★ The Sports Examiner: Chronicling the key competitive, economic and political forces shaping elite sport and the Olympic Movement.★
★ To get The Sports Examiner by e-mail: sign up here! ★
≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Third fencing World Cup canceled, as Poland exits
2. World Aquatics to study Russian & Belarusian re-entry
3. IOC’s Bach says “sport has the power to foster peace”
4. AIU concerned over criminal doping ring in Kenya
5. Paris 2024 “Team USA House” to be available to fans
The Polish Fencing Federation became the third national federation to cancel an International Fencing Federation World Cup over the re-entry of Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals, criticizing the “poorly controlled manner” in which such athletes will be able to enter. World Aquatics announced that a review committee will be formed to study possible Russian and Belarusian re-entry, with a decision not before July, when the World Aquatics Championships will be held in Japan. It is possible that some Russian and Belarusian swimmers could take part in the 2023 Worlds. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach released a short video in advance of Thursday’s International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, saying that sport is a low-cost, effective way to promote understanding apart from politics. The Athletics Integrity Unit sounded the alarm that a controlled, criminal program of doping is in play in Kenya and that a task force will be formed to root it out. A panel which imposed an eight-year sanctions on distance runner Eglay Nafuna Nalyanya noticed the similarities of method, people and place to another sanctions case from January. The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee announced that the “Team USA House” in Paris for the 2024 Olympic Games will be at the ornate, neoclassical Palais Brongniat in the city center area and will be able to be accessed by fans – for the first time – who are part of official hospitality and travel packages.
● World Championship: Curling ●
● Panorama: Olympic Games 2024 (NBC says ‘24 ad sales going well) = Olympic Games 2036 (some Berlin politicians want 2036 Games) = Athletics (3: Lima cannot host 2024 World Juniors; Crouser irritated by measurement controversy; Bol’s lawyer wants doping inquiry dropped) = Equestrian (Russian and Belarusian ban maintained) = Football (2: Cerefin wins UEFA re-election; Ukraine still in Portugal-Spain-Morocco bid for 2030 World Cup) = Swimming (Swim England “Open” division may be confusing) ●
Third fencing World Cup canceled, as Poland exits
The Federation Internationale d’Escrime (FIE) decided on 10 March via an online Congress to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to competition as neutral athletes beginning on 16 April, in line with whatever the International Olympic Committee came up with at its Executive Board meeting at the end of March.
Amazingly, no public announcement of the Congress, or the votes taken there has been made. But everybody knows.
The response so far has been three canceled World Cup events. The first was by the German Fencing Federation, which “returned” the 5-7 May women’s Foil event to be held in Tauberbischofsheim.
Next, the French Fencing Federation canceled the 19-21 May men’s Epee World Cup in St. Maur.
On Wednesday, the Polish Fencing Federation (“PZS”) joined in:
“The Polish Federation informs that due to the change by the Board of the International Fencing Federation (FIE) of the rules of qualifying for the [21-23 April] Women’s Foil World Cup in Poznan, for competitors and support staff holding Russian and Belarusian passports, the Board of PZS is forced to cancel this competition. …
“Introduced by the FIE on 4 April 2023, the procedure means that Ukrainian fencers will not participate in the competitions qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, and on the other hand, there is a risk that a large number of competitors with Russian and Belarusian passports will be admitted in a poorly controlled manner.
“The Polish Fencing Association supports the Ukrainian Fencing Federation in its efforts to remove from the competitions and the world fencing environment people who support the brutal war in Ukraine and support the regime of Vladimir Putin, which is why, as the organizer of the World Cup in Poznan, we could not accept such a situation.”
The 2022-23 FIE World Cup season is heading toward the close, with post-15 April tournaments that could include Russian and Belarusian entries scheduled for Korea, Colombia, Mexico, Spain, Georgia, China and UAE.
World Aquatics to study Russian & Belarusian re-entry
“The World Aquatics Bureau supports the statement made by the IOC Executive Board on 28 March 2023 and has approved a task force to explore a potential pathway for Russian and Belarusian athletes to be invited to compete at future international aquatics events.”
Wednesday’s announcement also included:
“The task force, made up of athletes and representatives from across the aquatics community and chaired by Maureen Croes, the President of PanAm Aquatics, will begin work immediately on developing a recommendation to the World Aquatics Bureau.
“The World Aquatics Bureau notes that the task force will need to take time to come to its conclusions, and will report back at the next Bureau meeting in July 2023.”
The timing is crucial, since the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in swimming, open water, diving, artistic swimming, water polo and high diving, will be held in Fukuoka (JPN) from 14-30 July. With the swimming racing not starting until 22 July, a World Aquatics decision to allow Russian and Belarusian entries prior to the start of the Fukuoka meet could allow these countries to send swimmers to compete there.
Or the decision could be to allow Russian and Belarusian entries after the Worlds, when less attention will be paid to them. The three-meet Swimming World Cup will be held in October, in Germany, Greece and Hungary.
Observed: The politics of this decision will be fascinating, especially since World Aquatics President Husain Al-Musallam of Kuwait is also the Director General of the Olympic Council of Asia.
The OCA is the group which first offered to admit Russian and Belarusian participation, during last December’s Olympic Summit in Lausanne. That action has been a catalyst for the IOC to get to its current position of allowing Russian and Belarusian participation as neutrals, and Al-Musallam has been noted as a proponent of Russian and Belarusian re-entry under a neutral status.
IOC’s Bach says “sport has the power to foster peace”
In a short video marking Thursday as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach doubled down on his message of the importance of sport:
“Sport brings people together in peaceful competition. Like few other things, sport has the power to foster peace and understanding with our fellow human beings.
“At the Olympic Games, the athletes set aside all the differences that divide the world. They compete fiercely against each other, while living peacefully together under one roof in the Olympic Village. This makes the Olympic Games such a powerful symbol of peace. …
“This is where sport can make a positive impact. Sport is the low-cost, high-impact tool to support all countries – big or small, rich or poor – to build together a more peaceful, healthier, more equal and more sustainable world for everyone – 365 days a year. …
“This is the contribution to peace that sport can offer: opening a pathway to foster understanding between people and nations. Sport can open the door to peace in ways that exclusion and division do not.”
Interestingly, Bach’s comments on video and on the accompanying transcript included:
“With wars, division, confrontation and human suffering on the rise around the world, we need the unifying power of sport as a force for good more urgently than ever.”
But in the IOC news release, a different quote – not in the video – was used that doubled down on the IOC’s position that Ukrainians should not mind that Russian and Belarusian athletes could compete against them at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games:
“Due to the fact that there are unfortunately far too many wars, armed conflicts and crises in this world, we have seen in almost all editions of the Games athletes compete with each other – as a symbol of peace – despite the fact that their nations are at war or in conflict.”
Whose idea was that?
AIU concerned over criminal doping ring in Kenya
“It seems that elite Kenyan athletes are being assisted by a person or persons, including someone with considerable medical knowledge, to commit what amounts to criminal conduct involving frauds on the AIU, and that this is not limited to a single case but evidences a pattern of behaviour. We regard this conduct as a matter of the greatest possible concern and urge the AIU to take all possible steps to establish how this is occurring.”
Announced in a 4 April 2023 news release, the Athletics Integrity Unit is sounding the alarm after a disciplinary tribunal saw parallels in two recent doping cases. A new, eight-year sanction was handed down against distance runner Eglay Nafuna Nalyanya (4:05.68 at 1,500 m) for steroid use in 2022 and tampering with the doping-control system and runner Betty Lempus, who was sanctioned for doping in January:
“Nalyanya and Lempus told the AIU they received intramuscular injections while being treated at the same Kenyan hospital and produced falsified medical documents to support their respective claims. In both instances, AIU investigations – in collaboration with the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) – discovered the documents were false; that the doctors listed were fictitious; and that neither athlete had received the respective injection though both women had attended the hospital on the respective days in question. In Nalyanya’s case, a hospital official testified the hospital has never stocked the medication (sustanon) which Nalyanya said she received.
“The Disciplinary Tribunal pointed out that comparisons of the falsified documents in the two cases showed distinctive likenesses.”
AIU Chair David Howman (NZL) said immediate steps are being taken:
“It is clear doping in Kenya is increasingly well organised and these cases underline the reality that medically-experienced personnel are involved. This is a serious threat to our sport. The AIU has been asked to work with the Kenyan Government, Athletics Kenya and the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya to attack this crisis. We have set up a Steering Committee to lead this special project and determine how best to use this funding, and the AIU’s expert advice will be utilised across various strategic areas, including testing, investigations and intelligence, and education outreach.”
Organized doping efforts are hardly new, but Kenya’s situation is especially grave, with 67 people listed on the AIU’s 1 April “Global List of Ineligible Persons.”
Paris 2024 “Team USA House” to be available to fans
Introduced at Olympic Games in the later part of the 20th Century, most of the larger National Olympic Committee have a “team house,” which has been a gathering place for athletes, officials, sponsors, news media and guests. Mostly wiped out by the Covid pandemic, the concept is returning in a big way for Paris in 2024, with the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee announces its location for 2024 on Wednesday.
The ornate, neoclassical Palais Brongniat, in the middle of Paris, originally completed in 1826 and then expanded in 1905 was, for many years, the Paris Bourse, or main stock exchange building. Today it’s a convention and meetings space and will house the “Team USA House” for Paris.
Up until now, the “USA House” – like most NOC facilities – was only accessible by invitation, but the USOPC is opening it to the public for 2024 … for a price. It’s included in a variety of travel packages offered by the official hospitality provider, On Location:
● 3-night Short Stays, from €4,140 to €7,145 per person, depending on the dates and events selected (about $4,515 to $7,791 U.S. today).
● 4-night Long Stays, from €11,660 to €15,230 per person, depending on dates and events (about $12,715 to $16,608 U.S.).
● 5- or 6-night Long Stays, from €15,650 to €19,445 per person, depending on dates and events (about $17,066 to $21,204 today).
Single-day packages are also available, tied in with tickets to specific events.
Typical programs include current and Olympic alumni athlete appearances, sponsor programs, food and drink and spaces to watch the Games on multiple, large screens.
≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP ≡
● Curling ● The WCF men’s World Championship is ongoing in Ottawa (CAN) with about two-thirds of the round-robin completed among the 13 teams. The top six will advance to the playoffs, to begin on Saturday.
So far, the top teams have been Switzerland (7-1; skipped by Yannick Schwaller), Norway (7-1; Magnus Ramsfjell) and Sweden (6-1), with six-time World Champion Niklas Edin back to try to win a fifth straight Worlds.
Canada (2017 World Champion Brad Gushue) and Scotland (Beijing 2022 silver winner Bruce Mouat) are at 5-2, with Italy (2022 Worlds bronze medalist Joel Retornaz) and Japan (Riku Yanagisawa) both at 5-3. The U.S., with 2018 Olympic champ John Shuster’s rink, is 3-5 so far, sitting eighth.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● NBC reported that its advertising sales for the 2024 Paris Games are going well and ahead of the pace of sales for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
It also noted Brand Asset Valuator research that showed advertisers for the Games received a 117% increase in fan association of attributes such as “authentic,” “daring,” “distinct,” “fun,” “high-performing,” “prestigious” and “social.”
Brands, on average, also saw substantial “equity” increases among viewers, such as purchase consideration (+6%), preference (+7%), pricing power (+40%) and loyalty (+40%).
● Olympic Games 2036 ● The unthinkable idea of a 2036 Olympic Games in Berlin on the centennial of the Nazi-themed Games of 1936 is being discussed by the Senate of the Federal State of Berlin in Germany.
The German Bild newspaper reported interest from some Berlin politicians; a statement from one party noted, “We consider this a great opportunity for Berlin, we want to take advantage of it. After the Games, renovated and modernized sports facilities would be available for different sports in Berlin.”
The German National Olympic Committee (DOSB) is studying the possibilities for Olympic or Winter Games in Germany, but has committed to nothing yet.
● Athletics ● Two days after Peru was removed as host of the 2023 FIFA men’s U-17 World Cup, World Athletics announced that Lima (PER) would not be hosting the 2024 World U-20 Championships, slated for 26-31 August 2024:
“The Peruvian Athletics Federation has informed World Athletics that recent political instability and social unrest, as well as natural disasters in Peru, have left the federation and the local organising committee unable to stage the event next year.”
World Athletics noted that it is “in discussion” with another host for 2024.
Shot put world-record holder Ryan Crouser of the U.S. indicated some frustration with reports that his 23.38 m (76-8 1/2) world-record throw in Pocatello, Idaho on 18 February may not be ratified.
French coach P.J. Vazel tweeted last Saturday: “No @WorldAthletics for @RCrouserThrows as his 23.38 in Pocatello won’t be ratified, from the videos it appears that the ring was probably above the sector exceeding the rule allowance.”
Crouser wrote on his Instagram page:
● “I’m confused by this ruling. The ring was a 3/4″ plywood on turf with rubber matting around but not under it. The rule is 1:1000 for a level field, meaning 1m drop at 1,000 m or less is legal. 3/4 inch = 1.9 cm = 0.019m elevation of the ring following the 1:1000 rule gives 19m. So a throw under 19m would not count but 23m > 19m so there is less than 1:1000 elevation change, so legal under the [World Athletics] rules.”
● “This isn’t a new issue, it’s the reason we have to put mats down to throw off a double plywood ring because then it is a 1.5 [inch] elevated ring and breaks the 1:1000 rule. So I really don’t understand were this ruling is coming from.”
Officially, World Athletics has said nothing.
Commonwealth Games runner-up Peter Bol of Australia (1:44.00 best in 2022) tested positive for erythropoietin (EPO) in January, but the test of his second sample came up negative. His attorney, Paul Greene, had samples tested at two independent labs, both with negative results, and has slammed Sport Integrity Australia in a television interview:
“They had no idea what they were doing. And the worst part of it now is, one, it was announced first of all which never should have been, I begged them not to announce it.
‘Two, now they just … obviously are wrong, they are refusing to drop this sham investigation. … They just need to say ‘we have no evidence, we have no evidence, we messed this up, this was a mistake’.”
Bol’s January suspension was lifted with the clean result of the second test, but the inquiry has not been concluded.
● Equestrian ● The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) confirmed a continued ban on Russian and Belarusian participation in a 4 April teleconference of the FEI Board.
Per FEI President Ingmar De Vos (BEL):
“While the IOC has not taken any decision regarding the participation of Russian and Belarussian [sic] Athletes at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, it is the view of the FEI Board that at this stage neutrality cannot be defined and evaluated in a sufficiently satisfactory way.
“The Board agreed that the FEI does not have the necessary tools to evaluate in a fair and objective manner the conditions of participation for individual neutral athletes and support personnel as stipulated in the recommendations put forward by the IOC.”
It will be instructive to see which, if any, other federations agree with this viewpoint.
● Football ● Aleksander Ceferin (SLO) ran unopposed and was re-elected as President of the European football association UEFA, telling the delegates to the UEFA Congress in Lisbon (POR) to watch out for further encroachments on national club leagues, from FIFA and others:
“We’re faced with galloping globalisation and everything that implies. Benefits and risks as well. We shouldn’t forget that. There have been temptations, and even attempts, to create new models, but they conflict with the European model that we cherish so dearly.
“Our model is based on sporting merit. Where we come from, merit has no price. Merit can’t be claimed, and merit can’t be acquired. It can only be earned. Season by season. On and off the pitch. There’s no room for cartels on this continent.
“Domestic leagues must remain the foundation of football. They are the bedrock of our model.”
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa told the UEFA Congress that the joint bid for the 2030 World Cup with Spain and Morocco continues to include Ukraine: “We have ambitions, together with Spain, Morocco and Ukraine, to organize the 2030 World Cup in a unique bid that will link the two shores of the Mediterranean.”
● Swimming ● Further to our Tuesday note that Swim England has adopted an “Open” category for all competitors except those born as females, Olympic super-statistician Dr. Bill Mallon notes that this could lead to some confusion among other sports.
He explained that the authoritative Olympedia.org site – he’s a co-founder – and the IOC both recognize four competition categories now: men, women, mixed and open:
“Mixed is where men and women compete together – by mandate – pairs figure skating, mixed relays, mixed shooting team events, etc. Open is where men and women may compete together but it is not mandated. The only events at the Olympics that have this anymore are the equestrian events, although shooting and sailing used to be Open Class.
“So Swim England calling it an Open Class could cause some problems with semantics – perhaps they’ll need to change it.”
You can receive our exclusive TSX Report by e-mail by clicking here. You can also refer a friend by clicking here, and can donate here to keep this site going.
For our updated, 651-event International Sports Calendar (no. 2) for 2023 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!