LANE ONE: IOC may knock boxing out of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games; does the IBA really care?

Should boxing be knocked out of the Olympic Games? The IOC might be getting ready to do just that!

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Boxing may be removed from the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. Really.

On Thursday, the International Olympic Committee said in its strongest language yet that the antics of the International Boxing Association are unacceptable and that the sport – which has been on the Olympic Program since 1920 – could disappear. The IOC’s statement:

“The recent IBA Congress has shown once more that IBA has no real interest in the sport of boxing and the boxers, but is only interested in its own power. The decisions and discussions to keep boxers away from the Olympic qualifiers and the Olympic Games cannot be understood differently. It has also become clear again, that IBA wants to distract from its own grave governance issues by pointing to the past, which has been addressed by the IOC already in 2019. There is no will to understand the real issues, the contrary: the extension of the sponsorship contract with Gazprom as the sole main sponsor of IBA reinforces the concerns, which the IOC has expressed since 2019 over and over again. This announcement confirms that IBA will continue to depend on a company which is largely controlled by the Russian government. The concerns also include the recent handling of the [Court of Arbitration for Sport] decision which did not lead a new Presidential election, but only a vote not to hold an election. The IOC will have to take all this into consideration when it takes further decisions, which may – after these latest developments – have to include the cancellation of boxing for the Olympic Games Paris 2024.”

The statement refers to the recent IBA Global Boxing Forum and Congress on 11-12 December in the United Arab Emirates, where the renewal of the Russian energy giant Gazprom’s sponsorship – $25 million a year for two years for 2021-22 – was not on the meeting agenda, and was not voted on, but was brought up by federation President Umar Kremlev (RUS) in his closing remarks!

Kremlev also ripped the IOC in a news conference the day before, saying (per the live interpretation into English):

“I would also like to say to the International Olympic Committee that they have no right – I mean, they can issue recommendations to us – but they have no right to dictate to us how to live. Not a single other organization should interfere or meddle in the business of our association. Every country has its own culture, right? If another country meddles in the culture of the other country, says ‘this is not the right way to live, you have to live this way’, that would be incorrect, right? Because every country is independent, and we are independent. The International Boxing Association, we are independent. Don’t dictate things to us, don’t tell us how to live properly. …

“I am confident that in the nearest future, they [the IOC] will make the correct decision, I am talking about the IOC, and these unclear accusations will simply cease. And that’s the same accusations that never change, they are the same. I think it’s only P.R. for the mass media.”

And Kremlev may actually not care. Interestingly, in his 886-word year-end message posted on the IBA Web site, the word “Olympic” never appears.

Moreover, the IBA announced in November an agreement with the World Boxing Association that “includes cooperation in the development of amateur athletes and their integration into professional boxing through specific programs.”

With funding from Gazprom and an integrated path into professional boxing through the IBA-WBA joint venture, who needs the Olympics? Perhaps Kremlev does not care all that much, although he said at the Global Boxing Forum:

“I really don’t think anyone would dare to violate this wonderful sport, boxing. Boxing is the king of sports. The Olympics started with boxing. The history of the Olympics is all about boxing. And what the international association does is their business.”

That may be over. Boxing is already not on the “initial sports program” for the 2028 Games in Los Angeles and now may be out four years earlier.

IOC processes are fairly slow, although the organization can move quickly, as it did with the coronavirus threat to Tokyo 2020. The next meeting of the IOC Executive Board is apparently not until 15 February, and the Olympic Charter states, in the bylaw to Rule 45, that only the IOC Session – the membership meeting as a whole – can remove a sport from the Olympic program:

“The Session is entitled to remove from the programme any sport, at any time, at its full discretion, in particular (but not limited to) if the relevant [International Federation] governing such sport does not comply with the Olympic Charter, the World Anti-Doping Code, the Olympic Movement Code on the Prevention of the Manipulation of Competitions or an IOC Executive Board decision applicable to the relevant IF, or if the relevant IF acts in a manner likely to tarnish the reputation of the Olympic Movement.”

This is repeated in Rule 59.

The 2023 IOC Session is to meet in Mumbai, India, but the dates have not been fixed, but is to be sometime in September or October. That’s a problem, because the IOC’s qualification process for boxing for Paris 2024 will actually start with the European Games in Krakow (POL) in June.

Look for more action more quickly from the IOC.

Kremlev is quite right when he says the IOC has no right to tell the IBA how to act, but it does if boxing is going to be part of the Olympic Games. And judging by his actions of the last month, does Kremlev care, or is he building a new, prize money-based structure that has nothing to do with the Olympic Movement?

One major future problem for Kremlev and the IBA: if boxing is dismissed entirely from the Olympic program – not just for Paris – it will collapse many of the national boxing federations which are supported by national governments as part of Olympic sport funding programs. No Olympics, no federation funding. There may not be much of an association left if its members implode.

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