During last summer's Olympic games, 58.5 million viewers watched Olympic wrestling on television at its highest point, with an average of 23 million viewers. Compare that to the 33.5 million people who watched the pentathalon at its highest viewership, with an average of 12.5 million viewers. As former wrestler John Irving points out in a Feb. 15 New York Times op-ed, there were 29 countries that produced medalists in wrestling at the 2012 games. Only 26 countries even participated in the pentathlon.
The International Olympic Committee's decision has been met globally with repugnance, disbelief, anger, and vigorous advocacy for a sport that goes back to the ancient games in Greece. As a result of the decision, the head of the international wrestling federation was fired, and 10 countries – including the United States and Russia – met in Iran last week to strategize on influencing the IOC at a meeting in May. A final decision will be made in September.
The fallout from the takedown of wrestling is a shock not only for the 344 Olympic wrestlers who competed in 2012 (including wrestlers from 29 countries who took home medals), but millions of young athletes, coaches, parents, and fans of amateur wrestling around the world.