Olympics-IBA president Kremlev defends divisive prize money scheme despite IOC pushback


  • Boxing
  • Friday, 31 May 2024

International Boxing Association(IBA) president Umar Kremlev speaks during the opening ceremony of Women's World Boxing Championships at Indira Gandhi Indoor stadium in New Delhi, India, March 15, 2023. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis/ File Photo

(Reuters) - The International Boxing Association's (IBA) plans to offer prize money to medallists at the Paris Games could widen the rift in the governance of amateur boxing after the announcement drew sharp criticism from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The IBA's move follows World Athletics' announcement last month that they would offer $50,000 in prize money to Olympic champions, starting in Paris this year.

The governing body's announcement was met with criticism from the IOC, whose President Thomas Bach suggested that the federation should instead use its funding to support athletes across the board.

Despite the IOC's disapproval, IBA President Umar Kremlev said World Athletics had made the right decision.

"For me, the spirit of the Olympic Games is to create the right conditions for athletes," Kremlev told Reuters with the help of a translator.

"Athletes are the ones who attract sponsors and, of course, all the money should belong to the athletes. That's the true spirit of the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement. We know that is not what the IOC leadership does nowadays.

"IOC officials fly first class, live in five-star hotels, while the athletes don't live in the best conditions... I see it like gladiatorial fights, where athletes are treated as if they are slaves."

The two bodies have been at loggerheads for years, with the IOC stripping the IBA of recognition last June, saying it had failed to complete reforms on governance, finance and ethical issues.

Just as in Tokyo, the boxing tournaments in Paris are being organised by the IOC. But there are fears that boxing might be excluded from future Games, with the sport not on the initial programme for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

PRIZE MONEY

The IBA said on Wednesday that it would pay prize money worth more than $3.1 million to boxers who win a medal or reach the quarter-finals at Olympic events.

However, the IBA did not disclose the source of their funding. It said the prize money would be handed out in a ceremony at the next IBA Congress, which will be held in November or December.

The IOC said they had taken note of the IBA's announcement but questioned the source of the funds.

"This total lack of financial transparency was exactly one of the reasons why the IOC withdrew its recognition of the IBA," it said.

Relations between the two bodies soured following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022, with the IBA run by Russian Kremlev and with Russian energy firm Gazprom being its main sponsor, though Kremlev said last year that the sponsorship had ended.

The IOC had also said it would not organise the boxing tournament in 2028, urging national federations to decide on a "credible, well-governed" successor to the IBA by next year.

The IOC warned national federations aligned with the IBA that they will not be able to participate in Los Angeles if boxing is on the programme.

"The respective National Olympic Committee will have to exclude such a National Boxing Federation from its membership," the IOC added.

LEADING CANDIDATE

The leading candidate to replace the IBA is World Boxing, which launched in April last year and currently has 28 national federations, such as Great Britain Boxing and USA Boxing, as members.

Last month, World Boxing Secretary General Simon Toulson said the body was hoping to begin formal talks with the IOC over recognition as the sport's official governing body.

But Kremlev said the IBA and IOC could still mend their broken relationship, predicting a changing of the guard after the Paris Games.

"The IBA does not have issues with the Olympic family. We have issues with certain personalities, namely Thomas Bach and his team," Kremlev said.

"I believe that their work is not transparent and democratic. Their actions do not meet the responsibilities that they have.

"We believe that after the Olympic Games, we will see some renewal in the IOC leadership and this will allow the IBA to restore its relationship with the IOC."

The IOC declined to respond to Kremlev's comments.

(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; editing by Clare Fallon)

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