A blow to akharas
To drop Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling from the Olympic Games is not an anti-India conspiracy. Nor can wrestling powerhouses Russia and Iran complain. This is a sign of our times where television rules, and decisions are taken on what grabs most viewers across the world. Also, this decision isn’t final by any means. Considering the world wrestling federation didn’t lobby to keep itself in the Games as one of 26 core sports as it didn’t feel there was a threat, the battle may have already been lost.
For early Indian athletes, wrestling was a path to shine in international competition. Their successors, who train by more scientific methods, will suffer the most if the sport doesn’t find a place in the games in Tokyo, Istanbul or Madrid seven years from now. Baseball/softball, squash or rock climbing might just grab this spot, while karate, wakeboarding, wushu (a Chinese martial art) and roller sports may also be in the reckoning.
It’s invidious to compare sporting disciplines, but some of the romance of sport may be missing if the ancient art of wrestling (that figured in the Greek Olympics way back in 708 BC) is not in the Games. Considering Indian sportsmen’s sacrifices to shine on the mat as they train under gurus in akharas, to miss the opportunity to be a part of the Olympics will be devastating. “Pocket Dynamo” K.D. Jadhav, for decades independent India’s only individual Olympic medallist after winning bronze in Helsinki in 1952, must be scowling in Elysium.