February 12, 2013

(AP/Paul Sancya) Just like the ancients, nearly!

The International Olympic Committee announced Tuesday its decision to remove wrestling from the roster of 26 core sports.

This is absurd. Wrestling has been an Olympic tradition almost as long as there has been an Olympics. After the footraces, wrestling was one of the first sports to join the Olympic roster, up there with boxing, the pentathlon, and the ancient Greek form of mixed martial arts called the pankration, which is mainly noteworthy because once a guy got disemboweled during the course of a competition, although it was not at an Olympics.

And don’t forget the hoplite race, when men dressed in heavy armor would run distances to show their fitness for warfare, tripping over each other’s shields. That’s my idea of a good time!

You can tell a lot about a world from what it deems worthy of inclusion in the realm of Olympic sports. No baseball? No wrestling? But golf, ice dancing, and synchronized swimming? And dressage? Don’t get me wrong: I love ice dancing. I schedule my life around it in the winters. But do we really want to toss out wrestling while synchronized swimming is still an official event? What about golf, which is essentially large groups of people in button-downs hushing each other and squinting into the middle distance?

The sports that the IOC is contemplating adding to its roster, to whose number wrestling’s application for readmission must now be added, include wakeboarding, the combination of baseball and softball, karate, squash, roller sports, and wushu.

If the ancient Greeks could see today’s Olympics, they’d be deeply disappointed. “Why have none of the boxers been killed?” they would say. “And why is no one naked?” We are missing the spirit that once animated these games. We need to return to the old ways. It’s not just wrestling. Wrestling is something that live people currently do and are invested in! We need to get back to nude oily competitors running around a stadium. Where is the hekatomb sacrificed to Zeus? Where are the heroic odes to the winners? Heck, why are married women allowed to watch it at all?

If we’re worried about ratings, the nudity should solve everything. Don’t just bring back wrestling! Bring back the pankration! Bring back the hoplites! Who needs ratings and the deluding dynamism of extreme sports, when we could be watching heavily armored men trip over each other? Let’s go back to our Olympic roots. Bring it all back!

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.