Move to dump wrestling could be a lesson in deception

THE International Olympic Committee has always been a hotbed of intrigue and its decision to dump wrestling from automatic inclusion on the list of sports for the 2020 Games may yet prove to be among its most deceptive exercises ever.

Its executive board was expected last month to give marching orders to the quaint sport of modern pentathlon but instead surprised by opting to give the shove to another of its long- standing disciplines.

It was particularly surprising because not only are Russia and the United States the two dominant participating countries over time but there are good levels of participation across the continents.

But all is not lost for the sport, which has appeared in every modern Olympic Games in one form or another.

The executive board's decision can be overridden by the majority vote at the full meeting of all current IOC members, known as the Session in May, when wrestling will be presented for consideration for the 2020 program alongside the seven contenders for its spot - softball/baseball, climbing, karate, wushu (kung fu), squash, wakeboarding and roller sports.

The fallout from wrestling's exclusion has already been significant with the sport's international federation president, Raphael Martinetti, being dumped just three days after the IOC decision.

His accusers said the Swiss stood accused of not identifying the threat to the sport nor doing enough to lobby the influential members of the IOC executive.

But he probably had no chance. While modern pentathlon had a champion at the table in Juan Antonio Samaranch Junior, wrestling, which has its base in eastern Europe and Asia was effectively unrepresented.

And this is where the curious ways of the IOC come into play. There is a plausible theory that there was no real desire on behalf of even the executive board to eliminate any of the current core summer sports despite its constant rhetoric that there is a need to relate more to younger generations across the globe.

But it has two existing ways to do that through the myriad opportunities that present for the Winter Olympics and by including additional extreme disciplines in current summer program sports.

The executive board would have been well aware that while none of its number was a clear advocate for the retention of wrestling, there were plenty among the general membership who might vote for it come May.

The same cannot be said of modern pentathlon, which if it had been placed in the bidding war might have fallen well short of majority support with only two medal events on offer each Games and only a small number of countries taking part.

There is every chance that in the end nothing will change at all and the seven bidding sports will simply have been led along the garden path for a year or two.

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