OF all the things I love about the Olympics, one of my favourites is its keenness to stick close to the traditional programme.

For all the success of the introduction of more modern sports such as skateboarding and surfing in Tokyo this summer, there is something amazing about watching sports in this day and age that were on the programme over a century ago.

Two of the most traditional and long-standing members of the Olympic programme are weightlifting and boxing, having been mainstays for well over a hundred years – but they are on the verge of that run ending sooner rather than later.

Both weightlifting and boxing have become a thorn in the side of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Weightlifting, which made its Olympic debut at the inaugural Games in Athens in 1896, has become perhaps the most problematic for IOC president Thomas Bach.

In recent years, is has been hard to keep up with the reallocation of medals, such is the regularity of disqualifications due to doping cases.

Over the course of only three Olympic cycles, from 2008 to just prior to the Tokyo Games, an unbelievable 562 doping sanctions were handed out.

Boxing has endured similar controversy, with investigations uncovering shocking evidence of a judging scandal at the 2016 Olympics, in which bribes were handed out in return for results being fixed.

Both boxing and weightlifting will be in Paris in 2024 but unless there are significant changes and proof that things are being cleaned up, they will no longer be Olympic sports from 2028.

If this happens, the ramifications for Scottish athletes could be severe. Boxing in particular has proved to be a breeding ground for a number of fighters, most notably Josh Taylor, who went on to become undisputed champion of the world following an appearance at the 2012 Olympics.

Dick McTaggart was another to benefit, having won two Olympic medals, including gold in 1956.

There has been of an air of complacency in these two sports in recent years, with the assumption seeming to be that having held their place for so long, they were safe.

Well, the IOC are right. Booting them out is perhaps the only way to get rid of the stench that now follows Olympic boxing, and even more so, weightlifting.

It would be a devastating development for the athletes; for weightlifters, the Olympics is the pinnacle of their sport while for boxers, there are few who, even while harbouring professional aspirations, do not also want to become an Olympian.

Both sports have vowed to clean up their act. They may well make a decent fist of it.

It may well, however, be too little too late. Both sports are rotten, and when it gets to this point, more often than not, no amount of back-pedalling can salvage things.

The Olympics have enough to worry about without the extra strife.

And with new sports, such as skateboarding, surfing and sport climbing, ready to step into the breach, a new direction may well be the best path to take.


One of the longest-running but unnecessary sagas of recent months has been the will-he-won’t-he situation surrounding Novak Djokovic’s participation in the Australian Open.

The Serb pretty much owns the Rod Laver Arena, having won the title in Melbourne nine times, including a hat-trick over the past three years.

Few players have been so dominant at one event, and there weren’t many people betting on Djokovic failing to add to his tally next month.

That was until the Australian government introduced rules mandating all visitors to the country had to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

Strangely, Djokovic has spent the past six-or-so months refusing to reveal his vaccination status, but he had made anti-vax statements in the past.

However, last week, the entry list for the Australian Open was released and there it was, Djokovic’s name was included.

There has been hasty denials from the Australian Open organisers that the Serb has been granted any kind of medical exemption or given any leeway in terms of being vaccinated, so the assumption has to be that the 34-year-old is, or will be, fully vaccinated by the time he travels to Australia.

That would be the right conclusion to what has been a wholly unnecessary saga. While athletes shouldn’t always be forced to bear the tag of role model, in this, they should.

Elite athletes have been enjoying countless privileges over the past year-and-a-half that the rest of us haven’t and so to then go against all the science and cast doubt on a vaccine that will allow us “normal” people to begin to live normal lives again is unforgivable.

Djokovic will, it seems, be in Australia to defend his title, and go for his 21st Grand Slam to edge ahead of Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal in the standings, but he has made an almighty meal of the build-up to his trip.

He appears to have made the right decision in the end, but there are few excuses for the idiocy he has shown to this point.