13 August 2009

Boxing clever

Amir Khan doesn't approve, but there has been generally a warm reaction to the news that boxing for women is to be included in the Olympic Games. It was previously the only Olympic sport which was gender exclusive, and so that particular bubble has been popped.

I remember when women's boxing was in the headlines a few years back and the chauvinists crawled from within their brandy glasses and said boxing was too violent for women. People with no medical knowledge whatsoever suggested that boxing could ruin a woman's fertility, despite a) not actually knowing this for certain; b) not wondering if any female boxer especially wants children; and c) not taking into account that a low blow in men's boxing can equally cause problems in the procreation department.

Boxing in the Olympics remains genuinely amateur, hence why it is an authentic Olympic event which embraces the original ideals of the Games. Professional boxers are barred from competing, which means that the Olympics is the pinnacle for those who are good enough and qualified enough to partake.

This is not the case for some Olympic sports, however. And it is with some horror that further such sports may be added to the already portly schedule.

Golf, as an Olympic sport, is being heavily promoted right now. Professional golfers would be permitted to compete. Tiger Woods could end up with an Olympic gold medal, but the very fact that he would rather have any or all of the four majors than a ribboned circle around his neck should automatically bar golf from the Olympiad.

The same applies to darts, which is also being mooted for Olympic inclusion. I love darts and will defend it forever against a particularly harsh brand of sneering detractor who suggests it is no more than a pub game for drunkards. But the world championship - be it the one Phil Taylor goes after or the proper one currently held by Ted Hankey - is the summit of any arrowsman's ambitions.

Football is, madly, an Olympic sport and causes ample controversy simply because the best available competitors either choose not to take part, or are barred from doing so by their clubs. It thereby nullifies the impact and standards on show during the Games. Footballers want to win the World Cup, followed by their own continental championships. It's evident that the biggest club prizes, like the Champions League, are also miles more important to footballers than the Olympics could ever dream to be.

Tennis is the same, even though the top competitors are more likely to turn out. An Olympic medal round Andy Murray's neck might be very nice, but he'd toss a 2012 gong into the Thames if it meant the Wimbledon or US Open title was winging his way over the next few years.

The only sports at the Olympics which should remain, or be admitted, are the ones which have success at the Games as the main reason for the competitor's existence. Any where the Olympics are treated as a sideshow, or even a holiday, should have a thick black line crossed right through them (as should the likes of gymnastics and half of the Winter Olympic events, but they're for another reason, and another day...)

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