The IOC Boxing Task Force (BTF) took the opportunity to explain the journey that brought 289 boxers from 81 delegations to Tokyo 2020 during a press conference held at Main Press Centre, earlier today in Tokyo.
IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell, the Chair of the IOC Boxing Task Force Watanabe Morinari, and the Head of IOC Boxing Task Force (BTF) Lenny Abbey were joined at the table by female boxer and Ireland’s flagbearer Kellie Harrington (women’s Light 57-60kg) and BTF’s Athlete Ambassador David Nyika of New Zealand (men’s Heavy 81-91kg).
IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell, speaking about the IOC Boxing Task Force journey, said:
“We wanted to find a solution for the boxers, to have boxing here in Tokyo. Everything is being done to not only allow boxing to stay in the Games for Tokyo, but to put the focus on the athletes themselves.”
He then added: “We also were very keen to use the opportunity to promote gender equality in boxing, and I think that’s been shown each step of the way again. We went from 36 women in Rio to what will finally be 102 female boxers here in Tokyo. Also increasing the number of (female) weight categories from three in Rio to five here in Tokyo. On the technical official side, we’ve significantly increased the number of female officials in 14 international technical officials here out of 58 which has been a big jump also from previous Games.”
Concerning the boxing scoring system introduced by the BTF, McConnell added:
“As you’ll see here in Tokyo, and it has been the same with each of the qualifiers, the scores will be publicly displayed at the end of each round, not just at the end of the fight. We think this is really a step forward so the boxers know what’s happening with the scoring at the end of each round, everyone knows how the scoring is being done round by round.
“We’ve also put in place more objective and transparent referee and judging criteria and selection process. That’s been done at each of the qualifiers and had really strong, positive feedback after each of the qualifying events we’ve had, from the boxers themselves including the very experienced Olympic boxers involved in those Olympic qualification events.
“We’ve also put in place mandatory prevention and education courses around competition manipulation. So, every qualified athlete, every qualified team official, and every qualified technical official here in Tokyo has gone through that training and education.”
The Chair of the Boxing Task Force, Watanabe Morinari talked about the BTF mission:
“We arrive here after a long journey. The BTF has done as much as possible during the time available to protect the integrity of the sports and to ensure the athletes have a fair field of play on which to compete.
“The BTF focus for the next 16 days, is to ensure the boxers are able to compete at their best on a fair field of play.”
Head of the BTF, Lenny Abbey, answered questions on the changes introduced by the BTF in the referees and judges selection process:
“We took a very extensive process when it came to deciding how we would consider the eligible pool of technical officials for all of the qualification events and the Olympic Games. We started off with background checks, and those that past the background checks had extensive exams on integrity. We have explained to them what is expected. We amended the regulations to provide more clarity on what we expect when it comes to judging and scoring.”
“The refereeing and judging and selection of every technical official for the qualifying events was random. When it comes to the section of referees and judges at a specific qualification event that is also done randomly from a system. There is no human involvement in that.”
Kellie Harringon touched on the point of increased gender equity and transparency:
“From London to Rio, there were only three women’s Olympic events, and now here in Tokyo we have five. It opens the door to a lot of more female athletes who thought that they hadn’t got a shot at getting to an Olympic Games, and now here they are, and here I am also. So that’s just been fantastic.”
“In regards to the scores being displayed after every round, I think that’s absolutely positive. I never know whether I win or lose a fight, anyway. But it does help to know if you are up or down. I could be winning clearly, and I will come back thinking: am I winning or losing? You never know when you are inside (the ring) what’s happening.
BTF Athlete Ambassador David Nyika commented on the Boxing Road to Tokyo qualification:
“I can say as an athlete, as a competitor, and as a spectator, that these qualifying tournaments have been absolutely spot on. I’ve never felt safer and in better hands than I have since the IOC stepped in and took charge.”
On the topic of refereeing and judging, the New Zeeland’s athlete added:
“I know I’m not the only athlete who feels that in the past they’ve been on the receiving end of unfair judging, unfair referring, so this is a massive step in the right direction and I really hope that these changes that are being implemented can stand strong and continue to be a part in our sport. I get a lot of comfort knowing that the BTF is taking this role very seriously”
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Boxing Tournament will start tomorrow with two sessions and 27 bouts on the ring of the Kokugikan Arena.