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Tim Blagg

Tossed from Olympic ring

Dropping wrestling a poor choice

I was just recovering last week from hearing that the Pope had decided to hang up his crozier when I got an even bigger shock.

The Olympics had decided to remove wrestling from its list of sports.

Are you kidding me?

Wrestling is probably the oldest sport in the world ... dating back to our hunter-gatherer days. I have no doubt that when wandering bands of humans ran into each other and cautiously settled down to trading, eyeing potential mates and then celebrating with a fireside feast, dancing and telling tall tales, that the alpha males challenged each other to a wrestling contest.

The winner might catch the eye of that cute girl in the other band, and certainly garnered bragging rights.

Every culture has some form of wrestling and it was certainly part of the original Olympic games back in the days of ancient Greece. Then, the city states of the area sent their best athletes to the sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia where they ran, raced horses and chariots, threw the discus and the javelin, wrestled, boxed and also engaged in an early form of mixed martial arts combat called pankration — a bloody battle in which the men boxed, wrestled, kicked, choked and generally tried to maim their opponent. Fatalities were not unknown.

Where do the Olympic officials get off eliminating this classic contest?

If they want to shorten the list of competitions, how about ditching team handball? Or water polo? Or badminton, for heaven’s sake.

I understand they also contemplated kicking out the modern pentathlon, an event which includes pistol shooting, fencing, 200 meter freestyle swimming, horse show jumping, and a 3k cross-country run. Admittedly, this is also a low-audience event, but I have always had a soft spot for it. It’s a holdover from the days when amateur athletes — gentlemen — competed in the Olympics, and includes things that they prided themselves on being good at. Pistol shooting and fencing, of course, were handy when fighting duels!

Gen. George Patton, famous for his World War II victories — and antics — competed in the 1912 Olympics in the first-ever modern pentathlon competition, finishing fifth.

I have to admit I’m biased — I wrestled in high school and at Rutgers — but I’m very unhappy at the International Olympics Committee decision.

I don’t think “popularity” ought to decide which sports are included for the modern revival of an ancient tradition.

After all, does anyone really watch racewalking?

Blagg has been Editor of The Recorder since 1986. He lives in Greenfield and is a military historian with an interest in local history. He can be reached at: tblagg@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 250.

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