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Posts Tagged ‘boxing’

As a sport, and as an abstract concept, badminton has always seemed pretty inoffensive. Professional badminton players do not take out super-injunctions. Badminton fans are never accused of starting riots that tarnish their country’s image abroad. For many years, badminton was the non-sporty person’s sport of choice. It was the type of Tuesday evening activity to which a man brought his wife along for a spot of mixed doubles against an equally married couple, who would argue furiously about the best way to hold a shuttlecock, and then win.

So it’s kind of surprising that the root of almost all evil appears to be lurking within the Badminton World Federation.

On June 1st, its all-male executive board is scheduled to implement new clothing regulations that force women players to wear skirts or dresses as “part of an overall campaign to raise the profile of women in badminton and the profile of the sport”.

Acceptable attire for female competitors, according to guidelines issued by badminton's governing body. The lucky ladies will also be allowed wear "skorts" or skirts over tracksuits/leggings.

It is sexy time on the back alley. (That’s a badminton term.)

The new rules have already caused uproar among Muslim players, prompting the Islamic party in Malaysia, where the BWF is based, to call for a boycott of top tournaments. Perhaps sensing that Islam has the greater experience when it comes to dress code enforcement, the BWF delayed the introduction of “Rule 19.2” by a month and “clarified” its stance: “[The new regulations] will not in any way discriminate against any religious or other beliefs, and respects women. Players will continue to wear shorts if they wish but simply wear a skirt over the top of the shorts.”

But what reason could there possibly be for making female athletes – people whose success depends on the strength of their smashes and the delicacy of their drop shots – wear a superfluous piece of fabric? I’m stumped. Could it be that the unnamed “external international marketing agency” that advised the BWF on its policy are closet Kournikova-ites?

BWF deputy president Paisan Rangsikitpho believes the new skirt rules will “enhance the presentation of the game in general” and help the sport attract “a wider target group amongst both younger and older people, and amongst both women and men, where an aesthetic and stylish presentation of the players is certainly an important factor”. The guidelines do not “push any women to wear clothing they are not comfortable with” and the BWF is certainly not portraying women as “sexual objects”, he insists.

“However, they have to wear a skirt.”

There are no double faults in badminton. Doublethink, on the other hand…

Lady shuttlers! What are you thinking wearing these hideously unfeminine items?! You'll empty the arenas in no time.

If the BWF wants to talk about style rather than sexism, allow me to examine its statement on those grounds for a moment. Its stance is that having a piece of material flouncing against their thighs (but not joining up between them) makes women athletes aesthetically pleasing enough to pull in hordes of hypothetical spectators – even though if there’s one female fashion trend that reliably infuriates the men I know, it’s skirts-over-trousers.

One of the hallmarks of the “stylish” is that their clothes are some kind of twist, with varying degrees of rebelliousness, on the norms of the context in which they are worn – usually by borrowing from the style tradition of another context. It’s a subtle negotiation. I would no more wear my high-waisted black tulip skirt to a badminton session than I would sport one of Sue Sylvester’s Adidas tracksuits to a tango class.

Badminton bosses have their sensitive eyes on the sponsor-friendly style showcase that is the ladies’ tennis tour. That’s their context. But they’ve forgotten that style, by definition, is personal. Take away the element of choice and there is no style, only a uniform. And what players and spectators alike will recognise is that this uniform is crafted from unpleasant, exploitative motivations. Come see our cuties perform!

Objections from Australia, China, Indonesia, India and the Scandinavian countries mean the BWF’s plans for world domination via the swish of a few A-lines may yet be thwarted. Worryingly though, it seems badminton isn’t the only sport where the governing bodies are seeking to glamorize and feminise women athletes in accordance with male, corporate ideas of glamour and femininity.

Even more bizarrely, the International Boxing Association is reportedly quite keen that women boxers wear skirts at the London 2012 Olympics. This has spurred Peter Taylor, father and coach of Irish boxer Katie Taylor, to put in a pre-emptive strike by telling The Examiner that his daughter simply won’t box in a skirt: “We’ve got morals that go above marketing. It’s discrimination. It’s obviously men making these decisions and it’s wrong.”

There may be alternative ways to resist, other than refusing to compete. “I have an idea for how I am going to combat it, but I’ll keep it secret for now,” the Scottish badminton player Imogen Bankier has tantalisingly said of her sport’s “silly” and “unnecessary” clothing regulations.

Perhaps all the women players could show up to the next high-ranking tournament in fishtailed maxi dresses and make a mockery of the BWF with every hobble and lurch.

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Unless you’ve been living under a massive wonton, you’ll know that the Olympics start today in Beijing. I’m no Jimmy McGee, but I manage to keep up with what’s going on sport-wise, mainly thanks to reading the odd newspaper and Google. Like lots of things that a) everyone is talking about and b) are on TV I’ll probably get sucked in and find myself watching four hours of wrestling before I know it. The Olympics are a chance for obscure sports we don’t really get to see to shine (sadly no tiddly winks or truck-pulling though), but I’ll also be watching the Athletics – go Derval O’Rourke! RTE are covering a shed load of it, so you probably won’t be able to avoid it. Here’s what I’ll be keeping an eye on:

Gymnastics:

When I was eight, I had a minor fantasy about being a gymnast and would practise my “beam” moves on a three foot wall on our road. Mostly I just wanted my own leotard, which I could double up with legwarmers during my Fame phase, as well as the chance to lep around on a mat with one of those twirly ribbons. And let’s face it, at age eight, I was slightly geriatric in terms of starting out in the sport. And who knew the poor little tykes were training as much as weighlifters on crack?

Obligatory clip: Olga Korbut at the 1972 games and Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10 in 1976.

Diving:

There is something almost religious about diving – all that grace, timing, symmetry and perfection. Oh and hot men too. It’s slightly addictive, but easy to pick up the terminology. Give yourself 10 minutes of viewing and you’ll know your forward triple tuck from your reverse armstand pike. Sadists will of course be tuning in in case of another Greg Louganis-style head-whacking incident.Or worse – this poor gal hits her face.

Obligatory clip: Greg Louganis hits his head at 1988 Seoul Olympics

Synchronised Swimming:

Often laughed out of the pool and given as much sporting credence as tiddly winks and darts, I have a huge soft spot for this Esther Williams meets Duncan Goodhew sport. It’s slightly silly to watch, a bit like water cheer-leading, but you have be fit as all hell to do it. Maybe it’s because I’m fascinated by the garish waterproof make-up or the perma-rictus smiles plastered on the swimmers faces – who knows?

Obligatory clip: The Russian team, who won Gold at the last Olympics, show us how it’s done.

Athletics:

Easily the most watched part of t’Olympics, there are a whole heap of Irish women competing in various categories here: Fionnuala Britton in the 3000m Steeplechase, Olive Loughnane in the 20k Walk, Róisín McGettigan in the 3,000m Steeplechase, Eileen O’Keeffe in the Hammer, Emma Davis in the Triathlon, Michelle Carey in the 400 metres Hurdles, Joanne Cuddihy in the 400 metres, Pauline Curley in the Marathon and the hugely talented Derval O’Rourke in the 100m Hurdles.

Obligatory clip: Sonia O’Sullivan montage (cue Team America music) including her Silver Medal win at the Sydney Olympics.

Boxing:

Now I’m usually not a fan of men bashing the crap out of each other, at least not since the days of ronnie-sporting Barry McGuigan, but I’m making an exception here for Darren Sutherland. A friend dragged me to see a documentary at the IFI last year called Saviours about a Dublin boxing club, and Sutherland was one of the boxers featured. He seemed like a thoroughly nice fella and was juggling training and college at the time of the documentary. Apparently he’s damn good as boxers go, so he might even bag us a medal.

Obligatory clip: Another “montaaaaage” featuring Irish boxer Michael Carruth, who won a Gold medal at 1992 Olympics.

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