Women Boxers in 2012: Information from Sportaccord
By Tiffanie Hearn and Christy Halbert
This week’s Women’s Task Force Blog is a collaboration between Tiffanie Hearn (Heavyweight, Louisville, KY) and Coach Christy Halbert (USAB Women’s Task Force Chair), who were both invited by AIBA leadership, and the AIBA Women’s Commission, to attend the Sportaccord meeting this week in Denver, Colorado. Part of their work at Sportaccord includes meeting with IOC members, talking with the international press, and working an AIBA booth in the Exhibition Hall which features about 70 booths among International Federations, sports management and marketing firms, sports attempting to gain Olympic membership, and organizations vying as venues for future Olympic and other international games.
Sportaccord is an annual 5-day convention where International Sports Federations and Organizations have meetings while networking with members of the sports-business community. Attendance is capped at 1,500. Sportaccord also serves as the spring meeting for the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Coach Halbert was recently selected by her peers to serve on a three-person Task Force Team for AIBA, specifically charged with working on the project to include women’s boxing in the 2012 Olympic Games. AIBA leadership made a public commitment to women’s Olympic inclusion last year, and part of their strategy included a presence at the Sportaccord meeting. This marks the first year AIBA has been an exhibitor at Sportaccord.
Tiffanie Hearn was selected as an Athlete Ambassador for the AIBA Women’s Commission at their meeting at the World Championships this past November. Other Athlete Ambassadors include Sweden’s Anna Laurell and India’s Mary Kom. Tiffanie is the 2008 US Champion, and earned a bronze medal at the 2008 World Championships in China, in the 86kg category.
Day One -- Set up and Preparation (entry by C. Halbert)
I’ve never been to a Sportaccord meeting, and I’m excited about the prospect of talking with a variety of people about women’s inclusion in Olympic boxing. Tiffanie and I are already meeting people from many different countries, and today Tiffanie had an opportunity to meet AIBA President C.K. Wu and AIBA CEO Ho Kim for the first time. We also spent some time working on some details of the AIBA exhibition booth, including sorting print materials for distribution to IOC members and other conference attendees.
Day Two -- First Day in the Booth (entry by Tiffanie Hearn)
This was a real eye-opener. Of course I knew that this was serious, but this event is a big deal. It is a big deal for the two of us to be here representing women’s boxing in the Olympics. We have boxing as a sport, so we just want to give women a chance. Overall it seemed like a positive day. We talked with IOC members, and we heard nothing but positive things from everyone. One member of the IOC Executive Board came by the booth and said that he’ll vote in favor because they should have done it in 2008. We talked with sports writers who are interested in the story, and the progress we’ve made. Most people are surprised that we aren’t already in the Olympics. We are on a quest everyday talking with people, as many people as we can, and getting our word out there. Everyone we’ve talked with agrees that we should be in the Olympics. We were happy with the productivity of the day. We have videos of women boxers on a flat screen television, and we have the booth panels and handouts.
The only thing I’ve been disappointed with is when I heard about the AIBA proposal. AIBA plans only five women’s weight classes with eight boxers in each (47kg, 53kg, 60kg, 69kg and 75kg). I’m a heavyweight, so I would have to drop a lot of weight to get down to 75kg, which is 165 pounds. I don’t understand how so many boxers at the World Championships were so good, and that they are only asking for five weight classes.
Day Three -- More Interviews and Positive Talk (entry by C. Halbert)
Tiffanie and I thought yesterday was busy, but somehow today was packed with more discussions and interviews with local and international press, and handing out more information. It’s inspiring to be in a public venue and talk with so many people about the importance of women’s inclusion in the Olympic Games.
Tiffanie gets a lot of attention, and she is able to talk about her personal experience in boxing, as well as her personal hopes for participating in the Olympic Games.
We’ve also spoken directly with more IOC members, and took some photos with them. One IOC member, Ms. Anita DeFrantz (U.S. member of the IOC), is also the chair of the IOC Women and Sport Commission. She is a strong supporter of boxers’ inclusion, and generally an advocate for increased participation for girls and women in sport.
Tiffanie and I have discussed the limits of the AIBA proposal. One theory about the best way to get into the Olympics is to just get your foot in the door, first, and then continue to fight for equality at subsequent Games. This is the current strategy of AIBA leadership, and the proposal is being considered by the IOC Sports Programme Commission. In May the IOC Sports Programme Commission will meet, and may choose to make recommendations, or approve/reject the proposal. If they approve the proposal, then it will be sent on to the IOC Executive Board for consideration in their August or October meeting.
The Olympic stage is the largest and most prestigious for boxing. Women boxers have been excluded since the 1904 display of men and women boxers at the St. Louis Games. 108 years is long enough. Tonight I believe that we will be successful in the struggle for inclusion, although I know we still have a great deal of work to do before the IOC EB vote.
Women’s inclusion in Olympic Boxing strengthens the sport of boxing. Women’s inclusion aligns our sport more closely with the IOC values of participation by girls and women. And women’s inclusion is the right thing to do. Tonight we are hopeful.
Day Four -- Ending with High Hopes (entry by Tiffanie Hearn)
We’ve gotten the word out. We’ve talked to so many different people. I feel positive about it. Each day we feel we’ve taken a bigger step forward, in a positive direction.
Ms. Anita DeFrantz came by the booth today, and we took a photo. She and President Wu had a conversation with all of us, and President Wu said that he really wants to see women’s boxing in the Olympics in 2012, and then we can push for equal weight classes for men and women for the 2016 Olympics.
I feel very positive about our efforts and telling everyone that people that don’t know anything about boxing, and talking to reporters about not being in the Olympics, and I’m happy that everyone agrees that women should have a chance. I feel good about the booth and all the information we gave to people. We were also the only booth that had our President in the booth, and he attracted a lot of attention.
The day started with breakfast with the President and AIBA staff. The day ended with people realizing what’s going on. The word is out there, now. It seems like a lot of people agree with us, and want to help.
Day Five -- Friday’s Final Thoughts (entry by Hearn and Halbert)
Today is the pack up day. The booth is dismantled and we are headed home. It’s been a very full week. We are both tired, but optimistic that women’s boxing has the support of sports leaders, fans, and participants from around the World. We are both grateful for the opportunity to serve the sport of Olympic boxing this week. We hope that our involvement benefits the sport of boxing, as well as the international women’s sports movement.
2012 stands to be an historic Olympics. With 26 sports in the Summer Games, the 2012 Olympics could finally have a Games with participation of both men and women in each and every sport.