“The decision is not a case of what’s wrong with wrestling, it is what’s right with the 25 core sports,” said International Olympics Committee (IOC) spokesperson Mark Adams, following the decision to remove wrestling from Olympics from 2020 onward.
The uproar over the decision was plain enough — within India, a country which has excelled in the sport and in other regions too, including the USA and Russia.
Kurt Angle, who is an Olympic gold medallist and famous for his WWE days, tweeted: “I’m Sick to my stomach. The IOC picking badminton or modern pentathlon over wrestling? Why? Wrestling is our greatest sport. Fight this!”
While a lot of people may agree that modern pentathlon and badminton are also sports which could have been removed rather than wrestling, we went a step further asked ourselves a bolder question: Why not remove football from Olympics?
And as far as India is concerned, there was no one better to reason this than Bhaichung Bhutia.
Football, however popular, isn’t really a sport which people care about during the Olympics — an event more famed for bringing attention to sports which don’t have hysterical following. The teams are allowed to field only three players over the age limit of 23.
The former Indian skipper, however, defends his sport: “The IOC cannot consider removing football for the simple reason that it is extremely popular. You cannot take that away from the game.”
While professional players like Gareth Bale, Neymar and David Beckham have expressed immense desire to represent their countries at the Olympics, those who follow the game know how managers look at it — an unnecessary burn-out of their top players. Team Great Britain has already decided not to field a team at Rio 2016.
“It may not be the biggest event for professionals, but it’s a great opportunity for youngsters to be part of the Olympics. Look how much Beckham wanted to play in it. These factors make me believe that football cannot be dropped from Olympics.”
While voraciously defending any argument over football being banned from the Games, Bhaichung expressed regret over the ban on wrestling: “It’s very unfortunate. Wrestling is probably India’s greatest medal hope at every Olympics and I hope something is done to reverse the ban.”
Yogeshwar Dutt and Sushil Kumar have been seething over the decision on wrestling. Dutt went as far as to say that he will give up his medals and trophies if the ban stays.
Other popular sports like baseball and softball were also eliminated from the Games, so the removal of wrestling, while certainly hurting India, didn’t quite come as a surprise — especially with the fact that only a few regions care to compete in it.
Whatever the decision, some sport has to go. Unfortunately, it’s wrestling this time.
Bhaichung Bhutia was speaking to Firstpost on the sidelines of the launch of India’s University Football League.