THE SUCCESS OF women’s boxing at the Olympics can inspire women to take up sport, said IOC chief Jacques Rogge who believes the decision to include the discipline in the Games has been vindicated.
The 70-year-old Belgian, who is presiding over his final Games as he steps down in September next year after a 12-year reign, was present at the climax to the women’s boxing event when the first three champions were crowned.
“I think I am very happy,” said Rogge. ”There was a lot of criticism of the level of women’s boxing and of their technique prior to the Games. I think we have been vindicated that it was a good decision and it’s only the beginning.”
Women’s boxing was voted into the Games in 2009 after strong lobbying by International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) president Dr Ching-Kuo Wu.
“This is the most important day in AIBA history,” said 65-year-old Wu. Rogge could have been forgiven for thinking the competition was taking place in Dublin rather than London as the ExCel arena was covered with Irish flags as fans came to see Katie Taylor take gold in the lightweight division.
Nawal El Moutawakel, IOC vice-president and the Olympic champion in the first running of the women’s 400 metres hurdles in Los Angeles in 1984, was also effusive in her praise of the event.
“It’s very skilful and a wonderful show,” said the 50-year-old Moroccan athletics icon. Rogge, though, wouldn’t put the introduction of women’s boxing at the top of the list of his achievements. Rogge, who places the fight against doping and illegal gambling higher, said that boxing formed part of his campaign to get women a higher profile in sports.
He is especially proud of having coaxed the last three hold-outs against sending women to the Games — Saudi Arabia, who were threatened with being barred if they didn’t do so, Qatar and Brunei — to breach that barrier at these Games. He said he had been especially moved by the reception 19-year-old Saudi 800m runner Sarah Attar, who has dual Saudi and American citizenship, received from the 80,000 capacity Olympic Stadium crowd despite finishing way behind her rivals.
“The Saudi Arabian runner getting a standing ovation along with our introduction of women’s boxing show we are fighting the right cause,” said the IOC president. ”These are strong messages that reverberate around the world and will hopefully encourage more women to take up sports.”