IOC chief Bach on boxing, lifting issues and more

IOC President Thomas Bach, on various topics ranging from youth-oriented urban sports to weightlifting...
Caption and Image Credits: Thomas Bach at a football academy in Navi Mumbai on Monday | AFP
Caption and Image Credits: Thomas Bach at a football academy in Navi Mumbai on Monday | AFP

MUMBAI: The acronym BKC perhaps is more popular than the actual name – the Bandra-Kurla Complex. Though unrelated, the same goes for the IOC. It’s such a recognisable abbreviation that people don’t really care if the C in IOC stands for council or committee. One thing they do know is that it is one of the most powerful sporting organisations in the world and is represented by some equally powerful administrators.

One of them is IOC President Thomas Bach, who had a small round-table discussion with select journalists. He elaborated on why the IOC slapped sanctions on the International Boxing Association (IBA) and how they are not a recognised body anymore. He also talked about cricket being part of the Olympic programme after the 2028 LA Games forwarded five sports that could be shortlisted for the Games. He said it all depends on the discussions that take place during the executive board meeting followed by the IOC session. He said he is more of a fan of T20 cricket and the sport found acceptance because of its popularity in different parts of the world and the US in particular. However, about its inclusion, he said it will depend on the programme's commission which is looking into the proposal of the 2028 LA Olympics organising committee.

On International Boxing Association and its mess

At this moment in time, as we have always said, we have no problems with the sport nor with the boxers. On the contrary, we want to have boxing in the Olympic programme because boxing is a very global sport and a sport that you see across all countries, developing or developed countries in any continent. Majority of the boxers come from underprivileged families and boxing gives them a great chance to progress in life. Because of this high social/global value, we definitely want to have boxing in the Olympic programme. However, you can only promote these social values when you have an international federation with integrity. Unfortunately, I cannot see that in this federation and this is why we 2019, the time we suspended them, we have been giving them the opportunity to make progress, improve. They have taken some minor steps in one or two directions. And they have been announcing it a lot but there has not been so much happening and this is why, at this moment, we had to pull the plug and say ‘Okay, now you have had four years and it’s getting even worse when it comes to financial transparency and governance’.

Also in regard to judging and refereeing, it’s not really up to the standards we would expect from an Olympic sport. But since we want boxing on the programme, we undertook it for the second time after Tokyo. We (IOC) are organising the boxing tournament, but we can’t do this forever. We are not an international federation and this is why, I guess, that the result of this meeting here (Mumbai) will be that boxing will remain somehow pending.

On recognising World Boxing

That’s too early. I’m not sure there are even 20 member federations.  And I can only suggest that they do their homework. And then, we’ll be ready to look at them. They don’t have sufficient global representation. If they make progress on that front and then of course, we are ready to look into other issues, whether the governance is in order or if the elections are happening in a democratic manner and if the statutes are according to the requirements. At this point, it’s up to them to organise themselves. I think they have a general assembly now (October or November).

On the issue of weightlifting

Here we have seen great progress. They have outsourced all the anti-doping management to International Testing Agency (ITA) and the sanctioning to CAS. They have started a robust anti-doping programme.  We can also, at least to a certain degree, bring in a change in culture of the sport. Because it’s not only about the athletes, whom you can test, it’s about the coaches who are telling the athletes that ‘if you don’t take this, you will never have a chance to win a medal and take it’. It’s a vitamin and all these sorts of things. So when we look at the numbers, there is a significant reduction in doping cases. This is the most strict anti-doping programme weightlifting has ever had in their history.

On Olympics including more youth-oriented urban sports and where cricket fits in the narrative

From our perspective, we are ready for the Paris and LA Olympics. We have from the onset decided that skateboarding, climbing, surfing will be on the programme for Paris and for LA.  And with these, they are becoming permanent sports. If nothing unforeseen happens, they will also be in the programme and in ’36 and in the subsequent Games.  That’s our policy with these sports and our accomplished two criteria, which are very important for us. First of all, they’re, as we said, young sports and secondly, they are urban sports. You may say, what does urban sports mean? Why is this important? It is important because in our world today where the kids have so many distractions and not only the kids, also the potential sports fans have so many distractions they do not necessarily get in touch with sports.  I’m coming back to the Reliance Foundation to see how many in particular girls they are giving access to sport, who say I never had the opportunity to play sports. You don’t get them into sport if you were somewhere in a suburb or building a stadium or a sports facility. And then say, ‘OK, on Saturday, we are organizing a fine event for you’. They will not come, they may even not know. And this is why we are saying we have to go where the people are in the real world. These are the urban centres in the virtual world. Then there are the digital platforms and we promote these urban sports.

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The New Indian Express