hold the ring
Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Probably from "keep the ring" in the early days of ring fighting, when "pugilists" were employed to keep spectators in order.
1828 (October), The Sporting Magazine, page 448:
- Eight pugilists were engaged specially to keep the ring, and everything went off as it should do.
- (UK, idiomatic) To oversee a situation while attempting to remain uninvolved in it.
2006 August 31, “Holding the ring in the capital: Embedded with American troops in a volatile district, our correspondent asks how long they can prevent an all-out sectarian war”, The Economist (Economist.com):
- Lieutenant-General Fry says that coalition forces will continue military operations "to separate the two sides of the sectarian conflict" but that such operations were meant to hold the ring until the politicians come up with a solution.
- Police held the ring during the protests.