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Writing was on wall for one of Olympics' most ancient sports . . . And another thing . . .

ZEUS, father of the gods, will surely be unimpressed by the International Olympic Committee's executive board, which yesterday voted the most ancient sport off the Games programme.

Wrestling will no longer be part of  the Olympics after 2016. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Wrestling will no longer be part of the Olympics after 2016. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Their Swiss headquarters should anticipate a thunderbolt. According to legend, Zeus wrestled his own father, Kronos, for control of the world on Mount Olympus, and then founded the first Olympic Games to honour his victory. Zeus's 41-foot statue there was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. He unleashed thunderbolts on the unworthy, and even dogs would not go near his effigy.

This myth, as old as time, underpins wrestling's claims to be the original sport. Yet it was sacrificed as the IOC preserved the role of modern pentathlon, a sport invented and introduced by the Olympic movement's founder, Pierre de Coubertin.

One may question IOC impartiality. Juan Antonio Samaranch junior, son of the former president, lobbied to keep modern pentathlon. He is vice- president of the sport's world body – and a member of the IOC board.

Modern pentathlon and taekwondo had been perceived leading candidates for the axe, but yesterday's decision means both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling disciplines are no longer guaranteed automatic inclusion after 2016. Wrestling now faces a battle with baseball/softball (which combined after being excluded in 2008), squash, karate, climbing, wakeboarding, wushu (kung fu) and roller sports for a place on the 2020 programme.

A decision on what is technically "a recommendation" will be taken in September, but, having just been ousted, it's inconceivable wrestling will be readmitted so soon. The IOC assess sports on factors such as TV ratings (to which they now seem slaves), ticket sales, governance, anti-doping and global popularity.

Had such criteria applied in 1912, wrestling might have gone sooner. One semi-final lasted more than 11 hours, and the winner was so exhausted he could not contest the final. On such epic encounters are legends born. It's disappointing the IOC sets so little store by them.

That same year, in Stockholm, modern pentathlon was introduced, but documentation – and pottery – exists to show the sport now axed to preserve the modern upstart was the first to be added to the Ancient Olympics after foot races, in 708BC.

Wrestling is described in Homer's Iliad, and Milo of Kroton, victorious at six successive Olympiads, is arguably the first identifiable real-life sports hero. His strength was legendary. He could hold his hand so tightly that nobody could prise his pinkie away from his other fingers, and he could tie a cord around his head and hold his breath until the veins swelled so hard that the cord snapped. He won the last of his titles 2521 years ago and died attempting to part a tree trunk that had been split by wedges. The wedges slipped, trapping him, and he was devoured by wolves.

Hercules of legend wrestled a lion, but this was done in real-life by Polydamas of Skotoussa, Olympic pantakrion champion (boxing, fought to the death) of 408BC. His victory over the beast on the slopes of Mt Olympus is portrayed on the base of his statue at Olympia.

Wrestling was included at the inaugural modern Olympics, in Athens in 1896. A Scot, Launceston Elliot, was the first British competitor. Though he lost in the opening round of the Greco-Roman super-heavyweight division to Carl Schuhmann (the eventual winner) he won gold and silver in weightlifting – Britain's first Olympic gold medallist.

All of this noble heritage was consigned even deeper to the pages of history pages, less relevant thanks to yesterday's decision.

While it may be good news for other combat sports – mixed martial arts will surely pick up disaffected wrestlers – it's bad news for Scotland. Wrestling is on the Glasgow 2014 programme.

However, the writing has been on the wall for the sport for years. Scottish lottery funding was used inappropriately before the 2002 Commonwealths when an accommodation address in East Lothian was maintained for Luigi Bianco – while he lived in a caravan on a university campus in his native Canada. This allowed him to compete for Scotland, but there was no hint of legacy benefit for Scotland. Bianco is now a paid coach at Toronto University.

Such irregularities, plus proven false Scottish club membership figures, and irregular accounting, were all known to sportscotland, but never adequately addressed. If that been done, perhaps the British wrestling body might not have felt it acceptable to hire five Ukrainian, Bulgarian, and Russian mercenaries as sparring partners for British contenders for London 2012. This programme, costing £4m over eight years, was a catastrophic failure, with most of them not being granted citizenship.

One who was, Ukraine-born Myroslav Dykun, Commonwealth champion for England in Delhi, failed a drug test last year. Banned for two years, he was ruled out for 2012. Olga Butkevych ended up being the only British wrestler in 2012 when belatedly granted British citizenship. Five of the imports married British wrestlers, allegedly to facilitate nationality change. The sport denies this.

UK Sport ruled there was no legacy in such a programme, and cut 2016 funding to zero. Performance director Shaun Morley and head coach Nikolai Kornieiev have gone.

Yesterday's Olympic verdict was simply the roughest mat finish.

Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, will reveal today whether Glasgow is on the shortlist for the 2018 Youth Olympics. Buenos Aires, Guadalajara, Medellin, and Rotterdam are its rivals.

There will undoubtedly be benefits in continuing sporting legacy following the Olympics and 2014 Commonwealth Games, but a firm grip must be kept on finances for an event with minimal TV, sponsor, or spectator appeal.

It is one thing hosting Glasgow 2014 when commercial potential will be enhanced by the talents of such as Usain Bolt, David Rudisha, and Sir Chris Hoy, those competing in the Youth Olympics will barely be household names in their own homes.

And while on the subject of 2014, Glasgow must lobby for the same relaxation of HMRC legislation which prevailed during the London Olympics. Bolt's UK appearances have already been curtailed due to tax implications.

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