Associated Press reported that Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., son of the former IOC president and a vice president of pentathlon’s governing body, the UIPM, delivered a late pitch for his sport, pleading pentathlon’s tradition as a sport invented for the Olympics by Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern games. Designed to bring together fencing, swimming, horse riding, running and shooting, a competitive simulation celebrating the late 19th century essence of a cavalry officer, pentathlon harped on the sepia-tint and sentimentality of the sport in Olympics history as clincher.
However, while the elite Europe lobby appealed to emotion and the founding father’s legacy despite negative reviews for the sport in areas of global popularity and TV interest, it was also pentathlon’s readiness in battling this very unflattering perception and preparedness to fight for its existence at the meeting, that is said to have helped it in battling elimination.
The hammering of criticisms since London, where it was dubbed outdated and niche, had ensured that UIPM President Klaus Schormann went to the meeting armed with his defence, and prepped to lobby hard, even as wrestling bumbled from the shocking bolt. While pentathlon scrunched up its yawning five-day programme into a single day’s work and replaced air pistols with laser guns, tagging shooting-running together, taekwondo presented its modernity by roping in electronic scoring.
While it will be difficult to nudge pentathlon from its indulged perch — given that Europe’s Olympic bluebloods will protect their bastion — wrestling which needs to wake up from its slumber and general astonishment, will have to look at a bold repackaging or makeover to save its quadrennial existence.
(Shivani is a special correspondent based in Mumbai)