synchro, diving, rowing, canoeing, kayaking, yachting, water polo, triathlon, and maybe beach volleyball for thematic integrity. The big highlights are the swimming events and the triathlon. The Fall Olympics get the indoor sports; gymnastics, wrestling, boxing, weightlifting, basketball, volleyball, fencing, handball. The gymnastics finals are the key highlight here. And the Winter Olympics continue with hockey, curling, skiing etc. Obviously the highlight is whichever hockey and curling finals Canada wins.

IOC, feel free to MeMail me for all the details.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:30 AM on March 19, 2013 [19 favorites]


Etrigan, you're exactly right about the rules needing to change if they currently make the best strategy one of not taking risks. But at the elite levels of any sport, particularly combat sports, a vast number (perhaps even a majority) of contests are decided based on one tiny mistake, simply because the skill levels are so evenly matched. The outliers are exciting, sure, but it's impossible to try to embed a requirement for mismatches into the rules. If we're both good at wrestling and our styles match up well, then 9 times out of 10 neither of us is going to win by a 5-point throw.

With regards to your second point, this kind of categorization is actually a little bit of an obsession for me. I think that "reality" is defined for each broad type of combat sport, which I classify as divided over these broad attributes: So we can have no-gi, no-submission, upper-body grappling (i.e., Greco-Roman) and our goal within that category is to have the minimum ruleset possible. The same goes for upper-body striking (boxing), lower-body striking (TKD), upper-body jacketed grappling (judo, which used to be upper-and-lower-body), submissions-OK upper-and-lower-body striking-and-grappling jacketed (SAMBO) and naked (MMA) fighting, and so on. (There are a few oddities where the combinations don't make sense or are uninteresting; ignore these as you wish.)

Using these reasonable distinctions we can make interesting specialty classes of combat sports, but within each one we want to have a minimal set of rules. In addition, when one of these fundamental parameters is changed, one has to recognize that it's a new sport, not just a rule change. For instance, when pre-modern boxing lost upper-body grappling, it became as much a different sport as Greco versus freestyle wrestling, or as catch-as-catch-can wrestling versus modern submission-less wrestling. So when judo outlawed leg grabs, it was viewed as just another attempt to reduce false attacks and more traditional Japanese-style judo, but was in fact a fundamental change in the definition of the sport.
posted by daveliepmann at 10:31 AM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


They could eliminate obscure aristocratic sports (hi there modern pentathlon -- by the way, since you're a simulation of an idealized day in the life of a Prussian cavalry soldier, you need to drop "modern" and pick up "Napoleonic" as a qualifier; true Modern Pentathlon in a martial vein would be more like running, shooting, driving, filling in forms and Halo.)
OMG I'm so in the next Olympics!

Wait... running?
posted by Flunkie at 11:14 AM on March 19, 2013


But at the elite levels of any sport, particularly combat sports, a vast number (perhaps even a majority) of contests are decided based on one tiny mistake, simply because the skill levels are so evenly matched.

My issue isn't just with the fact that tiny mistakes make big differences at elite levels, but the fact that many of those mistakes are essentially random (*cough*GardneroverKarelin*cough*) or heavily dependent on the officials' judgment (*cough*gymnastics*cough*). In my view, a sport should be able to absorb some level of those random events (and should be utterly impervious to the judgmental ones), or else it's essentially "solved." Real competition shouldn't be won or lost based on which referee you get or the flip of a coin.

For instance, in checkers, there are certain openings that every good player will make, to the point that you cannot have a competition, because every game will proceed the same way, unless you force the players to draw alternate openings at random. Wrestling is much the same these days, and it needs to be better than that. Parity is only compelling to a certain point.
posted by Etrigan at 11:16 AM on March 19, 2013


As a former high-school wrestler, I find this to be an abomination. Wrestling is one of the most basic sports imaginable: two people grappling hand-to-hand to take down and pin the other in six minutes. I've played basketball, soccer, tennis, and football, but those six minutes were the most exhausting I've ever experienced in any activity. A lifetime would pass during a match. The strength, skill, flexibility, balance, and stamina necessary to do it well are remarkable. I hope they reverse this, or something truly valuable about the Summer Games will have been lost.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:16 AM on March 19, 2013


What if they held an Olympics and nobody came?

It is called London 2012.
posted by dgran at 11:21 AM on March 19, 2013


Etrigan, I share your disdain for solved problems in the context of, say, board games. But isn't the endgame of your position the elimination of (for instance) track events after we hit an asymptope in the 100 meter dash times? I'm skeptical of applying this "solved problem" approach to (as Mental Wimp rightly calls it) one of the most basic sports imaginable.

We should endeavor to make sport victory maximally dependent on athlete activity rather than random chance, referee intervention, or judges' scores, but I don't think you're engaging the core problem here. The root of the problem is that many worthwhile sports, particularly individual sports, and even more particularly combat sports, are by definition often decided by narrow margins at the elite levels. The only rule I see that can change this is a shot clock. Everything else seems to backfire.

Maybe I'm wrong. I'm not particularly familiar with the rules of wrestling nor the history of those rules. Perhaps it's different from other combat sports, and there are simple rules changes that can be made to produce more dynamic and less referee-decided matches.
posted by daveliepmann at 11:37 AM on March 19, 2013


I remember when the decision was announced, I think there was some indication of "TV ratings" factoring into the choice. To which I could only say, "how could they possibly know any ratings for wrestling?" Because NBC never told us when it would be on. They buried about 20 minutes of coverage in an 8-hour long TV block. If you wanted to DVR it you'd have to record the whole damn day and skim. If you wanted to watch it live you'd have to sit there all day waiting. OR you could - if you were lucky - get the website streaming video. (I was lucky enough to be able to do that.)

I didn't get to see a lot, but I definitely saw some crazy referee calls. As a fellow NU alum, I'm a fan of Jake Herbert, who got seriously shafted. According to the commentators and reporters, a complicated last minute scramble should have awarded him points and the win, but the ref called it the other way and he lost. It seemed shady to me. Other sports (soccer/football, skating) have had corrupt refs and judges exposed, maybe it's time wrestling got investigated a bit too.
posted by dnash at 11:59 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Etrigan, I share your disdain for solved problems in the context of, say, board games. But isn't the endgame of your position the elimination of (for instance) track events after we hit an asymptope in the 100 meter dash times?

If we got to the point where every elite-level runner was hitting exactly 9.500 seconds in the 100 meters and the difference maker in each race were largely random, then yes.

We should endeavor to make sport victory maximally dependent on athlete activity rather than random chance, referee intervention, or judges' scores, but I don't think you're engaging the core problem here. The root of the problem is that many worthwhile sports, particularly individual sports, and even more particularly combat sports, are by definition often decided by narrow margins at the elite levels.

I think we'd agree that there's a distinct (if difficult to judge) difference between "narrow margins" and "essentially random." As an example, the NFL (inarguably the elite level of American football) recently altered the overtime rules so it wouldn't be so heavily dependent on who won the coin toss.

Part of the problem is that strategies aren't evolving (at the moment) to counter the "solved" nature of wrestling (in particular, the lack of offensive moves due to the risk of reversal), and that's coming at the expense of actual competition. The equivalent of a shot clock, for instance, shouldn't be hugely corrupting to the purity of combat sports -- most already have some form of "stalling" penalty, despite waiting being a perfectly valid strategy in "real-life" equivalents to combat sports. The minimum rulesets that we both want already inject some artificiality into combat sports (for instance, defined rings and mats) -- what I think neither of us wants is to get to the point where you have to do the equivalent of three-move restrictions in checkers openings: "Okay, we've flipped a coin, and the red fighter has to start on one knee."
posted by Etrigan at 12:25 PM on March 19, 2013


Wrestling is the Google Reader of the Olympics.
posted by humanfont at 12:27 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't really pay much attention to the IOC (nor the Olympics, in general, except for Olympic Hockey), and maybe that's why I don't really understand the IOC's motivation here.

Are they trying to extract bribes or fees from Big Wrestling? Or have they already accepted same from Big Wakeboard?


It took a few twists and turns to get to the decision to cut wrestling based on what I've read about it. Basically, the Olympics, whatever their pretensions about amateurism and the glory of competition, are now mostly about giant TV contracts, and most importantly the massive amounts of money that NBC gives them for the TV rights. Of course, the vaguely aristocratic Europeans who rule the IOC find this all pretty disdainful (though not nearly disdainful enough to do anything that might affect the massive amounts of money) and, as a result, resent the Americans and their influence on the proceedings.

Along with the money comes a lot of pressure to make sure the Olympics are an Event, and one that's dynamic and current or whatever buzzwords. They've added a ton of new sports over the last couple of decades, almost all of them in an attempt to be hip and maybe boost TV ratings in the West a bit. There's also, I think, a little bit of worry about the X-Games, etc. starting to horn in on the Olympics' stranglehold over the International Multisport Event idea, which has definitely influenced the sports they've added.

So far, so good, then. The Olympics are adding snowboarding and the teens love it or whatever. Hooray! Sadly for the IOC, most of the cities that host the Games now lose tons and tons of money and the decision to host is usually regarded as a major mistake by the citizens and future governments who have to pay for velodromes and special kayaking courses. There's been a lot of pushback from potential hosts about scaling back the Games or at least not requiring quite so many unique venues that are useless for anything else. With this in mind, the IOC decided to cap the total number of sports at 27 (I think) for the Summer Games.

Once you get into the decision to actually cut sports, all hell breaks loose, because every sport is someone's hobby horse. The IOC's previously mentioned disdain for the Americans who are bankrolling this whole operation came out when they cut baseball, which is a sport with probably double the international reach of rugby 7s, which they've replaced it with. Wrestling plays badly on TV, none of the top wrestling countries are influential in the IOC except maybe Japan, and I've heard that the international federation was in a certain amount of turmoil recently, so it and Modern Pentathlon were the two sports left on the final cut list. To be clear, wrestling crushes Modern Pentathlon in basically every reasonable test for an Olympic sport: it's ancient, it's a basic idea that most people understand, it's got a huge international reach, it doesn't require any specialized equipment (or, in the case of Modern Pentathlon, a stable of trained jumping horses that aren't familiar to any of the competitors), it can be held in a gym instead of some single-use venue, the matches are quick, the TV ratings/attendance almost have to be higher, and getting rid of Modern Pentathlon probably wouldn't be seen as a betrayal of the entire Olympic tradition by basically every person in the world who's not on the IOC. There's only one thing wrestling didn't have.

The vice president of the international Modern Penathlon federation is the son of Juan Antonio Samaranch and is, to boot, himself on the IOC.

To sum up, the Olympics got too big chasing extreme sports TV dollars, so the IOC panicked, decided to symbolically sacrifice a few unpopular sports to keep up appearances, and, when it finally came right down to it, protected its own aristocracy and corruption above all else.
posted by Copronymus at 12:43 PM on March 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


We should endeavor to make sport victory maximally dependent on athlete activity rather than random chance,

Little known fact: neural transmission is driven by a random process (pdf). At rest, the synapse produces neurotransmitter packets according to a Poisson process (a discrete probability distribution with the mean and variance equal to its single parameter, λ), where the parameter is very, very small, rendering the chances of a firing of the receptor infinitesimal. The way an impulse is propagated is that an action potential reaches the synapse and biases that process so that λ is very large, ensuring almost certainly that the impulse will cross the synapse and trigger the next neuron to fire. However, when many, many neurons are in play, as in athletic pursuits, misfirings will happen, so that randomness will always play a role in the outcome.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:44 PM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


"We need four Olympics, one each 16 months. That adds room for a couple more sports, gives the obscure sports a little more prominence, is small enough that midsized cities can host it, but still big enough that it draws the world's attention."

I am intrigued by your ideas and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:34 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


There needs to be an anti-Olympics of all the sports which have been given the boot, plus all the demonstration stuff. Who wouldn't want to see a return of ballooning?
posted by jquinby at 1:37 PM on March 19, 2013


Who wouldn't want to see a return of ballooning?

Donté Stallworth, for one.
posted by Etrigan at 1:40 PM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can he just never be in charge of a vehicle ever again? Would that work for everyone?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:42 PM on March 19, 2013


> "According to IOC at least, the decision is based largely on objective criteria like ticket sales, TV ratings, which are low."

Wrestling was indeed also ranked low in global TV audience, peaking at a maximum of 58.5 million viewers and averaging 23 million viewers.

Of course, modern pentathlon peaked at 33.5 million and had an average of 12.5 million viewers, but, well, see Copronymus' comment. The vice president of the International Modern Pentathlon Federation is on the IOC.
posted by kyrademon at 2:19 PM on March 19, 2013


I don't understand how wrestling can come out and taekwondo stay in, and I say that as a retired taekwondoin. Taekwondo judging is historically corrupt, in fact the whole World Taekwondo Federation involvement in TKD at the Olympics stinks to high hell. And it ruined our art, truning it into just another sport. In my opinion, Kukkiwon style TKD has been changed for the worse by the Olympics. Dojangs now are all about churning out athletes and there is little technique taught in many places beyond that which will advance you in sparring competition. Put next to aikido, jiu jitsu and Tai Chi, Kukkiwon taekwondo pales as a complete art.

There is no question in my mind at all that taekwondo should be jettisoned from the Olympics. I was shocked to hear that wrestling was the martial art that was cut. SHOCKED.
posted by salishsea at 2:33 PM on March 19, 2013


I spent an afternoon at a bar last summer watching the Crossfit Games. This is an exercise competition. Some people, apparently, are better at exercising than other people. Maybe that's what the IOC is going for.
posted by uncleozzy at 10:51 AM on March 19 [+] [!]


Respectfully, uncleozzy, you don't know what you're talking about. CrossFit incorporates Olympic weightlifting, and requires a great deal of coordination and agility, often under muscle exhaustion. Yes, sometimes it is pushups and jumping on a box; but sometimes it is snatches and clean-and-jerks.
posted by oneironaut at 2:38 PM on March 19, 2013


Snatches and clean-and-jerks are exercise too. Particularly if done for time.
posted by daveliepmann at 2:52 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


strip down judo, wrestling, taekwondo, boxing and fencing to randomised combat sport from somewhere in the world. You have highly trained combat sportspeople show up each olympics to find out what system they'll be fighting under as determined by random number from combat sports from participating countries. Relatively known combat sport? obscure tribal fighting system? weapons? clothes? you only find out when you get there and have about three days to brush up as quickly as possible.
posted by fido~depravo at 4:00 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fido~deravo, surely you meant to say Bloodsport should be the Olympic fighting sport!
posted by Ghidorah at 4:22 PM on March 19, 2013


Wrestling officials were asleep, interim chief says
posted by homunculus at 5:48 PM on March 19, 2013


calls to action came from unlikely allies: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and novelist John Irving.

Also Senator Sherrod Brown.
posted by homunculus at 5:50 PM on March 19, 2013


But few people are legitimately arguing that we need to scrap all of them and introduce MMA as the Sole Legitimate Olympic Combat Sport.

MMA? Where people wear padded gloves? And aren't allowed to make nut shots because it would remove most submission holds? Even that doesn't qualify.
posted by Francis at 7:12 PM on March 19, 2013


Francis, the early UFCs were bareknuckle and allowed nut shots, hair pulling, the works. Many MMA/NHB matches in Brazil allowed eye gouging too (or had it, despite it being against the rules). These methods were shown in those many contests not to "remove" or negate "most submission holds". The idea that punching or grabbing someone in the nuts is a magical off-switch, particularly against skilled grapplers, is a trope that's been debunked over and over. Bullshido has a good overview here:
Kicking a man in the groin will usually cause a lot of pain. It is certainly effective in combat, but it's not a martial panacea.
But I agree that the modern Unified Rules are a gentler form of fighting than, say, Pankration, which was even rougher than Greek wrestling:
Leontiskos of Messene was also a noted champion. He was not known for his good wrestling skills, but for his superior finger bending skills. He was able to bend right up to the point of disqualification and won two championships with this technique.
From Michael Poliakoff's excellent Combat Sports in the Ancient World:
The tactic of the wrestler Leontiskos of bending back his opponent's fingers had obvious implications for pankration, and in the fourth century B.C.E., Sostratos of Sikyon won twelve crowns at Nemea and Corinth, two at Delphi, and three at Olympia with this trick.
It worked, but so did choking fellow pankrationists unconscious and breaking their arms and legs with submission holds. Nut shots and finger-breaking are no magical ward against chokes and leglocks. The only martial panacea is skill combined with bravery and physicality.
posted by daveliepmann at 7:45 PM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have no idea how wrestling could be more popular than dressage

Oh my god, like, PONIES. *squeeeeeeeee!*
posted by Foam Pants at 9:40 PM on March 19, 2013


The CrossFit Games are fine. I don't see how the fact that it is also exercise takes away from it. The dirty secret is that most sports are in some way athletic. Watching some of the tryouts, all I can think is how fucking hard you would have to practice to even qualify. Snatches, clean jerks, etc. are hard to do correctly, let alone for the intensity and duration that the competitors have to do them.

The world is a big enough place to fit both the CrossFit Games and things like synchronized swimming, which also requires a crazy amount of talent, dedication, etc.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:50 PM on March 19, 2013


The idea that punching or grabbing someone in the nuts is a magical off-switch, particularly against skilled grapplers , is a trope that's been debunked over and over.

Meh
posted by P.o.B. at 10:50 PM on March 19, 2013


Fido~deravo, surely you meant to say Bloodsport should be the Olympic fighting sport!

KUMITE! KUMITE! KUMITE!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:15 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is actually a very simple rule for what feature in the Olympics. Or rather, there should be.

It's this: if an Olympic gold isn't the pinnacle achievement for your sporting event then it doesn't get included in the games.

It is that simple. We aren't naive enough to think that golf and tennis and football haven't got included in the games because of their commercial clout, nor that wrestling and modern pentathlon have no place because the sponsors aren't there.

But long term this is a mistake for the Olympics to compete with Wimbledon, or the Football World Cup, or the US Masters. Either the Olympics is a major football/tennis/golf tournament, in which case those other major tournaments are devalued - bad for the sport in time in which there is a huge proliferation in tournaments. Or the Olympics isn't on a level with the main sporting prizes - like now - and an Olympic gold is devalued.

I mean, no disrespect to fine sportsmen like Rory McIlroy or Rafa Nadal but there is a difference between a wrestler, swimmer, rower or track athlete gearing a four year training and competitive programme towards winning a single event and a host of wealthy sports stars pitching up for a week or two of the Olympics and then heading off to the next tournament.

And that difference matters. It matters because the Olympic spirit is supposed to be something special. In commercial terms, the fact that these athletes turn up in peak form for what might be a once in a lifetime chance to compete against the world's best in their chosen sport makes the Olympics special. It's what sells the schmaltz of nations joining together, rich and poor, to light symbolic torches and represent their country. It's what sells hamburgers and pop and mobile phones.

It matters that the careers of the best athletes are incomplete without an Olympic medal. It matters that they can't walk away in the knowledge that they won something else that was more prestigious.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:19 AM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


P.o.B., I get punched in the face and thrown to the ground for fun. But if I'm playing basketball and someone throws an elbow to my nose, I'll call foul. I can take it, but that's not the contest we're playing right now. Some (not all) of these guys are taking a knee because it's a legal way to take a breather after a solid shot.

Even the ones where they're seriously hurt, it's not a panacea or magic off-switch the way people portray it. If people talked about left hooks the way they did about nut shots, it'd be "just punch him on the chin and he'll be KO'd!"

I also didn't watch the entire 10 minutes, but these mostly looked like nut shots and fingers to the eye during stand-up. Were there any where someone was on the ground and stopped a submission with a foul, even unintentionally? Because if someone reasonably good has a rear naked choke on you, a thumb in their eye just means they wiggle their head, tough it out, and you go unconscious.
posted by daveliepmann at 8:00 AM on March 20, 2013


They did install the rule for a reason though, but I do agree with you in that there is no martial panacea and to play the old "what about this?" MA assumption game about anything as if it is a sure bet is not a great idea.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:09 PM on March 20, 2013


I'd argue that the primary reason was John McCain and other opponents of legalizing MMA in any form. The UFC had to institute a bunch of rules to make it conform to American "fair fight" sensibilities. I think that they should've kept the groin strikes in, to prevent just these claims.

Anyway, with a smidge of judo under my belt, I'd be terrified of trying an eye gouge or nut shot on, say, a wrestler or otherwise superior grappler. The most likely scenario would be making them even more mad and willing to do the same or worse to me, from a more advantageous position. No thanks. "Don't escalate a fight you're losing" is the operative principle, and should be violated only if you're already going to die if you lose.
posted by daveliepmann at 3:34 PM on March 20, 2013


I know several people who's real life experience would differ from your assumptions.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:59 PM on March 20, 2013


Were those people trained fighters who were expecting a fight and had the option to wear a cup?

I mean, I know several people who've gone down after one punch to the head; that doesn't mean if I got into a fight with Georges St-Pierre, I'd be very confident that all I had to do was sock him on the chin.
posted by Etrigan at 6:57 PM on March 20, 2013


If you watch a 10 minute video of professional fighters going down from nut shots, and you simply brush it off as them taking a break then I think it's safe to assume there is absolutely nothing I could say to convince you otherwise.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:50 PM on March 20, 2013


PoB, I'm not clear as to what you're trying to convince me of. Nut shots hurt? Uh...yeah. But the original claim was that they are a magical talisman against being choked or armlocked, which, uh...no.

I'm not trying to brush off the video, it just doesn't support the original claim. It supports the claim that professional combat athletes will take breaks allotted to them by the rules when they take a hard hit. (You see the same thing in judo or BJJ competitions. Even if these guys are comfortable with boxing or karate, if they catch a knee to the head during a judo match they let the ref give them a breather. It just makes sense.) Again--I didn't even see any submissions attempted; point it out if I missed one.

I'd be interested in hearing more about these real life experiences. (Partially because I'm not sure which assumptions you see me making.) Can you relate them here, perhaps anonymized if necessary?
posted by daveliepmann at 8:34 PM on March 20, 2013


Metafilter: Nutshots hurt
posted by Mental Wimp at 7:45 AM on March 21, 2013


if an Olympic gold isn't the pinnacle achievement for your sporting event then it doesn't get included in the games.

So no more hockey in the Winter Olympics?
posted by iviken at 4:07 PM on March 21, 2013


So no more hockey in the Winter Olympics?

Well, hockey doesn't really have a true international championship system in the way that (say) soccer/football and cricket do, so that might be an argument for keeping it in. But honestly, if it were up to me, I'd say "nope", and let the governing bodies of hockey come up with an international championship if there's a desire to hold one. Same with baseball, for which there's no good international playoff structure, but apparently little demand for one from fans either.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:39 PM on March 21, 2013


So no more hockey in the Winter Olympics?

Well, hockey doesn't really have a true international championship system in the way that (say) soccer/football and cricket do, so that might be an argument for keeping it in.


Team sports muddy the waters -- in basketball, for instance, the NBA is clearly the top of the sport, but does a Russian kid who's good at hockey grow up dreaming of winning the Stanley Cup (I honestly have no idea on this)? And either way, an NBA/NHL championship isn't an individual achievement, nor is it a national one.

But the sport that would most suffer from the "only if the Olympics are the pinnacle" rule is boxing. For instance, Muhammad Ali's Olympic gold medal is a footnote in his sporting career. His Wikipedia page spends more time talking about what happened to the actual medal than to his entire amateur career, and there are at least four separate articles devoted to single fights from his pro career.
posted by Etrigan at 7:22 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Going by Olypmics as pinnacle, I'd argue for the continued inclusion of basketball. I know there are tins of naysayers, pointing out how ridiculously well-paid NBA athletes are and all, but in the years since the dream team, the world has certainly caught up, and many top level players in the NBA are from other countries. Add to that, more than a few players have declined to jump to the NBA, and instead chosen to stay in their own leagues. The FIBA championship is, well, kind of meh, but teams and players get up for the Olympics. There are strong teams aside from America, like Argentina, France, Spain, Serbia, and Russia. Several other countries have become quite competitive as well. Not all of the games are competitive, but that happens in nearly every sport, and the top players usually advance while weaker competitors fall by the wayside.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:34 PM on March 22, 2013


Very late to this thread but just to correct the bit about hockey. Ice hockey does have an annual world championship, but because it happens during the Stanley Cup playoffs, national teams are made up of players whose NHL teams have been eliminated already. So it ends up being a second class kind of tournament and doesn't have the same cache as the World Cup of football.

For both men and women, the Olympic gold medal is a big deal. The NHL suspends its season to allow the best players to compete in the tournament and I defy you to find a nation that won a gold medal in Olympic hockey and didn't celebrate it with a high profile.

The women's game is different unfortunately and that is down to the low priority most countries put on developing the women's game. Only Canada, USA, Finland and Sweden have well developed women's programs and the Olympics is their pinnacle too. I fear that without development of the women's game, it will be dropped from the Olympics which would be a travesty. My hope is that as long as the NHL pros play, so will the women, but I wish the women's game would get the support it needs from national associations to stand on its own two feet internationally.
posted by salishsea at 9:36 AM on April 3, 2013


Only Canada, USA, Finland and Sweden have well developed women's programs and the Olympics is their pinnacle too.

Here's to the USA, Gopher, and Shattuck-St. Mary's Sabres women's hockey teams!
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:54 AM on April 3, 2013


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