By: Pramod Thomas
The women’s world boxing championship commenced in India on Thursday (16), but the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes under their respective flags led to the boycott by several nations.
Following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last year, many international sports federations have banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing. Some sports have allowed them to participate, but only under neutral flags.
However, in the International Boxing Association (IBA) event in Delhi, boxers from both countries competed under their national flags and anthems. At the opening ceremony held on Wednesday, the flags and colours of Russia and Belarus were displayed.
The IBA is headed by Russian Umar Kremlev and counts Russian energy giant Gazprom as a major financial backer. The IBA was suspended by the International Olympic Committee in 2019 over multiple corruption scandals.
The United States, Ukraine, Canada, Sweden and Britain are among the countries boycotting the tournament, which runs until March 26 and involves 65 nations.
Some have said they will also refuse to take part in the men’s event in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on May 1-14.
GB Boxing said last month that the IBA’s move to allow boxers from Russia and Belarus to compete in India under their national flags “contravenes resolutions passed by the IOC”.
“This has put further distance between IBA and the Olympic movement in addition to the significant, longstanding issues over sporting integrity, governance, transparency and financial management which the IOC has asked IBA to address,” a statement said.
In Delhi, Russia’s sports minister Oleg Matytsin said that “in this difficult period it is important that the team appears under the Russian flag… You can see that these young girls know which country they are representing.”
“I am sure than the IBA’s example… will have a positive influence on other international federations,” Matytsin said Tuesday, quoted in a statement by his ministry.
“Because sport should be separate from politics and should not be the target of discrimination on the basis of nationality,” he added.