After 30 arduous years of trying to clinch the listing, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) finally certified Muay Thai as an Olympic sport and granted the International Federation of Muaythai Associations (IFMA) permanent membership of the committee on July 20 at the 138th IOC session in Tokyo.

It marks a momentous step up for Muay Thai to be competing in a class alongside international boxing in the Games.

However, it was no walk in the park getting to where it is.

Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, who is president of the National Olympic Committee of Thailand, has pulled out all the stops over the past three years to have the kingdom's traditional martial art accepted as an Olympic sport. But Muay Thai's inclusion in the Olympic roster was only half the battle.

Gen Prawit also set out to find the right individual to head the IFMA and prepare the sport for its touted inclusion at the next Games in Paris 3 years from now. In the three decades since its inception, the IFMA has worked with the government and other sport bodies to ensure Muay Thai is now conducted with all the rigorousness expected of an Olympic Games event.

Thailand's own medal hopes in the sport consist of 5-7 golds in the lighter weight divisions. For the heavyweights, competition is stiff among larger-built boxers from China, Russia, Ukraine and the Middle East.

The IFMA is the only Muay Thai governing body recognised by the IOC and it is also a member of the Arisf (Association of IOC Recognised International Sport Federations).

The IFMA will now press ahead with ensuring the sport is ready to make its bow in the next Olympic Games in France, which hosts the Games in two years.

"We only have so much time, and it's a long process. If we miss the Olympics in France, we will have to wait another four years for the Games in the US in 2028," said Prawit

To expedite matters, Gen Prawit has formed a panel to oversee the process while Gen Udomdej will lead a separate sub-committee to coordinate cooperation from the state, private and important figures in Thai boxing.

In addition, the "One Standard Muay Thai" rules must be adopted accross the board to avoid discrepancies.

In 2023, Muay Thai will be a full competition event in both the European Games in Poland and the World Combat Games in Saudi Arabia.

Also, the referee must stop the bouts at the first sign of physical danger to either fighter.

20/08/2021 13:14:16


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