Tag Archives: Greco-Roman

The IOC is wrestling to drop this Olympic sport

15 Feb

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It’s been six months since the end of the London 2012 Olympic Games but the international sporting event is still generating plenty of coverage this week:

Leading the pack is South African Paralympic gold medallist and double amputee Oscar Pistorius who’s recently denied murder after his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was found dead at his home.

Secondly, ‘poster girl for London 2012’ Jessica Ennis has topped a poll, alongside the Queen, as one of the country’s most inspirational women.

Lastly, the International Olympic Commission (IOC) is facing criticism after it announced it wanted to drop wrestling as an Olympic sport – an event that dates back to the ancient Greek games and has been part of the modern programme since 1896.

There’s still a chance it could stay – if the IOC officially ratifies it at a meeting in September – but at the moment it’s competing against six other sports, such as baseball and squash, for one spot in the 2020 programme.

Of all the recent news the latter bothers me most. Why? Because those that have been with Prime Time from the beginning will remember that when I was a GamesMaker I helped to oversee the wrestling at the ExCeL centre.

The Olympic Games has such a unique history that it’s a privilege for countries to host this amazing centre stage to showcase talented athletes. (You only have to watch a snippet of Danny Boyle’s Opening Ceremony to see how much effort we put in.) With this in mind, I appreciate that to keep the Olympics current, occasionally it has to redevelop itself. And I’m all eyes and eyes for modernisation, but when elements of the event’s history and heritage are at stake then that’s a different matter.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a closet member of FILA – the wrestling federation. Until last August I’d never even seen a Greco-Roman match, but the fact that the IOC has deemed it a good enough sport, to recognise and reward athletes for demonstrating their skills and strength, for more than a century must worth something.

If it’s about ticket sales, the IOC should be supporting FILA with advice to raise the sport’s profile. After all, more athletes and more fans would benefit both parties. But, instead the committee bull-dozed ahead without talking to anyone. So, not only does the IOC look rash but also now appears defensive by saying:

“We knew even before the decision was taken whatever sport would not be included in the core programme would lead to criticism from the supporters of that sport.”

The backlash against the IOC has spread quickly and I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels surprised. ESPN’s Jim Caple highlights a range of other sports that could’ve been given the chopper which would’ve caused less controversy. (Trampolining anyone?)

Wrestling is an ancient sport. I mean that in the historical sense, not old.
It’ll be interesting to see what the outcome is as the wrestlers, and their fans, fight to feature in Rio and beyond.

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Olympic crowds lift the athletes (and Nike treads softly)

6 Aug

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Live from London 2012: I’m blogging from the weightlifting arena in the ExCeL tonight.

I’ve been to many of the events held here in the past week, including judo and table tennis, but weightlifting has a particularly great atmosphere. If there’s any sporting discipline that depends on audience participation – it’s this. After all, 220kg won’t lift itself. It also doesn’t matter where these contestants are from as the crowd just wants to see the human body pushed to its limit.

In the tribune

It was my first shift in the tribune today overseeing the Greco-Roman wrestling, which saw 60kg, 84kg and 120kg contenders attempt to flip their opponent to progress to the next round. The arena was packed and the journalists arrived in their droves to cover the event. Although, Prospect Magazine warns that the alternative wrestling style – freestyle – is the least popular Olympic sport. But, even if the audience is small in numbers later this week it shouldn’t affect the atmosphere. Everyone seems happy to get involved and show their support so far.

Brands breaking out

But, let’s not dwell on sports losing out. Rather, let’s focus on sports brands that are winning – Nike

The most talked about sports brand online (with 33% more tweet mentions under event hash tags according to StarCom MediaVest Group via The Wall), ahead of official Olympic sponsor Adidas, has ensured it’s part of the sporting conversation by supplying athletes with plenty of footwear.

Not only have Adidas got the hump because organisers can’t ban athletes from wearing Nike (it’s deemed as a piece of ‘equipment’) but because lots of pairs have been spied on high-profile names. And, to push the boot in, Nike’s also released a range of trainers with department store Liberty.

With a pair made especially for Team GB 400m hurdler Perri Shakes-Drayton who’s yet to take to the track, Nike is making sure it has the upper hand (or foot) when it comes to brand presence and awareness with its Victory Zoom Elite range.

There’s a week of competition left but will Adidas respond? Yes – it sponsored the ‘greatest show on earth’ for long-term positive brand perception. But, with a global captive audience tuning in, there’s plenty of quick-wins that it can’t afford to miss.

Call the Doctor

On another note, have you noticed how most athletes listen to music before they take to the stage? Have you noticed how they all have similar ‘over the ear’ DJ headphones? That’s because brand Beats by Dre have distributed them as gifts to athletes in a side-step marketing move that avoids slapped wrists by LOCOG. This tactic should make sure that Olympic sponsor Panasonic, which manages the TVs and big screens at the venues but also manufacturers headphones, gets the message too – step up or lose out.

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