Swedish taekwondo ref kicked in the head

The sport of taekwondo's Olympic future is in doubt after a Swedish referee was kicked in the head on Saturday by a disqualified competitor.

Swedish taekwondo ref kicked in the head

Cuba’s former Olympic taekwondo champion Angel Valodia Matos was expelled from international competition after the incident.

The 31-year-old kicked Swedish referee Chakir Chelbat in the head and spat at the centre of the mat as soon as he was sent off for taking too much injury time in the middle of a +80kg bronze medal bout.

Chelbat needed stitches on the left side of his lower lip, tournament officials said.

Matos, who won the -80kg gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Games, was fighting

world silver medallist Arman Chilmanov of Kazakhstan at the time of the incident.

Matos, accompanied by his coach, was seen pointing his finger at Chelbat who was punching the air after the referee made the decision.

When the referee awarded the win to Chilmanov, the Cuban let fly his left leg in a big circular “roundhouse” move that crunched into Chelbat’s face.

The referee walked away while Matos and his coach had to be restrained from chasing him.

The Cuban duo left the arena amid jeers and boos from the crowd.

Controversy was the last thing Taekwondo needed in Beijing following angry scenes in Athens four years ago ignited by a storm of protests over refereeing decisions.

Taekwondo has already survived one vote by the International Olympic Committe to trim the number of sports, but it faces another vote next year while cricket, rugby, golf and karate are lobbying for inclusion.

“I feel this can be part of our growing pain,” said World Taekwondo Federation secretary general Yang Jin-Suk, pleading for the sport to have time to clean up its image.

“We are still a little baby. But we are not asking for mercy,” Yang said.

“With your blessings, we will overcome all the difficulties. We’re going to show what the true taekwondo is down the road.”

But US team leader Herb Lopez questioned whether taekwondo could remain in

the Games while competitors were constantly frustrated by refereeing decisons.

“If this is truly what taekwondo is about, then maybe taekwondo shouldn’t be in the Olympics. Maybe they should fix it and then let it come back,” he said.

“There is a feeling that we won’t survive the next vote. We must present a pristine environment.”

Britain’s Sarah Stevenson scored a notable victory when she lodged an appeal after losing her quarter-final to China’s two-time champion Chen Zhong.

Despite a multitude of protests since the martial art made its Olympic debut at the 2000 Games, Stevenson’s appeal was the first ever upheld by the jury and she went on to win a bronze medal.

Aware that its Games future was on the line before Beijing, the WTF held seminars for referees and expanded the judging panel from three to four.

“The transparency of the refereeing and judging system is like never before,” WTF president Choue Chung-Won told AFP before the competition began.

The WTF has also developed electronic head and body gear that should accurately register blows.

It was tested for the first time at the Asian championships in April where it was found to require more technical adjustments.

“Definitely, it will be introduced in the 2012 London Games,” Choue said.

“We will have to use it in our championships and other official competitions before that,” he said. “So very soon, you will see it in a different way.”

AFP/The Local

For members


The year Sweden organized the Olympics and defied expectations

Stockholm Olympic Stadium defied those who said Sweden wasn't advanced enough to host the Olympic Games in 1912, and has survived to become the world's oldest Olympic stadium actively in use.

The year Sweden organized the Olympics and defied expectations
Stockholm's Olympic Stadium as it used to look. Photo: Bertil Norberg/TT

This article was written for Members of The Local. Read more articles for Members here.

Taking inspiration from the medieval city wall of Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland, Swedish architect and athlete Torben Grut designed a stadium for the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm that would stand as a fortress of athleticism.

His success was both immediate and enduring, and the now-historic stadium has lived up to its impressive façade for more than a century, hosting countless sporting and cultural events, witnessing more than 80 athletic world records, surviving a bombing, and simply reminding the world of its important place in Olympic history.

Initially, however, the outlook for both the stadium and the Stockholm Olympics – the fifth modern Olympic games – was far from promising. As historian Therese Nordlund Edvinsson wrote in a 2014 article in The International Journal of the History of Sport, despite Sweden's “modest ambitions” for the games, “critics argued that the country was too undeveloped to arrange a major sport event”.


Djurgården versus AIK in 1915 at Stockholm Stadium. Photo: TT

The original plan for the stadium was an accordingly modest – and temporary – whitewashed wooden structure. The decision to make it permanent was likely a relief to Grut, whose other designs included Solliden Palace, the summer residence of the Swedish royal family on the island of Öland. Though still relatively small, with an original seating capacity of around 20,000, the completed stadium became a model for subsequent Olympic stadiums. Likewise, and in defiance of the critics, the Stockholm Olympic Games were considered a great success.  

In a 2012 article entitled, “Stockholm 1912 set the gold standard for the modern Olympics,” in the British newspaper The Guardian, sports journalist Frank Keating wrote, “Stockholm's 1912 Games are still considered standard-setting for Olympic decades to come. Women's competition was allowed for swimming and diving, while men's boxing was banned: and on the track photo-finish electronic-timing was introduced as a back-up to the hand-held judges' stopwatch.” It was also, he explained, “the last Olympics where any individual could just turn up and hope to enter a competition”.


One of the numerous concerts organized at the Stockholm Stadium. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Over the years, the appearance of Stockholm Olympic Stadium has changed little, and the seating capacity has even been reduced. In 2011 and 2012, the stadium underwent its only major renovation in preparation for its centenary. Nonetheless, it has been an incredibly adaptable venue, serving for many years as home to Swedish football team Djurgårdens IF, and accommodating a wide variety of sporting and cultural events – from ice hockey to American football and from Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti to Swedish DJ Avicii. It is also where the Stockholm Marathon ends each year.

The stadium has also maintained a long and at times somewhat chequered connection to the Olympic Games. In 1956, for instance, the equestrian events of the Summer Olympics taking place in Melbourne, Australia, were hosted some 15,000 kilometres away in Stockholm Olympic Stadium due to animal quarantine restrictions in Australia. And in August 1997, as Stockholm vied to host the 2004 Summer Olympics, the stadium was one of several sites in Sweden bombed or set alight by Swedish far-right extremists opposed to Sweden hosting the games.

READ ALSO: Polls suggest Italians much more enthusiastic about Olympic bid than Swedes

Although modern stadiums designed or used for the Summer Olympics now typically seat three to four times more people than Stockholm Olympic Stadium did in 1912, the historic venue still has a chance of returning to its Olympic origins. If Stockholm-Åre is selected to host the Winter Olympics in 2026, the snowboarding competitions are slated to take place in the landmark stadium, neatly tying together 114 years of Olympic history.

Victoria Martínez is an American historical researcher, writer and author of three historical non-fiction books. She lives in Småland county, Sweden, with her Spanish husband and their two children.