Six days after enraged South Koreans poured into a ring at the Olympic boxing venue and attacked a referee, the question as to who is running the boxing tournament here seems to have been answered.
The Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee (SLOOC) appears to be running the show, not the International Amateur Boxing Assn. (AIBA).
After the melee, a seething AIBA president, Anwar Chowdhry of Pakistan, suspended five South Koreans for their role in the melee for the duration of the Olympics.
But nearly a week later, the South Korean Amateur Boxing Federation is largely ignoring Chowdhry’s ban. Lee Heung Soo, the Korean coach-trainer who was suspended, has attended every South Korean bout since the riot, coaching from an arena floor-level seat or, as was the case Tuesday night, from the press section.
Although Lee no longer wears an Olympic credential, he has been seen daily in the restricted athletes’ zone in the building, freely walking past security check points, and sitting in the arena’s floor-level ticketed sections.
Lee also has been seen shouting instructions to boxers from the spectator seats, the press section, and escorting South Korean boxers to and from the arena.
Chowdhry was asked if he had been aware that Lee was still coaching the South Korean boxers.
“That was brought to my attention, and I gave a written directive to SLOOC, asking that the credentials be pulled from all five of the people we suspended,” he said.
“I am unhappy that those people are even in this building.”
The next day, however, Lee was still acting very much like a coach.
And the South Korean boxing federation has yet to issue a public apology for the incident. Kim Seung Youn made a clumsy attempt to do so several days ago. He had about 150 gift boxes passed out to reporters.
The boxes, with his name on them, contained after-shave and skin lotion, a razor and two blades.
Of the failure of the South Koreans to apologize publicly for the melee, Chowdhry said: “That has surprised me more than anything, that they have said nothing. All they have done is to assure me there will be a police investigation, after the Olympics.”
South Korean boxing officials have apologized to individual reporters, but did not comment on the subject at a news conference, nor has a statement been issued from the boxing press center.
Chowdhry also expressed a desire that this boxing tournament, which began Sept. 18 with 447 boxers, be the last of its size.
“This tournament is so large, it is uncontrollable,” he said.
“If we don’t find a way to reduce the size of the Olympic tournament, we will have 600 to 800 boxers at Barcelona in 1992.
“We view this as a safety issue, since many boxers we have seen here from underdeveloped countries are not Olympic-caliber boxers. We have been trying to devise ways to limit the number of boxers since the Los Angeles Games.
“We considered continental qualification competitions, but decided that would not be an entirely fair method.
“We considered limiting the Olympics to those boxers who have reached quarterfinal rounds in major competitions, but that is not entirely fair, either. It would penalize an area such as Europe, where there are more talented boxers than in, say, Africa.
“Right now we are seriously looking at limiting Olympic participation to boxers who have, since the previous Olympics, participated in at least three major international competitions and achieved a minimum level of success.”
Chowdhry said the Seoul tournament was almost a 600-plus boxer tournament.
“Originally, we had 626 entries here,” he said. “We used our influence to contact some of the underdeveloped countries and ask them to please not bring any boxers to Seoul who had no chance to perform well.
“By doing that, we got the entry list down to 447, and 441 actually weighed in the first day.”
The number of outclassed boxers also worries AIBA medical officers. Several have said that the risk of serious injury to a boxer in these Olympics has been unacceptably high.
Chowdhry said he told all the AIBA referees early in the tournament to be extra careful about boxers taking too much punishment.
“I told our referees that if a boxer from what we would call a ‘non-boxing nation,’ receives even one hard blow to the head, to stop the bout.”
Chowdhry also said he is not happy with the judging at the tournament, despite “our best efforts to prepare the judges for the Olympics.”
Then he talked about a pet project, the possible introduction of electronic, scoreboard judging for amateur boxing.
“I am an engineer by profession and I am convinced we can, by electronic scoring, bring about better, more consistent performances by judges,” he said. “At our world championships in Moscow, in September, 1989, we will introduce electronic scoring. Each judge will have two buttons in front of him, each representing a boxer. For each scoring blow, a judge will push a button, and that punch will be shown on the scoreboard, next to the judge’s number. For the first time in boxing, the public will see blow-by-blow scoring.”