In February 2013 the International Olympic Committee shortlisted Wrestling for the 2020 Summer Games. And people lost their minds.
Following the 2012 Games in London, the IOC assessed the (26) sports, and created a shortlist of 25 “core” sports to recommend for the 2020 Games in Tokyo. Somehow, wrestling didn’t make the cut.
Here is the list of 25 sports that were recommended:
- Athletics (Track, Field)
- Badminton (Yes, really.)
- Canoeing (SERIOUSLY?)
- Cycling (Includes Track, Road, Mountain Bike)
- Equestrian (Includes Dressage, Eventing, and Jumping)
- Football (Communist Kickball)
- Gymnastics (Artistic and Rhythmic)
- Handball (The one played in teams. Not Gaelic Handball—which is a court sport similar to racquetball.)
- Field Hockey
- Aquatics (Swimming, Diving)
- Modern Pentathlon
- Table Tennis (Ping Pong)
The IOC decided to add two newcomers to the 2016 games: Golf and Rugby Sevens.
Those are great additions! I definitely think that Rugby and Golf—two of the most popular sports in the world—should be in the Olympic Games.
But Badminton? And Ping Pong? Come on IOC…you can do better than that. Surely these two aren’t among the greatest demonstrations of human physical skill and strength!
Here is the list of sports that I (respectfully) suggest trashing for the future Games. These sports were chosen from the list of 2016 Olympic Sports:
- Beach Volleyball
- Field Hockey
- Ping Pong
- Synchronized Swimming
Now, some of these are definitely more Olympic Games-worthy than others. I don’t think anybody questions Judo’s validity as a real sport.
What I am saying is that we need to re-evaluate and update our Olympic Sports to reflect the modern day.
Some of these sports are horrifically outdated. (*Cough* Archery.) Others—like wrestling—have stood the test of time in the sporting world despite being super old sports (e.g., athletics, weightlifting, cycling).
I think the IOC was surprised to learn how much people actually care about wrestling at the Olympics—as opposed to most of the 11 sports I listed above. (Seriously, does anybody actually set out to watch Badminton?)
Here are some of my personal suggestions for sports to include in the future Olympic Games.
I have selected this list based on my personal philosophy of what the Olympic Games should be—a competition to honor the finest athletes in the most relevant sports of the day. With that in mind, here we go:
- Mixed Martial Arts
- Gaelic Hurling
- Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu/Submission Wrestling
- Rugby (15-man)
- Automobile Racing
- Rock Climbing
- Australian Rules Football
- American Football
- Surfing (yes, I realize the geographic restriction. But if they can do sailing, I’m sure there is a way.)
Obviously some of the sports I listed are not universally well-known or widely-played—yet.
But here’s the thing—we are already broadcasting some really esoteric sports. Do you think that Karate or Automobile Racing are any more out of place in the Olympics than, say, sailing?
And yes, I realize that these Olympians are the best of the best in their “sports.” That’s wonderful for them. Congratulations on dedicating your life to playing with a bow and arrow. Your sport is bullshit.
I would still rather watch Hurling or MMA in the Olympics than Canoe or Archery. And, I assure you there are equally deserving athletes at an Olympic level in just about any sport you can imagine. If they have them in canoe and archery, they will be produced in any sport.
And if we are going to broadcast obscure sports anyway, shouldn’t we at least select sports that people will watch?
I know for a fact that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments are huge. People actually will do pay-per-view for the Metamoris fights. I don’t think the same can be said for Judo. (Sorry Judo—I still love you ☹.)
And, for what it’s worth, I think Olympic-level judoka could easily transition to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with a little more work on newaza. Just sayin’.
Obviously it isn’t easy to decide which sports should survive these cuts and which shouldn’t. A lot of these sports are probably still in practice largely because of the Olympics. Wrestling programs in U.S. colleges certainly felt that their sport was threatened following the decision to remove wrestling. But, it also forced the program to re-evaluate its rules to meet the demands of an evolving sporting world.
Boxing did a similar rule change to the Amateur circuit by dropping headgear and changing the scoring system.
The decision to remove a sport from the Olympic Games will inevitably be met with an angry uprising by the practitioners of the sport. But we cannot defend a sport’s place in the Olympic Games simply because it is already in there. That kind of complacency is poison to the evolving sporting world. We can do better. We should do better.
For example, I realize that a lot of people like beach volleyball at the Olympic Games. (Especially women’s beach volleyball. I wonder why…)I argue that we can do better! Why not beach soccer? Or, literally anything better than volleyball.
Is volleyball really so popular? Do we really need beach volleyball and court volleyball? Perhaps another sport should fill that slot.
And who knows? Maybe a sport like Hurling will become a worldwide phenomenon after its Olympic debut. (It is pretty badass.)Or maybe the U.S. will suddenly become a cricket powerhouse after getting humiliated by the Indians and realizing that it’s actually easier to hit a ball with a flat bat than a baseball bat.
I realize my suggestions are an imperfect list. But I think it can be agreed upon that we definitely need to re-evaluate the sports we broadcast during the Olympic Games.
There are a lot of really great sports out there, and I think we can do better than what we have right now.And I swear to God, if I turn on Badminton one more time, I’m going to put my foot through the TV.
Looking forward to Rio 2016!