Olympic Boxing fans, indeed the boxing community in general, male and female, ‘amateur’ and pro are still ‘reeling’ from the news – hidden away in just one small paragraph of an I.O.C website update – that there will still only be three weights for female boxers in Rio 2016, a decision conveyed at the International Olympic Committee’s Executive Board meeting in Lausanne in July.
That well hidden snippet, which has shattered the dreams of women boxers the world over, simply said :
“The EB discussed the topic of possible modifications to disciplines, events, quotas and competition formats at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and reiterated that any request from International Federations that would result in a higher number of athletes or increased number of medals, thereby adding to the cost and complexity of the Games, would not be considered.” A footnote added: “At a later stage, the IOC will study the quota-neutral requests already made by IFs for either a swap of event or modifications of competition format.”
Following the success of London 2012 it had been confidently predicted that there would be an increase in the number of weights for women to at least five or more likely six for Rio. Such a move would in fact have only gone some of the way to meeting the I.O.C’s own charter on Equality – remember there were TEN weights for Male boxers in London 2012 OR put in simple terms only 36 female boxers and 250 male boxers. Is that the IOC’s idea of equality? Equality?
Remember what outgoing International Olympic Committee President, Belgium’s Count Jacques Rogge, himself a former boxing physician, told reporters at the London 2012 games and again at later briefings, talking specifically about Women’s boxing programme?
“I think it was fantastic. I am a very happy man,” Rogge told reporters including ‘Around the Rings soon after the final bout.
“There has been some criticism of whether women should box and there was a lot of criticism of the level of their technique. I think we have been vindicated that it was a good decision – and it’s only the beginning.”
Only the beginning, Dr Rogge? You said that also in 2009 when women’s boxing was first admitted to the Games having been refused once again for Beijing 2008 as it had been for Sydney 2004. Only the beginning?
That said President Rogge has been one of the better Presidents of the I.O.C and it would be a great shame if this situation is not reversed as it would seriously affect his long term standing when he retires in September. So still time yet to find a solution together with AIBA President Dr C.K. Wu of course.
On the face of it, at this time, it looks as if the A.I.B.A has lost the battle to persuade the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C) to include three additional weights for Rio 2016 in a decision that has surprised and seriously angered not only all fair minded supporters of sport worldwide but all ‘women in sport’ and their coaches, families and supporters. An opportunity though still does exist – carefully study again that ‘footnote’:
“At a later stage, the IOC will study the quota-neutral requests already made by IFs for either a swap of event or modifications of competition format.”
So effectively IF Dr Rogge and Dr Wu get together and agree on additional weights for women it IS possible for the IOC to NOT increase number of medals issued or athletes entered and at the same time it is possible for Dr Wu to achieve his oft repeated desire for more weights for women boxers.
Following the I.O.C announcement an AIBA spokesperson told Press Association Sport: “The International Boxing Association (AIBA) take note and respect this decision but hope that more opportunities will be opened to women boxers at the 2020 Olympic Games.” Why wait for 2020 when it can be achieved in 2016? WHERE THERE IS A WILL THERE IS A WAY!.
Leading International women’s boxing authority WBAN.com launched a petition on its site, which gathered in excess of 1,200 signatures in the first few days and calls upon the IOC’s Dr Rogge and Dr Wu of the AIBA to ‘reconsider the decision’ – which results from no increase in athletes or medals – namely to continue with only three weight class divisions in the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
To only have three weight classes for female boxers means that females who do not fit into those categories will not be able to compete in the Olympics, which would very much be against the ideals of the Olympic Spirit and Movement, says WBAN.
According to former Pro Boxing world no.1 and WBAN Proprietor, TL. Sue Fox : “In some cases young female athletes in their desperation to appear in the Olympics may seek to lose or put on significant weight which could prove extremely damaging to their health and welfare. We feel sure that this is fully understood and appreciated by both organisations. The men’s division allow 10 weight classes. WBAN looks at this discrepancy for female vs. male boxers in the Olympics as discriminatory”.
For Irish boxers this is also a devastating blow as it is to their fellow boxers throughout the world. Only three weights again has potentially serious health implications due to having to put on or lose often considerable amounts of weight to get into the three weight classes remaining.
It will also mean friends losing out or having to ‘box off’ in trials against each other. For example it is not impossible that such as leading Irish contender at 57 kg Michaela Walsh and European Junior Champion Amy Broadhurst –to name but two – will now have to take on Katie Taylor if they are to achieve their dream of even appearing in qualifiers for Rio.
A similar situation would apply to 2013 Irish Elite finalists at 64 kg – Kelly Harrington and Alanna Murphy. They too may have to box off in the 60 kg class against Taylor,Broadhurst and Walsh IF indeed that weight is confirmed as still being one of the three selected for Rio. Callan’s 69kg champion, Clare Grace faces an even more daunting prospect of moving down to 60kg or up to 75kg – neither of which would be ideal.
On hearing the news that there will be no additional weights at Rio 2016 , Pete Taylor, famed Irish coach – and father – of Olympic Gold Medallist and four times AIBA world champion – Katie Taylor , expressed his thoughts on the subject of the I.O.C announcement:.
“I am disappointed and very surprised by this news, said Pete Taylor. “It’s crazy and once again women boxers are being treated as second class citizens.
“I thought that given the success of the sport at the London Olympics that women’s boxing would get two or three more weight classes for Rio. It beggars belief that they are once again being restricted to three weights.
“Women’s boxing proved itself at London 2012. The bouts were exciting and very competitive and were just as good as the men’s.
They are not looking for any special treatment. All they are looking for is to be treated equally. “
The AIBA reaffirms that it made strong representations on behalf of women boxers and indeed its President Dr C.K.Wu has at various stages in recent years pleaded long and hard on behalf of women. After the London Games Dr Wu reaffirmed his intention of doing his utmost to increase the numbers of weights in conjunction with his fellow I.O.C colleagues on the Executive Board.
This is but one of many positive comments made by Dr Wu, who is himself a candidate for the Presidency of the I.O.C when Jacques Rogge retires next month. Talking to the International Working Group on Women in Sport (IWG) Dr Wu said:
“Boxing was the last Olympic sport not to be represented by both men and women athletes. Seeing women boxing entering the Olympic program was one of my main goals when I was elected AIBA President in 2006. Therefore, I was very proud to witness the first women boxers taking in an Olympic ring in London.”
For him and many other boxing enthusiasts, August 5, 2012 will, in his words, “forever be an historical date, not only for AIBA, but for the Olympic Movement and the sport in general. It is another symbol of gender equality.”
“The 36 boxers who were competing at the Games demonstrated that women’s boxing is very even, there is no mismatch and the level of uncertainty in each bout is fascinating.”
After the level of interest and media attention that women’s boxing has received in London, Wu remained convinced that, “now that the world has discovered these women boxers, interest can only grow.”
“As a father of two daughters, I know that everything in this world is much better when women are involved. Women have a different approach of life than men and can lead organizations in such a different way. Actually both approaches are very complementary and bring an interesting balance in decision-making.”
In that extended IWG interview, Dr Wu concluded: ”When you see what Katie Taylor represents in Ireland, I am sure she can be a leader, not only on a boxing ring. She is already a role model for many Irish people. I will personally encourage all women boxers to get involved in our organization. AIBA already has since 1998 a Women’s Commission but I will be more than happy to welcome and encourage women in leadership positions in AIBA and on National Federations’ level.”
Also at London 2012 , after the women’s boxing finals, Dr Wu told sports writers: “The roaring success of the long-awaited London 2012 Olympic Games finally paid off all our efforts in preparation to this important event. Many goals were achieved, some beyond expectations, said Dr Wu.
“Above all, a special mention goes to the triumph of women’s boxing.
“These women, who for the first time participated in an Olympiad, performed with such spirit that words fail to describe the atmosphere they created.”
“Now, as this year is winding down, we can look at the future with the confidence that there is no such thing like an impossible objective. Our achievements speak for themselves.”
Dr Wu is quite right: There is no such thing as an impossible objective!
So Dr Rogge and Dr Wu, there IS a solution – it just requires your leadership skills to convince others on the I.O.C Executive Board and on the AIBA Executive Committee to agree to comply with the Olympic Charter which states – and rightly so – under the ‘Fundamental Principles of Olympism’:
“The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of
practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which
requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.
Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race,
religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic
Belonging to the Olympic Movement requires compliance with the Olympic Charter
and recognition by the IOC.
And as Dr Rogge will not need reminding: the ‘last word’ on the subject?
Rule 58 IOC – Authority of Last Resort:
The authority of last resort on any question concerning the Olympic Games rests with the IOC
So Dr Rogge, over to you ….ball is firmly in YOUR court and that of Dr Wu.
“Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done
You can find the WBAN petition here: https://www.change.org/petitions/petition-increase-weight-classes-for-female-boxers-in-2016-olympic-games-in-rio-de-janeiro