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A body blow

A body blow
Highlights

On the face of it, the decision taken by International Boxing Association (AIBA) in Lausanne on Wednesday allowing professional boxers to vie for Olympic honours in the upcoming Games at Rio, which commence on August 5, is a landmark one. 

On the face of it, the decision taken by International Boxing Association (AIBA) in Lausanne on Wednesday allowing professional boxers to vie for Olympic honours in the upcoming Games at Rio, which commence on August 5, is a landmark one.

However, the near-unanimous verdict in the 88-member Extraordinary Congress may draw flak from all quarters because it goes against the very principles of Olympics.

This is understandably so because Rio Games are round the corner and most amateur boxers have firmed up their resolve to make it to the podium at Rio. Former world champion Mike Tyson is bang on in contending that this is a ridiculously insane decision.

Olympics provides the most potent platform for one to showcase talent and perhaps earn eternal glory as have done so many Olympians since the time the modern games were revived by the International Olympic Council (IOC) at Athens in 1896.

The sport’s governing body will, of course, justify the decision as being one in a string of reforms and innovations taken to further popularise the rugged sport like allowing women to compete in the 2012 London edition. Even if AIBA wished to throw the doors open to professionals, they could have done so after Rio.

Under established traditions, any new sport that is embraced by the Olympic body is first introduced as a non-medal event. In boxing that is absent, which makes the decision that much more ill-timed.

There is all-round criticism because some of the medal hopefuls have been toiling and sweating it out for close to four years. Imagine their plight when the professionals, even the worst of them, come to the rings and punch their way to glory leaving the amateurs in perpetual anguish.

This will become more pronounced in a month from now because there are still 24 qualifying spots vacant in various weight categories. There is no room for doubt that most of them will be filled by professionals once they throw their hat in the ring. This is certain to demoralise every boxer and render his preparations useless.

In the early years, boxers would begin their careers as amateurs, try their luck in the biggest sporting spectacle and turn professionals. This is the path that was traversed by the likes of Muhammad Ali and his bitter adversaries Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

Amid all these developments, even as there is a ray of hope for Mary Kom as the Indian body is seeking a wild card for her, there is some bad news for the original poster boy, Vijender Singh, who is likely to miss the Rio cut.

Seeing the way the IOC is expanding its base, one will not be surprised if even cricket is included in the Games. All said and done, cricket is played in less than 20 countries and most make millions, including in endorsements.

Olympics should remain the ultimate glory point for amateurs. Baron Pierre de Coubertin must be turning in his grave seeing the audacious twists and turns to the spirit of Olympics!

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