Boxing is literally a contact sport. For this reason alone, it was a great risk to host a boxing competition with around 350 athletes from all over Europe, despite the global corona pandemic. You didn’t have to be a medical professional to recognize the danger posed by the London Olympic qualifier at a time when entire countries had already shut down due to the spread of the virus.
The tournament was only canceled after three days. The host, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), is now additionally criticized after the British “Guardian” reported what had to be feared: Two Turkish boxers and their head coach tested positive for Covid-19.
The Turkish leader Eyup Gozgec raises serious accusations in the direction of the IOC. It was “irresponsible” to host the tournament, even though there were great concerns among the participating nations. In a letter to the European boxing association EUBC, Gozgec had previously criticized the insufficient hygienic conditions in the team hotel and organizational decisions.
“Such thoughts still ousted on site”
The news of the Corona cases alarmed German participants and the boxing association DBV. “It was a shock,” boxer Nadine Apetz told SPIEGEL. “I assumed that we were relatively protected in London. But of course you had to reckon with something like that. But I still suppressed such thoughts on site.” DBV sports director Michael Müller explains: “It would have been wiser not to host the tournament in the first place given the difficult conditions.”
The tournament in the Copper Box Arena was planned from March 14th to 24th. It was canceled on March 16. The next day, when some Olympic champions of other sports such as the Greek athlete Katerina Stefanidi had already criticized that the IOC was risking the health of athletes, the IOC in Lausanne passed a declaration after consulting the Olympic professional associations. “There is no reason for any drastic decisions,” it said.
Nine days later, in response to the accusations from the Turkish boxing association, the IOC announced on behalf of the Boxing Task Force (BTF) responsible for the London tournament that the athletes and their coaches were wished for the best recovery. However, there was no connection between the qualification competition and the infection with the corona virus. Since boxers had also prepared in Italy and Great Britain, it was impossible to trace an infection chain. The IOC task force also referred to the UK authorities who had given the green light to the tournament. Many protective measures had been taken and the tournament was broken off when the situation had worsened.
IOC had taken over the tournament from the World Boxing Federation
“We as athletes were in the tunnel in London. If you take a step back and look at the whole thing from the outside, it looks very different,” says Nadine Apetz. “This news makes the decision to start this tournament even more irresponsible and incomprehensible.” She is symptom-free, but is now considering a test. The Turkish team was in another hotel in London. “The tournament shouldn’t have taken place. I don’t think we athletes can be blamed because we were just trying to make our dream come true. That should have come from above.”
The IOC had taken over the organization of the qualification tournaments and the Olympic tournament after the Aiba world boxing association had been suspended due to various corruption cases. The Olympic royalties for Aiba were frozen. Basically, Aiba is broke and unable to act. Another crisis congress with new elections had to be postponed indefinitely due to the corona pandemic.
Aiba was suspended on the basis of a report by the task force headed by the Serbian Nenad Lalović. Lalović is a member of the IOC Executive Committee and President of the World Wrestling Association UWW. A second task force, the BTF, was founded to handle the tournaments. It is headed by the Japanese Molinari Watanabe, IOC member and president of the world gymnastics association FIG. Also on the team: Willi Kaltschmitt from Guatemala, William Blick from Uganda, World Judo Association leader Marius Vizer, a close friend of Vladimir Putin, and athlete representative Aya Madany from Egypt. The main work was done by the sports department of the IOC.
A leading member of the commission told SPIEGEL that the IOC was not responsible for the Corona cases. Rather, the British authorities that had approved the competition were to blame. In addition, it is completely unclear where the Turks may have been infected. That may have happened on the return flight with Turkish Airlines.
One result of the Aiba scandal was lost in the excitement about the boxing tournament: the day after the tournament was canceled in London, long-standing association president Ching-Kuo Wu (Taiwan) resigned from the IOC – and thus withdrew any research by the ethics committee . In the IOC world, this is a routine, tried and tested procedure.