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HindustanTimes Thu,28 Aug 2014
No holds barred
Indrajit Hazra , Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 16, 2013
First Published: 22:54 IST(16/2/2013)
Last Updated: 22:56 IST(16/2/2013)

I don’t know what demonic fifficry has made the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decide  to drop wrestling from the Olympic Games. But let’s just say if the Olympic Games was an Islamic country, wrestling has just become The Satanic Verses.

Well, of course you’re super upset. The stupendously Zsa Zsa Gabor decision would make you want to hurl the nearest chap in spandex at IOC president Jacques Rogge, a former rugby player and yachtman representing his country Belgium.

And if you’re really livid, then  your anger should be directed at the Switzerland-based IOC, whose current 105 members, 31 honorary members and one Henry Kissinger (honour member) comprise a smattering of ex-Olympians, mostly former track and field athletes, but also former practitioners of stadium-filling sports such as bobsleigh, synchronised swimming and fencing. No, there is no former wrestler on the IOC executive board.

Wrestling has been part of the Olympics since its very beginning in 708 BC. That’s a considerable time before Sushil Kumar and — what’s his name again? — Yogeshwar Dutt bec-ame household names in India after they won a silver and a bronze medal respectively last year.

But even the 87-year-old Congressman ND Tiwari is an old sport. So longevity isn’t going to cut much ice.

The IOC boffins cite a lack of television viewership and global appeal for wrestling. Which, apparently, dressage — described by the International Equestrian Federation as “the highest expression of horse training... where horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of predetermined movements” — does not lack.

(Incidentally, the horse never gets a medal.) But instead of getting irate and doing silly things such as making petitions on Facebook, we pro-wrestling-in-the-Olympics folks need to develop a smarter, more vicious, means-to-an-end strategy.

The IOC is considering taking wrestling off the Olympics menu from 2020. There’s a meeting scheduled in St Petersburg in May, where seven other sports along with wrestling — baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and wushu — will make a last-bid pitch to be the only one among the ‘death-row’ lot to be ‘pardoned’ and kept as an Olympic sport.

We live in times when to be making an honourable, honest pitch is to end up in a ditch with martyrs whose names are not even to be found in Wikipedia footnotes.

So for any success, pro-wrestling-in-the-Olympics lobbyists should take a leaf out of the page of other lobbyists-cum-opinion-makers who have found success whether by bending the law to hang a chap or by greasing some palms to push a transportational device deal through.

The only hope is to get down and dirty. So here are three unconventional but sure-fire options for lobbyists to choose from and present to the IOC boys and girls in Lausanne:

Bribe the boffins. Europe needs  money and no one — barring Britain — needs it more than the IOC. In fact, one of the reasons that wrestling is under the Olympic chopper only a year after India won two of its total 26 medals haul is because the IOC has made a shameless demand for some ‘chai-paani’ donation.

All that needs to be worked out in conjunction with the Russians and Americans — who toge-ther (including Russia as the Soviet Union from 1952 to 1992) have won 292 Olympic wrestling medals compared to India’s four — is ‘how much?’

A more brutal way of nixing the IOC’s plan is to accuse its members of being homophobic. Wrestling is a more tactile contact sport than most other contact sports. One man’s face can get squashed many a time in the perineal region where testicles reside.

Being homophobic is a far more serious crime in Europe than sunbathing topless is in Saudi Arabia. So, just to get any horrific anti-gay charge off its back, the IOC will keep wrestling on the list.

Seven wrestlers from Afghanistan participated in the 2012 London Olympics. Someone can certainly make a case before the IOC that without wrestling at this highest sporting stage as an option, these seven Afghans would have joined the Taliban.

With no Olympic wrestling to look forward to, the IOC would be delivering a generation of Afghan men, who would have otherwise spent their time interlocking their limbs for a rough and tumble, to the seductive arms of radical fundamentalism.

Who knows? Even our Hanuman-bhakt Sushil Kumar, disheartened by no Olympic wrestling from 2020, may get radicalised even before the Rio 2016 Olympics and channel his energies in ‘Hindu terror’.

Any one of these arm-twisting, head-locking approaches will convince the IOC that only by retaining Olympic wrestling will the collective conscience of society be satisfied. To mix my sporting metaphors: to pin the problem to the mat, take your  gloves off.


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