Turkish boxing chief slams London Olympic event over coronavirus

Boxing gloves (File)
Boxing gloves (File)

Turkey's boxing federation on Thursday slammed organisers of an Olympic qualifying tournament in London after three Turkish fighters and a coach tested positive for the coronavirus.

The London competition featured around 350 male and female boxers from dozens of European nations and was the first opportunity for boxers from Europe to qualify for Tokyo 2020.

"The International Olympic Committee Boxing Task Force and the local committee in London - responsible for the organisation - acted as if nothing happened rather than postpone the tournament over coronavirus while every corner of the world has been on fire since December," Eyup Gozgec, president of the Turkish Boxing Federation, told AFP in a phone interview.

The Boxing Road to Tokyo event started on Saturday, 14 March and was scheduled to run until on Tuesday, 24 March behind closed doors. But it was suspended after just three days over growing coronavirus fears.

Gozgec, who is also the vice-president of the European Boxing Confederation, said his team went to London on 11 March to prepare for the tournament but found no protective measures in place at their hotel or elsewhere.

"There were no protective measures in the hotels we were staying, whether it be hygenic disinfectants, gloves or a warning sign," he told AFP.

"All the coaches and athletes ate in self-service style from the same kitchen. There was neither a warning nor any other measure as if the virus had not visited there." 

Gozgec said one more Turkish athlete tested positive on Thursday after they returned from London, bringing the number to four including one coach.

"Some of our fighters are under quarantine in dormitories, and some are in their homes," he said. "I am also on my 9th day of quarantine. I'm in good health."

Gozgec said he lodged complaints to relevant world bodies saying the London event should have never been held while welcoming its suspension as a "right decision".

European Boxing Confederation (EUBC) president Franco Falcinelli had said prior to the London event that he feared the risk of a boxer getting the virus there was "very high".

Gozgec said everyone including his family warned him not to go.

"I thought it is a tournament on the road to the Olympics, the measures must have been taken and it must have been safe and hygienic. Britain is a developed G-8 country but they failed the test."

A spokesperson for the Local Organising Committee (LOC) said in a statement sent to AFP in response to Gozgec's comments that they had implemented extensive measures "to protect the health and welfare of the participants".

"In addition to this, a range of extra measures were put in place to support teams.

"...Included the provision of hand sanitisers throughout the competition spaces and the introduction of routine temperature tests as part of the daily medicals for competing boxers, which enabled the medical team to track and identify any underlying changes during competition.

"Teams were advised on the steps they should take if any members of their delegation showed symptoms of the virus.

"During the competition there were no recorded instances of teams contacting the medical team to report symptoms."

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