This Sunday, the IOC will reinstate wrestling for the 2020 and 2024 Olympics. As soon as the announcement is made there will be many sighs of relief and cheers of joy, all heard around the globe but the question is what then? Where does wrestling go from there and how do we make sure something like this never happens again?
Three questions need to answered:
- How did we get here?
- How can we prevent this from ever happening again?
- Can we leverage the media attention of the last seven months to turn lemons into lemonade?
Let’s take a closer look at the three.
1) How did we get here?
Arrogance, superiority and stupidity. Those attitudes and attribute from FILA forced the IOC to act. Hopefully the scare of losing the world’s flagship event for wrestling was significant enough to assure that changes will continue to be made in Lucerne’s structure and personnel.
But have things really changed? Everyone who was a member of FILA’s Board leading up to our removal from the Olympics is still a member of FILA’s Board. No one was let go and no one was disciplined. The only thing that took place was a game of musical chairs where the rascal who was President when we got the heave-ho lost his seat at the head of the table. But he’s still at the table enjoying the benefits of participation, complete with the same voting privileges as the new President.
However, I am encouraged by and grateful to FILA’s new President, Nenad Lalovic, for all he’s done to begin the changes the sport and their organization needs. It is a difficult task, and one that’s just begun.
2) How can we prevent this from ever happening again?
In one simple word, the answer is – leadership . To whom much is given, much is expected. If FILA and to a lesser extent USAWrestling were a corporation with stock holders every top level executive would have been given pink slips. They cost wrestling millions and millions of dollars to repair broken relationships with the IOC not to mention our PR nightmare. Regardless if they knew this was coming down the pipe or not, they’re in power to know. Just as ignorance of the law isn’t a defense in our court system, not being aware that we were about to be let-go should be justification enough to let leadership go as well. Combine all the resumes of each of our leaders both home and abroad and read each one carefully. Nowhere will you find phrases like, “Occasionally I don’t know what’s going on” or “there are times when I’ll allow things to happen that I know are wrong.” To not know is to be ineffective, to not understand is to be unwise, to not resign is to be self-absorbed.
3) Can we leverage the media attention of the last seven months to turn lemons into lemonade?
In the turbulent world we live in, regardless of the position an individual, organization or nation takes, there will always be others who see things differently. What remains a constant of agreement worldwide is sports and music. They transcend the fray, overcome conflicts and unite differences. Regardless of your political or religious views or national ties, everyone enjoys a good concert or an exceptional sporting event.
Think about it, here we are, a small, low-profile sport bringing together Muslims and Christians, Iranians and Americans, even the AAU, Nuway and USAWrestling are one in this cause. Anything that powerful should be bottled and sold.
This is our message. This is our purpose.
Think about what that could mean, the use of sports as a means of establishing understanding and tolerance toward the world’s differences? For decades we’ve been looking for a message that would resonate with the media and elevate wrestling. Why not take advantage of what the sport just began? In 7 short months we became the thread that began to bind the planet’s philosophic fabric.
Instead of “man’s oldest sport” which has forever been our “go to” slogan; maybe we should try “It started with wrestling” and develop a marketing campaign around it.
That’s the way I see it at least.