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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Shiffrin wins first World Champs Giant Slalom gold
2. Ukraine campaigns against Russian inclusion with brutal video
3. German canoe federation opposes IOC’s Russian inclusion idea
4. Utah legislature passes financial guarantees bill for Winter Games
5. Sweden’s 2030 bid called “front-runner” by Associated Press
The amazing Mikaela Shiffrin won her seventh career FIS Alpine World Championships gold in the Giant Slalom on Thursday, now tied for the second-most medals in history with 13. The Ukraine Foreign Ministry released an angry, pointed, two-minute video insisting that Russia not be re-entered into international competitions. The German canoe federation called out the International Olympic Committee on the Russian and Belarusian re-entry issue, saying its position is “not in line with the Olympic Movement.” The Utah legislature passed a resolution in favor of bringing the 2030 or 2034 Olympic Winter Games back to Salt Lake City, and pass a law which allows Governor Spencer Cox to sign a host city contract with the requisite financial guarantees. The Associated Press called Sweden the “sudden front runner” for the 2030 Winter Games, but a member of the Swedish Olympic Committee noted that the financial details and public support for such a bid are far from assured. A feasibility study is due in June.
● World Championships: Biathlon ●
● Panorama: Tokyo 2020 (2: ex-ADK Holdings chief admits bribery; Dentsu bid-rigging troubles continue) = Paris 2024 (National Assembly transport worries) = Brisbane 2032 (Gabba funding agreed) = U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (Paralympic programs expanded) = Memorabilia (61-item auction underway) = Athletics (2: Hall’s 5004 no. 2 pentathlon ever; French court throws out Worlds bribery case) = Boxing (IBA rips boycotting federations) = Football (U.S. beats Canada in SheBelieves Cup) = Gymnastics (arrest of alleged child abuser) ●
Shiffrin wins first World Champs Giant Slalom gold
Although she has won 19 Giant Slalom races in World Cup competition, American skiing star Mikaela Shiffrin had not won a FIS World Championships gold in the event … until Thursday, when she held on at the bottom of the second run to win by just 0.12 seconds.
Shiffrin, who won a Super-G silver at this year’s Worlds, had gone silver-bronze-silver in the Giant Slalom at the 2017-19-21 Worlds, so perhaps she was due. And she roared through the first run in Meribel (FRA) in 1:02.54, forging a 0.12-second lead over France’s two-time World Champion in the event, Tessa Worley.
Then the wait was on, with Shiffrin starting 30th on the second run. Super-G winner Marta Bassino (ITA) jumped from 13th to first in what turned out to be the third-fastest second run, totaling 2:07.93. Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel took the lead out of the no. 26 spot and then was passed by Italian star (and winner of the Combined) Federica Brignone, starting 28th, at 2:07.25. Worley pushed hard, but fell close to the end, leaving Shiffrin to go next.
Shiffrin skied hard and almost lost control at the end, but managed to get across the line with the no. 12 time on the second run, but her 2:07.13 total was good enough for the win and her seventh career World Championships gold. She was relieved:
“It’s unbelievable. I just thought I was going to lose it on the second run. I know how close it can be and I knew how hard I had to push and I didn’t know if I could do it.”
Still just 27, Shiffrin won her 13th career World Champs medal, tying her for no. 2 all-time with Swede Anja Parson (7-2-4 from 2001-11) with 13 total medals (7-3-3). Only Christl Cranz (12-3-0), who skied for Nazi Germany from 1934-39, has more Worlds medals with 15.
Shiffrin will have one more medal chance, in her best event, the Slalom – which she has four times at the Worlds – on Saturday morning.
Defending champ Lara Gut-Behrami finished fourth in 2:07.44 and Bassino was fifth. Nina O’Brien was the second American, finishing 11th in 2:08.56. Katie Hensien was 23rd at 2:09.93.
The men’s Giant Slalom comes on Friday, with Mathieu Favre (FRA) the 2021 winner and Swiss Marco Odermatt leading the seasonal World Cup standings in the event.
Ukraine campaigns against Russian inclusion with brutal video
As the Russian offensive in Ukraine continues, keeping Russian athletes out of international sports competitions is of high importance to the Ukrainian government, shown by a powerful, two-minute video posted by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry.
Titled, “The Return of Russian Athletes,” it asks why the International Olympic Committee is considering changing its February 2022 stance of keeping Russia out of international competitions. Against the backdrop of devastation and explosions, the screen titles showed:
“Did Russia end its aggression?
“Did Russia withdraw from the Occupied Territories of Ukraine?
“Did it stop committing war crimes?
The video states that Russian attacks have killed 231 Ukrainian athletes so far, including 11-year-old gymnast Katya Dachenko, and 343 sports facilities.
Over images of Russian athletes being congratulated, the screen titles showed:
“A significant number of Russian athletes are servicemen of the Russian Army.
“At the Olympic Games in Tokyo, 45 out of 71 Russian medals were won by military athletes
“Russian Olympians support an aggressive war
“Russian NOC made a statement in support of the ‘Special Military Operation’”
And in the conclusion, on top of video of more missile attacks, the screen reads:
“Does the IOC suggest that Ukrainians compete with
“THE OCCUPIERS and
“What Olympic principles are we talking about when a rapist and his victim are invited to the ring?
“THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE
“We call on the world to boycott any sports events with any Russian participation”
It ends with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky saying, “We must safeguard the Olympic Movement, and I believe, I really believe that we will.”
The final shot is of a black screen with white text:
“Share the call for a boycott with the hashtag #BoycottRussianSport”.
German canoe federation opposes IOC’s Russian inclusion idea
From within Germany came a call by the national canoe federation, the Deutsche Kanu Verband (DKV) to continue the complete ban against Russian participation. In a statement, the federation President, Jens Perlwitz noted:
“We are aware that a reintegration of Russian and Belarusian athletes into the world of sports, as suggested by the IOC, would be extremely difficult.
“Since nothing has changed in the situation in Ukraine since last year and peace is currently not foreseeable, there are hardly any possibilities for reintegration. I was particularly moved by the letter from the Ukrainian canoe president Igor Slivinsky, which describes the situation in Ukrainian sport very clearly. That’s why my sympathy goes out to Ukraine.
“The IOC is required to clarify fundamental questions in sport. You have to think hard about whether a state that is waging aggressive war is allowed to be part of the Olympic family, whether that state is allowed to host the Olympic Games and whether athletes from that state are allowed to participate in the Games. In our opinion, the current trend emanating from the IOC is not in line with the Olympic Movement.”
The DKV statement also lists questions proposed by the Athleten-Deutschland group:
“[F]rom the point of view of the athletes, the following questions arise, the answers to which could be a prerequisite for the approval of independent athletes:
● “How can real neutrality be guaranteed and pro-Russian political statements by the athletes avoided?
● “How to ensure independence of athletes whose preparation is supported by the Russian state?
● “How are coaches and coaches of the athletes dealt with?
● “How should the attitude of Russian athletes and athletes’ coaches to the war be credibly tested?
● “What happens if German athletes do not compete against Russian athletes for reasons of conscience?
● “How do such decisions affect the promotion and nominations of athletes?”
Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that the World Taekwondo federation could take up Russian reinstatement as early as April. Quoting World Taekwondo President Chung-won Choue (KOR):
“The IOC will have more specific discussions on the issue at the Executive Committee meeting at the end of March. Depending on the results, we will allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in WT competitions starting in April.”
Choue noted, however, that he is not in favor of having Russian athletes compete in Asian events:
“I don’t think other Asian countries would want this and [World Taekwondo] is also against this. If athletes from the two countries who need world ranking points can participate in WT events, then they won’t have to go to the Asian Games.”
Utah legislature passes financial guarantees bill for Winter Games
The already-strong bid for the 2030 (or 2034) Olympic Winter Games by the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games got stronger on Thursday with a unanimous resolution from the Utah State Legislature and the passage of a bill enabling required guarantees required by the IOC.
The resolution H.C.R. 8 passed the Utah House by 65-0 (10 abstentions) and 27-0 (2 abstentions) in the Senate. It included assurances that the state would ensure the provision of “sufficient power and telecommunications infrastructure,” security, medical services, accessibility and other items, while not promising to pay for any of them.
The bill, H.B. 430, the Olympic and Paralympic Games Act, passed 67-0 (8 abstentions) in the House and 27-0 (2 abstentions) in the Senate and creates a new “Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Coordination Committee” to advise the Legislature on issues related to the 2030 or 2034 Games. Further, an “Olympic and Paralympic Venues Grant Fund” was created – replacing the existing “Winter Venues Fund” – that could receive both private and public funds, to be used for venue improvements. No actual funding was allocated in the bill.
A new section on contracts provides authority to Utah Governor Spencer Cox (R) to enter into a hosting agreement with the IOC or the International Paralympic Committee, specifically to provide state guarantees for:
● “amounts owed by the state to a site selection committee for claims by third parties arising out of or relating to the games”;
● “a financial deficit accruing to the state as a result of hosting the games”;
● “other terms necessary for the state to host the games”;
● “make a host assurance on behalf of the state that is necessary for the state to host the games.”
The language also expects an eventual organizing committee to carry insurance against a deficit as well, and to protect Utah taxpayers, any contract signed by the organizing committee must “include in any agreement signed by the host committee that the state is not liable for the host committee’s failure to perform the duties under the agreement.”
This is an important step in the promotion of the Salt Lake City bid for 2030 (or 2034) and was concluded during a visit by new U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee Chair Gene Sykes and chief executive Sarah Hirshland. It is not believed that any other bid for the 2030 Winter Games has obtained these funding guarantees as yet.
Sweden’s 2030 bid called “front-runner” by Associated Press
In Sweden, the possibilities to be named as the 2030 host site seem quite real now, in view of the problems in Japan with the continuing Tokyo 2020 scandals and declarations by the USOPC that it prefers a 2034 hosting in Salt Lake City.
A Wednesday story from The Associated Press headlined “Sweden emerges as sudden front-runner to host 2030 Olympics,” quoted Swedish Olympic Committee Executive Board member Hans von Uthmann:
“We had a meeting in Lausanne in mid-January after the holidays. On our journey back we realized, ‘Hey, there really is an opening.’”
However, Sweden is not in the same position as it was when it submitted its bid for the 2026 Winter Games, won by Italy’s Milan Cortina bid, 47-34, in 2019. Von Uthmann noted:
“We are humbly aware that we are in the midst of an extremely difficult finance situation in Sweden, not to mention the NATO application,” and “there are many questions and we need to convince and show the Swedish population that this is actually to the advantage of Sweden.”
The questions over government guarantees and public support are issues to be solved, and a referendum may be required. A feasibility study is set to be completed by June, with no new venue construction expected to be required. Stockholm’s 2026 bid had the bobsled, luge and skeleton events at the track in Sigulda, Latvia.
Sweden is also not excited about the IOC’s exploration of possible re-entry of Russian and Belarusian athletes into international competition, the current burning issue in the Olympic Movement.
≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ≡
● Biathlon ● The Single Mixed Relay, with one man and one woman competing – each taking either the first and third legs (each 3 km), or second (3 km) and fourth (4.5 km) – was held for the fourth time in the IBU World Championships and for the third time, Norway’s Marte Olsbu Roeiseland and Johannes Thingnes Boe won, this time in Oberhof (GER).
As in 2019 and 2020, they took the gold, this time by 13.8 seconds over Austria’s Lisa Theresa Hauser and David Komatz, 35:37.1 (2 penalties) to 35:30.9 (0). Italy was third in 36:28.1; the U.S. duo of Deedra Irwin and Paul Schommer finished 38:07.0 (2).
Boe continues an unbelievable Worlds, having won the 10 km Sprint, 12.5 km Pursuit, 20 km Individual and the two Mixed relay events: five in all. He can still win two more, with the men’s 4×7.5 km relay on Saturday and the 15 km Mass Start on Sunday.
He’s now no. 2 all-time in Worlds medals won with 29 (17-9-3) behind former teammate Ole Einar Bjorndalen, who won 45 (20-14-11) from 1997 to 2017.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Games 2020: Tokyo ● The former head of the Tokyo-based ADK Holdings advertising agency, Shinichi Ueno, admitted in a Friday court hearing that his firm paid then-Tokyo 2020 Executive Committee member Haruyuki Takahashi about ¥14 million (almost $104,000 U.S.) in bribes in order to help it be selected as a marketing agent.
ADK eventually became the agency to assist Tokyo-based parking service operator Park24 Co., which became an Olympics sponsor. The bribes were paid between November 2019 and January 2022.
The bid-rigging scandal over test events and venue management contracts continues to boil, with Japanese ad giant Dentsu, Inc., and event management firm Cesespo – both of whom got Tokyo 2020 contracts – banned from government contracts for a year by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Osaka prefecture.
NHK Television reported that Dentsu worked directly with the Tokyo organizing committee to develop the test-event bid document, and was then (1) a successful bidder on multiple events, and (2) may have suggested (or directed) who else should be awarded specific contracts.
The total value of the test-event and Games management contracts have been estimated at ¥40 billion, or about $304 million U.S.
● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● More worries over transportation for the Paris Games, with several members of the French National Assembly voicing concerns following a fact-finding report. Stephane Peu (Communist Party) told reporters:
“Things are, I hope, improving, but we are in a very worrying situation. There is a multiplicity of uncoordinated actors on the subject: the RATP [public transport authority], IDFM (Ile-de-France Mobilities), the Grand Paris [Express] company, the [organizing committee] … Everyone was in their corner, in their corridor, and didn’t speak to each other. And when they spoke, it was to say that what was wrong was the fault of the other.”
Construction worries on new lines, coordination of venue bus services and having enough people to do the job are all worries.
● Olympic Games 2032: Brisbane ● A funding agreement between the Australian national government and the state of Queensland has been reached on the redevelopment of the Gabba stadium and surrounding arena, a centerpiece of the 2032 Games plan.
The deal on who pay for what was reported Friday morning in Australia, to cost a total of about A$7 billion (about $4.8 billion U.S. today), with Sports Minister Annika Wells saying in a radio interview:
“The Australian government are going to pay for Brisbane Live and the Queensland government are going to fund their redevelopment of the Gabba.
“It’s almost exactly a 50:50 split when it comes to the money that we’ll be investing across these two venues, but also the 19 other venues that are going to get built or upgraded.”
The Brisbane Live project is a new arena expected to seat 17-18,000; Wells explained:
“We wanted to leave an iconic piece of history that Brisbane taxpayers could point to and say: ‘we would not have had that but for hosting the Games.’ After the Olympics and Paralympics have packed up and moved on … Brisbane people [will] experience live music and cultural stuff for decades to come.”
The new arena is expected to cost about A$2.5 billion (~$1.7 billion) with another A$1 billion to help with other, related projects. Queensland will now have to fund the Gabba rebuild itself, originally expected to cost A$1 billion, but now projected at A$2.7 billion (~$1.85 billion U.S.).
The Gabba re-development program includes not only work on the stadium, but a major revamp of the surrounding area, tying it in with a nearby transit station as a new civic hub that will also include the new arena.
● U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee ● Interesting announcement about a new program with the NCAA that will create a College Wheelchair Track & Field Championships in cooperation with the 2023 Drake Relays in April.
Men’s and women’s 100 and 200 m races will be held, plus additional men’s races in the 400 m and 800 m. A high school wheelchair 400 m race is also scheduled. Per the announcement:
“[T]he 100-meter races will occur during the 2023 Drake Relays where winners will be awarded with the inaugural 2023 Para-College Wheelchair National Champion trophy. The University of Michigan will provide travel and participation resources to all qualified wheelchair athletes who earn a top-three place finish or top-eight time to compete at Drake.”
Two other new Paralympic-inclusion programs were announced, including a first-ever College All-Star Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team, and wheelchair events will be incorporated into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association and
“the USTA’s National Collegiate Wheelchair Championships will have a presence at the NCAA Division I Championships in Orlando this May. In addition, the ITA will look to add a wheelchair event within the 2023 ITA National Fall Championships, which serves as the final tournament of the season for college singles and doubles players.”
● Memorabilia ● A 61-item auction is now underway through 4 March, highlighted by an impressive collection of 37 Olympic torches and Olympic participation medals from 1896 to 2008!
Ingrid O’Neil Auctions of Corona Del Mar, California is offering items from the estate of long-time Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carlos Velarde, who passed away in 2018 at age 88. Velarde was a devoted collector who kept his memorabilia in a special “Olympic Room” and attended multiple Olympic Games and track & field World Championships as a member of the Track & Field News tour.
The auction has some exciting items, including nine items with initial asking prices of $10,000 or more:
● $45,000 for a 1980 Lake Placid Olympic Winter Torch (rare!)
● $40,000 for a 1994 Lillehammer Olympic Winter Torch (300 made)
● $32,500 for a 1936 Berlin “chain of office” for IOC members
● $30,000 for a 1956 Melbourne Olympic Torch
● $24,000 for a 1988 Calgary Olympic Winter Torch
● $20,000 for a 1976 Innsbruck Olympic Winter Torch
● $15,000 for a 1964 Tokyo Olympic Torch
● $14,000 for a 1904 St. Louis participation medal
● $12,000 for a 1960 Rome Olympic gold medal in fencing
There are also three medals from Mexico City 1968 (gymnastics, weightlifting and wrestling) and a 1992 Barcelona bronze medal. Three nice sets of participation medals are also offered, from 1912-36 (six total), 1948-72 (six) and 1980-2008 (seven), with initial bids from $700 to $1,000.
The auction is open until 4 March at 8 p.m. Pacific time.
● Athletics ● The first day of the USATF National Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico nearly produced a world indoor record from combined-events star Anna Hall.
The NCAA Indoor pentathlon champion for Florida in 2022 and the World Outdoor heptathlon bronze medalist in Eugene last summer, Hall set personal bests in the 60 m hurdles (8.04) and high jump (1.91 m/6-3 1/4) and won all five events on the way to her first national indoor title and a score of 5,004 points, just missing the world mark of 5,013 by Ukraine’s Nataliya Dobrynska from 2012. It’s the no. 2 performance in history and the world leader for 2023.
Hall did get an American Record, busting Sharon Day-Monroe’s mark of 4,805 from 2014, also set in Albuquerque’s high altitude. Hall is only the third woman in history to score 5,000 points or more.
The men’s heptathlon has two-time NCAA Division II winner Will Daniels in the lead after four events, 3,430 to 3,390 over Tokyo 2020 decathlon Olympian Steven Bastien with the 60 m hurdles, vault and 1,000 m remaining for Friday.
In the race walk finals, Miranda Melville was a clear winner in the women’s 3,000 m in 13:37.69 to 13:49.29 for Maria Michta-Coffey. It’s Melville’s second USATF gold in the event, also winning in 2019, to go along with four silver medals.
Nick Christie won the men’s 3,000 m in 11:56.67, easily beating Daniel Nehnevaj (12:19.23). Already the 2023 U.S. 35 km Walk champion from January, Christie won his fourth indoor national title, also in 2018-19-20, with two of those also in Albuquerque.
The meet continues on Friday and Saturday.
The French Cour de cassation, the highest appeals court in the country, dismissed a corruption case related to the awarding of the 2017 and 2019 World Athletics Championships, lodged against Qatari businessman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, now the President of the Paris-Saint-Germain football club.
The indictment was handed down in May 2019, accusing Al-Khelaifi of two payments totaling $3.5 million in 2011 to the marketing company headed by Papa Massata Diack, the son of then-IAAF President Lamine Diack, both of Senegal. The court did not rule that the payments were not made, or that they weren’t bribes, but that since the meetings and transactions took place in Qatar, Monaco or Senegal, they are outside of French jurisdiction. Both Diacks were convicted of crimes in Paris courts; Lamine Diack died in 2021; the son has never left Senegal and was tried and convicted in absentia.
The 2017 Worlds went to London; the 2019 event did go to Doha in Qatar.
● Boxing ● The International Boxing Association reiterated its anger with the national federations of at least six countries – including the U.S. – which have declined to participate in the federation’s World Championships for women in March and for men in May.
A Thursday post by Secretary General George Yerolimpos (GRE) included:
“As you will have seen and heard, some nations have taken it upon themselves to take the decision to boycott our flagship World Boxing Championships in New Delhi and Tashkent. Decisions to do so have been made in a vacuum and do not reflect the views of their athletes, coaches, technical officials, and administrators within these National Federations.
“The confusion and misinformation within these National Federations has resulted in a steady stream of complaints from athletes, coaches, technical officials, and administrators that do not support this decision and need immediate support in making sure they can attend these events. …
“IBA has declared its utmost commitment to doing whatever possible including financial aid through its Financial Support Program (FSP) to ensure that all boycotting National Federation athletes are able to fight for glory and achieve their dream of becoming a World Champion. Any athlete or coach of a boycotted National Federation who would like to attend, as it is an open event, can directly register for the World Boxing Championships by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
“To the leadership of National Federations that choose to use geopolitics as a means to play political games within boxing, IBA stands by the fact that athletes, coaches and officials from a country shall not be liable for any conduct of the management of their national federations or any political games.”
Missing the IBA Worlds has no impact on Olympic qualification, as IBA events will not be used for that purpose, and the Paris qualifying process is being handled directly by the IOC.
● Football ● The 2023 SheBelieves Cup had extra drama with the top-ranked U.S. women coming off a rough end to 2022 and the no. 6 Canadian women calling a strike over equal-pay conditions, but relenting when their federation threatened legal action.
The Canadian women wore their warm-up jackets inside out to hire the Canada Soccer logo and wore purple T-shorts bearing the words “Enough is Enough.”
A pre-game protest circle was formed by both teams prior to Thursday’s match in Orlando, Florida to call further attention to the Canadian women’s situation. The actual game had the U.S. on the offensive and in complete control from kick-off, with a save by Canada’s Kailen Sheridan keeping midfielder Ashley Sanchez from scoring in the third minute and then a Mallory Swanson goal in the seventh, rocketing home a cross from forward Trinity Rodman that was deflected by striker Alex Morgan to a waiting Swanson for the 1-0 lead.
U.S. midfielder Lindsey Horan’s header in the 17th hit the post, but the Americans went up 2-0 in the 34th on an awful back-to-goal pass by Canadian defender Vanessa Gilles – under pressure from Morgan – that was intercepted in the box by Swanson, who ripped a shot past keeper Sheridan.
The Canadians played their usual, physical style, but weren’t able to mount a severe threat until stoppage time, when forward Janine Beckie sent a swerving shot that had to be deflected by U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher in the 46th. The half ended with the U.S. with 52% of possession and a 9-2 edge on shots.
The second half saw no goals, although Sheridan saved a third U.S. score on a kick save of a drive by Ashley Hatch in the 75th. The play got chippy as it usually does between these teams; the U.S. ended with 52% of possession and a 14-6 final advantage on shots, amid 23 total fouls.
In the opener, world no. 9 Brazil defeated 11th-ranked Japan, 1-0, on a goal by Debinha in the 72nd minute.
The tournament continues on Sunday (19th) from Nashville, Tennessee, with the U.S. and Japan at 3:30 p.m. Eastern and Canada and Brazil at 6:30 p.m.; the finale is on the 22nd in Frisco, Texas, with Canada vs. Japan at 4 p.m. and the U.S. and Brazil at 7 p.m.
● Gymnastics ● Ottawa Police reported Wednesday that 27-year-old women’s coach Benjamin Cooper of Toronto has been charged with sexual assault, child pornography, harassment and five counts of sexual abuse of persons under 16. The incidents took place between 2014-22 and involved seven individuals aged 14-17.
He was arrested on Wednesday; Gymnastics Ontario posted a statement that noted it had opened an investigation of Cooper, and suspended him, in April 2022 after receiving information about his activities.
This may not be all; the Police statement included, “Police are concerned there may been more victims in the Ottawa and Kingston areas. We are asking victims to contact their local Police Service for more information.”
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