IOC ‘IN LINE’ TO HAVE BOX­ING AT TOKYO GAMES, BUT THAT’S NO GUAR­AN­TEE

The Tribune (SLO) (Sunday) - - Sports - BY STEPHEN WADE

The In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee wants box­ing to be held at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. That much we know.

But IOC Pres­i­dent Thomas Bach could not give an iron­clad prom­ise Sat­ur­day that it will hap­pen when the Olympics open in just over 20 months.

“We want to have the box­ing tour­na­ment in the games in Tokyo and we will make all ef­forts to have it,” said Bach, who was asked sev­eral times about it on Sat­ur­day as the IOC closed two days of meet­ings in the Ja­panese cap­i­tal.

Ac­cu­sa­tions of cor­rup­tion and malfea­sance sur­round­ing the box­ing fed­er­a­tion that runs the sport at the Olympics have left the fu­ture of box­ing up in the air.

The IOC on Fri­day ini­ti­ated a for­mal in­quiry into AIBA – an acro­nym for the In­ter­na­tional Box­ing As­so­ci­a­tion – and has given it­self six months to work be­hind the scenes to solve a prob­lem it’s been fac­ing for a year.

“We also have re­ceived a re­quest from the na­tional box­ing fed­er­a­tion of Ja­pan, plead­ing to have an Olympic box­ing tour­na­ment,” Bach added. “We’re ab­so­lutely in line with this re­quest.”

Bach didn’t say it, but there is spec­u­la­tion the IOC could run the event, us­ing AIBA judges and ref­er­ees. It seems un­likely a new body would be cre­ated from the ground up.

Or the tour­na­ment might not be staged at all, which is a long shot.

IOC mem­ber Ne­nad Lalovic of Ser­bia is head­ing the in­quiry, a strong Bach ally and pres­i­dent of United World Wrestling – the Olympic wrest­ing body.

IOC sports di­rec­tor Kit McCon­nell said the in­quiry into AIBA was un­prece­dented.

“I’m not sure it’s one that has ever been done in any other cir­cum­stance,” McCon­nell said. “We’ve been try­ing to find a so­lu­tion to this through­out the course of 2018.”

A ma­jor prob­lem is Ga­fur Rakhi­mov of Uzbek­istan, who was elected pres­i­dent of the body on Nov. 3 de­spite be­ing on a U.S. Trea­sury Depart­ment sanc­tions list. He has re­placed C.K. Wu as pres­i­dent, an IOC mem­ber who was forced out as AIBA pres­i­dent with the body fac­ing bank­ruptcy.

Rakhi­mov de­nies al­leged links to or­ga­nized crime net­works and the in­ter­na­tional drug trade. The long-time AIBA ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­ber was pre­vented from at­tend­ing the 2000 Syd­ney Olympics and 2012 Lon­don Olympics by Aus­tralian and Bri­tish gov­ern­ment au­thor­i­ties.

The Amer­i­can fed­eral sanc­tions bar U.S. cit­i­zens and com­pa­nies from do­ing busi­ness with him.

In a state­ment Fri­day, the IOC said it was in­ves­ti­gat­ing AIBA’s fi­nances, gov­er­nance, ethics, anti-dop­ing, and ref­er­ee­ing and judg­ing, which was re­peat­edly ques­tioned at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The IOC said it “un­der­stands the AIBA is un­able to main­tain or open a bank ac­count in Switzer­land, where its head­quar­ters are based.”

The IOC has said the in­quiry could lead to the “with­drawal of recog­ni­tion” for AIBA, which can only take place in June at the next full congress of the IOC. The Tokyo Olympics open on July 24, 2020.

Left in the lurch are the ath­letes, which the IOC says it al­ways seeks to pro­tect.

“Any sit­u­a­tion that in­volves the ath­letes and a sport like this is not a com­fort­able one for any of us to be in,” said McCon­nell, who urged ath­letes “to carry on” train­ing while the IOC seeks a so­lu­tion.

McCon­nell re­jected a sug­ges­tion the IOC was sim­ply buy­ing time to dig it­self out of a mess.

“I re­ally don’t see it as kick­ing the can down the road,” he said.

Tokyo or­ga­niz­ers are also stuck, though they will also keep work­ing be­hind the scenes to pre­pare the venue.

Dur­ing the IOC-ap­pointed in­quiry, the Tokyo Olympic box­ing pro­gram will be frozen: No tick­ets will be sold, no test event held and no qual­i­fy­ing for­mat ap­proved. The IOC had pre­vi­ously sus­pended pay­ments to AIBA from Olympic rev­enues.

Tokyo plans to hold box­ing in the Kokugikan, the sto­ried sumo hall in east Tokyo – a venue per­fectly suited to box­ing.

Toshiro Muto, the CEO of the Tokyo or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee, chose his words care­fully.

“I would like to be­lieve what the IOC said,” Muto told re­porters on Sat­ur­day, adding the need to elim­i­nate neg­a­tive fac­tors with­out be­ing spe­cific.

EU­GENE HOSHIKO AP

In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee spokesman Mark Adams, left, and Pres­i­dent Thomas Bach wait for Tokyo 2020 del­e­gates prior to an Ex­ec­u­tive Board meet­ing Sat­ur­day in Tokyo.

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