This week the BBC Sports team carried a feature on its website suggesting that women may be forced to wear skirts in the 2012 Olympic Games.Naturally this has led to a number of highly irate emails and comments from readers – men as well as women – and rightly so. What the BBC did not say of course is that the proposal was made in September 2010 preferring to create the view that this was an idea just now being considered by the AIBA.
If it was meant as a “Late News Flash” then it succeeded – it was a VERY VERY late news flash from an organisation which sadly has lost its way in a sport where once the BBC dominated media and Live TV coverage with such excellent commentators as Eamon Andrew and Harry Carpenter to name but two. The facts here are that at the semi-final stage of the 2010 World Championships in Barbados , the 40 remaining boxers were presented with a ‘new uniform’ and expected to wear it in the semi-finals and finals.
Of the 40 boxers remaining at that stage,as the highly respected boxing writer Michael Rivest in his ‘Times Union’ blog , wrote ‘at the time’ the boxers sent “‘a powerful and clear statement to AIBA, only 14 of the 40 competing athletes in the recent competition wore the skirts. Of those 14, 11 stated that they where wearing it for “purely political reasons.(or in other words they were frightened that they might be penalised if they did not co-operate or “banned” by their own boxing authorities in regions which allow individuals little if any choice.
26 of the 40 “stood up to” their World boxing authority – one of the main reasons being that they knew they had the full backing and support of the then two times world champion Katie Taylor. Remember too that that was all taking place up to a few hours before Taylor entered the ring in that never to be forgotten, dramatic semi-final bout with Queen Underwood of the United States.
Peter Taylor takes up the story: “”They said to us, ‘You have to wear the skirts.’ I said, ‘Katie’s not wearing that.’ So he says, ‘If you don’t wear them, you can’t box.’ And I said, ‘Okay, so she won’t box.’”. The AIBA relented and two bouts later Taylor won that coveted 3rd in a row world title. The AIBA later claimed it was only an option albeit that is NOT how it was presented at the time.
Michael Rivest, spoke with AIBA President ,Dr Ching-Kuo Wu, a man who hasd one some excellent things for boxing in general and fully supported women boxers in their quest to gain Olympic recognition . Why,he asked Dr Ku was this on the agenda at all? The response made little or no sense then and even less so now.
Dr Wu’s explanation (remember this was in Sept 2010) : “I have heard many times, people say, ‘We can’t tell the difference between the men and the women,’ especially on TV, since they’re in the same uniforms and are wearing headgear,”
Did the AIBA not listen to the women’s concerns when they were asked for their opinions on the subject of uniforms ie: that such a uniform would be unacceptable? And if a different uniform why not longer shorts?
“We have a Women’s Commission that evaluated everything and they met and gave their recommendations,” he said, adding. “The uniform was presented [in Barbados] as optional.” Does this mean it will remain optional? “After we hear about its comfort and how easy it is to compete in the uniform, it may be compulsory. But we are still working on it.”
But that was in September 2010 and now here we are in October 2011 and the Polish authorities taking their own decision to make skirts compulsory. And what is the Polish justification for this outrageous decision,one wonders?
“By wearing skirts, in my opinion, it gives a good impression, a womanly impression,” Poland coach Leszek Piotrowski told BBC Sport. “Wearing shorts is not a good way for women boxers to dress.( Does Piotrowski really believe that these warriors are out to creat a “womanly impression”? Mon Dieu!
“At the world championships in Barbados, Romania wore skirts from AIBA. We decided to design our own, they’re more elegant.”
The AIBA’s Technical and Rules competition team discussed this subject before the recent AIBA AIBA Congress in Azerbaaijan and tehre were updated amendments to the rule book as late as 23rd September. Here is the last official guideline included in the NEW directory:
RULE 8. COMPETITION UNIFORM
8.1. Boxers’ Uniform
8.1.1. Boxers shall box in light boots or shoes (without spikes or heels), socks, shorts (not to
exceed knee length), and a vest covering the chest and back.
8.1.2. For all AIBA Approved Events, the Boxers must wear a red or blue vest and shorts as
per the Boxers’ respective corner allocation, which shall be their own responsibility. The belt line must be clearly indicated by a contrasting color and by using a 6 – 10cm wide elastic waistband (the belt line is an imaginary line from the navel to the top of the hips).
So in reality the Poles and Romanians were in breach of their own (AIBA) governing bodies rules!
SportsNewsIreland sought clarification of the AIBA’s current position and asked if skirts were to become mandatory for the Olympics?
The official AIBA Response to SportsNewsIreland:
“Indeed, wearing a skirt for Women boxers is absolutely not mandatory.
The AIBA Technical & Competition Rules Commission has already discussed this matter and there is no plan for changing the actual situation for the moment.
The Polish National Federation has made its own decision regarding its boxers at the European Championships”
Katie Taylor’s thoughts on the subject of any country’s boxers being forced to wear skirts?
“It’s a disgrace that they’re forcing some of the women to wear those mini-skirts. We should be able to wear shorts, just like the men”, she told BBC Sport..
“I won’t be wearing a mini-skirt. I don’t even wear mini-skirts on a night out , so I definitely won’t be wearing mini-skirts in the ring.”
I spoke with many boxers in Rotterdam when covering the European Championships last week for SportsNews Ireland and for Wban.org and apart from the Polish team and one or two other individuals mainly from former Eastern European states ( who were given no choice), there was no little or support whatsoever for wearing skirts.
This is what Taylor’s Coach and Dad, Peter said on the subject in April this year when asked by the “Irish Examiner” what would happen if skirts were made compulsory at the Olympics or thereafter:
“She won’t box,” says Peter. “Simple as that. We’ve got morals that go above marketing.”
“It’s discrimination,”. “It’s men making these decisions and it’s wrong. It’s just marketing. We don’t need the marketing. If they just let the girls box as they are, people are going to be amazed how technically good they are.”
The boxers were actually presented with a new style tight fitting vest and skirt at the semi-final stage in Barbados 2010 and told to wear them. At that time Peter Taylor commented:-
“They said to us, ‘You have to wear the skirts.’ I said, ‘Katie’s not wearing that.’ So he says, ‘If you don’t wear them, you can’t box.’ And I said, ‘Okay, so she won’t box.’”
My own view is that the boxers who did wear skirts were at a significant disadvantage in Rotterdam and interestingly in a sell out 2,500 crowd on finals day the boxers who attracted most admiration from the media and the crowd (inc male autograph hunters) were such as Sofya Ochigava, Marichelle de Jong, Nouchka Fontijn, Nikki Adams, Nadezhad Torlopova,Savannah Marshall, Gulzum Tatar and of course the now Five Times in a Row, European champion , Katie Taylor – all of whom wore shorts as usual.They were admired for their boxing skills.
Insofar as the original comment that TV viewers could not distinguish women boxers from men that is complete nonsense on many scores,.Apart from fact that commentators will always identify who is involved, it would not be a problem in Olympics anyway is all the women’s bouts are on different days than the men’s.
The view in Europe and in the United States is that womens boxing will attract a huge new TV audience and thousands of new women to the sport,once the London Games are over, as the overwhelming majority have never seen Olympic-style womens boxing on TV or LIVE or and simply assume that is is similar to Men’s professional boxing.. Tickets have sold exceptionally well and sell out crowds anticipated .
IF the majority of women boxers follow the lead of Taylor and the many others (from all countries) who feel equally strongly, this will NOT happen but I can see it remaining optional . If that ‘optional’ ever becomes ‘compulsory’ at a later date then the sport would be fatally damaged. The AIBA desperately needs womens boxing at the Olympics to be successful since the men’s game has lost so many supporters to MMA ,so as long as the women athletes and their managers/coaches all “unite” in opposition this “compulsory” threat will eventually disappear . Woman’s boxing is NOT Beach Volleyball.
The view general view in boxing circles and one that Dr Wu himself fully supports is that womens boxing will attract a huge new TV audience and thousands of new women to the sport,once the London Games are over, as the overwhelming majority of viewers and those purchasing tickets have never seen Olympic-style womens boxing on TV or LIVE or and simply assume that is is similar to Men’s professional boxing. Tickets have sold exceptionally well and sell out crowds anticipated .There is no greater admirer of Katie Taylor and what she has done for the sport, than Dr Wu.
Is it REALLY likely that at a time when boxing (amateur and pro ) is losing a vast number of fans to MMA and other similar sports that the AIBA would be ‘stupid enough’ to antagonise women’s boxers like Taylor and other mentioned? Hardly. At this time, the AIBA desperately need the women’s events to be successful in London 2012 as indeed they will be.
Would Dr Wu’ s association really wish to “antagonise” Peter Taylor and THE fledgling sport’s greatest asset, Katie ? And risk a “walk-out” either in China at the Qualifier or in London itself in front of the World? Highly unlikely and if he did then I think that there would only be one loser.
Remember what Peter Taylor said: -
“She won’t box,” says Peter. “Simple as that. We’ve got morals that go above marketing.”