As many on this blog know, I have long been a critic of the International Olympic Committee which has long been accused of corruption, cronyism, and plain stupidity. One of the most outrageous decisions was the elimination of wrestling, one of the few original sports, in favor of events like golf with more wealthy supporters. (Wrestling was later reinstated after global outcry). My sense of confusion depended this week with the reappearance of curling — a sport viewed by 99 percent of people every four years and met with the same universal question: “why is this a sport?” I do not contest that curling is a sport, I just fail to understand why it is an Olympic sport (like shooting) when sports like wrestling were cut.
I know that I will hear from curling advocates, so let me be clear. I am happy curlers have a sport. I am happy it has a long history. However, I fail to understand why a curlers who releases a stone on an ice floor is given the same medal as the Nordic Combined which pushes athletes beyond any normal measure of human endurance. Indeed, curling is routinely listed as the least physically challenging sport in the games. It is called a sport version of chess, but the level of physicality is closer to chess than downhill skiing.
The act of sliding stones across a sheet of ice leave me wondering why shuttleboard or bocce or beanbag is not an Olympic sport. I have long felt the same way about shooting targets in the Summer Olympics.
Here is my point (yes I was getting to one): what is missing is any coherent test of what constitutes an Olympic sport in terms of physicality and difficulty. Indeed, the IOC seems primarily motivated by money. Take wrestling. It is physically and historically an Olympic sport. Yet, those athletes have been told that they are simply not Olympic material while sliding stones on ice is retained as is shooting as paper targets.
Yes, I know that the “sweeping” does include some exertion but I know people who do that all day long but barely make minimum wage, let alone an Olympic medal.
Let’s be clear. I have not stone in this competition. However, I feel a sense of gross unfairness in watching athletes collapse at finish lines only to flip over the curling competition to see stone sliding on ice. Notably, while shown on television, the stands of the curling competition appear virtually empty save for relatives. Now, if they were allowed to throw stones at IOC members, I might change my mind given the addition of greater physicality and popularity.
So I have to put it to a vote: