HEARD AT HALFTIME: IOC liaison group signals no eSports tie-up coming; Nike’s interest in running; harsh words during the Giro d’Italia

The IOC continues to tread cautiously where e-sports are concerned

News, views and noise from the non-stop, worldwide circus of Olympic sport:

International Olympic Committee ● The IOC’s E-Sports and Gaming Liaison Group declared that the IOC does not plan to recognize a single group as the worldwide federation for eSports. In a letter circulated last week, the liaison group noted:

“The IOC position is that it does not and is not planning to recognise an e-sports federation.

“We have strong existing relations with the different stakeholders in the e-sports and gaming community, such as games publishers, platforms, athletes and players. We will maintain these direct relationships rather than working through a third party.

“Both of the organisations [International E-Sports Federation and Global E-Sports Federation] who reference themselves as e-sports federations have representatives on the ELG and we will continue to welcome the contribution of these individuals. However, the IOC does not endorse or recognise any specific federation as a representative body in this area.

“This is a position shared by ASOIF, AIOWF and GAISF, and as a result we do not encourage IFs to enter into a formal relationship with these organisations.”

The IOC’s liaison group is due to provide more perspective in its year-end report ahead of the Olympic Summit on 12 December.

From the perspective of the eSports industry, The Esports Observer noted:

Chris Chan, who is secretary of the Singapore National Olympic Council and COO of the GEF, said GEF was formed [in 2019] as a way to have esports included in the Olympic Games.

“The race to become the world governing body of esports as whole is still being run frantically as the GEF was in some part built as a way to overshadow the South Korean upstart, International eSports Federation (IeSF). The IeSF was started in 2008 and looks to promote esports as a legitimate competitive space akin to traditional sports.

“The difference between the two organizations is that the GEF is looking to have Olympic sports become members of the GEF while the IeSF looks to promote and facilitate international competitions. However, there have been a handful of Olympic sports that have acquired membership with the GEF, including archery, canoeing, karate, and tennis.”

Former long-time IOC marketing chief Michael Payne (GBR) gave the best interpretation of these events last week on Twitter:

“[J]ust because IOC refusing to recognise one esport federation over another (which makes total sense, not for IOC to judge until sport has clear leader) does not mean ioc not moving or engaging with industry.”

Athletics ● From Kenya’s K24 TV site:

“Police in Nandi County have launched a hunt for Olympic and world 3000 metres steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto, who is accused of eloping with a Form Two student.

“According to a report filed at Mosoriot police post by the teenager’s parents, Kipruto eloped with the girl three days ago.

“The girl’s parents allege that their daughter, who went missing from home, was putting up at the athlete’s home in Chesumei.”

A girl in school at the Form Two grade level would be a teenager, certainly under the age of 18. The report was filed last week, but no report of Kipruto’s whereabouts has been found as yet.

For those who worry that Nike’s change of management may lead to less support for track & field, the review of Matt Hart’s Win At All Costs: Inside Nike Running and Its Culture of Deception, last month’s review in The Washington Post importantly noted:

“Nike’s annual earnings report indicates running is still its biggest wholesale earner — $3.8 billion in the most recent fiscal year, which included a spring devastated by the pandemic, and $4.5 billion the fiscal year before that. In both years, running was bigger than every category except sportswear.”

And:

“But supporting running is different from funding track and field. Nike’s high-tech Vaporfly shoes created a stir for aiding elite marathoners, but the company needs to sell them to a larger audience to make money. Sponsoring high-profile athletes is good for brand awareness when the Olympics come around, but it doesn’t always correlate to shoe sales. So Nike must decide whether it will continue bankrolling both elite athletes training for the Olympics and young runners in the early stages of their careers; whether it will continue funding community races and global events; and whether, post-Phil Knight, it will continue propping up an entire sport.”

But with so much at stake in its running business, does it make sense to abandon the highest profile runners? That’s the question that the Nike management is wrestling with as it considers its post-pandemic plans.

Cycling ● While the 2020 Giro d’Italia will be applauded for even being held, and the tense race to the finish that ended with Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBR) winning the overall title, there were some tense moments, not the least of which was the turmoil over stage 19.

This was supposed to be a long, 258 km ride in rainy conditions, four days after a tough climb up the Piancavallo to end Stage 15 and just a day after a brutal, four-climb stage that included the famed Passo di Stelvio that reached an altitude of 2.,746 m in freezing weather.

While the reports are conflicting, race director Mauro Vegni (ITA) said that complaints about Stage 29 were only voiced on the day of the stage and not before. In the end, the route was shortened to 124 km on a flat course. But Vegni was not happy; in an interview with the RAI national television service (translation per CyclingWeekly.com):

“We didn’t receive any request yesterday. We have been approached by some of the Lotto-Soudal riders [at the start of the stage]. I pointed out that [their] bus wasn’t there and they would’ve been stuck in the cold. Then we started and the Lotto-Soudal bus wasn’t there.

“I think there are going to be some words with lawyers because I don’t feel it’s been respectful to the race, to the people who want to watch the race…there will be consequences because of the behaviour of the riders today.”

“The stage was announced a year ago, they knew it was going to happen in October and a rainy day in October is quite a usual thing and 13°C [55 F] is not cold. We haven’t accepted the riders’ proposal, we have suffered it.

“What happened today will overshadow everything we did about [the race being held during the coronavirus pandemic]. This is what happens when riders don’t show up at the start. Someone will pay for it.

“This isn’t over. Let’s finish the race and reach Milan, then someone will pay.”

Coverage of athlete and team reactions showed a lot of emotion and disagreement about who wanted what and when. To be continued …

SwimmingMatch 6 of the International Swimming League was completed on Monday at the Duna Arena in Budapest (HUN) with reigning champion Energy Standard (FRA) winning easily, even without injured sprint star Sarah Sjostrom (SWE): 609.0 to 448.0 over Toronto.

The star of the match was French sprinter Florent Manaudou, now 29, who won the 50 m Free, the 100 m Medley and the 50 m Free Skins races to lead the Energy Standard charge. Teammate Siobhan Haughey of Hong Kong also won thrice in the short-course (25 m) pool, in the 100-200-400 m Freestyles. Other multiple winner in individual events included:

● Chad le Clos (RSA): Men’s 100-200 m Fly
● Shane Ryan (IRL): Men’s 50-100 m Back
● Danas Rapsys (LTU): Men’s 200-400 m Free
● Ilya Shymanovich (BLR): Men’s 50-100 m Breast

● Kylie Masse (CAN): Women’s 50-100 m Back, 50 m Back Skins
● Anastasia Shkurdai (BLR: age 17): Women’s 100 m Medley-100 m Fly
● Benedetta Pilato (ITA: age 15): Women’s 50-100 m Breast

The next match comes on 5-6 November.

At the BuZZer“[S]he will be urging city council to consider the 2030 Olympics as a major tool that will assist in the economic recovery of the city and the region, in the same way the 2010 Olympics have been credited for keeping Metro Vancouver’s economy afloat during the years-long recovery period from the 2008 recession – before and after the Games.”

That’s from the Vancouver Urbanized site, describing a motion by city council member Melissa de Genova to explore the feasibility of a bid for the 2030 Olympic Winter Games. This was originally to be considered last April, but the pandemic wiped that out and the issue is now up for review again.

The request is for study only, which would involve the local, provincial and Canadian national governments, the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Canadian Paralympic Committee and local First Nations representatives.

Vancouver, of course, staged the 2010 Winter Games. De Genova said she was impressed with the vision of 2010 organizing committee chief executive John Furlong at a 10-year celebration event back in February, asking for consideration of a 2030 bid.

It’s an amazing turn of events to see a city touting the Games as an economic support vehicle after so many years of scorn for the cost of the event. For Vancouver, the situation is much more comfortable than in 2010, due to the existing of the venues being available from that Games.

The 2026 Winter Games will be held in Milan and Cortina, Italy and the IOC is not due to select a city for 2030 until 2023. Sapporo (JPN), Barcelona (ESP) and possibly Salt Lake City (USA) would be in the mix for 2030, but all of these are merely at the inquiry stage, and Salt Lake City is best positioned for the 2034 Winter Games.

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For our 526-event International Sports Calendar from October 2020 to June 2021, by date and by sport, click here!