Iowa Congressman Tom Latham has joined Governor Terry Branstad, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds and the entire Iowa Congressional delegation in asking International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge to reconsider the IOC's recent decision to remove wrestling from the 2020 summer Olympic Games. Wrestling is one of the Games' great institutions, stretching back to ancient civilization and inclusion in the first modern Olympics at the 1896 Games in Athens.
Latham noted that wrestling's esteemed international reputation is not only shared at home but has been strongly influenced and improved by the state's tradition and love of the sport.
"Iowa has a storied and rich wrestling tradition, and I believe it would be an affront to world-class athletes both past and present to remove this great sport from the Olympic Games," Latham said. "While the IOC has every right to modernize the schedule of Olympic events, the committee should not axe a competition whose history, passion and participation are shared globally. I am proud to join my Iowa colleagues in fighting for the preservation of this celebrated sport in the Olympic Games."
While wrestling is slated to continue at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the IOC announced its decision earlier this week to drop wrestling from the 2020 Games so that a different competition can take wrestling's place. An IOC spokesman stated that the decision is "not a case of what's wrong with wrestling; it is what's right with the 25 core sports."
The letter from the Iowa Governor's office and Congressional delegation is reprinted in full below.
February 14, 2013
Dr. Jacques Rogge
President, International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board
Château de Vidy
Case Postale 356
Dear President Rogge:
We write as a group of elected officials from the State of Iowa, a State with a rich wrestling tradition, regarding the recent decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to remove wrestling as an Olympic sport following the 2016 Olympic Games. We strongly urge the IOC to reconsider its position, and vote to ensure wrestling's continued existence in the 2020 summer Olympic Games.
Wrestling harkens back to ancient civilization and the sport's inclusion in the Olympics has only enriched the ongoing Olympic tradition. Early Olympic organizers recognized wrestling's unique and global importance by including the sport in the first modern Olympic Games held in Athens in 1896. Wrestling has been a major part of the Olympics ever since.
The same spirit of competition that drove ancient wrestlers and early modern Olympians has transcended generations, and here in Iowa, we are the beneficiaries of this spirit. It is a sport where self-pride and determination battle and as a result, helps build character. Wrestling does not discriminate by age, gender or economic background.
At its core, wrestling is an instinct and embodies the human qualities of hard work, discipline, and perseverance. Fellow Iowan Dan Gable, an Olympic gold medalist and former US Olympic wrestling coach, best summarized the life foundation that wrestling provides when he stated, "Once you've wrestled, everything else in life is easy."
Iowa is not the sole beneficiary of these traits and wrestling's reach goes well beyond the United States. Forms of wrestling have been important parts of culture in China, Japan, Russia and many other countries. Soviet and Russian wrestlers have won 77 gold medals. Wrestling federations exist in approximately 180 countries and the recent London Olympic Games had wrestlers from 71 countries.
We disagree with the IOC's release statement that: "This is a process of renewing and renovating the program for the Olympics." Renewing or renovating the Olympics should respect important Olympic traditions. Unfortunately, this IOC decision ignores wrestling's rich Olympic tradition.
We would also encourage a transparent voting system for future votes on which sports should be included as part of the Olympic Games. As public officials, we hold transparency as a sacred principle and we would encourage the International Olympic Committee to abide by that same principle.
We encourage your prompt reconsideration of your decision to exclude wrestling from the Olympics.
We hope that wrestling will continue to be an important part of the Olympic tradition.