Daniel Igali, the 2000 Olympic freestyle wrestling gold medalist and an SFU grad currently in Nigeria, issued the following statement today (February 12):
Like many wrestling fans and enthusiasts all over the world, I was sorely troubled and shocked by the news that the executive committee of the IOC had voted to axe wrestling from the 2020 Olympic Games.
The rationale for the exclusion at this point is unclear and immaterial. Wrestling is the oldest sport known to man. Wrestling has been featured in every Olympic Games since the modern Olympics in 1896. Every nation and tribe all over the world has some variant of wrestling.
At every world championships I have attended and watched since the 1990s, we regularly have over 70 nations in attendance. Over 40 nations qualified for the London Olympics. About 29 different countries won medals at the London 2012 Olympics. How many other sports can boast of such stats?
Wrestling is a relatively cheap sport to compete in. It is relatively safe compared to other sports and rules regulating the sport are generally easy to understand.
For me, the question is not why wrestling should not be axed from the 2020 Olympic roster, rather, it should be about how many other sports in the world are as popular, have the same reach in virtually every nation and is as accessible as wrestling.
The only solace one has is that this is merely a recommendation from the IOC executive committee. The IOC general assembly will have to ratify the decision later this year. My heart is heavy because to my mind, the Olympic movement, by this proposal, has surrendered the original Olympic ideals of amateurism for commercialism and corporate interests.
I hope IOC members from every wrestling nation will vote against the proposal of the executive committee. More than that, it is my hope, that wrestling will rightfully be positioned as one of 10 core sports in the Olympic sports roaster. As we keep our fingers crossed, let’s pray that the IOC members see reason and do the right thing!