The International Olympic Committee (IOC) could sensationally drop boxing and weightlifting from their Summer Games schedule.
Authorities from those two sports, plus modern pentathlon, must now convince IOC chiefs that they are worthy of their place in the showpiece occasion – they will have until 2023 to book their place at the Los Angeles Games five years later.
The IOC has made their ambition to modernise the Olympics abundantly clear, and their decision to include skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing on the 2020 itinerary in Tokyo proved to be a success – that trio has been recommended for inclusion at the LA Games.
Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC, confirmed that Californian culture was just one of the factors behind the decision.
“The proposed inclusion of these youth-based sports is based on the success of Tokyo 2020, a commitment to innovation and also recognises the deep roots each of these three sports have in Los Angeles and in California,” he said.
Boxing has been dogged by accusations of match fixing since the 2016 Games in Rio, after an independent investigation found that some judges were using hand signals in order to coerce their colleagues in their point scoring.
Weightlifting at the Olympics has long been dogged by doping, and with the IOC looking to clean up its image perhaps this staple of the schedule – the sport has been present at the Games since 1896 – is the most likely casualty. A gold medallist in Rio, Nijat Rahimov, has since been charged with doping offences by the International Testing Agency (ITA), while embarrassingly the former head of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) – Tamas Ajan – has also been charged with doping.
Romania, Thailand and Malaysia were barred from contesting the weightlifting disciplines at the Tokyo Games after a catalogue of doping offences dating back more than a decade were discovered.
Elsewhere, there was bad news for fans of breakdancing – the sport, which will debut at the Paris Games in 2024, has not been included on the itinerary for Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, the future of football as an Olympic sport is also uncertain. FIFA is thought to be considering changing the World Cup to a biennial tournament, which would create a potential clash with the Summer Games.
UK and Canada Join List of Diplomatic Boycotters
It’s not been a good week for the Olympic Games and their brand.
Handing hosting duties of the 2022 Winter Olympics was considered a major own goal, with concerns about China’s human rights record – and the ongoing mystery of the possible disappearance of tennis star Peng Shuai – seeing the likes of USA and Australia announce they were diplomatically boycotting the Games – a PR disaster for the IOC.
And now, to make matters worse, a couple more ‘superpowers’ have revealed their decision not to send a diplomatic envoy to China in February. The UK and Canada have confirmed their absence, with Boris Johnson supporting the veto on the grounds of alleged human rights abuses in the Chinese province of Xinjiang.
The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, revealed ‘we have been very clear over the past many years of our deep concerns around human rights violations’, and suggested that the boycott would not ‘come as a surprise to China.’
It is expected that other major nations, including New Zealand and Japan, will join the ranks of the boycotters in the coming days and weeks.