The only place where Americans, Russians, Iranian and even North Koreans cheer together is the wrestling arena. But the past few months have been very unsettling for all lovers of this game. The speculations is rife of its possible expulsion after Rio’16 from the Olympic family. Three pleas were presented for its expulsion – viewership, global acceptability and history. It demands a strong appeal in its favour, and it goes as follows.
If wider acceptability is to be measured for the popularity of the game, then consider these supporting figures. 18 Gold medals were grabbed by grapplers at London ’12. 72 medals were at stake and the big pie was shared by 22 nations, representing all the continents, except Australia. If viewership is to be considered, then take note that the Excel arena was always full to the capacity, and twice the numbers were standing outside, enjoying wrestlers battling hard on giant screens.
The simple, rule-bound muscle’s strength show is easily comprehensible and widely acceptable. Spectators of all continents have filled the stands, from local mud akharas of village to yellow mats of air conditioned stadiums of national capitals around the globe. The greatest quality, or say beauty, that this ancient grappling art possesses is that to play this game, one requires no special paraphernalia.
15,000-year-old cave drawings in France appear to be depicting pictures similar to men engaging in the art of wrestling. China has pictures some 4000 years old, Egypt has murals and images as old as 2000 BC, of this sport. The ancient Greek and Roman penchant for it is widely known. The dances of various animals are widely popular. ‘Falcon dance’ is a traditional feature of Mangolian wrestling, performed by wrestlers before the bout since the time of Genghis Khan.
Centuries old Sumo wrestling is attached to Japan’s reputation the world over, as much as their Toshibas and Toyotas. The popularity has crossed Japanese shores and there are many non Japanese Sumo wrestlers in Japanese National Championships, who follow a strict punishing schedule from childhood.
The word ‘Kushti’ and ‘Pehelwani’ are Persian words imported to India from Iran. Babur was a wrestler of quality, and present politicians like Rajnath Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav were wrestlers of talent in their youth. Even Hari Prasad Chaurasia, the famous flautist, enthralled audiences at ‘akharas’ at one time. It is among the few sports which featured not only in all modern Olympics, but in the Olympics of 776 BC as well.
Ask any wrestler in the world, including those who have joined akharas barely a week before, about their biggest dream in life, and the reply is bound to be ‘Olympic gold’. Now compare this to golf, tennis and the most popular game of the planet, and you know that an Olympic medal is nowhere in their wish list.
In India, there have been tales of Gulam Mohammad, better known as ‘Gama pehelwan’, who remained unbeaten for over 50 years of his career, a record that might never be broken. How K D Jadhav, the first Indian individual to win a medal (who even retained this hat for a long period), was welcomed by 40 km long crowds, when he returned from Helsinki in 1952 with a bronze medal around his neck.
To be fair, for the new generation in India, the interest in this art exploded after the heroic act of Sushil Kumar at Beijing, and it has only increased since then. At London, we showed the world our Bheem-Balram. On a promising note, many are flexing muscles in India to shine at Rio and onwards.
The strong shout coming from the wrestling quarters is about why games like kayaking, canoeing, fencing, equestrian, modern pentathlon are still travelling, whereas wrestling has been relegated to battle from the waiting list to get a permanent berth on the Olympic wagon.
International bodies have to come together to save this beautiful art, putting aside their on and off the field issues. Exclusion from the Olympics will be an insult not only to spectators, players and viewers around the globe, but to the glorious human history and civilization as well. By : Vijay Anand By Vijay Anand:- The only place where Americans, Russians, Iranian and even North Koreans cheer together is the wrestling arena. But the past few months have been very unsettling for all lovers of this game. The speculations is rife of its possible expulsion after Rio’16 from the Olympic family. Three pleas were presented for......