Bay Area Reporter
Copyright © 2006 Bay Area Reporter, a division of Benro Enterprises, Inc.

Jock Talk:
The Olympics' WTF moment

A recommendation last week to drop wrestling from the Olympic Games was the stupidest and most incomprehensible thing I ever heard – until two days later when a Russian gold medalist said the ludicrous decision was part of a gay conspiracy.

Shockwaves reverberated through the sports world when the International Olympic Committee announced its executive board had recommended men's and women's wrestling be dropped from the 2020 Summer Olympics, which would make it the first time in both the modern and ancient Olympics that wrestling has not been on the program. In order to be reinstated, wrestling must compete in a September vote for just one sport, vying against baseball/softball, karate, roller skating, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding, and wushu (Chinese martial arts).

With a nearly universal wave of condemnation issued from sports advocates across the globe over the elimination of wrestling, a bizarre theory about the decision to drop wrestling was offered by Russian gold medal wrestler Vladimir Uruimagov, heavyweight champion in the 2004 Olympics in Athens and currently a coach.

"If they expel wrestling now, that means that gays will soon run the whole world," R-Sport quoted Uruimagov as saying. "It's a blow to masculine origins. It turns out this committee is headed by representative of these (gay) minorities. It is necessary for millions around the world who understand that this is a man's sport, and who understand the need to continue the human race, to go out and explain their position to the Olympic Committee. We should prove and explain that in any other case there is no future."

The what-the-fuck moment to trump all other what-the-fuck moments.

Why in the world would Uruimagov think gay men would not like wrestling? You have buffed muscle studs rolling around with almost no clothing on, with lots of sweat, heavy breathing, no talking, and a bit of grunting. What's not to like?

Guess that kind of ignorance is what you can expect when your country outlaws programs to educate or celebrate homosexuality as Russia has done.

As to how the IOC came to such a wildly unpopular and unsupportable decision, it comes down simply to this: wrestling is everything the IOC is not. Wrestling represents everything noble and inspiring about the Olympic dream; the IOC represents the worst and most corrupt of the Olympic business reality.

The Olympics are designed to be a universal dream. Anyone from any country is supposed to have a chance to compete against anyone from anywhere else in the world, to strive to be the best, to be saluted by all in a world for the moment not divided by wars, borders, race, or religion.

No sport is more representative or more fulfilling of that dream than wrestling. It is popular and culturally important in villages across the globe in every demographic of society. It requires no special equipment so even the poorest of the poor can wrestle. There have been deaf wrestlers, blind wrestlers, wrestlers without arms or legs, successfully competing with able-bodied opponents and no modification of the rules.

And no sport is more demanding of sacrifice or less caring of athletic abilities. Athletes who are dyslexic or autistic or slow or short or left-handed or unable to jump high or who have poor hand-eye coordination find other sports not designed for them, but find themselves highly desired and highly successful in wrestling if they are willing to put in the dedicated hours necessary to become proficient on the mat.

But the IOC, comprised largely of fat-cat bureaucrats, aristocrats, and politicos, has little to do with the sports world of sacrifice and competition, of person-in-the-street dreams and the eternal quest for excellence. The IOC is the ultimate good ole boy network, bloated on its own self-stroking arrogance, addle-pated and muddle-minded. They're the sort of blokes who have the wealth to own horses and shoot guns; no wonder they decided to keep modern pentathlon, which requires athletes who can ride and shoot, and drop wrestling. It certainly wasn't based on diversity of athletes: of the 85 countries competing in the 2012 Olympics, 71 competed in wrestling and 29 earned medals; 26 competed in modern pentathlon and just six won medals.

Could religious or political prejudice be behind the decision? Most of the powerhouses in wrestling were Communist until recent years or are Muslim.

Not ideal for the IOC, which when it's chasing advertising and sponsorship dollars thinks everything goes better with Coca-Cola.

Am I prejudiced? Sure. I'm a huge baseball fan, have spent many a happy hour playing soccer, rugby, softball and basketball, but I've spent most of my sports moments for the past four decades coaching and competing in wrestling. I love watching swimming and diving and sprinting and gymnastics every Olympics – and I love seeing what underdogs overcome all odds to wrestle their way into Olympic glory.

If the IOC sticks with its disregard for Olympic tradition and egalitarian values, it will condemn itself in the long run to athletic irrelevance. It will become a five-ring circus, a television reality show, more fantasy than dreams.