India appears to be hardest hit in the face of a recommendation from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board to drop wrestling as an Olympic sport for the 2020 Games. While a final decision will be taken at Buenos Aires in September this year, our wrestlers will have to merely hope for the best. For several years, winning an Olympic gold medal was not viewed as a passionate pursuit on India’s sporting scene, but now it is, thanks to the likes of Leander Paes, Abhinav Bindra and silver medallist Sushil Kumar along with his tribe of talented wrestlers which includes Yogeshwar Dutt.
How will wrestling compete with baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and wushu for a final place in the 2020 Olympics is something India will view with great interest and the final verdict may go against the ancient sport. On the home front, there’s some work to be done by India’s administrators who support the sport. There is no doubt that the sport needs more exposure than it gets in the media and the need to beef up infrastructure and facilities is greater now than ever.
Whatever happens to wrestling on the Olympic front, India should not drop its guard as the game continues to be part of the Asian Games. Plus, there will be the World Championships. Wrestling has been very much a traditional sport. As Tevye in the famous movie Fiddler on the Roof said, “traditions, traditions! Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as... as... as a fiddler on the roof!” Olympics or not, kushti is woven into the Indian tapestry of tradition. Let’s not relegate it and its practitioners to second-class status.
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