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TSX REPORT: U.S., Mexico exit 2027 Women’s World Cup bidding; Bach says Olympics future never brighter; FIS approves key rights centralization initiative

The FIFA Women's World Cup Trophy (Photo: FIFA)

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. U.S. and Mexico withdraw FIFA Women’s World Cup 2027 bid
2. Bach: future of the Olympic Games is very secure
3. Lyles runs 9.96 at windy Bermuda Grand Prix
4. FIS approves centralization of media rights
5. Big April in the pool: 15 world leads in Olympic events

● U.S. Soccer and the Mexican Soccer Federation (FMF) announced they are ending their bid for the 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup and concentrating instead on 2031. Their proposal had promised a sensational $3 billion in revenue last December, but there was very little follow-up.

● International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach (GER) said in an interview that the future of the Olympic Games has never been better, with awards in place through 2032 and a plethora of interested bidders for 2036 and beyond. He does not see, however, e-sports events in the Games.

● World men’s 100 m champ Noah Lyles won the 100 at the wind-blown USATF Bermuda Grand Prix on Sunday in 9.96, with all of the races wind-aided, or hindered by the wind if beyond 200 m.

● The Council of the International Ski & Snowboard Federation (FIS) approved the centralization of all media rights for all of skiing to be concentrated within the FIS and marketed by the Infront Sports & Media agency. The centralization initiative is the key effort by FIS chief Johan Eliasch to jump the money involved in the sport.

● A big April for swimming, with plenty of national championships and new, world-leading marks in 15 of the 28 individual events on the Olympic program, despite having a World Championships in February of 2024!

Panorama: Russia (FIBA and BWF extend Russian federation suspensions) = Canoe-Kayak (2: Brazil best in Pan Am Sprint qualifiers; Eichfeld and Leibfarth advance in Slalom trials) = Flag Football (NFL Academy opening in Australia) = Judo (Jayne overcomes doubts to earn Pan Am silver at 90 kg) = Sailing (France, Germany and Britain all qualify full teams for Paris) = Water Polo (U.S. women finish 6-0 vs. Australia, China) ●

1.
U.S. and Mexico withdraw FIFA Women’s World Cup 2027 bid

FIFA announced Monday that the 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup will be awarded on 17 May. A few hours later, the joint U.S.-Mexico bid for the tournament was withdrawn:

“U.S. Soccer and Mexican Football Federation have withdrawn their joint bid to host the 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and will instead focus on bidding to host the tournament in 2031.

“In a historic first, the bid will call for equal investment as the Men’s tournament, eliminating investment disparities to fully maximize the commercial potential of the women’s tournament. 

“The revised bid will allow U.S. Soccer to build on the learnings and success of the 2026 World Cup, better support our host cities, expand our partnerships and media deals, and further engage with our fans so we can host a record-breaking tournament in 2031.”

The U.S.-Mexico bid proposal made headlines last December, projecting a staggering $3 billion in total revenue:

“$3 billion is on the table in this U.S. and Mexico-hosted Competition, with the opportunity to make this the largest, most commercially successful women’s sporting event the world has ever known. We have the ability to dramatically raise the stakes for women’s football and benefit Member Associations and the sport not just in North America but around the globe for years to come.”

But the follow-up was characterized as “half-hearted,” with a preference to see the outcome of the 2026 World Cup (in Canada, Mexico and the U.S.) before charging ahead. 

The remaining proposals are from Brazil, and a joint European proposal for Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, which forecast revenues of $885 million or more, compared to the $570 million generated by the highly successful 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

The nine prior Women’s World Cups have been in Europe three times, North America three times (U.S. 2, Canada 1), China twice and in Australia and New Zealand in 2023. With a reputation for solid organization, and with Germany hosting the 2024 UEFA European Championship, the combined European bid looks strongest on the way to 17 May.

However, between now and then, a FIFA Evaluation Report will be released, which will be a significant step in the Congress vote.

2.
Bach: future of the Olympic Games is very secure

“We have never been in such a favorable position. We have never seen such a high interest in hosting the Olympic Games.”

That’s International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach (GER), commenting to Agence France Presse last week, on the sunny outlook for the future of the Olympic Games.

Since becoming the IOC President in 2013, Bach has navigated a sea change in the way that the IOC handles the selection of Olympic hosts. He got rid of the formalized process of direct elections, which required bidding cities to spend millions chasing IOC members and possible influencers around the globe, with only the winner getting any return at all. He had the rules changed to encourage the use of existing and temporary facilities and allowed events to be spread across multiple cities, regions and even countries, saving billions in new construction and (mostly) eliminating useless facilities that would end up being abandoned in the future.

After a series of collapsed bids due to public pressure on costs for the 2024 Games, Bach led the IOC into awarding two Games at the same time – something it hadn’t done in a century – to Paris for 2024 and Los Angeles for 2028.

Now, with the costs reduced for both bidding and staging, countries have lined up for informal discussions with the IOC about future Games in 2036 and beyond. Inquiries from countries such as Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey and others have all started. Asked about the status, Bach demurred:

“We are now 12 years away from these Games, so it is way too early to comment on any of these interests.”

Bach has also led the IOC into a determined dialogue with the e-sports community and announced in 2023 a move to create – in 2025 or 2026 – an “Olympic Esports Games,” focusing mostly on digital versions of existing physical sports. And e-sports events in the Olympics?

“I don’t think that you will see e-sports events at the Olympic Games, but you may see very soon its own Olympic e-sports Games.”

As for the Winter Games, awards to the French Alps for 2030 and Salt Lake City for 2034 appear set for this summer, and a preferred location for 2038 – Switzerland – has already been announced. Interest is being shown in potential 2042 candidatures.

Bach also told AFP that he is happy with the security measures being undertaken by the French authorities for the opening ceremony on the Seine River:

“The very meticulous, very professional approach gives us all the confidence that we can have this opening ceremony on the river Seine and that this opening ceremony will be iconic, will be unforgettable for the athletes, and everybody will be safe and secure.”

3.
Lyles runs 9.96 at windy Bermuda Grand Prix

The wind was the winner at the USATF Bermuda Grand Prix on Sunday, with strong marks in the sprints all over the 2.0 m/s limit, starting with a 9.96 win in the men’s 100 m for World Champion Noah Lyles.

He won easily, with an over-the-allowable wind of 3.0 m/s, well ahead of Canada’s Aaron Brown (10.09) and fellow American Pjai Austin (10.10). Trinidad & Tobago star Jereem Richards, the 2022 World Indoor 400 m champ, won the 200 m in 20.39w (+4.9). Matthew Boling of the U.S. was second at 20.42.

How rough was the wind? Grenada’s Kirani James, the 2012 Olympic champ, who ran 44.30 last year, won the 400 m in 46.00, ahead of Alonzo Russell (BAH: 47.05). Britain’s Joshua Zeller won the 110 m hurdles at 13.38w (+3.5 m/s), beating Louis Rollins (USA: 13.45w).

Jamaican star Jaydon Hibbert, the 2023 NCAA champ for Arkansas, won the triple jump with a big, wind-aided jump of 17.33 m (56-10 1/4 at +4.3 m/s). Bermuda’s Jah-nhai Perinchief was second at 17.13 mw (56-2 1/2 at +4.5 m/s).

The women’s races were similar, with Worlds 100 m finalist Tamari Davis of the U.S. winning in 11.04w (+2.2 m/s), ahead of Kortnei Johnson (USA: 11.27), and 2022 NCAA 200 m champ Abby Steiner winning in 22.71 (+3.0 m/s) in the 200 m.

Jamaican Stacey-Ann Williams ran away with the 400 m in 51.71 (she won by almost 1.3 seconds), and Amber Hughes took the 100 m hurdles in 12.57w (+3.4 m/s), well ahead of Ebony Morrison (LIB: 12.80w). Shiann Salmon (JAM) won the 400 m hurdles in 56.59, with 2015 Worlds bronze winner Cassandra Tate of the U.S. second in 57.04, again slowed by the wind.

The only women’s field event was the long jump, with Monae Nichols of the U.S. winning at 6.91 mw (22-8: +4.0), and Chanice Porter of Jamaica second at 6.62 mw (21-8 3.4: +3.9).

Someone else to consider in the men’s 100 m? Brandon Hicklin, whose prior best was 10.06, won the invitational section of Saturday’s LSU Invitational in Baton Rouge in 9.94 (+1.7), to move to equal-second on the 2024 world list.

Also, at the Corky-Crofoot Shootout in Lubbock, Texas, Zimbabwe’s Tapiwanashe Makarawu won the men’s 200 m in a lifetime best (and national record) of 19.93 (+1.6), now no. 4 on the world list.

At the East Coast Relays in Jacksonville, Florida, the Tokyo Olympic 200 m winner Andre De Grasse (CAN) won the 100 m from Tokyo Olympic 100 m champ Lamont Jacobs (ITA), with both timed at 10.11 (+0.9) and American star Trayvon Bromell third in 10.14.

In the middle distances, Cooper Teare of the U.S. moved to no. 2 on the outdoor world list with a 3:32.16 win at the Virginia Hi-Performance meet on Sunday, and 2024 World Indoor 3,000 m silver winner Yared Nuguse had the best finish to win a fast Penn Relays mile in 3:51.06, fastest in the world outdoor this season. He beat Olli Hoare (AUS: 3:51.28) and Eric Holt of the U.S. (3:51.46).

More on the indoor shot at the Drake Relays, won by Payton Otterdahl of the U.S. at 22.59 m (74-1 1/2) at the Drake Fieldhouse last Wednesday, moving him to no. 5 all-time U.S. (indoors and out) and no. 3 all-time indoors, behind only fellow Americans Ryan Crouser and Randy Barnes. In fact, it’s the longest throw by an American who is not Crouser or Joe Kovacs since Kevin Toth in 2003!

4.
FIS approves centralization of media rights

A central focus of Johan Eliasch, the Swedish President of the International Ski & Snowboard Federation, has been the centralization of all of the disparate media rights to the federation’s various events and races within the FIS itself, so that they can be sold only by the FIS.

He believes that’s the best way to unlock more value from the competitions in Alpine, Nordic, Freestyle and Snowboard, but that has required agreements – especially in Alpine – with the national federations and other operators who have controlled those rights in the past.

But after a July 2023 agreement with Infront Sports & Media which has been doing most of the federation sales, the way was open for FIS to agree to adopt the centralized sales program. That was accomplished on Friday:

“[T]he FIS Council voted in favour of the centralisation of media and broadcast rights and paved the way for FIS to sign an exclusive agency agreement with Infront.

“The agreement includes the distribution of the international media rights to FIS World Cup events for all platforms until and including 2033/34.This decision by the FIS Council follows months of intensive exchange with all FIS World Cup federations, in which FIS addressed open questions.

“The vote by the FIS Council enables FIS to move forward with the centralisation for the benefit of the sport and the athletes and to secure the future of snow sports.”

Said Eliasch, the agreement “offers the opportunity to elevate our sport to new heights, to showcase the incredible talent and dedication of our athletes on a global stage and to establish a long-term calendar that provides stability for our World Cup hosts.”

The Infront deal was huge, including terms to start with the 2026-27 season (€1 = $1.07 U.S.):

● “Minimum compensation more than €100 million above current terms

● “Commission-based agency agreement with a minimum sales guarantee of more than €600 million

● “FIS in full control over the sales process

● “Infront to provide exclusive marketing implementation and international media operations services”

The deal also provides FIS with full access and rights to highlights and streaming for markets for which rights are not sold.

Reaction to the Council action was hardly popular among some ski associations, but the deal is moving forward. Time will tell if Eliasch is right.

5.
Big April in the pool: 15 world leads in Olympic events

April was a big month for swimming with national championships in China, Germany, Great Britain, Poland, South Africa and Switzerland (and Russia), and the Australian Open Championships ahead of its Olympic Trials in June.

What happened? Although there was a World Aquatics Championships in Doha (QAT) in February, the world-leading marks in 15 of the 28 individual pool-swimming events on the Paris 2024 schedule were made in April, ahead of more major meets in June, especially the U.S. Olympic Trials, on the road to Paris in July.

The new world-leading swims as of the end of April:

Men/200 m Free: 1:44.14, Lukas Martens (GER)
Men/400 m Free: 3:40.43, Martens (GER)
Men/100 m Back: 52.34, Miron Lifincev (RUS)
Men/100 m Breast: 57.94, Adam Peaty (GBR)
Men/100 m Fly: 50.16, Noe Ponti (SUI)
Men/200 m Medley: 1:55.35, Shun Wang (CHN)
Men/400 m Medley: 4:09.14, Max Litchfield (GBR)

Women/200 m Free: 1:53.57, Mollie O’Callaghan (AUS)
Women/400 m Free: 3:59.13, Ariarne Titmus (AUS)
Women/200 m Back: 2:03.84, Kaylee McKeown (AUS)
Women/100 m Breast: 1:04.39, Qianting Tang (CHN)
Women/200 m Breast: 2:19.01, Tatjana Schoenmaker (RSA)
Women/100 m Fly: 55.68, Torri Huske (USA)
Women/200 m Medley: 2:06.99, McKeown (AUS)
Women/400 m Medley: 4:28.22, McKeown (AUS)

That’s seven for the men and eighth for the women, with five women’s leads for Australia, three of those from Tokyo 100-200 m Back gold medalist McKeown. China, Germany and Great Britain each had two, and the U.S. had one – for Torri Huske – despite everyone pointing to the Olympic Trials in Indianapolis that begin on 15 June.

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● Russia ● The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) extended its suspensions of Russia and Belarus, with the report of last Friday’s meeting noting:

“The Central Board has extended the current status of the two National Federations of Russia and Belarus until the next Central Board meeting in December 2024.”

The Badminton World Federation has also continued its suspension of the Russian federation at its annual general meeting in Chengdu (CHN) by 151-78, “until further notice.” The BWF has agreed to allow Russian and Belarusian athlete to compete as “neutrals” under specific conditions.

● Canoe-Kayak ● Paris 2024 places in eight events were up for grabs at the Pan American Olympic Sprint Qualifier in Sarasota, Florida, with Brazil capturing three wins and six overall quota spots.

Brazil won the men’s C-2 500 m with Jacky Godmann and Filipe Vieiera (1:46.458), the women’s C-1 200 m by Valdenice do Nascimento (47.739) and the women’s C-2 500 m via Barbara Jara and Karen Roco (2:07.282).

The U.S. obtained one spot in the men’s K-2 500 m from Jonas Ecker and Aaron Small (1:31.750), while four other nations claimed one each.

Cuba’s Jose Pelier won the men’s C-1 1,000 m in 3:51.033; Matias Otero (URU) took the men’s K-1 1,000 m in 3:31.203; Brenda Rojas of Argentina won the women’s K-1 500 m, and Mexico’s Karina Alanis and Beatriz Briones triumphed in the women’s K-2 500 m in 1:48.620.

In the U.S. Olympic Trials for Canoe-Slalom in Oklahoma City that was cut short by rainy conditions on the Riversport OKC course, Casey Eichfeld and Evy Leibfarth will return to represent the U.S. once again.

Eichfeld, 34, made his fourth Olympic team – previously in 2008-12-16 – in the Canoe Slalom, winning all four of his races over two days, each time ahead of Zachary Lokken, a Tokyo Olympian for the U.S.

Leibfarth, 20, returns for her second straight Games, in the Canoe Slalom, Kayak Slalom and likely in the new Kayak Cross. In the Canoe Slalom heats, she finished 2-1-3-1, then won all four heats in the Kayak Slalom heats.

She also won the Kayak Cross Time Trial in 65.14, over Ria Sribar (68.21).

● Flag Football ● The National Football League, and the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), are done celebrating the inclusion of flag in the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games and are already thinking about how to get into the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane and Queensland in Australia:

● “The National Football League has announced it will open an NFL Academy in Australia in September 2024 to service the Asia-Pacific region, as the league continues to invest in long-term global football development efforts and pathways for international talent.”

● “The NFL and A.B. Paterson College, supported by the City of Gold Coast and the Queensland State Government, will also fund and build an elite high-performance NFL Academy facility on existing college grounds, to be completed in 2026, that will also be available for community use.”

● “The program will also be central to continuing to grow flag football in the region for men, women and young people following the sport’s successful inclusion at the LA28 Olympic Games. In partnership with the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), the league is investing in the development and growth of flag football at both grassroots and elite levels across Australia, New Zealand and around the world. Fast, highly accessible and inclusive, the non-contact format of the game is spearheading extraordinary growth in participation globally. Played by over 20 million people across 100 countries, women and girls are driving some of the fastest growth.”

This will be the second NFL Academy, after the initial site in Great Britain that opened in 2019.

● Judo ● Inspiring story by American judoka John Jayne in the men’s 90 kg class, who won the silver medal at last weekend’s Pan American Championships in Brazil, where he faced a major challenge in world no. 12 Rafael Macedo (BRA) in the semifinals:

“I didn’t think I could win and I went out there thinking ‘all right, we’re just going to go do some judo.’ Last year, I went out there trying to really give it to him, really fight. This year, I was like ‘That didn’t work last time. So this time we’re going to go out, try and do some judo, keep it calm.'”

He won by ippon and advanced to the final, where he was thrown by 2021 Pan Am champ Robert Florentino of the Dominican Republic, but it was still a considerable achievement:

“Beating the Brazilian today in the semifinal was probably the best win of my career so far. I waited, he made mistakes. I capitalized on those mistakes and I beat someone I didn’t think I could ever beat. I’m very happy with that. It gave me a pretty big confidence boost.

“Getting the silver, getting the 490 points is pretty big for me going towards the Olympics. I also feel a big confidence boost now, beating the Brazilian, having a good match in the final with the Dominican. I feel like, coming into those next competitions, I can really pull out some top eights if I fight like I fought today.”

● Sailing ● With the conclusion of the Last Chance Regatta in Hyeres (FRA) at the Semaine Olympique Francaise, World Sailing announced that three nations – France, Germany and Great Britain – have qualified entries in all 10 classes for Paris 2024.

Close behind with nine spots: China, Italy, Spain and the United States.

● Water Polo ● The U.S. women’s national team, three-time defending Olympic gold medal winners, completed a 6-0 run in recent exhibitions, defeating China – an Olympic qualifier – by 11-7 in Torrance, California, led by three goals from Maggie Steffens.

The American women completed a three-match sweep, having beaten China 17-7 in Long Beach on the 20th and 21-11 in Long Beach on the 22nd. Prior to that, the U.S. won three matches from Australia – fifth at Tokyo in 2021 – 10-4 on 7 April in Santa Barbara, 14-8 on 9 April in Long Beach and 14-6 on 13 April in Irvine.

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TSX REPORT: Saving NCAA “non-rev” sports can be done; WADA invites inquiry on China swimming; confidence in French Alps 2030 plan

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. LANE ONE: Can NCAA “non-revenue” sports survive? YES, it’s possible
2. WADA engages independent prosecutor on China
3. IOC shows high confidence at French Alps 2030 visit
4. ANOC, Bach continue pressure on World Athletics’s Paris pay plan
5. Paris details limited Seine access during the Games

● As college football threatens to implode all of college sports, a look at dollars and sense shows that an NFL-style under-23-type league could be formed and throw off enough money to fund the existing NCAA sports program for the 68 big schools that are part of the four major conference as of this fall.

● The World Anti-Doping Agency has engaged a former Swiss prosecutor to examine its handling of 23 Chinese swimming positives in 2021. Its critics are not impressed.

● The International Olympic Committee’s Future Host Commission finished its visit to the French Alps, examining its 2030 Winter Games bid and showing “high confidence” that it will be confirmed this summer.

● The Association of National Olympic Committees and IOC President Thomas Bach both came out against the World Athletics plan to pay its Olympic winners $50,000 each for Paris. This will have no impact on World Athletics at all, but could discourage others.

● The City of Paris released significant new details on its closures related to the 26 July Olympic opening to the public and they will be significant. Parts of the planning relates to measures taken after a major terrorist incident in 2015.

World Championship: Curling (Swedish brother-sister combo take Mixed Doubles Worlds gold) ●

Panorama: Winter Games 2034 (Park City sets aside money for Olympic hosting activities in 2024-25) = Archery (Spain’s Temino and Korea’s Kim take World Cup singles titles in Shanghai) = Athletics (5: Wanyonyi gets world road mile record; four U.S. wins at wild Suzhou Diamond League; Kovacs, then Otterdahl get world outdoor shot leads; Brooks equals best in Multistars win; Ohanian says no field events in 776 Invite this year) = Cycling (2: unheralded Rodriguez wins Tour de Romandie; Kimmann and Sakakibara sweep Tulsa BMX races) = Football (3: worries already over U.S. visas for 2026 World Cup; FIFA and UEFA worried over Spanish government takeover of RFEF; FIFA inks sponsorship deal with Saudi’s Aramco) = Gymnastics (2: Carey wins, Lee impresses, Douglas returns at American Classic; Varfolomeev and Okromova face off at Tashkent Rhythmic World Cup) = Judo (Brazil dominates Pan Am Champs in Rio) = Modern Pentathlon (Elgendy and Gnedtchik win World Cup III) = Sailing (10 nations win the 10 events at Last Chance Regatta) = Shooting (Svensson and Crovetto take qualifying Skeet wins in Doha) ●

1.
LANE ONE:
Can NCAA “non-revenue” sports survive? YES, it’s possible.

We are seeing the death of American collegiate athletics as it was conceived, with college football the no. 2 sport in the U.S. and players pushing to be paid as employees of the universities they represent, instead of students getting an education and receiving free tuition, accommodations and board in return.

If some sort of payment for football players is coming, that sport may end up morphing into something like a professional under-23 league in a structure like the National Football League, with geographically-based divisions, collective bargaining and all the rest (and why have them go to class?). Casey Wasserman, the LA28 Olympic and Paralympic Games organizing committee chair, said in a March interview that the NFL could take the lead on this:

“I actually think the NFL can say, look, we can help solve the problem, not take control of college football, but sort of create the pathway, and use that as a means to save all these Olympic sports that are good for this country and by the way, think about the Paris Olympics this summer: there’ll be 100 athletes competing in Paris for countries not for the United States, who went to college for free and got their athletic training at American universities.

“We train our competitors. Talk about power and soft power … that’s a powerful thing. All those things are going to go away if we don’t fix this problem.

“To push the institutions to do what’s right to maintain the sanctity of non-football sports, I think the NFL has a real opportunity to be a leader in that movement.”

The question is how will a chunk of money – and how much – from a fully-professionalized “college football” league be transferred back to universities which license their name, logo, practice facilities and stadiums to a new “college football” league?

One of the first questions is what do these non-football programs cost now? In fact, the real question is how much do all sports cost – outside of football and men’s and women’s basketball – at the 68 universities which will be part of the four major conferences as of this fall, which will be the core of any NFL-style future football league.

(This includes the Atlantic Coast Conference (18 schools); Big 10 Conference (18), Big XII Conference (16) and Southeastern Conference (16).)

There are some answers, if you know where to look. TSX asked George Perry of Texas-based NALathletics to take a look at the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics database, a public presentation of revenues and expenses at U.S. university athletic programs. It’s not the best data available on college sports spending, but it is the best that is publicly available.

The numbers are fascinating. For the 2023-23 academic year, the 68 schools in the four major conferences to be:

● $8,566,114,905 ($8.57 billion) in total athletics spending.

● $4,764,306,894 ($4.76 billion) in spending outside of football and basketball (men and women).

● $392,858,132 ($393 million) in spending for individual sports outside of football and basketball.

There’s a big difference between the $393 million for individual-sport spending and $4.76 billion for all-other athletic department expenses. What makes up that $4.371 billion?

Perry noted that while the accounting divisions between schools in their reports is not completely consistent, elements which are important include general administration, shared services (finance, rent, technology support, sports medicine to provided to all teams, academic support) plus coaching salaries, recruiting expenses, and so on.

So the ask from the 68 ACC-B1G-XII-SEC would not be $393 million to cover the other, non-revenue sports, but somewhere between $393 million and $4.76 billion.

If we assume that 60% of the $4.371 billion went to support football and basketball, that leaves $1.748 billion in other costs and added to the sport-operations total, would create a non-revenue-sports cost of $2.141.4 billion.

A lot of money, right? You bet it is. But (and there is always a but): do those “non-revenue” sports bring in any money? Perry was asked and with his magical spreadsheet touch, came up with more amazing numbers:

● $3,389,879,617 ($3.390 billion) in non-revenue-sport “revenue.”

● $2,285,868,096 ($2.286 billion) “Not Allocated by Gender/Sport Revenue.”

● $1,104,011521 ($1.104 billion) in non-revenue sports, by-sport revenue.

Now what does this mean? The “Not Allocated” total – 67.4% – is likely athletic department donations which are not broken out on a per-sport basis. And which are also likely to be primarily focused on football and basketball, although not exclusively.

But what the numbers show is that “non-revenue” sports brought in more than $1.1 billion at these 68 schools in 2022-23! The leaders:

● $45.91 million: Stanford
● $41.69 million: West Virginia
● $38.92 million: Notre Dame
● $35.15 million: Arizona State
● $34.38 million: Virginia

Some additional calculus will be needed to figure out how to integrate basketball into these calculations, assuming it stays within the NCAA framework and is not spun off as an NBA/WNBA U-23 league. But it says that:

● $1.104 billion a year is realized in “non-revenue” sport revenue
● $2.141 billion a year estimated in “non-revenue” sport costs
● $1.037 billion a year “gap” between “non-rev” revenue and costs

Translation: an NFL-style, 68-team, U-23 professional football league should pay the 68 universities which would host their teams at least $1.037 billion a year to make them whole for the revenue lost from football (there is a better number to be had, but not from the Equity in Athletics database).

Is this possible. Well, Kristi Dosh’s BusinessofCollegeSports.com site reviewed the available college football television contracts in March. For the 2024 college football season:

● ACC: $240 million per year expiring 2026-27
● Big 10: $1.05 billion per year expiring 2029-30
● Big XII: $220 per year deal expiring 2024-25; $380 million per year starting 2025-26
● SEC: $740 million per year starting 2024-25
● Playoffs: $470 million per year expiring 2025-26; $1.3 billion per year starting 2026-27

● All: $2.72 billion per year through 2024 football season
● All: $2.88 billion per year for the 2025 football season
● All: $3.71 billion per year for the 2026 football season

Is a $1.04 billion transfer to the 68 schools possible (about $153 million each) for stadium and practice field rent, team facility spaces, on-campus medical support and the rest? Sure looks like it.

Moreover, some of the money which is now going to donations for football at these schools (not mention name-image-likeness money) will come back to school athletic departments as the football programs become professionalized and separate entities.

Bottom line: It is possible to allow collegiate sport to continue across a broad base of sports and avoid a catastrophic contraction because football players want to be paid in money instead of education. But it’s a business deal and Wasserman’s contention that the NFL is well poised to lead this transition is absolutely right.

Commissioner Goodell, the NFL Draft is over. Ready to start a new “NFL-U” league?

Rich Perelman
Editor

(Special thanks again to George Perry for his wizardry with the Equity in Athletics database.)

2.
WADA engages independent prosecutor on China

“In light of the damaging and baseless allegations that are being leveled at the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) regarding the China Anti-Doping Agency’s (CHINADA’s) no-fault contamination case involving 23 swimmers from China in 2021, WADA has responded to calls and invited an independent prosecutor, Mr. Eric Cottier, to conduct a thorough review of WADA’s handling of the matter.”

Friday’s statement will calm, for now, the continuing criticism of WADA’s 2021 handling of the report of 23 Chinese swimmers who posted positive tests for trimetazidine, but still allowed them to compete at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The announcement identified Cottier:

“Eric Cottier is a prosecutor of 39 years’ experience, who was the Attorney General of the Canton de Vaud, Switzerland, from September 2005 until his retirement in December 2022. Prior to that, he had been a public prosecutor from 1984 to 1991, President of the 2nd District Court in Vevey and Lavaux from 1991 to 1998, and a cantonal court judge from 1999 until 2005.”

As for his inquiry, the statement specified: “[H]e will be asked to present his opinion related to the two main questions at hand:

● “Is there any indication of bias towards China, undue interference or other impropriety in WADA’s assessment of the decision by CHINADA not to bring forward anti-doping rule violations against the 23 Chinese swimmers?”

● “Based on a review of the case file related to the decision by CHINADA not to bring forward anti-doping rule violations against the 23 Chinese swimmers, as well as any other elements that WADA had at its disposal, was the decision by WADA not to challenge on appeal the contamination scenario put forward by CHINADA a reasonable one?”

He is expected to make his findings available within two months, essentially by the end of June.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which has been harshly critical of WADA’s handling of these positives in 2021, issued a sour statement on Friday in reply:

“By calling this an ‘independent’ investigation, WADA leadership is trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Instead of WADA’s hand-picked lawyer with a limited and self-serving scope of review, the world’s athletes deserve a truly independent review commission with a wide scope of review that is constituted with an independent athlete representative and impartial respected jurists with anti-doping experience appointed by government consensus.

“A truly independent investigation also requires investigation of facts on the ground in China related to this case to include interviews of hotel staff, athletes, coaches, etc. (not just a compliance audit of CHINADA, which should have been done in 2021), immunity for whistleblowers to include WADA and CHINADA employees, full access to all internal emails from WADA and CHINADA, and raw data from the laboratory in China. All findings, and the documents upon which those findings are based, must also be published.”

Observed: WADA’s action is on the right track, but the USADA reply makes an important point that a detailed review of the details of the case in China is at the heart of the issue. The CHINADA report which was discussed in the ARD documentary “The China Files” specifically noted that the doping positives were investigated and reported “under the supervision of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security” instead of the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency.

The positives were reported through the worldwide Anti-Doping Administration & Management System (ADAMS) in normal course by CHINADA, so why didn’t it follow up, instead of a national security organization in China?

Cottier needs to answer these questions, but if he focuses only on what WADA did, his inquiry will be incomplete.

3.
IOC shows high confidence at French Alps 2030 visit

“There will be a rule: there will be no white elephants. Absolutely none, and I am saying that, when you look at our roadmap, it will be quite unique. We are not going to be constructing all kinds of crazy things. We are not going to be building any old place. We are not going to make huge infrastructures that do not correspond to the needs of our regions.”

That statement, from Laurent Wauquiez, President of the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes (AURA) region in France typified the vibe from a Friday news conference in Nice (FRA) wrapping up a week of inspections by the International Olympic Committee’s Future Host Commission, of the French Alps 2030 bid.

Wauquiez was almost in a rhapsody, talking about the 2030 Winter Games and how it will fit into the future plans of his region (English from the simultaneous interpreter on the video link):

● “The second thing that I want to bring forward was the vision that we want to convey. … it’s not the mountains adapting to the Games, the Games are adapting to the mountains, and this is an amazing vision that we’re being given.”

● “We want to give a special vision, we want to give a vision of the French Alps 2030, which will invent the Olympic Games of the future, which will be frugal, which will respect the environment, and we want to build the mountains of the future, dedicated to sport, to being dynamic, where people want to love and where nature is respected.”

● “There are no major constructions, let’s not get things out of proportion. We ask others who are talking about the throwaway society; we want to be proud that the things we build will be used in the next three decades. This is a very strong message and it corresponds to all of the different requirements.”

David Lappartient, the head of the French National Olympic Committee (CNOSF; he’s also the head of the Union Cycliste Internationale), noted that opinion polling for the French Alps candidature was good, with 62% in favor in a national survey, but 81% in the AURA region and 73% in the PACA region.

The budget for the organizing committee was confirmed at €1.975 billion (€1 = $1.07 U.S.), which does not include any infrastructure improvements which would be funded by national or local governments. No figure for the infrastructure spending was given, although an estimate of €1-2 billion was offered, with more details to come by the “end of the summer.”

Renaud Muselier, President of the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur (PACA) region, was almost as excited as Wauquiez, but had a different approach:

“I grew up with something prickly in my pocket, like sea urchins in my pocket, so I don’t like to dig deep to pay for things. So, we needed help with the payment, so we need to have the cheapest-ever Winter Olympic Games and you’ve already pronounced the figures. I think we’re on the right track there. …

“What we are manufacturing for 2030 is to develop our Alps, our regions, the quality of life, respect of our inhabitants and that’s committing us for the coming 30 years. So the Games are accelerating improvements to our living environment: it’s absolutely outstanding.”

And:

“We are ready. We are committed. We are organized. We started the [bid] work before you gave us the get-go, the green light. We know we can do it, we know we will do it, if you can confirm this to us.”

IOC Future Host Commission Chair Karl Stoss (AUT) was calmer, but also enthusiastic about the process and the French Alps bid:

“For the IOC, it is now a totally different way, to go into a dialogue, with the candidates, with the targeted dialogue. And it was, and it is, successful. And it saved a lot of money for all of us, and a lot of time.

“You showed us a really strong legacy of the previous Games, in many of the venues, we saw in our tour. We have a high confidence about your ability to deliver the Games, because the venues are excellently maintained. You use [them] daily, for the society, for the youth, for the children, for the elite athletes as well.”

Stoss also noted the strong community support that the inspection team felt during the visit: “Passion, enthusiasm, commitment, professionalism: we could see and feel it all the time.”

He said the Commission report will be drafted and presented to the winter-sport International Federations at a meeting in late May, then to the IOC Executive Board for review at its 12-14 June meeting. If approved, then the French Alps 2030 bid will be presented to the IOC membership in an online meeting at the end of June before the actual election on 24 July in Paris.

With the Paris 2024 opening on the Seine coming this summer, questions were raised about the ceremonies plans for 2030. A concept for the closing in Nice could be on the Promenade des Anglais; for the opening, Wauquiez said, “We want to get dreaming with the mountains,” in multiple locations.

On the question of the speed skating venue, either a temporary site will be created – the first preference, as is being done for Milan Cortina in 2026 – or to place the sport in another country. The bid team has already identified possibilities in Italy or the Netherlands and an announcement is expected within about six weeks.

There’s work to be done, but the tone was all good and no hiccups are expected on the road to election of the French Alps 2030 bid in July.

4.
ANOC, Bach continue pressure on World Athletics’s Paris pay plan

The Association of National Olympic Committees unsurprisingly sided with the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations in condemning the World Athletics plan to pay each of its 48 gold-medal winners – individuals or teams – $50,000 prizes for the Paris 2024 Games.

Moreover, the statement following Saturday’s ANOC Executive Board meeting demands that no international federation should pay Olympic medal winners; in pertinent part:

“While the Executive Council fully supports athletes being recognised for their performances, it was agreed that the decision by World Athletics to award prize money for the highest achieving athletes at the Games threatens to undermine the principles of Olympic solidarity that sit at the heart of the Olympic Movement.

“ANOC recognises that the IOC redistributes over 90% of its revenue to the Olympic Movement, including to the NOCs and IFs, appreciates that this contributes to reducing the sporting gap between richer and poorer countries, and also significantly contributes to the costs relating to the organisation of the Olympic Games and the participation of athletes from the 206 NOCs.

“The Olympic Games cannot be compared to any other event and the unique values of Olympism, embodied by athletes from all nations, must be protected and preserved.

“The Executive Council emphasised that the decision whether to award prize money to athletes should remain at a national level and is best coordinated by NOCs and governments for the purposes of celebrating national achievements across all sports.”

Also on Saturday, IOC President Thomas Bach (GER) distanced himself from the World Athletics action, telling Agence France Presse:

“The international federations have to treat all their member federations and their athletes on an equal basis and to try to balance this gap between the privileged and the less or under-privileged.

“Each pillar of the Olympic movement has its role to play. It’s very clear what the responsibility of an international federation is and what the responsibility of a national Olympic committee is.”

Observed: These statements will certainly do nothing to rein in World Athletics, which has charted an independent path under President Sebastian Coe (GBR), continuing to keep Russia out of its competitions – including Paris 2024 – now over the Ukraine invasion, and now paying 2024 winners and promising to pay all medalists in Los Angeles in 2028.

What it does do is challenge all of the other International Federation not to pay athletes. Most can’t because they can’t afford to. ANOC is trying to ensure that others which could – FIFA, World Aquatics and the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique – don’t.

This isn’t really over. In fact, it’s just starting.

5.
Paris details limited Seine access during the Games

A City of Paris newsletter sent Friday details the access and closures close to the Seine River for the Olympic Opening Ceremony on 26 July, with an already-in-place anti-terrorism program as the base layer of the control plan. According to the Paris Info Jeux post (computer translation from the original French):

● “mid-June (June 17): start of assembly on the lower platforms;

● “end of June (June 26): start of assembly on the high platforms (partially impacted area open to traffic with occasional cyclist or pedestrian bypasses);

● “July 8: start of assembly on the bridges with the Debilly pedestrian bridge (assembly of the first bridge usually open to motorized traffic begins on July 8);

● “after July 14: closure of the high quays and low quays to the general public with maintenance of local access and maintenance of access to ERPs (establishments open to the public);

● “July 27-August 2: release of part of the spaces in order to leave the banks of the Seine without work during the Olympic Games and so that everyone can reclaim the quays and their activities;

“July 29: partial reopening to traffic of the high platforms (partially impacted area open to traffic with occasional cyclist or pedestrian bypasses);

● “August 4: end of dismantling on the high platforms.”

The area will be fully-reopened between 12-25 August, in advance of the Paralympic Games, which open on 28 August.

Of the 18 bridges across the river, access will narrow to only six on the day of the ceremony, and will be blocked for many by the 22nd.

The security plan close to the river was also discussed quite frankly, referencing the series of Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015:

“Since the attacks of 2015, perimeters called ‘SILT’ [‘Strengthening Internal Security and the Fight Against Terrorism’] are regularly implemented during major events. They result in the neutralization of numerous accesses.

“This SILT perimeter is activated continuously (unlike the SILT perimeters established around competition sites which are activated discontinuously depending on the sports sessions).

“Anti-terrorist in nature, its main objective is to secure the immediate surroundings of the Seine, which becomes an Olympic site for the opening ceremony. Access to the riverside is therefore limited to what is strictly necessary and is closely controlled, in order to ensure the safety of the place.

“To access this area, you will need a pass which may take several days to be issued. To obtain it, all residents and professionals in the area will have to register on the Police Prefecture platform which will be open on May 10. Access to the perimeter will also be subject to control and pat-down measures and searches of bags and luggage, as well as the opening of trunks for vehicles.”

While pedestrian and bicycle access to the security perimeter will be allowed, vehicles will – for the most part – not be allowed.

French tourism sites are now carrying this information, three months ahead of the Games.

≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP ≡

● Curling ● Sweden won its second World Mixed Doubles Championship before home fans in Oestersund, as siblings Isabella and Rasmus Wrana, ranked 47th coming in, sailed through the group stage and then won their two playoff games by 14-7.

The Wranas were 8-1 in group play, losing only to Scotland and qualified directly to the semifinals. There, they went from down 2-1 after four ends to a 6-3 win with three scoring ends in the final four. They faced no. 2-ranked Estonia in the final, with Marie Kaldvee and Harri Lill, who finished third in Group A (6-3) and edged Canada (6-5) and Norway (8-6) in their playoff wins.

In the final, the Swedes scored twice in the second end, once in the third and twice in the fifth for a 5-2 lead and after Estonia cut it to 5-4, closed out with two points in the seventh and one in the eighth for an 8-4 victory and Sweden’s second title (also in 2019). It’s Estonia’s first-ever medal in this championship.

Norway, with Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten, won the bronze, 6-5, over the Swiss. The U.S. team of Becca and Matt Hamilton finished fifth in their group and 10th overall.

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● Olympic Winter Games 2034 ● Park City, Utah has begun the process of setting aside some money for 2034 Winter Games – just in case – by allocating $75,000 for its fiscal 2025 budget, from mid-2024 to mid-2025.

City Manager Matt Dias said, “If the mayor and council require to host a delegation or to make travel to be part of these Olympic delegations – trying to identify a funding source for that, that doesn’t currently exist. That’s something we weren’t doing last year, the last two, the last five years.”

● Archery ● At the World Cup opener in Shanghai (CHN), Spain’s Andres Temino surprised Korea’s two-time Olympic team winner, Je-deok Kim, 6-2, in the final, with fellow Korean (and three-time World Champion) Woo-jin Kim in third.

Si-heon Kim, Korea’s triple gold winner at the Asian Games last year, won the women’s Recurve final by 6-0 over India’s Deepika Kumari, with China’s Jiaman Li taking the bronze.

India won a surprise gold in the men’s team final, defeating Korea, 5-1, and China defeated the Korean women, 6-2, in their final. In the Mixed Team final, Lim and Kim teamed to beat Spain (Temino and Elia Canales) by 5-4 after a 19-18 shoot-off.

● Athletics ● Kenya’s Emmanuel Wanyonyi, the 2023 Worlds 800 m runner-up, won Saturday’s adizero Road to Records event in Herzogenaurach (GER) in 3:54.56 for a new World Road Mile record.

He bettered the 3:56.13 mark by American Hobbs Kessler in winning the World Athletics Road Mile Championship last October. Kessler came up to challenge Wanyonyi at the 1,200 m mark, but the Kenyan pulled away; Kessler was second in 3:56.18, with Ryan Mphahlele (RSA) third in 3:56.45.

The program included road events at 800 m, mile, 5 km and 10 km. Canada’s World 800 m champ Marco Arop won the men’s 800 m race in 1:44.30, Ethiopian star Yomif Kejelcha took the 5 km win in 13:00 and Nicolas Kipkorir (KEN) won a tight 10 km in 27:05, ahead of countryman Sabastian Sawe (27:06).

Kenyan Nelly Chepchirchir took the women’s mile in 4:30.93, ahead of American Addy Wiley (4:31.97). Ethiopia went 1-2-3 in the women’s 5 km, with Medina Eisa winning in 14:38 and Melknat Wudu second in 14:40, and Kenya went 1-2-3 in the women’s 10 km, with Agnes Ngetich scaring the women’s-only world mark with her winning time of 30:03 – two seconds off – and Margaret Kipkemboi second in 30:39.

The second Diamond League meet of the season was in Suzhou (CHN), with lots of action and plenty of surprises, with world-leading marks in both 5,000s:

Men/5,000 m: 12:55.68, Selemon Barega (ETH)
Women/5,000 m: 14:36.70, Mekedes Alemeshete (ETH)

Barega fought off a challenge from 17-year-old countryman Biniam Mehary on the final turn and into the straight and won by 12:55.68 to Mehary’s lifetime best of 12:56.37, with Kenyan Benson Kiplangat third (12:58.78 lifetime best). In the non-Diamond League women’s 5,000, Alemeshete – 18 – led a 1-2-3-4 Ethiopian finish in a lifetime best of 14:36.70, with Ayal Dagnachew also with a personal best of 14:36.86 in second and 2022 10,000 m World Champion Letsenbet Gidey getting third in her season opener at 14:37.13.

There was furious sprinting and lot of surprises, starting with a win for Tokyo Olympic fourth-placer Akani Simbine (RSA) over 2019 World Champion Christian Coleman of the U.S. in the men’s 100 m in 10.01, to 10.04 (wind: -0.1 m/s), with 2022 World Champion Fred Kerley of the U.S. third in 10.04.

The 200 m for women was also wild, with Britain’s Daryll Neita, the 2022 European 100 m bronze medalist, getting an excellent start and giving back nothing on the way to a 22.62 win (+0.2), ahead of Americans Anavia Battle (22.99), World 100 m champ Sha’Carri Richardson (23.11) and Tamara Clark (23.13).

Nigeria’s world-record holder in the 100 m hurdles, Tobi Amusan, was caught for a false start in her race, but protested and was allowed to run under protest. Indoor record-setter Devynne Charlton (BAH) got the best start, but Olympic champ Jasmine Camacho-Quinn (PUR) and Amusan closed hard after the final hurdle. Amusan got to the line first, but her disqualification held and Camacho-Quinn was awarded the victory in 12.63, with Charlton second in 12.64.

A similarly-tight finish in the men’s 110 m hurdles saw 2023 Worlds bronze medalist Daniel Roberts of the U.S. out-lean Japan’s improving Shunsuke Izumiya, 13.12 to 13.23 (+0.8). Olympic champ Hansle Parchment (JAM) was third (13.26) over Cordell Tinch of the U.S. (also 13.26).

Roberts’ win was one of four for the U.S. Marquis Dendy, the 2016 World Indoor champ, got out in front in the second round at 8.05 m (26-5) and China’s Jianan Wang, the 2022 World Champion, could not catch him, finishing second at 8.04 m (26-4 1/2), also in the second round.

Two-time World Champion Chase Jackson of the U.S. got out to 20.03 m (65-8 3/4) in the second round and that held up for the women’s shot win against World Indoors winner Sarah Mitton (CAN: 19.86 m/65-2). And Tokyo Olympic winner Valarie Allman of the U.S. had the five best throws in the women’s disc and won with her fifth-round strike of 69.86 m (229-2). Lagi Tausaga of the U.S., the 2023 World Champion, had three fouls.

In the men’s 800 m, Algeria’s 2022 African champ Slimane Moula held off Kenyan Wycliffe Kinyamal, 1:44.55 to 1:44.88, with American Clayton Murphy in third (1:45.18). The 2024 World Indoor Champion, Hamish Kerr (NZL) scored a nice win over co-Olympic champ Mutaz Essa Barshim (QAT), 2.31 m (7-7) to 2.29 m (7-6). American Vernon Turner was third at 2.27 m (7-5 1/4).

In the vault, world-record setter Mondo Duplantis (SWE) won at 6.00 m (19-8 1/4), ahead of Ben Broeders (BEL) and Sam Kendricks of the U.S., both at 5.82 m (19-1). Duplantis did try another world record, at 6.25 m (20-6), but missed three times.

Dominican Marileidy Paulino, the 2023 World 400 m winner, won her specialty easily at 50.89, with American Talitha Diggs second in 51.77. World-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech (KEN) won the women’s Steeple in 9:07.36, way ahead of Olympic champ Peruth Chemutai (UGA: 9:15.46).

Marthe Koala (BUR) won the long jump at 6.68 m (21-11), ahead of American Quanisha Burks (6.59 m/21-7 1/2).

Good shot put action, with outdoor world-leading marks from two-time World Champion Joe Kovacs at the Ashland Alumni Open in Ohio on Friday, reaching 22.01 m (72-2 1/2), but that was surpassed by Tokyo Olympian Payton Otterdahl at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, who won at 22.14 m (72-7 3/4). He beat fellow American Roger Steen at 21.69 m (71-2) and Jamaica’s Rajindra Campbell at 21.56 m (70-9).

At the annual Multistars in Brescia (ITA), American Taliyah Brooks defended her 2023 victory with an identical score of 6,330. She won the 100 m hurdles and the 200 m and then the long jump on the second day and set a lifetime best in the 800 m at 2:13.81. Kate O’Connor of Ireland was second overall at 6,104.

Belgium’s Jente Hauttekeete won the decathlon at 8,020, setting a lifetime best in the javelin, finishing ahead of Risto Lillemets (EST: 7,971) and Teo Bastien (FRA: 7,963).

The new 776 Invitational coming in September, sponsored by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, will have no field events. None.

In response to his announcement of the meet, 2024 World Athletics Indoor long jump champ Tara Davis-Woodhall asked on X (ex-Twitter):

“can i be apart of the field events meet :)” (sic)

Ohanian:

“don’t be mad… we’re not doing field events for this…. it’ll just be track, but I have ideas and definitely wanna get you involved”

Oy.

● Cycling ● At the six-day Tour de Romandie in Switzerland, Spain’s Carlos Rodriguez moved into contention with a seventh-place finish in the Individual Time Trial in the third stage, then took the lead off a third-place finish in stage four and won the race in 15:44:46.

Russian Aleksandr Vlasov (the 2022 winner), competing as a “neutral,” finished seven seconds back and German Florian Lipowitz was third (+0:09).

The third and final stop on the UCI BMX World Cup tour – for races 5 and 6 – was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with Tokyo Olympic champ Niek Kimmann (NED) taking Saturday’s race in 34.614 seconds, ahead of Izaac Kennedy (AUS: 34.936) and Cedric Butti (SUI: 35.260); all three won their second medals of the season.

The women’s Saturday race was won Australian star Saya Sakakibara in 37.874, for her third win of the season and fifth medal in five races. She was a clear winner over Manan Veenstra (NED: 38.111, her third medal of the season) and American Alise Willoughby, a two-time World Champion) in 38.293.

Sakakibara completed a sweep on Sunday, winning again in in 38.945, with Willoughby second (39.553) and Sienna Pal (AUS: 40.432) getting third. In the six races, Sakakibara won four and was second twice and was the seasonal winner with 2,860 points, to 1,996 for Veenstra and 1,880 for Willoughby.

Kimmann then completed his sweep in the men’s Sunday final, in 35.686, ahead of Kennedy (35.762) and American Kamren Larsen (36.676). However, Kennedy won the seasonal title with 1,787 points to 1,764 for Butti, with Kimmann (1,456) third after missing two of the six races.

● Football ● A story at The Athletic, by Adam Crafton warned:

“FIFA & US tourism sector have raised concerns to US govt, inc meetings at White House, due to fears extreme visa wait times may deter fans from attending ‘26 WC. US visa interview for Mexicans 800 days & Colombians currently 685 – WC is 777 days away!”

“The Spanish government has taken this decision in order to correct the serious situation that the RFEF is going through and to allow the organisation to begin a period of regeneration.

“This Commission for Supervision, Normalisation and Representation will be headed by independent persons of recognised prestige.”

That’s from Spain’s National Sports Council (CSD) on Thursday, taking control of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) in the aftermath of the exit of former President Luis Rubiales after the victory-ceremony fiasco following Spain’s win at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia. Questions have further been raised about RFEF actions under interim chief Pedro Rocha as well; he has resigned in order to run for the REF presidency himself.

Government takeovers of national federations are met with considerable alarm at the International Federation level, and FIFA and the European confederation UEFA offered a joint statement that included:

“FIFA and UEFA will seek additional information to assess the extent to which the CSD’s appointment of the so-called ‘Supervision, Normalisation and Representation Commission’ may affect the RFEF’s obligation to manage its affairs independently and without undue government interference.”

FIFA announced a four-year sponsorship agreement with the Saudi energy giant Aramco, which will run through the end of 2027. The deal specifically includes visibility at the FIFA World Cup 2026 – in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. – and the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2027, for which the U.S. and Mexico are also in a combined bid (along with others). The statement included:

“Through the partnership Aramco and FIFA intend to leverage the power of football to create impactful social initiatives around the world.”

● Gymnastics ● Tokyo Olympic Floor Exercise gold medalist Jade Carey won the senior All-Around at the USA Gymnastics American Classic meet in Katy, Texas, scoring 55.000 and winning on Vault (14.200) and Floor (13.750). She was also second on Beam (13.650).

Defending A-A champ Myli Lew was second (53.900) and won in the Uneven Bars (13.950). Gabby Douglas, the 2012 Olympic All-Around gold medalist, returned to competition and finished 10th at 50.650, scoring a second place in the Vault (14.000).

Suni Lee, the Tokyo 2020 A-A winner, contested only two events, but won on Beam (14.300) and was 11th on Vault (13.250).

The A-A minimum to advance to the U.S. nationals was 51.00, so Douglas was a little short, but could try again at the U.S. Classic in May.

The fourth FIG Rhythmic World Cup was in Tashkent (UZB), but Germany’s five-time 2023 World Champion Darja Varfolomeev was on top again, taking the All-Around on Saturday over home favorite Takhmina Ikromova, the 2023 Asian Games All-Around winner, and four-time Worlds medalist Boryana Kaleyn (BUL) in third.

The individual events were a showdown between Varfolomeev and Ikromova. The Uzbek star won the Hoop, 35.50 to 35.30 and on Ball, 34.90 to 34.70. But Varfolomeev took the Clubs win: 35.75 to 34.55 and Ribbon, 33.45 to 32.95.

● Judo ● Host Brazil dominated at the Pan American Championships in Rio de Janeiro, taking six wins and three silvers in the individual events, including Michel Augusto in the men’s 60 kg class, 2019 World Junior Champion Willian Lima (66 kg), 2023 Pan Am Games winners Guilherme Schmidt (81 kg) and Larissa Pimenta (women’s 52 kg), 2016 Olympic champ Rafaela Silva (women’s 57 kg) and 2022 Worlds runner-up Beatriz Souza (women’s +78 kg).

The U.S. won silvers from David Terao in the men’s 60 kg class, John Jayne (90 kg) and Angelica Delgado in the women’s 52 kg division.

● Modern Pentathlon ● At the UIPM World Cup III in Budapest (HUN), the youngsters led the medal parade, as 21-year-old Mohamed Elgendy of Egypt and 20-year-old Mariya Gnedtchik of Belarus won the men’s and women’s finals.

Elgendy, who had finished 35th and 16th in the first two World Cups, was only eighth in fencing, 11th in riding and eighth in swimming and entered the Laser Run in eighth place, 43 seconds behind the leader. Hungary’s Bence Demeter, a five-time Worlds Team medal winner, from moved second to first fairly quickly, but missed a couple of shots and Elgendy and fellow Hungarian Balazs Szep were moving quickly. On the final lap, Szep moved into position to win, but was passed by Elgendy, who crossed first with the second-fastest time on the Laser Run, finishing with 1,511 points to 1,509 for Szep, who had the fastest Laser Run in the field. Egypt’s Mohanad Shaban finished third (1,503) as Demeter faded to fifth (1,500).

Korea’s Seung-min Seong had won medals in both of the prior World Cups this season and got off to a hot start, winning the fencing, placing 10th in riding but then third in swimming. She had a seven-second lead on the field for the Laser Run, but it was Gnedtchik (a “neutral”) who roared him from eighth on the Laser Run start list. She had the fastest time in the field by more than nine seconds and won with 1,435 points, with Seong only eighth-fastest and settling for second (1,427). Two-time World Champion Elena Micheli (ITA) got the bronze with 1,417 points.

Manuel Padilla and Mayan Oliver won the Mixed Relay for Mexico, winning the fencing and riding and finishing second in the Laser Run, and scoring 1,408 points to 1,374 for Brice Loubet and Louison Cazaly (FRA).

● Sailing ● The “Last Chance Regatta” to make it to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris was the Semaine Olympique Francaise off Hyeres (FRA), which concluded on Sunday,

In the Formula Kite boardsurfing class, Britain’s Connor Bainbridge – the Paris 2024 test event runner-up – was the clear winner with 18 net points and nine wins, over Poland’s Maksymilian Zakowski (34) and Jan Marciniak (38). The women’s title went to Swiss Elena Lengwiler, with just 12 net points and 11 wins, ahead of Poles Julia Damasiewicz (21) and Izabela Satrjan (35).

The windsurfer (IQ Foil) winners – decided by the medal race – were Makoto Tomizawa (JPN) over American Noah Lyons in the men’s race, with both qualified for Paris, and Czechs Katerina Svikova and Barbora Svikova, both also qualified now.

In the women’s dinghy (Laser Radial), Romania’s Ebru Bolat won a tight men’s competition with Marilena Makri (CYP), 36 net points to 37, despite Makri winning the medal race and Bolat finishing fourth. In the men’s (Laser) racing, Jee-min Ha of South Korea won with 49 net points to 55 for Karl-Martin Rammo (EST), thanks to Ha’s third-place finish in the medal race vs. sixth for Rammo.

The men’s skiff (49er) class was won by Germans Jakob Meggendorfer and Andreas Spranger, again in a medal-race finale against Yannick Lefevre and Jan Heuninck of Belgium, 88 to 91, with Meggendorfer and Spranger winning the medal race to clinch their victory. The women’s (49erFX) racing ended with a Polish 1-2 for Aleksandra Melzacka and Sandra Jankowiak (59) over Gabriela Czapska and Hanna Rajchert (75).

In the mixed-crew dinghy (470), Italy had the 1-2 finish, with Giacomo Ferrari and Alessandra Dubbini (23) and Elena Berta and Bruno Festo (43). The multi-hull (Nacra 17) class went to Denmark’s Natacha Saouma-Pedersen and Mathias Bruun Borreskov in a rout, scoring 37 points and winning by 26 over Turkey’s Alican Kaynar and Beste Kaynakci.

● Shooting ● The last ISSF Olympic Qualifier concluded in Doha (QAT) with the Skeet finals, with Rio silver medalist Marcus Svensson (SWE) winning the men’s final over Peeter Juerisson (EST), 55-53. The women’s final went to Chile’s Francisca Crovetto over Maheshwari Chauhan (IND), in a shoot-off (4-3) after a 54-54 tie after 60 shots.

Juerisson and Chauhan both earned places in Paris.

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TSX REPORT: Alekna’s world record was with a new discus; Hirscher to return to ski racing! Johnson reported to raise $30 million for new track league!

Mykolas Alekna’s world-record discus: the Denfly Skymaster! (Photo: VS Athletics)

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. Alekna had the right setting, wind, and a special discus
2. Skiing great Hirscher to return to Alpine World Cup!
3. Report: $30 million raised for Michael Johnson track league
4. Clark becomes first-ever two-time Sullivan Award winner
5. New transgender study shows mixed results on non-elite cohort

● In addition to perfect wind conditions in Ramona, Oklahoma, Lithuanian record-setter Mykolas Alekna also had an interesting partner in his world record throw: a special, new discus! The story behind the Denfly Skymaster.

● The eight-time FIS Alpine World Cup champion Marcel Hirscher, now 35, wants to return to the slopes, but not for his native Austria, but for Netherlands – his mother’s homeland – beginning with the 2024-25 season.

● A new report says that 1996 Olympic star Michael Johnson has raised $30 million for his proposed, 2025 track “league,” with more details to come in June.

● Another honor and more history for ex-Iowa basketball star Caitlin Clark, who became the first ever to win the AAU Sullivan Award twice, winning in 2023 and 2024, with the announcement made Tuesday in New York.

● A study conducted in England, sponsored by the International Olympic Committee, on transgender and from-birth “athletes” in their mid-30s was designed to show that blanket bans should not be imposed and sport-by-sport studies are needed. But the cohort studied has no relation to Olympic-level athletes and is hard to take seriously.

World Championship: Curling (Norway and Sweden lead in Mixed Doubles Worlds in Sweden) ●

Panorama: Paris 2024 (16-year-old arrested for planning Olympic bombing) = Russia (3: Putin aide says athletes will decide for themselves about Paris; RUSADA says 150 doping positives in 2023; new rhythmic gymnastics league presented) = Athletics (Semenya appeal to be re-heard on 15 May) = Shooting (final Olympic Trap qualifier in Doha) = Swimming (U.S. Trials festival program to feature 66-foot-high “Eiffel Tower”) ●

Errata: Wednesday’s post included an item identifying the start of the Olympic Torch Relay in France as “8 March.” It’s actually 8 May; thanks to reader Paul Roberts for the correction. ●

Schedule: Due to a scheduling conflict, there will be no post for Friday; we’ll be back on Monday! ●

1.
Alekna had the right setting, wind, and a special discus

The greatest series in discus history came from 21-year-old Lithuanian star Mykolas Alekna on 14 April at the Ramona Throws Festival in Oklahoma, where he parlayed a perfect, quartering wind into a spectacular series of throws, capped by a world record 74.35 m (243-11) in the fifth round.

It was a stunning performance for the University of California’s two-time NCAA scorer, erasing a 38-year old record of 74.08 m (243-0) by Jurgen Schult, competing for a country – East Germany – that doesn’t exist any more.

Alekna was ready, the wind was helpful … and he had a special, added edge: a new discus.

Alekna was throwing the Denfly Skymaster Discus, developed by long-time Danish discus maker Palle Densam, whose models had been sold in the U.S. for decades by Torrance, California-based Springco Athletics, now called VS Athletics.

Densam and Springco had worked together on manufacturing the models sold in the U.S., with the platter itself produced in Denmark and the rims produced in California. Eventually, production moved back to Denmark, but the VS Athletics folks still wanted to sell Densam’s implements and moved to find their own, more accessible source.

Contracting with a foreign manufacturer and perfecting the fabrication process over two years, VS Athletics was finally able to obtain a consistent supply. In the meantime, Densam had designed a new model, the Skymaster, which had a unique, ultra-thin rim. In tests, the VS Athletics team found that the Skymaster – due to its radical rim design – was faster to stabilize in flight, meaning longer throws … in the right hand, of course.

The VS Athletics catalog entry notes that the Skymaster offers “5-8% longer throws than with conventional-rim-weight discus” and a high spin rate of 9-16 revolutions per second on release. It is stated to meet all World Athletics, NCAA and National Federation of High Schools rules.

Alekna proved the idea worked, not just on his record throw, but for the greatest series of all time: 72.21 m (236-11), 70.32 m (230-8), 72.89 m (239-1), 70.51 m (231-4), his world-record 74.35 m (243-11) and 70.50 m (231-3) in round six.

Actually, Alekna had brought three implements with him, with the Denfly Skymaster as a backup, but the other two were not approved during on-site inspection, so he had only one option, but it turned out to be a historic one.

The Denfly Skymaster is available commercially via VS Athletics – it’s one of five Denfly models on sale – in the men’s 2 kg size ($199.95), the high school 1.6 kg size ($189.95) and the women’s 1 kg size ($179.95).

The next time you’re watching the discus, check for the rims!

2.
Skiing great Hirscher to return to Alpine World Cup!

Marcel Hirscher is one of the greatest Alpine skiers of all time. A technical specialist, he won the FIS men’s Alpine World Cup title eight years in a row from 2012-19 and won 67 World Cup races and 138 World Cup medals across 12 seasons for his native Austria.

Now 35, he retired in 2019, but on Wednesday announced he wants to return to the World Cup circuit next season, but skiing for the Netherlands, in honor of his Dutch mother. He said on Instagram:

“For people asking, why are you doing this, for me it’s clear – because the joy of skiing never left, it’s just so much fun for me.”

A change of nationality requires approval by the FIS, but this has been made much easier by the agreement of the Austrian Ski Federation (OSV). In a statement, OSV General Secretary Christian Scherer explained:

“In the last few days there have been discussions with various people involved in which we were informed that Marcel Hirscher could imagine returning to the international ski circuit.

“As the Austrian Ski Association, we have of course tried very hard to offer Marcel the best possible and individual conditions in the event of a return to alpine racing and were able to explain these to him in a personal exchange.

“Of course, we very much regret his decision to request a change of nation to the Dutch Ski Association (Nederlandse Ski Vereniging/NSV), but in the end we supported it. Marcel has done enormous things for skiing and for the ÖSV. In appreciation of this and in the spirit of the internationality of skiing, the ÖSV Presidential Conference unanimously approved his request for a change of association today.”

Hirscher was born in Austria to Austrian father Ferdinand and Dutch mother Sylvia in 1989. He has represented Austria with distinction, winning three Olympic medals (2-1-0) and 11 Worlds medals (7-4-0), primarily in the Slalom and Giant Slalom.

In retirement, he also came out with his own brand of skis, Van Deer, developed in cooperation with his sponsor, Red Bull. He had a conflict over the use of those skis in Austria, as they are not approved equipment for the OSV, but should have no issues with the Dutch federation.

Look for Hirscher to work his way back to the World Cup circuit by competing in lower-level races in New Zealand, but still has to complete the necessary documentation for the transfer to the Dutch federation.

3.
Report: $30 million raised for Michael Johnson track league

Good news for 1996 Atlanta Olympic icon Michael Johnson and his concept for a 2025 track “league,” as the Sports Business Journal reported that his program, coordinated with the Winners Alliance arm of the Professional Tennis Players Association, has raised $30 million in capital.

The story indicated that the league format and other details will be announced in June. Agencies for graphical design, sports marketing and public relations have been hired. Winners Alliance will be the “operational partner.”

The meets are to be held during the spring and summer, but the number, type and format has not been disclosed.

4.
Clark becomes first-ever two-time Sullivan Award winner

Ex-Iowa superstar Caitlin Clark made more history Tuesday evening as the first to win the AAU Sullivan Award twice, selected for a second consecutive year as the nation’s best collegiate or Olympic athlete.

The 94th Sullivan Award winner was announced at the New York Athletic Club, with Clark’s high school coach, Kristin Meyer accepting. Clark appeared by video conference:

“The AAU Sullivan Award is an incredible honor. I have been inspired by so many athletes that came before me and I hope I can be that same inspiration for the next generation to follow their dreams.”

Clark won over five other finalists: Olympic wrestling gold medalist David Taylor, Olympic speed skater Emery Lehman, World Artistic Gymnastics Championships medalist Fred Richard, Texas women’s volleyball star Madisen Skinner, and U.S. Paralympic swimmer Noah Jaffe.

Voting was done by multiple groups, including the public, the AAU Sullivan Award Committee, AAU Board of Directors, sports media, and past winners.

5.
New transgender study shows mixed results on non-elite cohort

A new study comparing “transgender athletes to cisgender athletes,” funded by the International Olympic Committee, concluded – in line with the IOC’s own guidelines – that:

“While longitudinal transitioning studies of transgender athletes are urgently needed, these results should caution against precautionary bans and sport eligibility exclusions that are not based on sport-specific (or sport-relevant) research.”

Posted on 10 April 2024 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the study compared small numbers of transgender males against from-birth males and transgender women against from-birth women:

Male cohort:
● 12 transgender males and 19 from-birth males
Testosterone: 20.5 nmol/L and 24.8 nmol/L
Handgrip: 38.8 kg and 45.7 kg
VO2 max: 3635 ml/min and 4467 mL/min

Female cohort:
● 23 transgender females and 21 from-birth females
Testosterone: 0.7 nmol/L and 0.9 nmol/L
Handgrip: 40.7 kg and 34.2 kg
VO2 max: 3682 ml/min and 3226 ml/min

The study participants were recruited via social media – Facebook, Instagram and X – and were tested during a single examination at the University of Brighton in England. All were required to participate in competitive sports or undergo physical training at least three times per week, and transgender participants must have been on testosterone suppression for at least a year.

It’s worth noting that even in this study of non-elite athletes that transgender women had significant advantages in handgrip strength and absolute oxygen capacity (VO2 max).

Observed: While the study opines that the presumed advantages of a transgender woman vis-a-vis a from-birth woman should not be trusted and that more research is needed, it is very difficult for any careful reader to take this study seriously.

Let’s remember that the issue at hand is Olympic- and World Championship-level athletes and the possible advantages of from-birth male athletes who become transgender women vs. from-birth women, such as Penn swimmer Lia Thomas, an undistinguished men’s competitor, who became an NCAA champion in 2022 as a female swimmer.

The study says:

● “No cisgender or transgender athletes were competing at the national or international level.”

● “The results may not apply to all levels or ages of athletes, specifically as this research did not include any adolescent athletes competing at the national or international level.”

Moreover, the age of the male and female “athletes” who were part of this very small testing group confirms that this study has very little to do with athletes at the Olympic or World Championship level:

Transgender men (12): average age of 34
From-birth men (19): average age of 37

Transgender women (23): average age of 34
From-birth women (21): average age of 30

Remember that these “athletes” were required to work out at least three times a week.

For comparison, a 2016 study of 3,548 high-performing Olympic athletes competing at London in 2012 showed average ages of 27.0 years for men and 26.2 for women. Moreover, 72% of all athletes in that study were between 20-30 years of age.

Across 40 disciplines, men’s averages in 37 out of 40 were at 29.5 years or less and for women, 39 of 40 were under 30 years of age. These folks work out 6-7 days a week and sometimes more than once per day.

The IOC paid for a study whose conclusion reinforces its policy that blanket bans are not acceptable and that only sport-specific studies can establish prudent policies. But the study’s clear miss on testing a meaningful set of subjects – and enough of them – makes it essentially worthless.

≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ≡

● Curling ● The World Curling Mixed Doubles Championship in Oestersund (SWE) is nearing the end of round-robin play, with the group leaders Norway (Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten: 6-2) and Sweden (Isabella Wrana and brother Rasmus Wrana: 7-0) already qualified for the playoffs. 

Pool play finishes Thursday. The top three teams in each pool will move on to the playoffs, currently Switzerland and Estonia on Group A and Canada and South Korea in Group B. The U.S. team of Becca and Matt Hamilton are fourth in Group B (4-3) and still have matches against Canada and the Netherlands ahead of them.

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● The French newspaper Le Parisien reported an arrest of a 16-year-old in Marginier, Haute-Savoie, “suspected of preparing jihadist action during the Olympic Games.

“He was taken into custody by police officers from the General Directorate of Internal Security (DGSI) as part of an investigation taken over by the National Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor’s Office (Pnat) and opened for ‘criminal terrorist association.’”

His activity on the Telegram social-media site alerted officials, with the posts stating a desire to create an explosive device and target the La Defense district during the Games, knowing that he would also be killed.

● Russia ● An influential advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin has reiterated that Russian athletes who do qualify as neutrals for the Paris 2024 Games can decide for themselves if they will go. Igor Levitin told the Russian news agency TASS:

The Olympics is a place where athletes represent themselves, not their countries. It is the right of each of them, and if an athlete wants to attend the Olympics, he does so under a neutral flag. But it is very important for him not to sign any documents that denounce the work that our compatriots are doing on the frontline [against Ukraine].”

The number of doping violations by Russian athletes rose to 150 in 2023 vs. 135 in 2022, according to the head of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, Veronika Loginova. She explained:

“[W]e launched anti-doping inspections of athletes, who either come from a lower echelon or participate only in the country’s regional competitions. In my opinion, this is the main cause behind the increase in reported violations.”

By contrast, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency lists 44 sanctions – not exactly the same as a gross total of doping violations – for the calendar year 2023.

Continuing the Russian concept of creating their own competitions outside of the International Federations, the head of the Russian Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation, Irina Viner, said in a presentation in Dubai (UAE) that an “International League of Rhythmic Gymnastics Clubs” is being set up to allow competitions outside of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG).

● Athletics ● The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights will re-examine the appeal of South Africa’s double Olympic women’s 800 m champion Caster Semenya on 15 May.

A smaller panel of three ECHR judges had ordered the Swiss Federal Tribunal to make a more detailed review of its dismissal of Semenya’s appeal from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which held that the World Athletics’ regulations discriminated against her, but that it was allowable in order to protect the women’s category of competition.

The Swiss appealed and asked for the Grand Chamber panel, whose ruling will be binding. If Semenya wins, then the case will return to the Swiss Federal Tribunal.

● Shooting ● The final Olympic qualifying tournament for the Shotgun events is taking place in Doha (QAT), with Spain’s 2021 World Junior Trap Champion Andres Garcia winning the final and getting a place at the Paris Olympic Games.

He edged Italy’s already-qualified Mauro de Filippis, 46-45, in the final, with Turkey’s Oguzhan Tuzun third, also getting a Paris qualifier.

In the women’s Trap final, Tokyo champion (and already qualified) Zuzana Rehak Stefecekova (SVK) was a 46-42 winner over Laetisha Scanlan (AUS); the qualifiers for Paris were sixth-place Melanie Couzy (FRA) and Mariya Dmitriyenko (KAZ), who was seventh in the qualifying.

The Skeet competitions come next.

● Ski Jumping ● Japan’s Ryoyu Kobayashi flew an astonishing and all-time best 291 m (954-9) in a specially-arranged event in Hlidarfjall, Iceland, but it won’t count as a world record:

“A ski flying competition must be based on a FIS-certified distance measuring system and take place on a ski flying hill homologated by FIS in order to stand up to comparison with other flights and be eligible for an official ski flying record.

“At the same time, there are regulations for the material that is used and that must be tested by a FIS certified equipment controller; for example, the length of the ski and the mass of the suit.”

The project was a promotional program by Red Bull, but the record remains 253.5 m by Austria’s Stefan Kraft from 2017 at Vikersund, Norway.

● Swimming ● The Indiana Sports Corporation, the host of the U.S. Olympic Trials that will take place at the Lucas Oil Stadium beginning on 15 June, announced its festival program for the Trials, including a 66-foot-high replica of the Eiffel Tower and a concert series for all nine nights of the Trials.

The programming for USA Swimming LIVE will start a day before the Trials, on 14 June, from 5-9:30 p.m. and then from 2-7 p.m. on the nine days of swimming. A “Swim Up Bar,” five new artworks made specially for the Trials, the “Shining A Light” salute to veterans, food and beverage vendors and more will be featured.

The locally-made replica Eiffel Tower, which will weigh 19,000 pounds, will be installed on 10 June.

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TSX REPORT: Justice Dept. to pay $138.7M to Nassar victims; another high-pay track meet (for women); USADA screams for WADA overhaul!

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. Justice Dept. agrees on $138.7M for bungled Nassar inquiries
2. IOC Future Host Commission inspecting French Alps 2030 bid
3. Another new track meet: the all-women 776 Invitational
4. Canada’s Brown asks for all Olympic finalists to get money
5. USADA triples down, asks for WADA overhaul

The U.S. Justice Department announced a $138.7 million settlement with 139 claimants regarding the botched inquiries by two field offices of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding the Larry Nassar abuse matter.

● The International Olympic Committee’s Future Host Commission for the Winter Games is in France, inspecting venues for the French Alps bid for the 2030 Winter Games, which is expected to be confirmed at the IOC Session this summer in Paris.

● During a sports conference in New York, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian announced that his venture-capital firm would sponsor an all-women’s “776 Invitational” track & field meet in September that will pay $60,000-25,000-10,000 for the top three places. Great to have more high-paying meets, but this is not the answer.

● Canadian sprint star Aaron Brown wants World Athletics not just to pay the Olympic winners in Paris, but all of the finalists, as is done at the World Athletics Championships. He says the federation need to change “the strategy of how the sport is marketed and presented to its audience.”

● The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency issued a stinging post, asking for a special prosecutor to look into the 23 Chinese swimming positives in early 2021 that were declared excused by the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency, and for an overhaul of the World Anti-Doping Agency itself.

Panorama: Paris 2024 (2: lagging interest in ultra-lux Olympic-period rentals; another strike threat against the Torch Relay) = NCAA (no restrictions on transfers between schools) = On Screen (modest interest in wrestling trials on USA) = Athletics (2: Ciattei and McArthur win USATF Road Mile titles; record finishers and charity fundraising at London Marathon) = Figure Skating (U.S. Nations in Wichita in 2025) = Wrestling (UWW disciplines officials who worked error-filled Chamizo-Bayramov in Euro qualifiers) ●

1.
Justice Dept. agrees on $138.7M for bungled Nassar inquiries

“The Justice Department announced today that it has settled 139 administrative claims arising from allegations of sexual abuse committed by former physician and USA Gymnastics official Lawrence Gerard Nassar. …

“The settlement agreements, which have been approved by the Department, resolve 139 claims for a total of $138.7 million to be distributed to claimants.”

That’s from a Tuesday news release from the U.S. Justice Department, closing out a sad chapter at the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, in which two field offices knew about Nassar’s abuses, but failed to act properly.

The announcement also included:

“Over the course of nearly two decades and ending in 2016 when he was arrested by the State of Michigan, Nassar sexually abused hundreds of victims under the guise of performing medical treatments.

“These settlements will resolve administrative claims against the United States alleging that the FBI failed to conduct an adequate investigation of Nassar’s conduct. In July 2021, the Department’s Office of the Inspector General issued a report critical of certain aspects of the FBI’s response to, and investigation of, allegations against Nassar.”

That’s an understatement. In his 2021 appearance before the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee, U.S. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in his report:

“Larry Nassar’s abuses very well could and should have been stopped sooner, if appropriate action had been taken by the FBI in response to the courageous actions of these athletes. Not only did that not occur, but after the FBI agents’ inadequate and incompetent response came to light, FBI records were created that falsely summarized the testimony of an athlete who had spent hours detailing the abuses she endured, and inaccurately described the FBI’s handling of the matter. Further, when called to account for their actions, two of the agents lied to our OIG investigators.”

Horowitz noted that the Indianapolis Field Office learned of the Nassar issue in July 2015 and the Los Angeles Field Office was informed in May 2016. But:

● “The OIG found that, despite the extraordinarily serious nature of the allegations and the possibility that Nassar’s conduct could be continuing, senior officials in the FBI Indianapolis Field Office failed to respond to the Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required, made numerous and fundamental errors when they did respond to them, and violated multiple FBI policies. The Indianapolis Field Office did not undertake any investigative activity until September 2—5 weeks after the meeting with USA Gymnastics—when they telephonically interviewed one of the three athletes. Further, FBI Indianapolis never interviewed the other two gymnasts who they were told were available to meet with FBI investigators.”

● “The OIG also found that, while the FBI Los Angeles Field Office appreciated the utmost seriousness of the Nassar allegations and took numerous investigative steps upon learning of them in May 2016, the office also did not expeditiously notify local law enforcement or the FBI Lansing Resident Agency of the information that it had learned or take other action to mitigate the ongoing danger that Nassar posed. Indeed, precisely because of its investigative activity, the Los Angeles Field Office was aware from interviewing multiple witnesses that Nassar’s abuse was potentially widespread and that there were specific allegations of sexual assault against him for his actions while at the Karolyi Training Camp (also known as the Karolyi Ranch) in Huntsville, Texas. Yet, the Los Angeles Field Office did not contact the Sheriff’s Office in Walker County, Texas, to provide it with the information that it had developed until after the MSUPD had taken action against Nassar in September 2016. Nor did it have any contact with the FBI Lansing Resident Agency until after the Lansing Resident Agency first learned about the Nassar allegations from the MSUPD and public news reporting. Given the continuing threat posed by Nassar, the uncertainty over whether the Los Angeles Field Office had venue over the allegations, and the doubt that there was even federal jurisdiction to charge the sexual tourism crime that the Los Angeles Field Office was seeking to pursue, we found that prudence and sound judgment dictated that the Los Angeles Field Office should have notified local authorities upon developing the serious evidence of sexual assault against Nassar that its investigative actions were uncovering.”

The Justice Department agreement is separate and apart from the $339.5 million pool of insurance funds for the survivors approved in 2021, in actions principally against USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

2.
IOC Future Host Commission inspecting French Alps 2030 bid

The International Olympic Committee’s Future Host Commission for the Winter Games is in the French Alps this week, looking into the proposal to stage the 2030 Olympic Winter Games there, in advance of an expected formal award at the IOC Session in Paris in July.

The Future Host Commission, led by Karl Stoss (AUT) began its tour program on Monday in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region (AURA) and saw the Le Grand-Bornard site for cross-country skiing and biathlon and will move on to the Provence Alpes-Cote d’Azur (PACA) venues later, ending in Nice on Thursday and Friday.

The French Alps concept concentrates on using existing facilities mostly already in use for World Cup events in four “zones”:

Haute-Savoie: Biathlon and Cross-Country Skiing

Savoire: Alpine Skiing, Nordic Combined, Ski Jumping, Bobsled, Luge, Skeleton

Briancon: Freestyle Skiing, Snowboard

Nice: Curling, Figure Skating, Ice Hockey, Short Track

At the opening session, Commission Chair Stoss said that the selection of the French Alps should not be considered as a foregone conclusion:

“The finish line has not yet been crossed.

“We have to ask questions to the presidents, to the Olympic committee, to the community, this is a very important step. We still have a little work to do with the study of the sites, the Olympic villages, the transport networks and interviews with the mayors and the athletes concerned.”

Significant issues remain with the plan for speed skating, which could be held in a temporary facility as in Milan for 2026 – a convention center – or at an existing facility in The Netherlands or Italy.

The current tour is not the end of the discussions, as presentations will be made by French Alps and Salt Lake City to the winter-sport International Federations and IOC members in May or early June, followed by the Future Host Commission’s final report on both bids and recommendations for election at the IOC Session in Paris.

3.
Another new track meet: the all-women 776 Invitational

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian announced another women’s sport promotion at the Business of Women’s Sports Conference in New York on Tuesday, during a conversation with Tokyo Olympic women’s 200 m bronze medalist Gabby Thomas, the 776 Invitational.

Sportico.com reported that the event, which will feature only women’s events and take place in September, will be sponsored by Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six venture-capital organization and award prize money of $60,000-$25,000-$10,000 for the top three places.

The venue, timing and events were not disclosed.

This is the latest in a series of track & field ventures which have popped up over the last few months. Atlanta Olympic icon Michael Johnson is teaming with Winners Alliance, an arm of the Professional Tennis Players Association, to create a series of meets in 2025; Johnson has pointed to the “majors” concept in golf and tennis as possible ways to promote the sport across an entire year.

Software entrepreneur and former Cornell distance runner Barry Kahn has proposed a multi-day, head-to-head show featuring 10 men and 10 women that would concentrate on a single event – the 100 meters to start – and create a tournament-style progression to a big-money final. A $1 million prize purse is envisioned, with the first “Duæl 100″ in September in Jamaica.

Another project which has been teased on social media, but not formally announced, is another one-on-one concept that would include track events, but is not necessarily limited to one sport.

Observed: The increase in interest in track & field is great and welcome, but none of these ideas solve the problem. Triple World Champion Noah Lyles identified this in a 2023 interview after his brilliant Budapest triple:

● “Everybody only gets paid for the big moments, and that’s really what they see as what our sport is doing. But the problem is because we only get paid for those big moments, we only show up for those big moments.”

● “If you look at basketball, football, tennis, soccer, golf, they have their regular season and of course, they can all go to the Olympics, but that’s an afterthought because their sport supplies them with the ability to stay here, play, compete and still keep a normal job, a steady income.”

Lyles was speaking about the Olympic Games and the World Championships; while World Athletics will break ground with $50,000 winner’s prizes for Paris 2024, the World Athletics Championships pays prizes of $70,000-35,000-22,000-16,000-11,000-7,000-6,000-5,000 for the top eight places.

Johnson has talked about the need for a league-style program, with teams and rivalries. There are plenty of good ideas on this, and it is doable from an athlete’s perspective. At last week’s USOPC Media Summit in New York, Tokyo men’s 200 m silver winner Kenny Bednarek said that in a league format, he could run every week if he had to, but certainly every other week, and would welcome a U.S. “league” held in the spring, ending before the U.S. national championships and leaving the summer open for championship events and the Diamond League.

Continuity is the issue and one-off meets are fun, but do not create a sustainable “employment” situation for track athletes, something which has been talked about since the 1980s, but has never happened. Yet. Maybe one of these events will energize their backers enough to create a league that can grow over time, as Major League Soccer and the Women’s NBA have done.

That’s the answer.

4.
Canada’s Brown asks for all Olympic finalists to get money

Amid the catcalls from other federations over the decision of World Athletics to pay the Paris Olympic gold medalists $50,000 and extend that to all medal winners at Los Angeles 2028 comes Canadian sprint star Aaron Brown, the two-time Olympic relay medalist, who wants all Olympic finalists to be paid. He told the CBC:

“I’d like to see all finalists in the Olympics make money to make it adjacent to the world championships. I’d like to see more compensation for the athletes who perform well.”

Now 31, he was appreciative that his federation was channeling more money to its athletes:

“It signals [World Athletics] is putting an effort toward 2028 to finally revitalize the support structure for the athletes. I wasn’t sure it would [happen] while I was still active as an athlete.”

But he was also critical of the situation that track & field athletes find themselves in, not only as regards the Olympic Games, but during the entire season:

“I watch other sports [that] operate more professionally increase the revenue for their athletes year over year because the overall business of the sport is growing.

“World Athletics needs to do more to drastically increase this by changing the strategy of how the sport is marketed and presented to its audience.”

He also suggested the heretical idea – to some – of having appearance fees be announced so that athletes could understand who is actually getting what:

“Perhaps putting more into the prize money pot as opposed to the appearances would make athletes want to compete more often.

“More transparency would allow us to know where [money] is being spent, what athletes are willing to show up and compete and establish a true market akin to other sports.”

5.
USADA triples down, asks for WADA overhaul

On Tuesday, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency issued a “Call for Independent Prosecutor and Overhaul of WADA” in a lengthy unsigned, defiant post, specifically focused on the revelations concerning the 23 doping positives for Chinese swimmers in early 2021:

“Unfortunately, none of the outstanding questions about the failure of the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency or the World Anti-Doping Agency to uniformly enforce the anti-doping rules were satisfactorily answered for clean athletes and the public in WADA’s press conference yesterday.

“The selective and self-serving application of the rules we heard about yesterday destroys public trust in the authenticity and value of the Olympic and Paralympic Movement. Learning that different rules can be applied to different countries sours the commitment of those who are vital to its ongoing viability, including the world’s best athletes, fans, sponsors, and the next generation of athletes.”

Further, the post continued to focus on these test results, which were – according to the ARD documentary “The China Files” which aired on Sunday – were investigated and reported “under the supervision of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security” instead of the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency. The USADA post continued:

“The statute of limitations has not run out in these cases and the pathway for application of the rules and due process may still exist. The effort to achieve whatever justice possible at this time must happen before the 2024 Paris Games, as it is unfair for all athletes competing in these Games to possibly compete against those who tested positive and whose results were kept secret until now.

“WADA’s willingness to blindfold and handcuff itself as we learned yesterday, and to maintain that it would do the same thing all over again, is yet another stab in the back to clean athletes. How can a global regulator possibly be satisfied when it allows 23 positive tests to be swept under the carpet, and no athlete or organization is held accountable?”

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and especially its chief executive, Travis Tygart, have been critics of WADA for a long time. But the USADA post went into considerable  additional detail on its problems with the WADA response to the presence of the prohibited drug Trimetazidine (TMZ), including:

“WADA did not do any factual investigation into the circumstances of the hotel.”

● “China did not determine the source of the TMZ, and WADA apparently did not raise the obvious questions: How did a controlled drug, TMZ, arrive in the kitchen? Did any kitchen staff have a prescription or use TMZ? Did an employee crush TMZ pills while in the kitchen? Was CCTV reviewed to determine who had access to the kitchen? Certainly, the Chinese Security Service could have interviewed the hotel staff to attempt to learn who might have been using TMZ.”

● “WADA also appears unconcerned by the fact that TMZ was discovered at a hotel in China by the Chinese State Security over three and a half months after the athletes who tested positive were in the hotel. Does WADA believe that the hotel was not cleaned despite these three months spanning the height of the Covid epidemic when restaurants and public places were almost certainly required to perform extensive daily and nightly cleaning?”

The post raised 28 specific issues with the handling of this case, and noted that “WADA’s own rules require that a violation be found in contamination cases, that in-competition results be disqualified, that a provisional suspension be imposed at the outset, and that the violation be publicly announced.”

What happens now? There is no doubt that Tygart will continue to agitate on this issue, something for which he has a gift. Of special interest, however, will be the response of the International Testing Agency, which has the lead for the testing before and during Paris 2024, and the ITA provided at least one tip to WADA about doping in Chinese swimming.

So far, the ITA has issued no public comment about this situation. The question is whether it is already in motion about this case, and the swimmers involved. Coincidentally, the Chinese national swimming championships are ongoing and continue through Saturday, with – so far – one world-leading performance, in the women’s 100 m Breaststroke, by Qianting Tang.

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● “The supply is there, but we don’t have as much demand as we thought. Unfortunately, right now it’s not up to par with what I was hoping for.”

That’s from Omar Meniri (FRA), in charge of Paris rentals at the Engel and Völkers firm, explaining that demand has been soft for super-lux rentals of apartments for the Olympic period. Pricing at two or three times the going rate has disinterested prospective customers.

But it’s also true that for many wealthy Parisians who are usually on vacation in August when the Games will take place, if they don’t rent their place, they won’t care.

Another strike threat, this time from a French police union, which said it might disrupt the Olympic Torch Relay if the Olympic-period bonuses – up to €1,900 – are not confirmed. A first protest could come on Thursday, with the Olympic Torch coming to Marseille on 8 May.

● NCAA ● The NCAA Division I Board of Directors approved new rules on Monday regarding transfers:

Division I student-athletes who meet certain academic eligibility requirements will be immediately eligible at their next school, regardless of whether they transferred previously.

“Specifically, to be immediately eligible after a transfer, undergraduate student-athletes must have left their previous school while academically eligible and in good standing (not subject to disciplinary suspension or dismissal) and meet progress-toward-degree requirements at their new school before competing.

“For graduate transfer student-athletes to be eligible, they must earn a degree from their previous school, leave while academically eligible and be enrolled as a full-time postgraduate student while satisfying minimum academic standards.”

In other words, everyone is a free agent all the time. More flexibility was also added to the rules for name-image-likeness:

“Schools can identify NIL opportunities and facilitate deals between student-athletes and third parties. Student-athletes are not obligated to accept assistance from the school and must maintain authority over the terms in their NIL agreements. Beginning Aug. 1, member schools will be permitted to increase NIL-related support only for student-athletes who disclose their NIL arrangements.”

● On Screen ● Modest interest in the U.S. Olympic Trials in wrestling, with 142,000 watching on USA Network on Friday and 162,000 on Saturday.

The NCAA women’s gymnastics final did very well on ABC on Sunday, drawing an impressive average of 856,000 viewers, at 4 p.m. Eastern time.

● Athletics ● Favored Vincent Ciattei won his second Grand Blue Mile in Des Moines, Iowa on Tuesday that was also the USATF National Road Mile Championship for 2024. Ciattei, who won this race in 2022 and was fourth last year, charged through the tape in 3:57, clearly ahead of John Reniewicki (3:59) and Alec Basten (also 3:59).

The women’s Grand Blue Mile (and U.S. title) was won by first-time road miler Rachel McArthur, the 2022 NCAA Indoor fourth-placer for Colorado, who won in 4:33, just ahead of Anna Camp Bennett, the 2021 NCAA 1,500 m champ for BYU, who was given the same time.

At the indoor vault, held at the Jordan Creek Town Center, American record man KC Lightfoot won at men’s competition at 5.90 m (19-4 1/4), with Bridget Williams of the U.S. taking the women’s event at 4.68 m (15-4 1/4).

Spectacular success for the London Marathon, which set records for its most finishers ever and a record haul for charity.

Although the count is not final, more than 53,000 finished the race on Sunday out of 54,281 starters and more than £67 million was raised for charity (£1 = $1.24 U.S.), bettering the old high of £66.4 million from 2019.

● Figure Skating ● U.S. Figure Skating that its 2025 national championships will be held – for the first time – in Wichita, Kansas, from 20-26 January at the 15,750-seat INTRUST Bank Arena.

Skate America will again be held in Allen, Texas, from 18-20 October 2024.

● Wrestling ● Two-time Freestyle World Champion Frank Chamizo of Italy lost to Turan Bayramov of Azerbaijan in the semifinals of the European Olympic 74 kg Qualifier in Baku (AZE) on a controversial call that removed a winning, two-point move at the end of the match and gave Bayramov the win, 8-8, on criteria.

The Italians alleged multiple refereeing errors and Chamizo sensationally said that a bribe was offered for him to lose the match. On Tuesday, United World Wrestling said Chamizo had good grounds to be upset:

“During the Chamizo-Bayramov bout, Roman PAVLOV [UKR] was the referee on the mat, Ali M. SAIWAN [IRQ] was the judge and Aleksei BAZULIN [RUS] was the mat chairman. The referee delegation comprised Kamel BOUAZIZ [TUN], Ibrahim CICIOGLU [TUR] and Casey GOESSL [USA].

“The Disciplinary Chamber has decided to suspend both Pavlov and Cicioglu from all their duties until December 31, 2024. Saiwan is suspended from all his duties until September 30, 2024. Mat chairman for the bout Bazulin is suspended from all his duties until June 30, 2024, and the remaining two members of the referee delegation Bouaziz and Goessl have been handed suspensions from all their duties until June 30, 2024.”

The UWW formed two panels to look at the match officiating:

“Both panels agreed that some actions during the bout were not scored correctly, including not spotting the passivity of the wrestler(s). It also agreed that the refereeing consultations were not efficient, a timing error was made and the challenge consultation suffered major shortcomings in its functioning.

“In addition, the panels reported a gross lack of discernment in the assignment of the refereeing body, and in the distribution of the roles during the challenge for this specific match.”

The result of the match did not change, nothing has been said about Chamizo’s allegation of a bribe, and as far as Chamizo’s opportunity for Olympic qualification, “The Disciplinary Chamber, however, asked UWW to place Chamizo as a top seed in the brackets of the next qualifying event, the World OG Qualifier from April 9 in Istanbul.”

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TSX REPORT: WADA says China swim doping case closed; FIG chief not interested in medal payments; high schooler sets 100 m record at 9.93!

Artist’s rendering of the entrance to the Team USA House at the Palais Brongniart in Paris (Image: USOPC-OnLocation).

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. WADA stands firm: no reason to doubt CHINADA
2. Gymnastics: no interest in paying Paris medal winners
3. USA House opens to public for Paris 2024
4. IOC opens Artificial Intelligence project in London
5. Beijing Half top four disqualified over race antics

● The World Anti-Doping Agency issued a statement and held an online news conference in response to the German ARD documentary concerning positive doping tests for 23 Chinese swimmers prior to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021. It reiterated that it agreed with the Chinese anti-doping agency’s analysis and no penalties, but questions remain.

● The head of the International Gymnastics Federation said he had no interest in paying prize money to winners of the 18 gymnastics events at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, as World Athletics has said it will. However, the federation could certainly afford it!

● The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee is, for the first time, opening the Team USA House to the public for Paris 2024, at €325 (+ taxes) per day during the Olympic Games and €150 per day (+ taxes) for the Paralympics. The site will be the elegant Palais Brongniart, formerly the Paris stock exchange, dating from the time of Napoleon!

● The International Olympic Committee launched a major project to study the use of Artificial Intelligence as related to sport and to the Olympic Games. AI is already in use in technology applications such as timing and scoring and broadcasting, but a working group will look at its use for athlete identification, training and safeguarding uses, among others.

● The pathetic finish of the Beijing Half Marathon from earlier this month, where the three leading runners – from Kenya and Ethiopia – let the top Chinese runner go by and win, has been revised with those four top finishers all disqualified.

Panorama: Olympic Games 2040 (South African study group to observe in Paris) = Athletics (4: 22 countries qualify for Olympic Marathon Mixed Relay at Team Walk Champs; Miller screams to 9.93 high school 100 m record in Florida; Olga Fikotova Connolly passes at 91; two more doping positives for African distance runners) = Equestrian (jumping horse Chromatic BF dies after World Cup Dressage performance in Riyadh) = Swimming (Colts, Pacers and Fever join USA Swimming to promote Trials) = Wrestling (U.S. Freestyle star Cox retires) ●

1.
WADA stands firm: no reason to doubt CHINADA

The German ARD investigative documentary “Die Akte China” – “The China Files” – aired on Sunday, raising questions about an early 2021 incident prior to the Tokyo Olympic Games in which 23 star Chinese swimmers tested positive for the prescription heart medication Trimetazidine, the same drug for which Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva tested positive for in December of that same year and was eventually banned for four years.

The program cited a 31-page investigative report from the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency (CHINADA), which clears the swimmers, saying that the low levels of the drug found in the swimmers was the result of traces in the kitchen where food was prepared for the group. The document raises questions:

● Although the report is from CHINADA, the ARD program says the investigation was carried out by the Ministry of Public Security, not the anti-doping agency.

● “The report states that more than two months later, investigators inspected the [hotel] kitchen and found traces of trimetazidine in the extractor hood, on spice containers and in the drain.”

● “WADA did not address the question of whether the scenario in the hotel kitchen was realistic or not. It was clear from the statement that WADA did not conduct an independent investigation in China and only decided not to investigate based on the CHINADA report.”

“The positive cases were correctly entered into WADA’s official ADAMS reporting system in March 2021 after a two-month delay attributed to a local Covid outbreak. However, instead of reporting an official anti-doping rule violation (ADRV), the internal Chinese investigation took place. In this way, the usual steps of publicly announcing the case and imposing an interim ban were avoided.”

● WADA decided not to challenge the outcome from CHINADA and did not undertake its own investigation.

In a statement and accompanying news conference on Monday, WADA acknowledged the ARD program and stood behind its findings:

“Following WADA’s review of the documentary, the Agency still stands firmly by the results of its scientific investigation and legal decision concerning the case. We are equally confident that WADA’s independent Intelligence and Investigations Department followed up on all allegations received, which were not corroborated by any evidence; and thus, did not meet WADA I&I’s threshold to open an investigation.

“Based on all available scientific evidence and intelligence, which was gathered, assessed and tested by experts in the pharmacology of trimetazidine (TMZ); and, by anti-doping experts, the Agency had no basis under the World Anti-Doping Code to challenge the China Anti-Doping Agency’s (CHINADA’s) findings of environmental contamination – a position that was also accepted by World Aquatics.

“To be clear, if any new evidence had come to light at any point, WADA would have reviewed this information as it would today.”

As far as WADA is concerned, the case is closed. However, there are lingering questions, especially how a prescription drug like trimetazidine – offered in very small 20 mg and 35 mg pills – gets into a hotel kitchen at all?

ARD asked forensic toxicologist Fritz Soergel (GER) about the contamination theory; he replied, “The concentrations that were allegedly found by the laboratory in China could actually only have arisen because the doping agent was administered weeks before.”

During Monday’s news conference, WADA General Counsel Ross Wenzel (GBR) said, “In the absence of any evidence of any sort of misconduct … I’m very confident we would have had close to a 0% chance in establishing” a case. He added:

“With respect to the concentration in the Kamila Valieva case, and I believe it’s public, it’s in the decision, it was 2.1 nanograms per ml; the vast majority of the concentrations in this case were significantly lower than that, but the fundamental point is not that one.

“The fundamental point is that in the Valieva case there was nothing to exclude that that was the end of an excretion, that the pharmacological dose of trimetazidine hadn’t been taken several days before. In this case, the fluctuating negative and positive values of those athletes that were tested on multiple occasions effectively excluded that pharmacological dose scenario, so that’s a significant difference with the Valieva case.”

Observed: WADA’s explanations fall flat because the normal procedures which are expected to be employed in such cases were not followed. The positives were reported in the WADA system, but no provisional suspensions were imposed by CHINADA and according to the CHINADA report, the entire matter was left to the Chinese authorities, not to the country’s anti-doping agency, as would normally have been expected.

The German athletes organization, Athleten Deutschland, asked:

“What conclusions can be drawn from the revelations about the effectiveness of WADA and the global fight against doping, especially in closed, authoritarian regimes?”

More precisely, what conclusions can be drawn from a Chinese government authority running the inquiry into the matter in place of CHINADA, which is supposed to have jurisdiction in these matters?

Moreover, Chinese athletes have had doping issues in the past, of course including six-time Olympic medalist Yang Sun, who tested positive for trimetazidine in 2014 and received only a three-month suspension as the drug was only recently added to the banned list. He was later banned for four years after a 2018 incident with a drug-testing team that he said were not properly credentialed.

These questions will not go away quickly and the Chinese team – and the International Testing Agency – will be highly scrutinized in Paris, and the ITA will be asked about how often (and where) Chinese swimmers were out-of-competition prior to showing up in Paris.

2.
Gymnastics: no interest in paying Paris medal winners

The head of the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG), Morinari Watanabe of Japan told Kyodo News that his federation will not be paying its Olympic medal winners in Paris, as will World Athletics:

“The FIG uses this revenue to support the development of gymnastics around the world, and in developing countries in particular.

“Many developing countries do not have enough gymnastics apparatus, or are using out-of-date apparatus. Beautiful flowers need good soil to bloom. I believe that IF’s job is to invest in the soil in which my beautiful flowers can grow.”

Watanabe is an elected member of the ASOIF Council, the executive committee of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, which denounced the World Athletics’ payment plan in unusually strong language in a statement last Friday.

The FIG position is in solidarity with ASOIF, which insisted that “Paying prize money in a multi-sport environment goes against the principle of solidarity, reinforces a different set of values across the sports and opens up many questions.”

But the FIG position is also interesting from other perspectives:

● It pays very little prize money for its Artistic World Championships: for 2023, about $15,500-9,300-6,200 for teams 1-3 and $3,000 each for teams 4-6 in men and women, and CHF 5,000-3,000-1,000 for the All-Around medal winners and CHF 3,000-2,000-1,000 for the apparatus medal winners.

That’s about $80,000 for the teams, $19,800 for the All-Arounds and $66,000 for the 10 apparatus finals, or about $165,800 in total. For the Rhythmic Worlds, the total is CHF 93,000 or about $102,300, and for the Tumbling and Trampoline Worlds, about $75,600 with payouts in Swiss francs and U.S. dollars. All together: about $343,700 for all three.

In contrast, the World Athletics Championships paid $8.498 million in prize money for 2023 and the World Aquatics Championships offered $5.670 million in 2023 and 2024.

The FIG payout amounts are quite astonishing. Consider that the International Judo Federation offers €1,000,000 for its World Championships, to the medal winners at €26,000-15,000-8,000 for its 14 individual events and €90,000-60,000-25,000 for its team event! (€1 = $1.07 U.S.)

● FIG only has 18 events in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games: 14 in artistic gymnastics and two each in Rhythmic and Trampoline. Paying $50,000 as World Athletics will do for its winner would cost the FIG only $900,000 vs. $2.4 million for athletics!

● FIG can afford it: its 2022 financials showed CHF 56.8 million in assets and CHF 33.1 million in reserves. However, its revenue in non-Olympic years is only a little over CHF 12 million a year, and needs its Olympic television dividend to maintain healthy finances. It’s a terribly under-revenued sport, despite its Olympic popularity. (CHF 1 = $1.10 U.S.)

World Athletics, by contrast, had $54.9 million in 2022 revenues and $61.7 million in reserves. Both federations, as well as World Aquatics, will receive more than $35 million in IOC television revenue for the Paris 2024 Games.

3.
USA House opens to public for Paris 2024

“Until today, Team USA House access was only sold through Paris 2024 hospitality packages, developed by On Location, which also include tickets to a sporting event of the attendees choosing. Beginning today, fans can purchase Team USA House access without a sporting event ticket for €325 (plus tax) for the Olympic Games and €150 (plus tax) for the Paralympic Games. These passes include all-day access, food and beverage options, entertainment, athlete appearances and more.”

The Team USA House concept began at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City and has been an invitation-only program for U.S. Olympians, team staff, sponsors and lots of guests, including prior American Olympians.

For Paris 2024, the USOPC has expanded the program considerably at the massive Palais Brongniart, opened in 1825 as the home of the Paris Stock Exchange, until 1987, and now a conference and events center. The first floor will be open to anyone who wants to buy a ticket, at €325 per day, plus 20% value-added tax (or about $415 U.S.) for the Olympics and about $192 U.S. for the Paralympic, including the VAT.

What will happen there? According to the announcement:

“Team USA House will host a main stage for medal celebrations, panels, and athlete appearances, all-day dining options including American favorites and a rotating selection of international cuisines, two bars, a dozen large monitors to watch Team USA go for gold, and interactive activities throughout the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“There will also be an official Team USA Shop, operated by Fanatics, which will be open at Team USA House during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Team USA pop-up shop will have exclusive Team USA and LA28 merchandise from Nike, Ralph Lauren, Oakley, New Era, Mitchell and Ness, and Fanatics, and will include custom Team USA and Paris 2024 pins, a fan tradition at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“There will also be exclusive programming including special guest athlete appearances; medal celebrations with Team USA athletes fresh off the podium from their wins; daily trivia games; theme nights, and more.”

The Team USA House hours are noon to midnight from 26 July to 11 August, and then again for the Paralympic Games, which runs from 28 August to 8 September.

There is a second, “VIP Floor,” with enhanced food and beverages and some private parties, not accessible to the public. Passes will be issued to athletes and guests, U.S. Olympic alumni, National Governing Bodies and USOPC staff. Donors to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Foundation can also obtain access through specific hospitality packages; individual tickets to the VIP Floor for those who qualify are €525 plus 20% VAT or about $672 U.S., per person, per day.

Observed: This is a nice amenity for those who want to mix with current and former athletes and others from the U.S. Olympic Family during the Games in Paris. It isn’t cheap, but it isn’t designed to be: it’s a fundraiser, after all.

Navigating to the actual sales site for Team USA House tickets is difficult (hence no link); perhaps it will become easier to find as the Games get closer.

4.
IOC opens Artificial Intelligence project in London

Launched with considerable fanfare, the International Olympic Committee introduced its new project – the “Olympic AI Agenda” – to explore the possibilities and problems of AI last Friday in London, outlining multiple areas of study:

● Talent Identification
● Athlete Training
● Sports Equipment
● Judging and Refereeing
● Safeguarding in Sport
● Organizing the Games
● Broadcasting the Olympics
● Enriching Historical Images

IOC President Thomas Bach (GER) made the point that the central focus of the Games will remain:

“At the centre of the Olympic AI Agenda are human beings. This means: the athletes. Because the athletes are the heart of the Olympic Movement. Unlike other sectors of society, we in sport are not confronted with the existential question of whether AI will replace human beings. In sport, the performances will always have to be delivered by the athletes. The 100 metres will always have to be run by an athlete – a human being. Therefore, we can concentrate on the potential of AI to support the athletes.

“AI can help to identify athletes and talent in every corner of the world. AI can provide more athletes with access to personalised training methods, superior sports equipment and more individualised programmes to stay fit and healthy. Beyond sporting performance, AI can revolutionise judging and refereeing, thereby strengthening fairness in sport. AI can improve safeguarding in sport. AI will make organising sporting events extremely efficient, transform sports broadcasting and make the spectator experience much more individualised and immersive.”

Already in play are ways to make existing technology applications better:

● From Swiss Timing chief executive Alain Zobrist (SUI): “AI technology is already being integrated into OMEGA’s timekeeping systems at the Olympic and Paralympic Games and allows us to analyse and understand athletic performances much deeper than ever before. We’re excited about where the innovation can go next in terms of data storytelling and judging support.”

● From NBC Olympics & Paralympics Production Executive Producer Molly Solomon (USA): “AI can enrich our presentation through data analysis, with graphics and enhanced video, personalisation and predictive analysis. It can also help navigate the plethora of content the Olympic Games provide, connecting fans with the events and athletes they love, which will result in deeper engagement and spending more time on our platforms.”

A 90-minute discussion covered eight areas of possible AI intervention and support and an 18-member working group has already been formed to explore more concepts. No date was noted for a follow-up report or findings.

5.
Beijing Half top four disqualified over race antics

The ridiculous finish of the Beijing Half Marathon on 14 April, in which the three leading runners – two Kenyans and an Ethiopian – allowed China’s Jie He to pass by and win the race in the final 200 m was addressed on Friday as all four were disqualified.

The race organizers said in a statement that the video of the finish showed Kenyans Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat and Ethiopia’s Dejene Hailu Bikilaactively slowed down in the last 2 kilometers and as a result He Jie won the men’s championship.”

He won in 1:03:44, with the other three finishing one second behind. Now, all four have had their results nullified and their placements and prizes forfeited.

The Xtep sports apparel company sponsored both the race and He as one of its athletes, and apparently hired the three Africans as pacemakers, but did not tell the race directors, who gave them elite-runner status instead of labeling them as pacers. Indeed, they would have gone 1-2-3 except for slowing down and letting He pass.

The race directorate said that the race management company, Zhong’ao Lupao Beijing Sports Management, had been removed as operator of the Beijing Half going forward and that Xtep has been banned from sponsoring any further races this season.

Xtep said in a statement, “We bear a great responsibility for this, fully accept the punishment decision made by the organizing committee.” It promised to “reflect seriously and conduct a deep review” to “ensure such incidents do not happen again in the future.”

The committee disqualified the operator from hosting the Beijing Half Marathon and banned Xtep from sponsoring any more races this season.

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● Olympic Games 2040 ● A private-sector research team called “CapeTown2040″ has announced an observation mission to the Paris 2024 Games to inspect how Paris has adapted itself to host the event. It’s a think-tank effort so far, currently focused on determining how the South African city might fit as an Olympic host.

No African city has ever hosted the Olympic Games; South Africa broke ground in 2010 by hosting the FIFA World Cup.

● Athletics ● At the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships in Antalya (TUR) on Sunday, 22 teams qualified for the Olympic Marathon Mixed Relay, with five nations earning a second team.

Francesco Fortunato and Valentina Trapletti of Italy were the winners, in 2:56:45, well ahead of Koki Ikeda and Kumiko Okada (JPN: 2:57:04) and Alvaro Martin and Laura Garcia-Caro (ESP: 2:57:47). The U.S. team of Nick Christie and Robyn Stevens finished 41st (3:25:53) and did not qualify.

In the senior-level 20 km races, Sweden’s four-time Worlds medal winner Perseus Karlstrom taking the 20 km in 1:18:49, ahead of Spanish walkers Paul McGrath (1:19:14) and Diego Garcia Carrera (1:19:51). Two-time Worlds gold medalist Kimberly Garcia of Peru won the women’s 20 km in 1:27:12, followed by Zhenxia Ma (CHN: 1:27:55) and Erica Sena (BRA: 1:29:22).

More on the sensational world-leading 9.93 100 meters from new U.S. star Christian Miller from the Pure Athletics Invitational Saturday in Clermont, Florida.

Miller, still 17, rode a legal, +1.6 meters-per-second win to the victory, erasing his previous best of 10.06 from 2023 and setting a new American Junior Record, taking down the 9.97 from Baylor’s Trayvon Bromell from 2014. Miller is now no. 3 all-time on the World Junior all-time list.

A senior at Creekside High School in St. John’s Florida, he also lowered the U.S. high school mark and became the first wind-legal sub-10 man in prep history. He smashed the prior best of 10.00 by Trentavis Friday (Cherryville High, North Carolina), also from 2014.

Miller has committed to attend the University of Georgia. Wrote triple World Champion Noah Lyles on X (ex-Twitter): “If you are a HS runner and you want to run 9 second you just come on down to clermont.”

Sad news of the death of Olga Fikotova Connolly at 91 on 12 April, one of the unforgettable Olympians whose love affair and finally marriage to American Hal Connolly was a Cold War sensation in 1956.

As Czech Olga Fikotova, she won the Olympic gold in the discus at Melbourne in 1956 and met and fell for Connolly, the Olympic hammer gold medalist from the U.S. The romance between a U.S. strongman and a Warsaw Pact discus star was international headlines at the time, and they married in Prague in 1957.

She came to the U.S. and she and Hal raised four children, with both continuing their athletic careers. Hal made the U.S. hammer team in 1960-64-68 and Olga competed for the U.S. in four more Games, in 1960-64-68-72. Neither won another Olympic medal.

They divorced in 1975, but Olga continued with her career in education, physical fitness and sports. Hal passed in 2010, and Olga is survived by her four children, Mark, Jim, Merja and Nina and grandchildren Van Freund, Denali and Cianni Connolly.

More doping sanctions from the Athletics Integrity Unit, including Ethiopian women’s steeplechaser Zerfe Wondemagegn – fourth at the 2023 World Championships – banned for five years from 20 October 2023 for the use of erythropoietin (EPO) and testosterone.

Kenyan Celestine Chepchirchir, a 2:20:10 women’s marathoner from 2022, was sanctioned for three years from 26 March 2024 for using testosterone.

● Equestrian ● Sad news last Friday from the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) from the FEI World Cup Final in Riyadh (KSA):

“It is with great sadness that we announce that the US [showjumping] horse Chromatic BF, ridden by Jill Humphrey, has passed away during the FEI World Cup Final.

“Chromatic BF had returned to the stables after competition on the evening of 18 April and unexpectedly collapsed. He was immediately attended to by the US Equestrian veterinary staff and FEI veterinarians but was unable to be resuscitated.

“In line with the FEI Veterinary Regulations, samples have already been taken from the horse, and a full postmortem in line with FEI protocols will be conducted.”

Humphrey and the 13-year-old Chromatic finished third in the Jumping World Cup Final II on the 18th, remarkable for a horse who entered competition only in the fall of 2023. Owner Katharine Branscomb wrote on Facebook:

“I am writing this to try to clarify what has already begun to travel as rumours surrounding events that happened here in Riyadh involving Chromatic after tonight’s spectacular performance. After hacking normally after the class, Chromatic returned to the barn happy and calm attended by his lifetime caretaker Pepe Rodriguez and Jill. After resting and refreshment, he was given a routine recovery shot of electrolytes by the USET team veterinarian. Upon returning to his stable to be wrapped, blanketed, and put away for the evening, with me present the horse began seizured and collapsed in the stall. He was immediately treated and examined by both the USET and FEI veterinarians and was pronounced dead shortly after.

“As owner and breeder, I want it clearly stated that no one was at fault. The horse did not suffer and there is no evidence that his passing was in any way related to his strenuous and spectacular performance with Jill well over an hour earlier or the routine injection by the veterinarian. A full autopsy report will be provided to me at some point. But what I HOPE people will take away from this freak accident and great tragedy is that it was a night of tears – tears of joy and tears of loss. If I would ask anything of those of you that knew or celebrated him, let’s remember him for how he lived and not for how he died.”

● Swimming ● With a couple of months to go before the U.S. Olympic Trials at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, USA Swimming announced “Centennial Partners” agreements with the Indianapolis Colts of the NFL and Pacers Sports and Entertainment, owners of the Indiana Pacers of the NBA and Indiana Fever of the WNBA, which just drafted Iowa star Caitlin Clark.

The deals come with tickets and branding, but will no doubt have both organizations reaching out to their ticket buyers and fan bases to support the Trials, which begin on 15 June. That’s a win for USA Swimming as it tries to fill a 30,000-seat facility, the largest ever for the Olympic Trials in swimming.

● Wrestling ● Five-time Worlds medal winner and Tokyo men’s 86 kg Freestyle bronze medalist J’den Cox retired after his loss in the men’s 97 kg Freestyle Challenge semifinals at the U.S. Olympic Trials last week. Following a 2-2 loss to Kollin Moore on criteria, Cox, 29, left his boots in the center of the mat.

Cox was a three-time NCAA Champion for Missouri at 197 lbs. (~ 89 kg), and was World Champion at 92 kg in 2018 and 2019, third in 2021 and runner-up in 2022. He had previously won a Worlds bronze at 86 kg in 2017.

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TSX REPORT: ASOIF angry over World Athletics pay plan; Chinese doping allegations for Tokyo explode; vault and marathon world records!

A happy Mondo Duplantis chats after his eighth world vault record! (Photo: World Athletics video screenshot)

The Sports Examiner: Chronicling the key competitive, economic and political forces shaping elite sport and the Olympic Movement.★

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. ASOIF rips World Athletics over $50,000 Paris pay plan
2. Claim of China doping in Tokyo swimming explodes!
3. World record 20-5 1/2 for Duplantis in Xiamen!
4. Women-only world record 2:16:16 for Jepchirchir in London
5. Four U.S. Olympic wrestling medalists now Paris bound

● The usually calm Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) issued a cross statement, criticizing the World Athletics’ plan to pay $50,000 to the winners of its 48 events in Paris. Most of the other federations can’t afford that and ASOIF expressed annoyance and shock at not being informed and at the lack of “solidarity.” Are we at a pivot point?

● A furious weekend of charges and counter-charges, with someone from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency telling American swimmers that Chinese doping in Tokyo will result in a re-allocation of their silver medal in the women’s 4×200 m Free Relay to gold. This was denied by the World Anti-Doping Agency, with name-calling back and forth with USADA chief Travis Tygart. There is a lot at stake here and it’s a considerable mess.

● Sensational track & field weekend, with world-leaders in 13 events at Xiamen Diamond League and Continental Tour Gold Keino Classic in Nairobi, with Mondo Duplantis getting his eighth world vault record at 6.24 m (20-5 1/2). And there were eight more world-leading performances elsewhere!

● The expected women’s-only marathon world record came through in London, as Olympic champ Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya fought off absolute world-record holder Tigist Assefa of Ethiopia, 2:16:16 to 2:16:23.

● Surprises at the U.S. Olympic Trials for wrestling at Penn State, with three of the four U.S. medal winners from Tokyo being defeated, but four prior Olympic medal winners are on a powerful American teams for Paris, with other still having to qualify next month.

Panorama: Beach Volleyball (second-ranked Ahman and Hellvig win Elite 16 in Mexico) = Cycling (3: Pogacar dominates Liege-Bastogne-Liege; Niewiadoma wins final sprint in women’s La Fleche Wallonne; U.S.’s Batten sweeps Mountain Bike races in Brazil) = Diving (China wins eight of nine events at World Cup Super Final) = Fencing (Volpi beats Errigo as Italy sweeps Foil World Cup in Georgia) = Gymnastics (2: Davtyan brothers both win at Doha Apparatus World Cup; Varfolomeev dominates Rhythmic World Cup in Baku) = Modern Pentathlon (Seo gets first World Cup win) = Shooting (U.S. scores another qualifier in Rifle-Pistol finale in Brazil) ●

1.
ASOIF rips World Athletics over $50,000 Paris pay plan

“ASOIF was neither informed nor consulted in advance of the announcement, which was made one day after the ASOIF General Assembly and during SportAccord. As a matter of principle, ASOIF respects and defends the autonomy of each and every member federation. However, when a decision of one IF has a direct impact on the collective interests of the Summer Olympic IFs, it is important and fair to discuss the matter at stake with the other federations in advance. This is precisely why ASOIF was created more than 40 years ago, with the mission to unite, promote and support its members, while advocating for their common interests and goals.”

That’s from an unusually blunt statement issued Friday by the Association of Summer International Sports Federations concerning the World Athletics plan to pay $50,000 to the winners of its 48 events in Paris: a total of $2.4 million. The statement ran on for 13 paragraphs, including:

● “During the last days, ASOIF’s membership has expressed several concerns about World Athletics’ announcement.

“First, for many, this move undermines the values of Olympism and the uniqueness of the Games. One cannot and should not put a price on an Olympic gold medal and, in many cases, Olympic medallists indirectly benefit from commercial endorsements. This disregards the less privileged athletes lower down the final standings.”

● “Second, not all sports could or should replicate this move, even if they wanted to. Paying prize money in a multi-sport environment goes against the principle of solidarity, reinforces a different set of values across the sports and opens up many questions.”

● “If the Olympic Games are considered as the pinnacle of each sport, then the prize money should be comparable to, and commensurate with, the prizes given in the respective top competitions of each sport. This is technically and financially unfeasible.”

Then came the key portion of the statement:

“While some National Olympic Committees and governments have put in place schemes to reward athletes for outstanding performances at the Olympic Games, these are for purposes of national pride and are applied consistently across all the sports at the Olympic Games.

“Finally, there has been consensus that Olympic revenues should, at least for the more commercially successful and financially independent IFs, be invested as a priority into development and integrity matters. Development and integrity are the principal areas where IFs can distinguish themselves from commercial operators and promoters.”

The statement concluded with ASOIF saying that it “will raise these concerns with World Athletics” and with the International Olympic Committee.

Observed: This is an unusually strong statement in the Olympic world, which always couches its communications in terms of unity and shared purpose. Which is to say that the World Athletics has struck a nerve with its fellow International Federations.

The ASOIF statement makes it clear that while World Athletics believes it can afford to pay $2.4 million in Olympic prize money for Paris and possibly double that in Los Angeles in 2028, very few other federations can. FIFA, for sure. World Aquatics, yes, and some others. But for the 20 federations in the third, fourth and fifth tiers of IOC television payments, almost certainly not.

World Athletics received $39.48 million from the IOC for the Tokyo 2020 Games, the most of any federation. Those in the third tier received $17.31 million, the fourth tier got $15.14 million and the fifth tier, $12.98 million. Those federations have to make that money stretch across four years until the next Olympic distribution comes, as their own revenue is often insufficient to cover its program and salary costs. That’s the reality.

World Rowing, for example, had annual revenue – outside of IOC television money – in 2021 of CHF 2.61 million and in 2022 of CHF 3.45 million (CHF 1 = $1.10 U.S.). It spreads its $17.31 million in IOC money over all four years to stay solvent and run its programs; outside of its IOC funding, it showed CHF 3.63 million in reserves. That’s not much. Many other federations are similar.

And if they were to offer Olympic prize money, the amount would be a fraction of the World Athletics payout, for first place or otherwise. So now, the International Federations are even further classified into successes and failures by what they would pay in Olympic prize money.

Long term, this could put future pressure on the IOC to drop some of these commercially-uninteresting sports, who would ask the IOC itself to pay prize money. For its part, the IOC has said only that federations are on their own to decide how to spend the money they get from the TV rights sales, and harking back to its Greek origins, would be much more likely to make a grant to all Olympians than to those who won medals, as the ancient city-states were the ones who sent and rewarded their champions who returned in glory.

This is a new and unexpected division point within the Olympic Movement, and will be a headache that will face the next IOC President, whoever that ends up being.

2.
Claim of China doping in Tokyo swimming explodes!

In a confused series of statements, clarifications and name-calling, a claim that China’s gold-medal-winning and world-record-setting women’s 4×200 m Freestyle team from Tokyo 2020 was disqualified for doping was refuted by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

In a 21-tweet thread by ARD investigative reporter Nick Butler (GBR), the key facts:

● “ARD Doping Editorial Team world exclusive after two-year investigation: Mass doping suspicion in China – WADA fails to act: 23 top Chinese swimmers tested positive in 2021 but were secretly cleared in time to compete at the Tokyo Olympics. With @hajoseppelt 1/”

● “The 23, which included Tokyo 2020 gold medallists – Zhang Yufei and Wang Shun, plus current World Aquatics Swimmer of the Year, Qin Haiyang, all tested positive in January 2021 for trimetazidine, the same substance taken by Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva 2/”

● “After months of silence, the athletes were all cleared of doping following an internal Chinese investigation, which supposedly found traces of the substance in the kitchen of the hotel where the athletes had stayed during their competition 3/”

A further post, noting shared reporting with the New York Times, listed the 23 athletes involved, which included Tokyo 2020 medal winners Zhang (women’s 200 m Fly gold, 4×200 Free relay gold), Junxuan Yang (women’s 4×200 m Free relay gold), Wang (men’s 200 m Medley gold), and Zibei Yan (mixed 4×100 m Medley silver).

Another story reported that a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency representative had told U.S. swimmers on Friday that their Tokyo women’s 4×200 m Freestyle relay silver would be upgraded to gold due to the doping of at least one Chinese swimmer on their world-record-setting team.

But that was countermanded on Saturday, with World Aquatics telling SwimSwam.com that it “not currently aware of any Anti-Doping Rule Violation that might lead to a disqualification of results obtained in competition, and resulting consequences, for the Women’s 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay at Tokyo 2020.” Moreover, the USADA said it did not tell anyone that China was doping in Tokyo.

More fireworks came quickly from Travis Tygart, the head of the USADA, who released a Saturday statement:

“It’s crushing to see that 23 Chinese swimmers had positive tests for a potent performance-enhancing drug on the eve of the 2021 Olympic Games, as reported by the New York Times and ARD. It’s even more devastating to learn the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency secretly, until now, swept these positives under the carpet by failing to fairly and evenly follow the global rules that apply to everyone else in the world.

“Our hearts ache for the athletes from the countries who were impacted by this potential cover-up and who may have lost podium moments, financial opportunities, and memories with family that can never be replaced. They have been deeply and painfully betrayed by the system. All of those with dirty hands in burying positive tests and suppressing the voices of courageous whistleblowers must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the rules and law.”

WADA released its own Saturday statement, which included:

“Following some misleading and potentially defamatory media coverage this week, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) wishes to provide more information in relation to a group of 23 Chinese swimmers who tested positive for trimetazidine (TMZ) in 2021.

“WADA was notified in June 2021 of the decision by the China Anti-Doping Agency (CHINADA) to accept that the swimmers had tested positive in early 2021 for TMZ after inadvertently being exposed to the substance through contamination. As it always does, WADA carefully reviewed the decision and, in this instance, requested the full case file. As part of its review, WADA collected additional, unpublished scientific information on TMZ and consulted with independent scientific experts to test the contamination theory and also whether low doses of TMZ could have benefited the athletes during a swimming competition event. During this review process, which spanned several weeks, scientists and external legal counsel thoroughly put the contamination theory presented by CHINADA to the test. It was not possible for WADA scientists or investigators to conduct their enquiries on the ground in China given the extreme restrictions in place due to a COVID-related lockdown. WADA ultimately concluded that it was not in a position to disprove the possibility that contamination was the source of TMZ and it was compatible with the analytical data in the file. WADA also concluded that, given the specific circumstances of the asserted contamination, the athletes would be held to have no fault or negligence. As such, and based on the advice of external counsel, WADA considered that an appeal was not warranted.”

Tygart fired back in another Saturday release, including:

“It is disappointing to see WADA stoop to threats and scare tactics when confronted with a blatant violation of the rules governing anti-doping. When you blow away their rhetoric, the facts remain as have been reported: WADA failed to provisionally suspend the athletes, disqualify results, and publicly disclose the positives. These are egregious failures, even if you buy their story that this was contamination and a potent drug ‘magically appeared’ in a kitchen and led to 23 positive tests of elite Chinese swimmers.”

WADA then issued another statement, including:

“The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is astonished by the outrageous, completely false and defamatory remarks made by the CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), Travis Tygart, who has made very serious accusations against WADA in connection with the case of 23 swimmers from China that was reported upon by the media earlier today.

“Mr. Tygart’s allegations are politically motivated and delivered with the intention of undermining WADA’s work to protect clean sport around the world. WADA notes that the damaging comments have been delivered without any supporting evidence whatsoever.

“The truth of this matter is that according to all available scientific evidence and intelligence, thoroughly gathered, assessed and tested by leading anti-doping experts, WADA had no basis to challenge the explanation of environmental contamination. At all times, WADA acted in good faith, according to due process and following advice from external counsel when it decided not to appeal this case. In the absence of any other evidence WADA, still today, stands by the results of its rigorous scientific investigation as well as the approach of its Intelligence and Investigations Department.”

That’s where we are as of now.

Observed: This is a mess. At stake is the credibility of the World Anti-Doping Agency, which has been good and steadily improving. And its defense against Tygart’s charges is weakened by this key sentence:

“It was not possible for WADA scientists or investigators to conduct their enquiries on the ground in China given the extreme restrictions in place due to a COVID-related lockdown.”

WADA was not on the ground and accepted CHINADA’s explanation, yet it did not do so when a positive test came back against Russian figure skater Valieva in the run-up to the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.

It is also not clear what the view of the International Testing Agency is, which was responsible for the testing of athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Some of the athletes on the positives list published by ARD are stars in position for glory in Paris, including breaststroker Haiyang Qin, who won the men’s 50-100-200 m Breast events at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships and will be favored in Paris. Will they receive extra scrutiny now from the ITA?

All of this creates more questions than answers and the matter is certainty not over.

3.
World record 20-5 1/2 for Duplantis in Xiamen!

A sensational Saturday in track & field, with the Diamond League opening in Xiamen (CHN) and the Continental Tour Gold Kip Keino Classic in Nairobi (KEN), with a world record and 13 world-leaders between them:

Xiamen (8):
Men/800 m: 1:43.61, Marco Arop (CAN)
Men/Steeple: 8:20.54, Abraham Kibiwot (KEN)
Men/5,000 m: 12:58.96, Lamecha Girma (ETH)
Men/110 m hurdles: 13.11, Daniel Roberts (USA)
Men/Vault: 6.24 m (20-5 1/2), Mondo Duplantis (SWE) ~ World Record
Men/Triple Jump: 17.51 m (57-5 1/2), Pedro Pichardo (POR)

Women/1,500 m: 3:50.50, Gudaf Tsegay (ETH)
Women/Steeple: 8:55.40, Beatrice Chepkoech (KEN)

Nairobi (5):
Men/200 m: 19.71, Courtney Lindsey (USA) and Letsile Tebogo (BOT)
Men/400 m: 44.10, Bayapo Ndori (BOT)
Men/800 m: 1:43.57, Emmanuel Wanyonyi (KEN)
Men/1,500 m: 3:31.96, Reynold Kipkorir (KEN)
Men/Hammer: 84.38 m (276-10), Ethan Katzberg (CAN)

Duplantis stole the spotlight with his eighth world record, taking only four jumps! He made first-time clearances at 5.62 m (18-5 1/4), 5.82 m (19-1), 6.00 m (19-8 1/4) and then the world record of 6.24 m (20-5 1/2). American Sam Kendricks was second at 5.82 m (19-1). Said the Swedish star afterwards:

“This result is more than what I wanted it to be, so I was very excited about it. You know this my first time to jump in China. You always get a bit nervous when you jump in front of a new crowd, because it’s people that haven’t seen you do what you can do. So I really want to show the people here. …

“I know that every competition I go to, there’s gonna be very high expectations and everybody’s gonna be expecting. I think that myself too. I expect a lot of things out of myself. I want to have high all the time and I want to keep jumping high. My expectations on myself always outweigh everything else.”

What a way to start the season! And there was more.

In Xiamen, 2022 World Champion Fred Kerley got out ahead of usual-super starter Christian Coleman – the 2019 World Champion – but Coleman took over in mid-race and won, 10.13 to 10.17 (wind: -0.6 m/s).

In the men’s 800 m, Canada’s 2023 World Champion Marco Arop took over after the bell and held on to get a world-leading win in 1:43.61 over Kenya’s Wycliffe Kinyamal (1:43.66). Same for Ethiopia’s Steeplechase world-record holder, Lamecha Girma, took the lead with 300 m left in the men’s 5,000 m and charged to the finish in 12:58.96, ahead of Nicholas Kipkorir (KEN: 12:59.78) and Birhanu Balew (BRN: 13:00.47).

Americans Daniel Roberts and Cordell Tinch were 1-2 in the men’s hurdles in 13.11 and 13.16, with Japan’s Shunsuke Izumiya third in 13.17 (wind: -0.3), and fellow American Shelby McEwen defeated three-time World Champion Mutaz Essa Barshim (QAT) in the high jump, both at 2.27 m (7-5 1/4).

A shocker came in the women’s 200 m, as American star Sha’Carri Richardson stormed into the lead in the final 30 m over countrywoman Anavia Battle, but it was Australian Torrie Lewis (19) who jumped everyone at the line out of lane 9 in 22.96! Richardson was second in 22.99 (-0.4), with fellow Americans Tamara Clark (23.01) and Battle (23.02) going 3-4.

Dominican World Champion Marileidy Paulino was the clear and expected winner in the 400 m at 50.08, with American Britton Wilson third (51.26). One of the most dominant performances came in the women’s 1,500 m, with 2022 World Indoor Champion Gudaf Tsegay (ETH) taking over after 800 m and running away with a brilliant, 3:50.30, moving her to no. 3 all-time, with the no. 3 performance! She led a 1-2-3-4-5 Ethiopian finish, with 18-year-old Birke Haylom second in 3:53.22, now the no. 10 performer ever! Worknesh Mesele got a lifetime best of 3:57.61 in third.

Kenya’s world Steeple record holder Beatrice Chepkoech ran away from the field in the Steeple in 8:55.40, the no. 11 performance of all time, of which she owns four. Countrywoman Faith Cherotich was second in 9:05.49, no. 2 this season. Olympic champ Jasmine Camacho-Quinn (PUR) won the women’s 100 m hurdles in a speedy 12.45, no. 3 in 2024 (wind -0.2), defeating indoor world-record-setter Devynne Charlton (BAH: 12.49), with outdoor world-record-holder Tobi Amusan (NGR: 12.58) in fifth.

The home crowd enjoyed seeing Olympic champ Lijiao Gong win the women’s shot at 19.72 m (64-8 1/2), with 2023 World Champion Chase Jackson of the U.S. in third (19.62 m/64-4 1/2). Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Valarie Allman (USA) dominated the discus field, winning at 69.80 m (229-0) in the fifth round, to defeat Cuba’s world-leading Yaime Perez (68.83 m/225-10).

In Nairobi, “Kung Fu Kenny” Bednarek came from the USOPC Media Summit in New York to win the 100 m in a wind-aided 9.91 (+2.2), ahead of Emmanuel Matadi (LBR: 9.99w). But the best action was in the 200 m, as American Courtney Lindsey, the 2023 NCAA 100 m winner for Texas Tech, led into the final meters with 2023 Worlds 200 m bronze medalist Letsile Tebogo (BOT) coming hard … but started too late and Lindsey was in front at the line, with both timed in a world-leading 19.71 into a 1.5 m/s headwind!

Botswana’s Bayapo Ndori also emerged as a star to watch, winning the 400 m in a world-leading 44.10, now no. 30 all-time! He as clear of 2023 U.S. champ Bryce Deadmon (44.41). Kenya dominated the distance races, with 2023 Worlds silver winner Emmanuel Wanyonyi getting a world-lead in the 800 m in 1:43.57, ahead of Aaron Kemei’s lifetime best of 1:44.10 in second. Raynold Kipkorir, a 2023 Worlds 1,500 m finalist, won his race in a world-leading 3:31.96, lead a Kenyan sweep of the top four places, with Brian Komen (3:32.29) second.

In the Steeple, 2023 Worlds bronze winner Abraham Kibiwot led a Kenyan 1-2-3-4-5 finish, in a world-leading 8:20.54, ahead of Amos Serem (8:21.40).

The highlight of the women’s racing was Kenyan World Champion Mary Moraa’s 1:57.96 win in the 800 m, moving to no. 2 this season. American Janee Kassanavoid won the women’s hammer at 75.99 m (249-3) to move to no. 3 on the 2024 world list.

And there were more world-leading outdoor performances all over the place as the outdoor season got into full swing:

Men/100 m: 9.93, Christian Miller (USA)
Men/High Jump: 2.34 m (7-8), JuVaughn Harrison (USA)
Men/Shot Put: 21.80 m (71-6 1/4), Josh Awotunde (USA)
Men/Decathlon: 8,732, Ayden Owens-Delerme (PUR)

Women/100 m hurdles: 12.42, Tonea Marshall (USA)
Women/4×100 m: 42.03, Team International (mixed)
Women/Hammer: 76.91 m (252-4), Brooke Andersen (USA)
Women/Heptathlon: 6,372, Michelle Atherley (USA)

Tokyo Olympic men’s 400 m hurdles silver winner Rai Benjamin opened his season with a win at the Mt. SAC Relays in the men’s 400 m flat in 44.42.

There was also a world record in the rarely-run Distance Medley Relay (1200-400-800-1600 m), with the all-U.S. “Brooks Beasts” team of Brannon Kidder, Brandon Miller, Isaiah Harris and Henry Wynne winning at the Oregon Relays in Eugene at 9:14.58.

Kidder started off at 2:49.60, with Miller at 46.60, followed by Harris in 1:45.75 and Wynne finishing in 3:52.64. Their time broke the record of 9:15.50 by the U.S. at the 2015 World Athletics Relays.

4.
Women-only world record 2:16:16 for Jepchirchir in London

The women’s-only race at Sunday’s London Marathon was expected to be fast, and it was, with Olympic champ Peres Jepchirchir finally running away with a 2:16:16 victory, the fastest ever in a women’s-only race.

There were nine in the lead pack by the 10 km mark, with absolute world-record holder Tigist Assefa (ETH) in the lead, and seven were together at the half, with Assefa still leading at 1:07:04. Only five were left in the lead pack by 30 km and by 35 km, it was a four-women race, with Jepchirchir finally in the lead, followed closely by 2023 London runner-up Megertu Alemu (ETH), Assefa and 2021 London winner Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN).

Alemu was the first to fall back and then Jepchirchir threw in a burst of speed and pulled away for the win and the women’s-only record, winning by seven seconds over Assefa, 2:16:16 to 2:16:23, with Jepkosgei just behind in third in 2:16:24. Alemu finished fourth in 2:16:34.

It’s the no. 14 performance all-time, but well ahead of Kenyan Mary Keitany’s 2:17:01 women’s-only winner from the 2017 London race, which had been the record. It was a lifetime best for Jepchirchir by a full minute from her 2020 Valencia victory and moves her to no. 11 on the all-time women’s marathon list.

The top four are now nos. 4-5-6-7 on the 2024 year list.

The men’s race wasn’t a record-breaker, but came down to a duel between Kenyan Alexander Mutiso Munyao, the 2023 Valencia runner-up and the legendary Kenenisa Bekele, Ethiopia’s 41-year-old, three-time Olympic champ on the track and the third-fastest marathoner in history.

Ten were in the lead pack at the half in 1:01:29, but only six by 30 km, with Ethiopia’s 2022 World Champion Tamirat Tola in the lead. But he faded as Bekele and Munyao surged and were 1-2 by 35 km, with Munyao continuing to press and Bekele unable to stay close.

Munyao had a six-second lead by 40 km and cruised home in 2:04:01, good for no. 5 on the world list for 2024. Bekele – at 41 – finished in 2:04:15, his third-fastest marathoner ever, in second, with Emile Cairess (GBR) – in his second marathon – coming up from eighth at the 35 km mark to get third in 2:06:46. Brian Shrader was the top American, in 10th at 2:10:50.

5.
Four U.S. Olympic wrestling medalists now Paris bound

The all-or-nothing U.S. Olympic Trials in wrestling was held at State College, Pennsylvania over the weekend, with only the winners making it either to Paris – 13 – or moving on to a final qualifying opportunity next month (5). There are four U.S. Olympic medal winners who are now headed to the Games once again, but with some stunning upsets that will leave former Olympic stars home.

In the men’s Freestyle finals, three of the four U.S. medalists in Tokyo will not return. Heavyweight Gable Steveson decided not to compete, 86 kg winner David Taylor and 57 kg bronze medalist Thomas Gilman both were beaten.

At 74 kg, however, Tokyo bronze medalist and two-time World Champion Kyle Dake will return, beating Jason Nolf, 4-1 and 3-1. At 86 kg, Aaron Brooks, the 2023 U.S. champ and World U-23 Champion, stunned Tokyo gold medalist Taylor, 4-1 and 3-1 and is on the plane to Paris. No doubt about the 97 kg class, as Rio 2016 gold medalist Kyle Snyder made the U.S. Olympic or Worlds team for the 10th straight time, wearing down Isaac Trumble, 5-0 and 4-0. Mason Parris, the 2023 Worlds bronze medalist, was the clear winner at 125 kg, taking two 7-0 victories against Hayden Zillmer.

The U.S. men’s Freestylers have not yet qualified in two categories for Paris, and have one more shot at the World Qualification Tournament in Istanbul (TUR) from 9-12 May. At 57 kg, two-time national champ and former three-time NCAA champ at Iowa, Spencer Lee, defeated Gilman by 6-3 and a pinfall. At 65 kg, 2023 World 70 kg Champion Zain Retherford swept Nick Lee, 2-1 and 5-0.

In the women’s Freestyle finals, the U.S. had already qualified in all six classes, so the Olympic Trials winners are on the plane. Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist Sarah Hildebrandt had no trouble winning against Audrey Jimenez, taking 10-0 technical falls in both matches. The 2022 World Champion at 53 kg, Dominique Parrish, is off to her first Olympic Games, after sweeping 2012 Olympian Haley Arguello, 2-1 and 5-2.

Helen Maroulis, the memorable Rio 2016 Olympic 53 kg champion, made history as the U.S.’s first three-time women’s Olympian in wrestling, defeating 2020 Olympian Jacarra Winchester by pinfall and then 6-0, at 57 kg. Maroulis won the Tokyo bronze in this weight class.

At 62 kg, two-time Worlds silver medalist Kayla Miracle heads to her second Olympic Games after sweeping Macey Kilty, 8-5 and 4-1.

Then came the continuing saga of phenom Amit Elor, the 20-year-old who has won eight (!) Worlds golds over the last three years – Cadet in 2021, Junior in 2021-22-23, U-23 in 2022-23 and Senior in 2022-23 – and is on to Paris after 6-0 and 2-1 wins over 2021 Worlds 65 kg bronze winner Forrest Molinari. In her eight Worlds appearance, Elor is 29-0 and has outscored her opponents by 251-9. And in Paris?

Finally, a stunner at 76 kg for 20-year-old Kennedy Blades, the 2020 Trials runner-up at 68 kg, who moved up and defeated six-time World Champion Adeline Gray, 11-6 and 8-3 to make it to her first Olympic Games. Wow.

In Greco-Roman, the U.S. has qualified in three of six classes, with Payton Jacobsen coming from the seventh seed at 87 kg to win the Trials over Spencer Woods (2-1) to make the team, Joe Rau winning the 97 kg class over Alan Vera (2-1) to make the Olympic team on his third try, and 2018 Worlds runner-up Adam Coon taking the 130 kg title, coming from a match down to defeat Cohlton Schultz, two matches to one.

Three others will have to try to qualify in Turkey next month, with Dalton Roberts defeating Ildar Hafizov at 60 kg, in their 17th meeting by two matches to one, and his 10th win in the series. Ellis Coleman was a 20-year-old Olympian in 2012 and has a chance to go back at 32, winning at 67 kg over Alejandro Sancho, also by 2-1. Pan American Games winner Kamel Bey took the 77 kg title with 9-1 and 6-0 wins against Aliaksandr Kikinou.

This is a powerful U.S. team, with Snyder and Maroulis already well known, but Elor a potential break-out star.

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● Beach Volleyball ● At the Beach Pro Tour Elite 16 in Tepic (MEX), world no. 2 and 2023 Worlds silver winners David Ahman and Jonatan Hellvig (SWE) scored their first win of the season with a 21-17, 19-21, 15-10 victory against fifth-ranked George Wanderley and Andre Loyola Stein (BRA). It’s the fourth Elite 16 tournament win for Ahman and Hellvig and they defended their 2023 title.

Cuba’s Noslen Diaz and Jorge Alayo won the third-place match against Nils Ehlers and Clemens Wicker (GER), 21-18, 21-17.

Two-time European champions Tanja Huberli and Nina Brunner (SUI) won the women’s final, defeating two-time European medalists Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon (NED), 21-14, 19-21, 19-17. It’s the second career win for the Swiss on the FIVB World Tour, but first in an Elite 16-level tournament.

In the third-place match, Brazil’s Carol Solgado and Barbara Seixas won by 22-20, 21-23 and 25-23 over Valentina Gottardi and Marta Menegatti (ITA).

● Cycling ● The ancient Liege-Bastogne-Liege race in cycling-mad Belgium, first contested in 1892, was a showcase for Slovenian star Tadej Pogacar, the two-time winner of the Tour de France, who escaped with 34.4 km to go on the 254.5 km circuit and won with ease in 6:13:48, some 1:39 up on the field, with French stalwart Romain Bardet second and Dutch star Mathieu van der Poel in third (+2:02).

Van der Poel was hampered as part of a crash at the 160 km mark and had to chase hard to get back into contention for the podium. But when Pogacar attacked on the Col de La Redoute, no one could respond.

For Pogacar, still just 25, it’s his second win in this race – one of the five “Monument” races in the sport – after 2021, and his sixth career Monument, also including Il Lombardia (3x) and the Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2023. Bardet won his second medal in this race, after a bronze in 2018.

The women’s race, 152.9 km from Bastogne to Liege, came down to a six-rider sprint, with Australia’s Grace Brown overtaking Elisa Longo Borghini (ITA) in the final meters to cross first in 4:29:00, with defending champ Demi Vollering (NED) third and Swiss Elise Chabbey fourth, all with the same time. It’s Brown’s first win in this race after being runner-up in 2020 and 2022, and the second straight runner-up finish for Longo Borghini.

At the La Fleche Wallonne races on Wednesday, it was Britain’s Stephen Williams who got the sprint finish to win the 88th edition of the men’s race, in 4:40:24 for the 198.6 km ride from Charleroi to Huy in Belgium. Williams was just better than Kevin Vauquelin (FRA) and Maxim van Gils (BEL) and is the first British rider to win the race! Vauquelin and van Gils were also first-time medal winners.

Poland’s Kasia Niewiadoma got her fifth career UCI Women’s World Cup win in the women’s race of 146.0 km in and around Huy. She won a final sprint from defending champion Vollering (+0:02) and Longo Borghini (+0:04) in 3:55:29. Niewiadoma had been second in 2021 and third in 2017, but now owns a gold.

At the second leg of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, in Araxa (BRA), former World Junior Champion Simon Andreassen (SUI) won a tight battle to the finish with Victor Koretzky (FRA) and 2018 U-23 World Champion Alan Hatherly (RSA) by a second: 1:20:00 to 1:20:01 over the nine-lap course.

Koretzky had already won the Short Course race, 19:26 to 19:29 over American Christopher Blevins, with Hatherly third (19:30).

American Haley Batten, the 2022 Worlds bronze medalist, won the women’s race in a runaway, finishing in 1:23:04 for the eight laps, 17 seconds up on Rio 2016 Olympic champ Jenny Rissveds (1:23:21) and 40 seconds up on fellow American Savilia Blunk (1:23:44). Former World Champion Kate Courtney of the U.S. was ninth (1:25:48).

Batten and Blunk also finished 1-3 in the Short Course race in 22:01 and 22:07, with Swiss Linda Indergand in second (22:05).

● Diving ● China won eight of nine events at the World Aquatics World Cup Super Final in Xian (CHN), with 2024 World Champions Zongyuan Wang (3 m Springboard) and Hao Yang (10 m Platform) winning by 49.45 and 26.05 points, respectively.

The women’s individual winners were 2024 Worlds silver medalists Yiwen Chen (3 m Springboard) and Yuxi Chen (10 m Platform) won by 74.10 and 32.50 points, with China 1-2 in the 10 m with Hongchan Chan.

The men’s Springboard Synchro winners were World Champions Wang and Daoyi Long (+53.94) and on Platform, World Champions Junjie Lian and Yang, by 32.55 points over Britain’s Worlds silver winners, Tom Daley and Noah Williams.

World women’s Platform Synchro winners Yuxi Chen and Quan were 68.76-point winners, but in the women’s 3 m Springboard Synchro, Australia’s Maddison Keeney and Anabelle Smith won with 284.67 points, ahead of Sarah Bacon and Kassidy Cook of the U.S. (284.10), as the Chinese did not enter.

China won the Mixed Team event by 500.75 to 456.75 over Great Britain, with the U.S. fifth (377.60).

● Equestrian ● The FEI World Cup Finals for Dressage and Jumping were held in Riyadh (KSA), with a repeat victory for Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann (and King Edward) in Jumping.

Von Eckermann, 42, the 2022 Jumping World Champion and 2023 Grand Prix Final winner, led with 70 points after the second final and no penalties, and then had a clean third round to finish perfect (0)! France’s Julien Epaillard suffered a fault in the second round and none in the third to take silver (4), with Swede Peder Fredricson third with 6 fault points. American Kent Farrington (10) was fourth.

In the Dressage Grand Prix, Britain’s 2022 World Champion, Charlotte Fry (and Everdale), won at 75.388%, ahead of Patrik Kittel (SWE: 73.292%) and Nanna Skodborg Merrald (DEN: 72.904%). The ageless Isabell Werth (GER: 54) – a five-time winner in this event – was fourth at 72.236%.

The Dressage Grand Prix Freestyle was a win for Kittel, 47, and Touchdown, scoring 81.661%, ahead of Skodborg Merrald (81.429%) – runner-up for the second straight year – and the amazing Werth (81.404%).

● Fencing ● At the FIE women’s Foil World Cup in Tbilisi (GEO), Italy swept the top four places, led by two-time World Champion Alice Volpi, who won a match of Worlds gold medalists, 15-9, over Arianna Errigo, the 2013 and 2014 World Champion. For Volpi, it’s her ninth career World Cup win and 18th World Cup medal.

Martina Favaretto and Anna Cristino both won bronze medals.

Naturally, the Italian team was a winner as well, taking the final from France, 45-36, with the U.S. (Jacqueline Dubrovich, Zander Rhodes, Lauren Scruggs and Maia Weintraub) and Japan taking bronze medals.

● Gymnastics ● The final FIG Apparatus World Cup was in Doha (QAT), with the Armenian Davtyan brothers each scoring wins.

Artur Davtyan, the 2022 World Champion on Vault, won his third World Cup out of four in his specialty, scoring 15.166 to best 2021 World Champion Carlos Yulo (PHI: 15.066), while older brother (and three-time European Champs medalist) Vahagn Davtyan, 35, won on Rings at 14.833, over Nikita Simonov (AZE: 14.800).

Yulo got his own gold in the Parallel Bars, where he is a two-time Worlds medal winner, scoring 15.200 to 14.966 for Yuan-hsi Hung of Chinese Taipei. Hung’s teammate, Chia-hung Tang won his third World Cup on the Horizontal Bar, 15.133 to 14.700 for Lithuania’s Robert Tvorogal.

Jordan’s Ahmad Abu Al-Soud won his second World Cup on the Pommel Horse, barely out-scoring Chih-kai Lee (TPE), 15.500 to 15.400, with two-time World Champion Rhys McClenaghan (IRL: 15.233) third. Kazakhstan’s Milad Karimi, the 2023 Worlds Floor Ex bronzer, won that event at 14.766, ahead of Luke Whitehouse (14.566).

In the women’s competition, Algeria’s Kaylia Nemour, the 2023 Worlds runner-up on the Uneven Bars, won that event (15.366) and got a second gold on Floor, scoring 13.700 to beat Ruby Evans (GBR: 13.300).

Karta Navas of Panama took the Vault at 13.850, and Ukraine’s Anna Lashchevska won on Beam at 13.533, with Nemour second (13.400).

The third FIG Rhythmic World Cup was in Baku (AZE), with a big meet for five-event 2023 World Champion Darja Varfolomeev, 17, of Germany. She won the All-Around at 71.200, ahead of Elvira Krasnobaeva (BUL: 69.750) and Italian star Sofia Raffaeli (68.300).

Varfolomeev then took wins in Hoop (35.550), Ball (34.200) and Ribbon (33.400). Raffaelli, who won five golds at the 2022 Worlds, won on Clubs (34.500) – with Varfolomeev third – and was second on Hoop and fourth on Ball.

● Modern Pentathlon ● At the UIPM World Cup in Ankara (TUR), Korea’s Chang-wan Seo finally got his first World Cup gold after three finishes in the top four in 2023. He scored 1,497 points to edge Egyptians Mohamed Moutaz (1,490) and Ahmed Elgendy (1,483). Seo was second in the fencing, 10th in riding and sixth in the swimming to start the Laser Run with a 23-second lead on Moutaz and although eighth overall, broke the tape with eight seconds to spare.

Britain’s Kerenza Bryson got her second career World Cup win in the women’s division, at 1,427 points to 1,401 for Seung-min Seong (KOR) and Malak Ismail (EGY: 1,396). Bryson won the fencing and was second in riding and after a 16th in swimming, entered the Laser Run with a 16-second margin. Seong was sitting seventh – 25 seconds back – at the start but moved up nicely, finishing seventh in the Laser Run to move up to second overall. Bryson, after some early shooting issues, won by 26 seconds!

In the Mixed Relay, Pavel Ilyashenko and Elena Potapenko (KAZ) won with 1,327 points over Moutaz and Amir Kandil of Egypt (1,318).

● Shooting ● Norway was the only country to win more than once at the ISSF Olympic Qualification tournament for Rifle and Pistol in Rio de Janeiro (BRA), taking the women’s 50 m Rifle gold, and the Mixed 10 m Air Rifle team event, over France, 16-14. The winners:

Men/10 m Air Pistol: Federico Maldini (236.8)
Men/25 m Rapid-Fire Pistol: Martin Podhrasky (CZE: 28)
Men/10 m Air Rifle: Lazar Kovacevic (SRB: 249.0)
Men/50 m Rifle/3 Positions: Aleksi Leppa (FIN: 461.9)

Women/10 m Air Pistol: Elmira Karapetyan (ARM: 240.7)
Women/25 m Sport Pistol: Josefin Eder (GER: 35)
Women/10 m Air Rifle: Oceanne Muller (FRA: 250.4)
Women/50 m Rifle/3 Positions: Jeannette Duestad (NOR: 462.9)

The U.S. earned a second qualifier in the men’s 25 m Rapid-Fire Pistol from the already-qualified Keith Sanderson, who finished fifth. The already-qualified Ivan Roe finished fourth in the men’s 50 m Rifle/3 Positions.

Turkey won the Mixed 10 m Air Pistol final over Ukraine, 17-13.

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TSX REPORT: Crouser happy with $50,000 Olympic bonuses; Hill explains USA Basketball picks for Paris; U.S. to pay Nassar survivors $100M?

Olympic and World shot champ Ryan Crouser at the USOPC Media Summit (Photo: USOPC video screen shot)

The Sports Examiner: Chronicling the key competitive, economic and political forces shaping elite sport and the Olympic Movement.★

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. Crouser wants more recognition for track and field
2. More criticism of World Athletics’ Olympic pay plan
3. Hill and Reeve stress player versatility for U.S. hoops teams
4. Fascinating data: Olympics ranks third in U.S. fan interest
5. FBI’s Nassar-case failures could lead to $100 million payout

● At the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee Media Summit in New York, shot world-record holder Ryan Crouser said he can’t understand why there is criticism of the World Athletics plan to award prize money to the Paris 2024 winners. He also talked about how to create greater interest in the sport.

● Three international federations, in cycling, rowing and tennis, are not following the World Athletics example regarding Olympic prize money, and the head of the British Olympic Association and the entire Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa all panned the concept.

● Also at the USOPC Media Summit, how the U.S. men’s basketball team roster was put together was discussed by USA Basketball men’s national team Managing Director Grant Hill, and the women’s approach by Paris 2024 head coach Cheryl Reeve.

● Included with a Variety story about NBC’s plans for Olympic coverage was a chart which showed the relative standing of the Olympic Games among fans vis-a-vis other sports. In most, it’s football and the Olympic Games that dominate. Not in the U.S.

● Reports are circulating that the U.S. government could agree to award 100 abuse survivors of former USA Gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar a combined total of $100 million. But the deal is not done yet.

1.
Crouser wants more recognition for track and field

“I think that the key thing that we lack in track & field is conveying the level of sport that we have.”

That’s shot put superstar Ryan Crouser, speaking Wednesday at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee Media Summit in New York, asked about how to raise the profile of his sport. He had plenty to say:

“It is the pinnacle of human performance. Like it or not, we’ve run faster, jumped higher and thrown farther than any other sport. And we do a poor job of conveying that to the public.

“When you have the eight fastest people on a track next to each other; eighth place – ‘oh, he’s slow’ – but he’s actually the eighth-fastest man in the world. And so if you can take a way to convey that, I mean, who was it – Bill Murray – famously said, ‘put an average person in every event.’ I think you don’t necessarily have to go that far, but taking the event out of the stadium … if you watch the shot put from 100 meters away, you’ve got eight guys, they’re all over 300 pounds, they all mostly can bench 500, squat 600 pounds, so the level of strength and athleticism is lost over that 100 m distance. But we do street shots, you put them in a public square – wherever it might be – and let people stand right there, pick up a shot and have them try and throw it; 20 feet is really good for the average person.

“And then when they see that 20 feet is good, they realize how far 75 feet is. So, I think the same thing in the long jump, pole vault, all of those things bringing it to the people, getting them to stand right there they can try it if they want, is what really makes the sport shine.

“And then also for the throwing events, I think we are so set on six attempts and farthest throw wins, we miss that feedback. I can tell the average person on the street, I throw the shot put 20 feet and they would say that’s really good. But in pole vault, especially, high jump, you see a bar clearance, you that was a successful attempt. I think we could implement that into the shot and have an increasing line that you throw over, get two or three attempts at each line – 60 feet, 65 feet, 70 feet – something along that , so that the average spectator can understand right away, ‘oh, that’s over the line, it’s good,’ or ‘it’s under the line, they came up short.’

“So I think there’s really a few small changes that we could do within our sport that could really elevate the level, just to the broader public, in terms of understanding and engagement.”

Crouser was also asked for his view on the World Athletics’ announcement that it will pay $50,000 to each Paris 2024 gold medalist – and he is the favorite – the first International Federation to do so:

“I’ve gotten this question a lot, and it’s a bit surprising to me, I’ve read that [there’s] been any opposition to it at all.

“I think there’s a big misconception amongst Olympic athletes – in regards to the public – I think they think you make the Olympics, and if you win a medal, that you’re a millionaire. I know that it doesn’t really work that way.

“You win the Olympics and you get a lot of recognition, but in terms of financial gain, the day you win the Olympics, you have zero dollars added to your bank account, in that aspect. So, any way we can help out athletes, I think, is great. I will never be against athletes being paid more money.

“The state of track & field is in a difficult time right now. I know athletes that have won medals at World Championships are still working multiple part-time jobs to make rent, and so I will always support athletes getting paid in that instance.

“Yeah, I think the biggest issue with that is the public not realizing that a lot of these athletes are winning Olympic medals and financially struggling.”

In terms of his forthcoming schedule, he’s planning to return to the spot where he set the current world mark of 23.56 m (77-3 3/4) last year:

“I’m planning on opening my outdoor season at UCLA [at the L.A. Grand Prix on 18 May]. World record would be nice, but I’m planning on going and then a pretty quick turnaround, L.A. to Eugene for the Prefontaine Diamond League and then a little bit of break before Trials.

“It is a slightly limited outdoor season for me, before the Olympics. That’s the main goal and at this point in my career, I have to limit myself. I can’t compete the same number of times when I was 21, so I’m a little limited; I like to say that on the day, I can still have as much as ever, but I can’t tap that well quite as often as I could when I was younger. So, I have to train smarter now [at 31].”

2.
More criticism of World Athletics’ Olympic pay plan

The critics of the World Athletics plan to pay each of its Paris gold medalists $50,000 continue to surface. The head of some of the other International Federations – who are not giving prizes – are making their disagreement known:

● Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) President David Lappartient (FRA), said that World Athletics made the announcement without any discussions with other International Federations:

“If we concentrate money on top athletes, a lot of opportunities will disappear for athletes all over the world. We really believe that this is not the Olympic spirit. The proposal was not discussed. …

“The Olympic spirit is to share revenues and have more athletes compete worldwide. Not only put all the money on the top athletes but spread the money.”

● World Rowing chief Jean-Christophe Rolland (FRA) added: “Obviously, we need the athletes. But we also need to ensure that we will have athletes tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.”

● Agence France Presse reported, “[t]he International Tennis Federation said it had no plans to follow suit and pay prize money and any change in the future ‘would be made in consultation with the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations and the International Olympic Committee’.”

And the World Athletics plan from President Sebastian Coe (GBR) was criticized by the head of the National Olympic Committee of his home country, Andy Anson, the chief executive of the British Olympic Committee (BOA). In an interview with Sky Sports, he explained:

“I think what was wrong with last week’s announcement was is that a sport does something on its own, without including others, the IOC or the National Olympic Committees. This creates a real problem, because now other sports will be observed, and we can expect pressure from athletes who will say: how can this sport do it and not us?

“This is a debate we can have, but we must have it at the right time, in the right place and together. With this announcement, there is today the risk of a two-speed sport, even if the number of athletes concerned [winners of the 48 athletics events] is ultimately quite small. Nobody wants this to happen.”

The Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) issued a statement from its President, Algeria’s Mustapha Berraf:

“This goes against the principles of solidarity advocated by the Olympic Movement and related substantial programmes, he said.

“Solidarity must be the order of the day within countries and sports organisations in order to bridge the gulf between athletes from the most affluent countries and those from the developing world, and not the other way round.

“The proposal by World Athletics goes against the fundamental principles of the Olympic Movement and is aimed simply at bolstering the bank accounts of athletes who are not in need, rather than helping the most needy.

“Suffice it to note that athletics is an incomparable social asset and has enabled entire populations on the African continent to distinguish themselves and participate in the socio-economic development of their countries and nations.

“It is for this very reason that ANOCA believes it would be more useful to make the most of this income to meet the needs of young African talents, who only aspire to have the necessary infrastructural and material resources for their development.”

3.
Hill and Reeve stress player versatility for U.S. hoops teams

A leaked story that appeared on Tuesday named 11 of the 12 members of the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team and Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers was reported on Wednesday as the 12th and final member of the team.

Later that day at the Media Summit, USA Basketball’s Grant Hill, a member of the 1996 Olympic gold-medal team and now the Men’s National Team Managing Director, explained how the 2024 Paris team was assembled:

“First of all, I want to clarify – I know things were reported [this week] and things of that nature – but the roster was finalized three weeks ago and [Leonard] was included in that. As things got out, they didn’t know who that last person was. …

“We’re excited, we’re honored to have him on board. He wasn’t the last guy at all; he was one of the top guys in terms of priority. So we’re grateful to have him and we’re grateful to have everyone. I mean, everyone is on this team for a reason, because they provide something that’s needed on the FIBA stage, or provide multiple things that are needed.

“We like the versatility of our team. You’re going to get a lot of different styles, playing styles that you’re going to go against. We feel like we’ve checked the boxes for everything we’ll see as we go on this journey, so we’re feeling good.”

He underlined that the U.S. men are hardly a shoo-in to win in Paris:

“We know we have a collection of incredible talent for this summer and a lot of guys are experienced . We have seven guys who have won Olympic gold medals for USA Basketball, and they know. They know very well just how difficult this is.

“We can’t just show up. We have to come, we have to play, we have to compete. We have to have a great deal of respect for our opponents and for the FIBA game. And because of the experience, I think 10 guys have participated in FIBA basketball, I think we’ll have that appropriate fear, that respect and we’ll come out and compete.”

Asked for more depth on how the team was assembled, Hill explained:

“It’s not always the best player per se, but maybe the best fit, and whose game really translates and resonates on the FIBA stage, and there’s a difference, a difference between the two games, the FIBA game and the NBA game.

“A lot of thought went into that … to be able to defend, to be able to maintain our identity offensively, the size and strength of some of the teams we will face. There’s certain things that you’re looking for. …

“It’s not just in terms of talent, too, but personalities. You’re blending personalities together. It’s like a puzzle, you know, and you’re trying to put the puzzle together. It’s an interesting, and certainly – at times – exhausting exercise but a very fulfilling one nonetheless.”

Women’s U.S. Olympic coach Cheryl Reeve, head coach of four WNBA championship teams with the Minnesota Lynx, is working on her roster selections now, which are not yet finalized:

“We’re working long and hard on roster formulation and making sure that, like Grant mentioned, we’re checking boxes and I think the identity of this team, you can look at the WNBA and say ‘what are the strengths of the league,’ making sure that we’re understanding how to position the players; [Breanna Stewart] Stewie’s multi-positional when she plays, gives us a lot of flexibility, along with some of the other players.”

Reeve was not asked directly about star guard Caitlin Clark, but about building on the culture of women’s basketball, so much in the headlines now:

“Now we’re in a movement, and I think it’s a direct correlation to the WNBA being existence for 28 years and so what you have is … all the kids know now is having the WNBA. So that has increased the overall talent, the natural evolution of the athlete – bigger, faster, stronger – we’ve seen all that and by the way, it’s exactly the same path for men’s basketball with the NBA. It’s not a surprise to us that this would be the trajectory of the WNBA.”

She also noted that “Media has played a role in that. Media’s played a big role in finding games and the time: you know it’s going to be on, what network it’s going to be on.”

Stewart, a two-time Olympic gold winner already, said that despite her success, her game keeps changing to keep up with the times:

“You’re going from positions to position-less, and having people being able to do multiple things. Your biggest player on the floor is shooting threes… As a player, I feel like how can I continue to get better, and that’s how can I continue to evolve, and that means, what else can I do?”

4.
Fascinating data: Olympics ranks third in U.S. fan interest

A very interesting table was inserted into a long story in Variety about how NBC is going to try and engage its Olympic audiences with a steady stream of celebrities during its Paris 2024 telecasts: the “fan popularity” of the Olympic Games vis-a-vis other sports in multiple countries. Check out these numbers:

United States:
1. 85%: NFL
2. 72%: Major League Baseball
3. 66%: Olympic Games
4. 63%: Olympic Winter Games
5. 50%: NBA and NHL

Mexico:
1. 86%: Liga MX football
2. 86%: FIFA World Cup
3. 80%: UEFA Champions League
4. 78%: Olympic Games
5. 74%: UEFA Europa League

Great Britain:
1. 88%: FIFA World Cup
2. 87%: English Premier League
3. 74%: UEFA Champions League
4. 71%: Olympic Games
5. 62%: UEFA Europa League

France:
1. 84%: FIFA World Cup
1. 84%: Olympic Games
3. 77%: UEFA Champions League
4. 75%: Ligue 1
5. 74%: Rugby World Cup

China:
1. 88%: Olympic Games
2. 82%: FIFA World Cup
3. 80%: NBA
4. 78%: Olympic Winter Games
5. 77%: English Premier League

Outside of the U.S., it’s football and the Olympics, with a few others thrown in here and there. Also included were charts for Spain, Germany and Italy. The numbers were derived from polling in a Cawi Consumer Survey, with 2,500 total respondents.

As for the NBC shows from Paris, the story summarized the NBC approach this way:

“Making events available live, as they hap-pen in France, means that NBC will need to have different Olympics programming during prime- time — a curated show that will combine event highlights with entertainment and stars commenting on the Games in the hopes of luring sports fans and channel surfers. In short, NBC’s primetime Olympics coverage may at times feel more like a variety show filmed in Paris.”

Look for Jimmy Fallon, Kelly Clarkson, Peyton Manning, podcast star Alex Cooper and Snoop Dogg – among others – to feature different aspects of the Games, along with the actual competitions.

5.
FBI’s Nassar-case failures could lead to $100 million payout

It was widely reported Thursday that the U.S. government is nearing a deal with about 100 plaintiffs who were sexually abused by infamous former sports doctor Larry Nassar, with the total payout at about $100 million.

The potential payouts concern the botched work of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation field offices in Indianapolis and Los Angeles, both of whom separately knew of Nassar’s activities, but failed to follow up properly.

In a 2021 appearance before the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee, U.S. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in his statement:

“Larry Nassar’s abuses very well could and should have been stopped sooner, if appropriate action had been taken by the FBI in response to the courageous actions of these athletes. Not only did that not occur, but after the FBI agents’ inadequate and incompetent response came to light, FBI records were created that falsely summarized the testimony of an athlete who had spent hours detailing the abuses she endured, and inaccurately described the FBI’s handling of the matter. Further, when called to account for their actions, two of the agents lied to our OIG investigators.”

Horowitz noted that the Indianapolis Field Office learned of the Nassar issue in July 2015 and the Los Angeles Field Office was informed in May 2016. But:

● “The OIG found that, despite the extraordinarily serious nature of the allegations and the possibility that Nassar’s conduct could be continuing, senior officials in the FBI Indianapolis Field Office failed to respond to the Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required, made numerous and fundamental errors when they did respond to them, and violated multiple FBI policies. The Indianapolis Field Office did not undertake any investigative activity until September 2—5 weeks after the meeting with USA Gymnastics—when they telephonically interviewed one of the three athletes. Further, FBI Indianapolis never interviewed the other two gymnasts who they were told were available to meet with FBI investigators.”

“The OIG also found that, while the FBI Los Angeles Field Office appreciated the utmost seriousness of the Nassar allegations and took numerous investigative steps upon learning of them in May 2016, the office also did not expeditiously notify local law enforcement or the FBI Lansing Resident Agency of the information that it had learned or take other action to mitigate the ongoing danger that Nassar posed. Indeed, precisely because of its investigative activity, the Los Angeles Field Office was aware from interviewing multiple witnesses that Nassar’s abuse was potentially widespread and that there were specific allegations of sexual assault against him for his actions while at the Karolyi Training Camp (also known as the Karolyi Ranch) in Huntsville, Texas. Yet, the Los Angeles Field Office did not contact the Sheriff’s Office in Walker County, Texas, to provide it with the information that it had developed until after the MSUPD had taken action against Nassar in September 2016. Nor did it have any contact with the FBI Lansing Resident Agency until after the Lansing Resident Agency first learned about the Nassar allegations from the MSUPD and public news reporting. Given the continuing threat posed by Nassar, the uncertainty over whether the Los Angeles Field Office had venue over the allegations, and the doubt that there was even federal jurisdiction to charge the sexual tourism crime that the Los Angeles Field Office was seeking to pursue, we found that prudence and sound judgment dictated that the Los Angeles Field Office should have notified local authorities upon developing the serious evidence of sexual assault against Nassar that its investigative actions were uncovering.”

An agreement between the government and the complaintants has not been finalized, but if completed, would be separate and apart from the $339.5 million pool of insurance funds for the survivors approved in 2021, in actions principally against USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

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TSX REPORT: T&F stars love World Athletics’ $50,000 pay for Paris gold; Olympic Torch Relay on in Greece; last major ticket drop for Paris 2024

Lighting of the Olympic Flame at Olympia (Photo: IOC/Greg Martin)

The Sports Examiner: Chronicling the key competitive, economic and political forces shaping elite sport and the Olympic Movement.★

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. T&F stars fully in support of $50,000 first prize for Paris
2. Olympic Flame lit at Olympia and torch relay starts
3. U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team roster leaked
4. Last major Paris 2024 ticket sale: 250,000 available Wednesday
5. Was something rotten at the Beijing Half Marathon?

● At the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee Media Summit in New York, track & field athletes in two different panels were unanimous in their support of the new, $50,000 prize money to be paid to the winners in Paris this summer. So was Sanya Richards-Ross, a four-time Olympic gold medalist and long-time NBC track & field analyst.

● The Olympic Flame was lit by the sun during a Monday rehearsal and fired the Olympic Torch on an overcast Tuesday at Olympia, with the relay to continue for 11 days in Greece, then moving to France for a massive relay that will end at the Olympic opening in Paris on 26 July.

● A report listing eleven of the 12 members of the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team was leaked on Tuesday, to be led by NBA – and Olympic – stars Kevin Durant and LeBron James, but also this time with Steph Curry, Joel Embiid and more. It’s a powerful team, but no shoo-in for another Olympic gold.

● The last big ticket sale for Paris 2024 opened on Wednesday, with 250,000 new tickets now available for the Games, including new tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies, athletics, basketball and so on. Paris 2024 has already sold more than 8.8 million of its projected 10 million tickets available for the Olympic Games.

● Inquiries are being made about the recent Beijing Half Marathon, where star Chinese marathoner Jie He was waved on to the win by one of the three African runners ahead of him less than 600 m from the finish. World Athletics is aware and is interested to know if there was some collusion on the results.

Panorama: Los Angeles 2028 (sponsor Salesforce leaves, but Guild signs on) = Artistic Swimming (Hu and Martinez win U.S. Nationals Solo titles) = Badminton (U.S. wins four of five titles at Pan Am Champs) = Ice Hockey (Edwards named Women’s World MVP) ●

Schedule: TSX will not appear on Thursday due to a scheduling conflict, and Friday’s post will be late. Apologies in advance. ●

1.
T&F stars fully in support of $50,000 first prize for Paris

At the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee Media Summit in New York, U.S. track & field stars were unanimously in favor of the newly-announced and first-ever $50,000 first-place prizes for the Paris Olympic Games to be paid by World Athletics.

Gabby Thomas, the Tokyo Olympic women’s 200 m bronze medalist, was the first to ring the bell:

“I do love it … I do love that track & field is pioneering this. So for this Olympic Games, the winner will be getting prize money – $50,000 – and then in the L.A. Olympics, all the medalists will be receiving a prize for their accomplishment.

“And I think this is amazing. We’ve been talking about paying athletes for their hard work, for being in the Olympic Games, for so long now, and the times are changing a little bit, and I like to see that athletes are really, really being appreciated for the hard work that they put into it.

“But it also just kind of levels the playing field a little bit, too. I mean Oksana [Masters, a Paralympic star] was just talking about how much the support is so helpful, and means so much to so many people.

“We don’t know every athlete’s story, we don’t know what it takes to get there, we don’t how many resources they need or what they don’t have access to, or need access to, to achieve their dreams. So anytime you can have any type of support for athletes – we’re not receiving a lot – this is really just done off of hopes and dreams and effort and a lot of people don’t have the same opportunities.

“So to see track & field make a difference in that way is remarkable and I can’t wait to see the other sports follow suit.”

A following all-track panel was also unanimous with praise.

“Cha-ching. It’s more money in my bank account,” said 2024 World Indoor long jump champ Tara Davis-Woodhall, a serious contender to win one of those prizes.

“That’s good. It’s evolving. We were talking about this earlier; World Athletics, it’s not their area, so to give money up like that, in an area they’re not even sponsoring and they’re just giving money to their athletes, that’s pretty cool.”

Everyone was on the same page:

Fiona O’Keefe, the surprise winner of the women’s Olympic Marathon Trials race:

“I think it’s great that they’re doing it across all event groups, too, because I’m lucky that there’s a little bit more opportunity in distance running, but – for example – I have a friend who’s a hammer thrower. He’s one of the best in the world at his event and he has to work another job. And he shouldn’t have to, because he’s every bit as elite as I am, so I think it’s great that there’s some effort to equalize things.”

Kenny Bednarek, the Tokyo Olympic men’s 200 m silver winner:

I’m happy to see it, it’s a step forward for sport, and honestly, it’s about time, because you have athletes who work their butt off – blood, sweat and tears – every single day, every single year and some compensation is needed for them.

“There’s some cases where you might have somebody who’s at that level, but they’re not sponsored, so that would help them in the long run, for the next couple of months or the next couple of years. So I’m just happy to see improvement on that point.”

Keira D’Amato, the former U.S. women’s marathon record holder, who will try to make the Paris team in the 10,000 m:

“And I think it ensures that the athletes who are the top in the world have the funds to continue this and continue their passion and be able to compete at this levcl for longer time. I think that it’s awesome that they are doing it, and they contnue to move forward in that way.”

NBC track & field analyst Sanya Richards-Ross, the four–time Olympic gold winner in the women’s 400 m and relays, was the host of the panel and agreed emphatically:

“It’s nice to see World Athletics lead the way on something that I think is long overdue. I do believe that Olympic athletes deserve to be paid, deserve to have prize monies. Most of the athletes that compete in the Olympics nowadays are not amateur; the majority of athletes you see compete are professional.

“And just like any other profession, they should be rewarded for their efforts, so I’m really, really, really proud that World Athletics is doing something this huge and I hope that other sports will follow suit, including Paralympic organizations because every one of these athletes is the absolute best, the most elite. It takes so much to get to this level and it’s really almost impossible to think that athletes are doing this while having other jobs or having to do other things. So, I’m really, really proud of World Athletics and hope that they will do more in the future, and I hope other organizations will do the same.”

“We’re still rocking with it: Kung Fu Kenny.”

Bednarek also described how he acquired his nickname, not simply about the colorful headbands he wears during competitions:

“In 2021, I was pretty new to the scene, I came out pro in 2019, and the whole Covid thing happened, so actually being able to go overseas, then just compete on the regular [circuit], I wanted to stand out as an athlete because every time you watch a race you have Nike, adidas, whoever, all of us look the same with the same uniform.

“I said for women, it’s a little bit easier to differentiate them, because they can change the hair color, the nails and all that stuff. Guys can do it too, but it’s not the same, so I was like, ‘what can I do that would make me ‘me,’ like that wouldn’t make me go out of my comfort zone, so ‘Kung Fu Kenny’ – I like Kendrick Lamar, so he says ‘Kung Fu Kenny’ in some of his songs, and I also like anime.

“So I chose ‘Kung Fu Kenny’ because it has a set of values which pertain to me, which is humbleness, dedication, discipline and respect, so I just wanted to live those on and off the track daily and then, also, you know, we have the headband, so I do the little bow every single time before the race.

“That’s how ‘Kung Fu Kenny’ became a thing.”

2.
Olympic Flame lit at Olympia and torch relay starts

It was cloudy at the Temple of Hera at ancient Olympia, so the Olympic Flame for Paris 2024 was lit by a standby flame, kindled by the sun on Monday. But with the ceremony, the formal movement of the torch towards Paris has begun.

A new High Priestess – Greek actress Mary Mina – led the ceremonial elements, followed by remarks, including from International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (GER), which included:

“This power of sport will make the Olympic Games Paris 2024 a great symbol of human excellence and unity of all humankind in all our diversity. These expectations are shared by billions of people around the world.

“In these difficult times we are living through, with wars and conflicts on the rise, people are fed up with all the hate, the aggression and negative news they are facing day in and day out. In their hearts – in all our hearts – we are longing for something which brings us together. We are longing for something that is unifying. We are longing for something that gives us hope.”

Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, French sports minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo attended the ceremony.

The first torchbearer was Greek Stefanos Ntouslos, the 20024 Olympic rowing gold medalist in Single Sculls. He passed to the first French torchbearer, swimmer Laure Manaudou, the Athens 2004 winner in the women’s 400 m Freestyle.

From this point, the Olympic Torch will move through Greece on a 5,000 km route that will reach 43 cities and towns and then be transferred to the Paris organizers at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens.

It will sail on the French tall ship Belem, which will carry the torch to Marseille, where it will be welcomed on 8 May by a crowd projected at 150,000.

The Paris 2024 relay will comprise 69 days, about 10,000 torchbearers and 400 cities and towns, including to six overseas territories: Guadeloupe, French Guyana, Martinique, French Polynesia, Réunion and New Caledonia, before finally arriving for the Olympic opening on 26 July in Paris.

Observed: The importance of the Olympic Torch has especially been felt in the host country, not only as a reminder that the Games are coming, but has often been a turning point in local support for the event. Whether truly inspiring or simply sentimental, the Torch makes an impact and heightens the awareness that the event really is coming, and soon.

3.
U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team roster leaked

A powerful and experienced U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team will arrive in Paris as overwhelming favorites, led by three-time gold medalist Kevin Durant and two-time winner LeBron James.

They are among 11 players leaked on Tuesday, of the 12 who will be selected by USA Basketball, with 1996 Olympic gold medalist Grant Hill leading the selection process. The 11 players said to be selected:

● C Bam Adebayo ~ 2020 gold
● G Devin Booker ~ 2020 gold
● SG Stephen Curry ~ first Olympic Games
● C Anthony Davis ~ 2012 gold
● PF Kevin Durant ~ 2012-2016-2020 gold
● SG Anthony Edwards ~ first Olympic Games
● C Joel Embiid ~ first Olympic Games
● PG Tyrese Haliburton ~ first Olympic Games
● G Jrue Holiday ~ 2020 gold
● PF LeBron James ~ 2008-2012 gold, 2004 bronze
● SF Jayson Tatum ~ 2020 gold

The U.S. will have a training camp in June and exhibition games against Canada on 10 July (in Las Vegas), and in London against South Sudan on 20 July and 2023 FIBA World Cup champs Germany on 22 July. The U.S. will open Olympic play on 28 July in Lille against Serbia and then play South Sudan on the 31st.

The American men are 143-6 all-time in Olympic play and have won four golds in a row, following a bronze in 2004. And although Durant willed the U.S. to another gold in Tokyo, it came after a pool-play loss to France, and the final was a tight, 87-72 rematch win against the French.

4.
Last major Paris 2024 ticket sale: 250,000 available Wednesday

“More than 250,000 tickets for the Olympic Games will go on sale on this occasion, for all the sports on the Programme and all the sessions! This will be the last ticket sale before the Games for all the Olympic sports (31 sports out of the 32 on the Paris 2024 programme, as surfing is not ticketed) …

“More than half of the 250,000 new tickets will be offered for sale at €100 or less, which includes almost 20,000 tickets priced at €24, while sports previously advertised as sold out will one again be available.”

These are tickets which had been held for possible construction issues, possible television camera positions and other contingencies, but can now be sold as the planning is completed. Among the new releases:

● 35,000 for beach volleyball from €24 to €420 (€1 = $1.06 U.S.);
● 15,000 for swimming from €24 to €980;
● 12,000 for tennis from €24 to €420;
● 12,000 for table tennis €24 to €280.
● 9,000 for the equestrian in the gardens of the Château de Versailles, from €24 to €420.

Also new tickets for the Ceremonies will be sold, with Opening Ceremony at €90 and Closing Ceremony at €250. Tickets for athletics at the Stade de France are also available, from €24 to €980.

Paris 2024 has said more than 8.8 million out of 10 million Olympic tickets have already been sold, with 63% of buyers from France. The Associated Press reported the “top 10-selling sports in order: soccer, track and field, basketball, rugby sevens, volleyball, handball, beach volleyball, field hockey, tennis and water polo.”

5.
Was something rotten at the Beijing Half Marathon?

Inquiries are being made about last Sunday’s Beijing Half Marathon, won by 2023 Asian Games Marathon winner Jie He of China, who crossed first in 1:03:44 after being waved on by three African runners who were in position to win.

A statement by the race organizers to the Chinese digital site, The Paper, included: “The situation is still being confirmed and verified by multiple parties. Further information will be communicated as soon as possible.”

He is no slouch, having set a national record of 2:05:49 for the marathon on 24 March, finishing fourth at the Wuxi Marathon. He is sponsored by the Chinese sports apparel company Xstep, which is also a sponsor of the Beijing Half. The Paper reported (computer translation from the original Chinese):

“[T]he broadcast footage showed that in the last few hundred meters, He Jie was originally lagging behind. Some of the three foreign athletes looked back and waved their hands. Later, He Jie completed the overtake and finally won the championship with a one-second advantage.”

In fact, the video shows Kenyan Willy Mnangat gesturing to the other two runners at the front of the race to slow down in the final straightaway and let He go by and win the race. Mnangat told the BBC, “I was not there to compete. My job was to set the pace and help the guy win but unfortunately, he did not achieve the target, which was to break the national record.”

Kenyan Robert Keter and Ethiopian Dejene Hailu Bikila were the other two runners at the front, with He trying for the national Half mark of 1:02:33, but well behind.

A statement from World Athletics to BBC Sport said: “We are aware of the footage circulating online from the Beijing half marathon this weekend and understand an investigation is currently being conducted by the relevant local authorities.

“The integrity of our sport is the highest priority at World Athletics, while this investigation is ongoing we are unable to provide further comment.”

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● Olympic Games 2028: Los Angeles ● The LA28 organizers have “decided to amicably parted ways” with Salesforce, one of its three top-tier sponsors, announced in a Los Angeles Times story on Tuesday. It retains deals with Comcast and Delta Airlines at its high sponsorship level – “Founding Partners” – those agreements were announced in 2020 and 2021.

LA28 and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee announced a new deal with Guild, which provides “curated education and learning programs designed for the success of working adults.” According to the statement:

Guild will serve as an Official Education, Skilling & Career Mobility Provider of Team USA and LA28, providing a first-of-its-kind opportunity for Team USA athletes to receive education and career development opportunities with personalized one-on-one coaching to support athletes in building competitive careers alongside their athletic achievements.”

● Artistic Swimming ● At the USA Artistic Swimming national championships in Houston, Texas, Angel Hu won the women’s Solo Technical final and Ana Martinez took the Solo Free, while Olivia Perez and Haley Chu won the Duet Technical final and Sophie Schroeder and Mona Schweikert won the women’s Duet Free Final. Chris Leahy won the men’s Solo Final.

● Badminton ● The U.S. claimed four titles in five divisions at the XXVII Pan American Championships, held in Guatemala City (GUA), that finished last Saturday.

Top-seeded Beiwin Zhang won the women’s Singles over Canada’s Michelle Li by 21-18, 18-21, 21-17, for her second career Pan Am title, also in 2021.

Allison Lee won two golds, first in the women’s Doubles with Presley Smith in the all-American Mixed Doubles final over Vinson Chiu and Jennie Gal: 15-21, 21-15, 21-14. Lee than won the women’s Doubles with Francesca Corbett, against Annie Xu and Karen Xu of the U.S., 21-1, 21-15.

In the men’s Doubles, Zhi Yi Chen and Smith won in straight sets against Canada’s Dong Adam and Nuyl Yakura, 21-14, 21-11.

Guatemala’s Kevin Cordon took the men’s Singles with a 21-16, 21-15 triumph against El Salvador’s Uriel Francisco Canjura.

● Ice Hockey ● The U.S. lost to Canada in the final of the IIHF Women’s World Championship held in Utica, New York, but did pick up an honor for scoring star Laila Edwards, named Most Valuable Player in the tournament.

Edwards had six goals, tied for the lead with teammate Alex Carpenter, and Carpenter and teammates Hilary Knight and Caroline Harvey tied for the points lead with 10.

The Tournament Directorate Awards included Carpenter as Best Forward, Canada’s Renata Fast as Best Defender and Germany’s Sandra Abstreiter as the best goalie.

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TSX REPORT: USOPC chief sees Paris “re-introducing” the Games to the U.S.; Paris opening could still move, world discus record for Alekna

USOPC chief executive Sarah Hirshland and sports and athlete chief Rocky Harris at Monday’s opening of the USOPC Media Summit.

The Sports Examiner: Chronicling the key competitive, economic and political forces shaping elite sport and the Olympic Movement.★

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. Hirshland: time to “re-introduce the country” to the Games
2. Macron: Paris opening could move if security worries warrant
3. Alekna shatters discus world record with greatest-ever series
4. Lemma runs away, Obiri repeats at Boston Marathon
5. Russia and Olympic doping: the worst ever

● The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Media Summit kicked off in New York on Monday, with chief executive Sarah Hirshland confident in the preparations, but also excited about “re-introducing” the Olympic and Paralympic Games to the country, free from the shadow of the pandemic in Tokyo and Beijing. And Sports and Athlete Services head Rocky Harris talked about a competitive advantage the U.S. can provide for its athletes.

● French President Emmanuel Macron said the Paris 2024 opening could be re-arranged or even moved if security concerns merited such a severe change. But it could happen.

● Astonishing world record by 21-ywear-old Mykolas Alekna in Ramona, Oklahoma on Sunday, using ultra-favorable wind conditions to author the greatest series in history, including a sensational 74.35 m (243-11) in round five. In a single series, he made the nos. 1-5-8 throws in history!

● Ethiopia’s Sisay Lemma ran away with the men’s Boston Marathon title, winning in 2:06:17, th 10th-fastest Boston race ever. Kenya’s Hellen Obiri defended her 2023 win, but had to break away from fellow Kenyan Sharon Lokedi in the final 800 m, to win, 2:22:37, to 2:22:45.

● A check of the all-time doing disqualifications in Olympic history by stats star Dr. Bill Mallon shows Russia way out in front, with more than 22% of all cases. Wow.

Panorama: Winter Games 2030 (Speed skating could be in The Netherlands or Italy) = World Games (Karlsruhe set to be named for 2029) = Russia (Vyalbe doesn’t see Russian skiers back until 2028) = Athletics (2: Sahlman’s PR 3:33.96 now no. 3 in 2024; more Kenyan and ex-Kenya doping) = Curling (Gushue and Tirinzoni win at Players’ Champs) = Cycling (2: Archibald and Lavreysen finish with three wins each at Nations Cup; Blevins and Rissveds win in Mountain Bike World Cup opener) = Gymnastics (three wins for Bulgaria in home Rhythmic World Cup) = Rowing (British and Dutch dominate World Cup opener in Varese) = Sport Climbing (U.S.’s Watson sets two world records at Speed World Cup in China) ●

1.
Hirshland: time to “re-introduce the country” to the Games

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee is its 21st pre-Games Media Summit – started in 1984 – in New York this week, kicked off with a leadership panel of USOPC staff members led by chief executive Sarah Hirshland, who talked about the unique opportunity that this post-pandemic event offers:

“You can feel the energy and the excitement building, certainly inside the walls inside of our organization, but also around the country. …

“I think I’m most excited we get to – in some ways – re-introduce the country to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It’s been a minute, so it’s time. And we’re excited to bring the whole country along with us on this journey. …

“It brings us together like almost nothing else can.”

Rocky Harris, the Chief of Sports and Athlete Services, noted that this is the time when the team is actually being selected:

“This is really the season when everything happens. We’ve only had 89 Olympians qualify by name and 44 Paralympians, so it’s only about 15% of the overall team has been named. …

“We always want to win the medal count, but it’s really about making sure every Team USA athlete has their personal best and that’s our focus. Yes, we do focus on medals, but if every athlete reaches their personal best, then we’ve all done our job.”

And the USOPC is trying to ensure that directly:

“One competitive advantage for us is we create a high-performance center in each city of the Olympics and Paralympics. In Paris, we have a high-performance center at a world-class facility called Athletica, where we essentially transport our Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to Paris. It has everything from nutrition, training facilities, they built a brand-new kitchen, a brand-new dorm, a brand-new track for us. So it’s really for us – and I saw this in Tokyo – a huge competitive advantage. Sixty percent of our medalists worked out at the high-performance center.

“It’s about 15-20 minutes from the Village, and we have transport going back and forth throughout the day, so for us it’s a major point of differentiation for us and a competitive advantage.”

The USOPC’s head of security, Nicole Deal, said their area is a challenge:

As a security officer, what keeps me up at night? The distractions. I don’t want security to be a distraction for Team USA athletes and the delegation. I want them to come to Paris, knowing that we got them, we got their back and that we put all the processes, procedures and resources in place to keep them safe when they’re in Paris.”

Deal explained that the coordination with the Paris 2024 organizers, the French government and the U.S. State Department and other agencies has been excellent, deeply coordinated with the U.S. Embassy, with agents working directly with the U.S. teams at the Games.

Hirshland was confident: “The things we can control, I feel great about.”

2.
Macron: Paris opening could move if security worries warrant

French President Emmanuel Macron said in a Monday television interview that if the security situation requires it, the Olympic opening planned for the Seine River could be modified or even moved to the Stade de France.

“This opening ceremony… is a world first. We can do it and we are going to do it. There are plan Bs and plan Cs. We are preparing them in parallel, we will analyse this in real time.”

He said the ceremony could be limited to the Trocadero area, where the protocol elements of the ceremony will be held, or the planned 6 km route on the Seine could be shortened, or it could be possible to “repatriate the ceremony to the Stade de France,” the 80,000-seat athletics and football stadium that will host the Olympic closing.

Asked by a viewer about security concerns for the opening, Macron said “If there’s one place where your son will be safe, it’s here.

“There are always risks in life. And we see it every day, unfortunately. But we’ve given ourselves the means to do it.”

He added that the security plans include “drone systems, coding, cyber protection” and that the perimeters would be in place days or weeks before.

The Paris opening has been scaled down already due to logistics and security worries, from a projected 600,000 spectators to a more reasonable 326,000, with 104,000 ticketed fans on the lower quays, and 222,000 on the upper quays who will come for free, but will have to get tickets from the government.

Macron also talked about the Olympic Truce concept, adopted by the United Nations, and which dates from ancient times:

We want to work towards an Olympic truce and I think it is an occasion for me to engage with a lot of our partners. The Chinese president [Xi Jinping] is coming to Paris in a few weeks, and I’m going to ask him to help me.

“This is a diplomatic moment of peace.”

3.
Alekna shatters discus world record with greatest-ever series

Mykolas Alekna, 21, was always precocious, but this is ridiculous. The son of Lithuania’s two-time Olympic gold medalist Virgilijus Alekna, Mykolas went to Cal and earned two NCAA All-American finishes in 2022 and 2023 and won his first World Championships medal in 2022 (silver) and bronze in 2023.

Now he’s the world-record holder, after authoring the greatest series in history at the Oklahoma Throws Series World Invitational in Ramona, Oklahoma on Sunday:

Round 1: 72.21 m (236-11) ~ no 6 throw all-time
Round 2: 70.32 m (230-8)
Round 3: 72.89 m (239-1) ~ no. 4 throw all-time
Round 4: 70.51 m (231-4)
Round 5: 74.35 m (243-11) ~ World Record
Round 6: 70.50 m (231-3)

The average was 71.80 m (235-6!), a distance that only seven others have ever reached! Alekna smashed one of the oldest records in the book, the 74.08 m (243-0) throw by East Germany’s Jurgen Schult, way back in 1986, and the 1988 Olympic gold medalist.

Even more astonishing: the Alekna family now stands 1-3, with Virgilijius throwing 73.88 m (242-5) back in 2000. Mykolas’s series produced the nos. 1-5-8 throws in history.

How did this happen? And why in Ramona? For decades, the discus – especially – has been thrown extra far in unusual locations which have specific wind characteristics which carry the platter extra far. Wind-tunnel rings in places like La Jolla, California and Wailuku, Hawaii are well known; in fact, the meet in Waikulu is known as the “Wailuku Big Wind”!

And competing with Alekna in Ramona, five of the next seven placers got lifetime bests. Jamaica’s Roje Stona, who came in with a lifetime best of 68.64 m (225-2) in 2023 got out to 69.05 m (226-6) for second in Ramona.

The women’s throwing on Saturday also produced sensational marks, with Cuba’s Yaime Perez – the 2019 World Champion – moving to no. 10 all-time at 73.09 m (239-9) and American Veronica Fraley (67.17 m/220-4) moving to no. 7 on the all-time U.S. list.

4.
Lemma runs away, Obiri repeats at Boston Marathon

Ethiopia’s Sisay Lemma came into Monday’s Boston Marathon as the no. 4 performer of all time (2:01:48) and the 2021 London Marathon champion. He now owns two World Marathon Majors golds, taking charge almost from the start in Boston and winning in 2:06:17, the no. 10 performance in Boston history.

He was in the lead at 5 km, led a group of nine at 10 km, then ran away and had a 1:21 lead at 15 km, and was never headed. He passed the half in 1:00.19, with a 1:49 lead on Kenyan Albert Korir.

The lead was 2:14 by 35 km, and down to 1:22 by 40 km, but he cruised home in 2:06:17. The 2023 Tokyo Marathon runner-up, Mohamed Esa (ETH). mounted a charge in the final mile to move from fourth to second, in 2:06:58, ahead of two-time defending champ Evans Chebet (KEN: 2:07:22). C.J. Albertson was the top American man, finishing 2:09:53 in seventh.

The women’s race was the complete opposite, as defending champion Hellen Obiri (KEN) was in a fight to the finish. There were 19 in the lead pack at the half, with Americans Emma Bates and Sara Hall running 1-2 at 1:12:33.

Sixteen runners was still together at 30 km, with Bates still leading, then Obiri took over by 35 km, but still with 12 in tow. Finally, the pack thinned and Obiri led a group of three at the 24-mile mark (38 km), including fellow Kenyans Sharon Lokedi – the 2022 New York City winner – and two-time World Champion and two-time Boston winner Edna Kiplagat (44!) – who had been at the back of the lead pack and would not go away.

At 40 km, it was down to Obiri and Lokedi, with Kiplagat 18 seconds behind and secure in third. They were still together with a mile to go, and Obiri finally pulled ahead in the last 800 m to win in 2:22:37, to 2:22:45 for Lokedi. Kiplagat finished in 2:23:21, ahead of Buze Diriba (ETH: 2:24:04). It’s Kiplagat’s 12th top-three finish in a World Marathon Majors race.

Bates was the top American in 12th in 2:27:14, with Hall 15th in 2:27:58 and 2018 Boston winner Des Linden next in 2:28:27.

This was Obiri’s fourth career marathon and she’s won three in a row: Boston and New York in 2023 and now Boston again. She’s the first Boston women’s repeat winner since Catherine Ndereba (KEN) in 2004 and 2005, and the eighth to be a repeat women’s winner.

Now 34, Obiri owns two world 5,000 titles, a World Cross Country gold and now three World Marathon Majors in a row. How many event for Paris?

5.
Russia and Olympic doping: the worst ever

Olympic super-statistician Dr. Bill Mallon (USA) got busy on X (ex-Twitter) in light of the most recent doping sanctions that came out of the London 2012 Games:

● “With CAS releasing decisions on PED penalties for Yekaterina Poistogova and Nikolay Chavkin (both 2012 London in athletics), time for an update on overall Olympic doping penalties/sanctions:

● “Here are the 5 NOCs with the most doping penalties/sanctions (inclusive since 1968):

“Russia 115
“Ukraine 39
“Belarus 35
“USA 22
“Turkey 20″

● “Note that Russia now has more penalties/sanctions than the next highest nations – combined. There have 510 such cases at the Olympic Games, which means that Russia now has 22.5% of all such cases.”

● “Here the 5 sports affected the most by doping penalties/sanctions at the Olympic Games:

“Athletics (T&F) 207
“Weightlifting 119
“Cross-Country Skiing 38″
“Wrestling 22
“Biathlon 14″

● “This means that over 60% of the doping cases at the Olympics have been in track & field athletics and weightlifting.

“Although athletics looks like the worst sport, remember that athletics has about 8 times more competitors (because of more events) than weightlifting.

“So relatively speaking, weightlifting is by far the worst sport in terms of doping penalties at the Olympics.”

The numbers speak for themselves. No wonder why athletes continue to ask questions about Russian athletes competing in Paris or elsewhere.

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● Olympic Winter Games 2030 ● The International Olympic Committee’s Future Host Commission is readying for its 26-30 April inspection of the French Alps candidature for the 2030 Olympic Winter Games, needing to know what the solutions are to some remaining venue issues.

On Monday, International Olympic Committee Executive Director for the Olympic Games, Christophe Dubi (SUI), told reporters in an online news conference that speed skating could be held in the Netherlands or Italy.

A temporary solution, such as what Milan Cortina 2026 is doing at a massive Milan convention center, would be fine, as “we now know that it is doable with all the guarantees needed for ice quality.”

● World Games ●The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) has nominated the city of Karlsruhe as a candidate for hosting The World Games 2029. The DOSB announced this in a letter to the IWGA on Friday. Earlier this year, two cities from Germany, Karlsruhe and Hanover, had expressed their interest in hosting the 13th edition of the multi-sport event in 2029. Karlsruhe is the first city to apply for a second edition of the Games: the city organised the third edition of The World Games in 1989.”

Monday’s announcement from the International World Games Federation should sew up the World Games sites through the end of this decade, with the event moving to Chengdu (CHN) in 2025. On timing:

“The decision on the host for The World Games 2029 will be taken by the Executive Committee of the IWGA and ratified by the Annual General Meeting at the beginning of May.”

● Russia ● Following the very limited presence of Russia at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, the head of the Cross Country Ski Federation of Russia, three-time Olympic relay gold medalist Elena Vyalbe said Monday it will be years before Russia fully returns to international competition:

“We are always ready to come back but you are all aware of the current circumstances. I don’t believe that it [the return] will be possible next year or even in the next two or three years.

“Our return will be very complicated. I know that all our athletes are just as frustrated by this as I am, but there is no need to grovel in front of anyone. When a country or a World Cup bid is at stake no one should have any doubt about what to choose.

“We have to be very strong. Of course, we missed the World Cup [season]. I don’t think that we will be able to come back before the year 2028. It will be possible only if the world changes.”

That means she expects similar treatment for the Milan Cortina 2025 Winter Games as for Paris.

● Athletics ● Not to be lost in the blizzard of great marks last weekend was the Brian Clay Invitational in Azusa, California, was the stunning men’s 1.500 m win for Northern Arizona sophomore Colin Sahlman – age 20 – in 3:33.96, a four-second lifetime best and now no. 3 in the world for 2024.

Sahlman’s old best was 3:38.30 from 2023, but he outran 2023 NCAA champ Nathan Green (USA/Washington: 3:34.29) and veteran star Craig Engels (3:35,46). Sahlman and Green are now third and sixth on the 2024 world list.

More doping suspensions from the Athletics Integrity Unit, including Kenyan half-marathoner Agnes Mutua for 5 years from 29 January 2024 for Presence/Use of Prohibited Substances (Testosterone and Trimetazidine).”

Former Kenyan and now Bahraini marathoner Marius Kimutai (2:05:06) was banned “for 3 years from 28 March 2024 for Presence/Use of a Prohibited Substance (EPO).”

● Curling ● Veteran stars dominated The Players’ Championship of the Grand Slam of Curling in Toronto, with Canada’s Brad Gushue and Swiss Silvana Tirinzoni leading their teams to wins.

Gushue won his 15th Grand Slam title, winning the final over Joel Retornaz (ITA) by 7-6 on a clutch final shot in the eighth end. Tirinzoni, skip of the four-time World Champions – who settled for second this year – also had a tight match, but scored twice in the second, fourth and seventh ends to hold on for a 6-5 win as well over Isabella Wrana (SWE).

● Cycling ● Olympic track cycling star Kate Archibald (GBR) – a two-time gold winner – concluded a three-gold performance at the UCI Track Nations Cup III in Milton (CAN) on Sunday, winning the Omnium to go with her earlier wins in the Team Pursuit and the Madison. American Jennifer Valente, who won the Elimination Race, was third in the Omnium.

Men’s Sprint star Harrie Lavreysen (NED) also got his third gold, winning the men’s Sprint, to add to his Team Sprint and Keirin wins. New Zealand’s Ellesse Andrews, second in the Sprint, won the Keirin, in which she is the reigning World Champion.

American Chris Blevins, the 2021 Worlds Short Track gold winner took the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup opener in Mairipora (BRA), winning the Cross Country Olympic race by a whisker in 1:30:00 over French Worlds relay gold medalist Victor Koretzky (1:30:02) and Swiss Filippo Columbo (1:30:03). Australia’s Sam Gaze, the two-time Short Course World Champion, won the Short Course race.

Rio 2016 Olympic champ Jenny Rissveds (SWE) took the women’s Cross Country race in a rout, finishing in 1:17:18 to 1:17:45 for American Sevilia Blunck and 1:18:03 for teammate Haley Batten. Britain’s Evie Richards took the women’s Short Course race.

● Gymnastics ● Lots of smiles for home fans in Sofia (BUL) for the FIG Rhythmic World Cup that concluded Sunday, with Boryana Kaleyn and Stiliana Nikolova on the victory stand a lot.

Kaleyn, a Team gold medalist from the 2023 Worlds, took the All-Around at 137.300, with Nikolova, a six-time Worlds medalist at age 21, second at 135.100. Israel’s Darya Atamanov finished third (132.600).

Nikolova won two apparatus finals, on Ball (36.950) and Ribbon (33.650), with Atamanov taking bronze and silver, respectively. Atamonov won on Hoop (35.550), ahead of Nikolova (34.950) and Italy’s 2022 World Champion Sofia Raffaeli (34.150). Raffaeli won on Clubs, scoring 34.250, beating Kaleyn (33.900).

● Rowing ● Britain and the Netherlands dominated the first World Rowing World Cup, held in Varese (ITA), although the home team also scored three wins.

The Dutch took the men’s Double Sculls with World Champions Melvin Twellar and Stefan Broenink (6:07.09) beating Luca Rambaldi and Matteo Sartoni (ITA: 6:08.45), and the Quadruple Sculls (5:38.32) over Britain (5:40.05), but the Brits won in Pairs with Worlds runners-up Oliver Wynne-Griffith and Tom George (6:18.62) taking down Worlds winners Roman Roeoesli and Andrin Gulich (NED: 6:19.24), and took the Eights in 5:27.67 to 5:29.83 for the Dutch.

The Italian duo of Worlds bronze medalists Stefano Oppo and Gabriel Soares took the Lightweight Double Sculls at 6:10.46.

World Champion Oliver Zeidler won the Single Sculls over Worlds silver medalist Simon Van Dorp (NED), 6:44.15 to 6:47.03.

The women’s World Champion in Single Sculls, Karolien Florijn (NED) was a decisive winner in 7:19.31 to 7:25.94 for Alexandra Foester (GER). Dutch Double Scullers Lisa Scheenaard and Martine Veldhuis won in 6:49.75, with Thea Helseth and Jenny Marie Rorvik (NOR) in 6:50.60. And the Dutch Pair of World Champions Ymkje Clevering and Veronique Meester won in 6:56.53 against Fiona Murtagh and Aifric Keogh (IRL: 6:57.57).

Two British teams took gold and silver in the Quadruple Sculls, 6:18.88 to 6:22.74, and Italy won the women’s Eights in 6:02.34 to 6:03.10 for Britain. Ukraine took the Quadruple Sculls in 6:11.32, with the Dutch second (6:13.16).

Britain also won the women’s Lightweight Double Sculls with World Champions Emily Craig and Imogen Grant in 6:45.86.

● Sport Climbing ● Big news from the IFSC World Cup in Lead and Speed in Wujiang (CHN) over the weekend, with world records in Speed from American Sam Watson.

He scaled the 15 m wall on the first qualifying run in 4.85, busting the 2023 mark of Indonesia’s Veddiq Leonardo, then raced to a 4.79 record in his second run!

Watson didn’t win, however, finishing second in the final to China’s defending champ, Peng Wu, 4.91 to 5.11.

Two-time World Champion Aleksandra Miroslaw (POL) win her 12th IFSC World Cup in the women’s division in an all-Polish final with Natalia Kalucka, equaling her own world record at 6.24, with Kalucka at 6.75.

No doubt about the women’s Lead winner, as star Janja Garnbret (SLO), as she was the only one to get to the top, with home favorite Zhilu Luo finishing second (44+).

Toby Roberts (GBR) won his second career World Cup at 36+, getting the victory on the countback against Taisei Homma (JPN).

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TSX REPORT: Ex-IBU chief Besseberg guilty, gets 37-months; Glasgow proposes cheap Commonwealth Games; all smiles for Salt Lake City!

Sensational: American Torri Huske scared the world women’s 100 m Butterfly record at the Tyr Pro Swim San Antonio! (Photo courtesy USA Swimming)

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. Ex-IBU chief Besseberg found guilty and sentenced to 37 months
2. Glasgow proposing ultra-low-cost 2026 Commonwealth Games
3. All positive vibes from IOC visit to Salt Lake City
4. Venezuela’s TJ star Rojas out for Paris 2024
5. UWW sets up two investigations into Chamizo bribe allegations

● Former International Biathlon Union chief Anders Besseberg, now 78, of Norway was convicted of “aggravated corruption” in a Norwegian court on Friday, from gifts he received to help cover up Russian doping. He was sentenced to 37 months in prison, but filed an immediate notice of appeal.

● Glasgow, the site of the successful 2014 Commonwealth Games, has proposed to hold the 2026 Commonwealth Games on a low budget of £130-150 million, using existing facilities and a reduced program of 10-13 sports. Thanks to a subsidy of £100 million from the Commonwealth Games Federation, Glasgow’s effort can be financed with little to no public funding.

● The International Olympic Committee’ Future Host Commission was delighted with what it saw during its visit to Salt Lake City in advance of a recommendation to the IOC Executive Board to formally select Salt Lake City as the site for the 2034 Winter Games.

● Venezuelan triple jump superstar Yulimar Rojas suffered a left achilles tendon injury that has required surgery and she will be unable to defend her Tokyo Olympic gold medal at the 2024 Paris Games.

● Following the allegation of bribery to throw his semifinal match at the European Olympic Qualifying tournament in Azerbaijan by two-time World Champion Frank Chamizo of Italy, United World Wrestling has commission two investigations into the matter.

World Championship: Ice Hockey (Canada trips U.S. women in overtime in gold-medal final) ●

Panorama: Archery (U.S. women’s team qualifies for Paris) = Athletics (3: Jacious Sears screams 10.77 (!) in women’s 100 at Tom Jones Memorial; Negeeye and Ashete win Rotterdam Marathon; another 2012 Russian doping positive) = Cycling (2: Valente strikes gold at Track Nations Cup III; Vos and Pidcock win Amstel Golds) = Fencing (U.S. stars Kiefer and Meinhardt putting off medical school for Paris 2024) = Swimming (Huske scares women’s world 100 Fly record at Tyr Pro Swam San Antonio) = Taekwondo (U.S. gets three qualifiers at Pan Am qualifier) ●

1.
Ex-IBU chief Besseberg found guilty and sentenced to 37 months

The former long-time head of the International Biathlon Union was convicted by a Norwegian court of “aggravated corruption” and sentenced to three years and one month in prison on Friday.

Anders Besseberg (NOR), now 78, said he was surprised by the verdict and would appeal. The prosecutors – the Norwegian OKOKRIM agency – issued a detailed statement:

“In 2023, The Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime (Økokrim) indicted a Norwegian man who was president of the IBU from 1993 to 2018, for aggravated corruption. The offences took place during the period 2009 to 2018.

“The charges included accepting bribes in the form of watches, hunting trips and trophies, prostitutes and a leased car which he enjoyed the use of from 2011 to 2018 in Norway.

“The man is now sentenced to 3 years and 1 month in prison.”

The Senior Public Prosecutor, Marianne Djupesland, commented:

“The verdict is an important signal that corruption is uncovered and prosecuted, also in the international sports federations.

“International top-level sports generate large revenues and handle large assets. The federations are managing large assets and make important decisions that affect both athletes and businesses. We therefore do hope that this verdict will have preventive effects.”

The former IBU chief was convicted on two of three counts by a three-judge panel, which was unanimous in finding that he accepted Russian gifts, and that he acted in favor of Russian interests in both word and deed. The judges determined that he will not have to pay a fine as requested by prosecutors, but the gifts he received, including NOK 1.4 million will be confiscated (about $128,437 U.S.). Said the court:

“The defendant breached the trust that accompanied his position in the IBU by accepting the benefits. … In light of the time series of documents that have been referred to, as well as witness statements, the court has no doubt that he has acted in favor of Russia, by both word and deed.”

Besseberg, in return for the favors, worked to cover up doping violations by Russian athletes and the removal of IBU competitions from Russia.

The Associated Press reported Judge Vidar Toftoy-Lohne saying during the reading of the verdict, “The defendant clearly lacks understanding of the position he held and self-awareness, as the court sees it.”

The Besseberg matter drew attention at least eight years ago, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency, which “welcomed” the verdict:

“WADA initiated an investigation into this matter in November 2016 through its independent Intelligence and Investigations (I&I) Department. Information collected at that stage gave the criminal investigation its initial impetus and WADA investigators were in close communication with law enforcement authorities in Austria and Norway, as well as INTERPOL. …

“Today’s verdict should be seen as a warning to other administrators who threaten the integrity of sport. WADA commends the diligence of the Austrian and Norwegian law enforcement, as well as the prosecutors who brought the case to court, in using WADA’s information and taking it further for the protection of clean sport.”

The IBU, for its part, issued a short statement:

“The IBU has taken note of the verdict in the case against Anders Besseberg. The IBU welcomes the conclusion of the trial which brings to a close a deeply troubling period in the federation’s history. The IBU is looking forward and committed to continuing to build on the significant reforms that have positioned the IBU at the forefront of good governance and ensured it delivers the very best sport for its athletes and fans.”

Biathlon Integrity Unit head Greg McKenna (GBR) stated in court testimony in January that the federation also plans action against Besseberg: “We have concluded that he should be banned for life from office and activities and receive a fine of up to 100,000 euros. We have also filed a motion for reprimand.”

2.
Glasgow proposing ultra-low-cost 2026 Commonwealth Games

“Commonwealth Games Scotland (CGS) can confirm the development of an innovative concept that could provide a solution for the 2026 Commonwealth Games without the need for significant public investment.”

That’s from a Friday announcement, with significant detail (£1 = $1.25 U.S.):

● “The Games concept that has been developed can be delivered within two years and for a budget of £130-150 million, with no significant ask of public funds.

● “The Games would be funded by £100million from the Commonwealth Games Federation as part of the Victoria financial settlement towards the cost of the Games. The remaining £30-50million would be funded predominantly by commercial income (ticketing, sponsorship, broadcasting etc).

● “The Games would be expected to deliver a Gross Value Added of £100-200 million, with additional spending from outside the UK of at least £100million.

● “We are planning for an 11-day sporting competition in July/August 2026.

● “The concept has been developed on a core offering of approximately 10 sports.”

Importantly, the statement gave a reason to have the Commonwealth Games:

“The Commonwealth Games is crucial to the health of Scottish sport; the four-yearly event is the pinnacle for several sports and represents the only chance for many athletes to compete for Scotland on a global stage.”

The proposal is all the more interesting because Glasgow was the site for the 2014 Commonwealth Games and has a wealth of existing sites. No new sites would be built and athletes would be accommodated in a range of options, but not in a custom-built “Commonwealth Village.”

The 2014 Games had 17 sports, 261 events and 4,947 athletes; the BBC reported that “the budget for 2014 was £543m, with £425m from the Scottish government and from Glasgow City Council.”

However, the Commonwealth Games was as small as 10 sports as recently as 1994 in Victoria (CAN) and then jumped to 15 in Kuala Lumpur (MAS) in 1998. Moreover, Scotland just experienced the 2023 UCI World Championships, a first-time, 13-discipline, 10-venue, 11-day program with 2,600 competitors and about one million total spectators. The calculated Gross Value Added to the Scotland economy was £205 million, of which £129 million was in the Glasgow area alone.

The Commonwealth Games Scotland statement noted:

“We are satisfied that the concept developed could see a refreshed format for the Games, that would see it be delivered on time and on budget, providing significant benefit to the Scottish economy and a potential blueprint for a sustainable Games model of the future.”

Observed: This gives the Commonwealth Games Federation choices, with Ghana also interested in the 2026 Games. The Glasgow concept is another move is the politically-popular format of putting on a Games with essentially private-sector financing, introduced 40 years ago for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

The Scotland statement said that there could be as many as 13 sports and a Commonwealth Games strategy document from 2019 indicated that only athletics and swimming are required, with a suggested (but flexible) maximum of 15.

The Commonwealth Games Federation said it would have news on the 2026 situation in May.

3.
All positive vibes from IOC visit to Salt Lake City

All good signs from the visit of the International Olympic Committee’s Future Host Commission for the Olympic Winter Games to Salt Lake City that concluded on Friday. Said a beaming Fraser Bullock, chief executive of the Utah-Salt Lake City Committee for the Games, and the chief operating officer of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City:

We could see how much they love Utah and how much they love the relationships that we’ve put together. We feel like we’re in a great spot.”

The IOC visit was thorough, taking in venues such as Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah, the Delta Center arena, Deer Valley, Utah Olympic Park, Park City Mountain, Soldier Hollow, Snowbasin Mountain, the Olympic Oval in Kearns and more.

Said Karl Stoss (AUT), the head of the Future Host Commission:

“We could feel the enthusiasm and the spirit of Utah. The spirit from the Games from 2002 is still here.”

He was especially enthusiastic about the no-build bid that Salt Lake City is offering, using the same venues as in 2002, with no added sites to be built for the Games:

“This is one of the most important thing for the IOC. Could you offer all the venues still with no new buildings? Start with souvenirs. Starting with the venues from the previous Olympic Games, and this is a fantastic concept.

“It is incredible how you maintained all these venues since 2002. This is one of our success stories I think in the IOC. We would like to build our legacy on the venues you had before.”

Christophe Dubi (SUI), the IOC’s Executive Director for the Olympic Games, added:

“You have not only the venues, but you have the people. Because in the end, this is what matters. Organizing the games is about having competent people, the expertise, the knowledge. And this is right here, right now.

At the opening presentation, Dubi was also impressed by the Salt Lake City he was seeing now:

“When you leave a gap of 20 years … it’s not the same at all anymore. I remember coming to Salt Lake some Sundays, and you would feel quite alone around because of the little residents that there was. … This is really night and day.”

Bullock summed up the visit this way:

“They love the venues and they are turnkey ready. I think the other thing: they see the passion of the people that are there. Every venue we go to we have the people that were there in ’02 and the future people going forward and we also have young athletes.”

Utah Governor Spencer Cox, who has been significantly involved in supporting the effort, added: “The reception has been enormously positive. Everything that we’re hearing from the IOC, everything that we’re hearing from people adjacent to the IOC? This has been a wildly successful trip out here.”

In terms of process, the Future Host Commission will make a report to the IOC Executive Board, no doubt to recommend the election of Salt Lake City for the 2034 Games. If approved, the final approval must be given by the IOC Session meeting in Paris in July – possibly 24 July – for the formal award.

The IOC Future Host Commission will stay busy, moving next to view the plan for the French Alps 2030 plan – also in “Targeted Dialogue” – from 26-30 April.

4.
Venezuela’s TJ star Rojas out for Paris 2024

The defending Olympic women’s triple jump champion and four-time World Champion and world-record holder Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela will not defend her title at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. She wrote on Instagram on Friday (computer translation from the original Spanish):

“To my Venezuela, to the family of the Olympic and Sports Movement, especially to my followers; I want to inform you that I will not be able to participate in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

“With a lot of pain and sadness I want to tell you that while training when I fell in the descent of a jump I had an intense pain that was diagnosed to an injury to the left achilles tendon. My heart is broken and I feel so much sadness that I want to apologize for not being able to represent you at Paris 2024.

“These have been very complex hours, in which I have questioned and analyzed why this has happened, however I understand that, in God’s designs, we are only instruments of His will. Today I feel very emotionally affected by not being able to represent them, the desire to defend my Olympic title excited me enormously but today I have to stop, understand this, recover and come back with a lot of strength to continue flying together.

“I want to thank my family, friends and my entire work team, who at the moment have not separated from me trying to make me understand the very complex situation I am going through. To all my sponsors and sports institutions in my country for all the support provided.

“I wish a lot of success to our Venezuelan delegation in Paris 2024, since I am already very proud of you, and to my track teammates, may you give the maximum to also achieve glory.

“See you soon, with the same dreams and desires.”

She said in a post on X that she had surgery on 11 April in Madrid (ESP). She has dominated the women’s triple jump since winning the Rio Olympic silver medal and then taking the Tokyo Olympic gold and World titles in 2017-19-22-23 and World Indoor titles in 2016-18-22.

5.
UWW sets up two investigations into Chamizo bribe allegations

Bribery, gambling and match-fixing are bad words in sports and the International Olympic Committee is pushing harder to head off future issues in competition integrity.

In view of the explosive allegations made last week by two-time Freestyle World Champion Frank Chamizo (ITA) about his bout with Azerbaijan’s Turan Byramov in the semifinals of the 74 kg class of the European Olympic Qualifier in Baku (AZE), United World Wrestling has responded with two investigations:

“United World Wrestling has set up two different panels to independently and separately analyze the refereeing decisions, including the challenge decisions, of the match between Frank CHAMIZO (ITA) and Turan BYRAMOV (AZE) at the European OG Qualifier in Baku, Azerbaijan.

“Each panel will be composed of three members, respectively the chairman of the Refereeing Commission plus two experts, and three Bureau members with expertise in refereeing and International Wrestling Rules.

“In addition, the Chairman of the UWW Disciplinary Chamber will appoint a panel of three members to review the outcomes of the ongoing investigation concerning the allegations of attempted corruption and alleged violation of the integrity of our sport. This panel will decide on the disciplinary actions to be taken in this matter.

“UWW is resolutely committed to thoroughly investigating and clarifying all aspects of the 74kg semifinal bout between Chamizo and Bayramov, ensuring transparency and upholding the integrity of wrestling.”

Byramov won on criteria after an 8-8 tie in regulation, after Chamizo’s apparent, winning two-point score near the end of the match was reversed on an appeal from the Azerbaijan corner. According to an interview with the La Repubblica daily, Chamizo said:

“I knew I had to give double, triple in Azerbaijan, because I was fighting at their house and they had bought everything. The same referee was with the Azerbaijanis throughout the tournament. I made it, but then something happened that reminds me of boxing from many years ago. And so yes, I mean it, they came to me offering me money, $300,000 to lose.

“But Chamizo (not kindly) returned the offer to the sender: ‘I don’t want to say who did it, but it happened on the morning of the weigh-in. I sent them to … because I represent not only myself, but also Italy, my federation FIJLKAM, and the Army. I’m so disgusted that I don’t feel like talking about sports.”

By winning the match Byramov qualified for the Paris 2024 Games; Chamizo will have one more chance at the World qualifier from 9-12 May in Istanbul (TUR).

≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP ≡

● Ice Hockey ● The U.S. had participated in all 22 finals of the IIHF Women’s World Championship coming into the 2024 edition, held in Utica, New York. That streak continued for a 23rd straight final with a 5-0 semifinal rout of Finland on Saturday at the Adirondack Ice Center, while Canada reached the final for the 22nd time (out of 23) by defeating the Czech Republic, 4-0.

The U.S. was on offense from the drop against the Finns, out-shooting them 22-4 in the first period, but only scoring once on a Hannah Bilka goal at 12:01. Finland suffered two penalties in the first 13 minutes of the second period and the Americans got a power-play goal at 13:14 from Laila Edwards for a 2-0 lead at the end of two periods. The issue was decided just 2:34 into the final period as Edwards scored an equal-strength goal and she got a hat trick at 6:24 of the period to extend the lead to 4-0. Defender Savannah Harman added a final score at 16:10 for the 5-0 final, with the U.S. enjoying a 55-15 shots advantage. Aerin Frankel got her fourth shutout of the tournament in goal for the U.S.

Canada, which lost only to the U.S. so far, got its first score just 4:32 into the game, from Blayre Turnbull, and closed out the period with another goal at 18:15 from defender Jocelyne Larocque. Shots were 13-1 for Canada.

Emily Clark scored another fast goal in the second, at 1:39 for a 3-0 lead, and Sarah Fillier made it 4-0 at 4:40 of the third and that’s how it ended. Canada finished with a 47-9 edge on shots and Ann-Marie Desbiens got the shutout in goal.

Going into Sunday’s final, the Canada had won 12 of the 21 gold-medal meetings with the U.S., but the American women had taken six of the last eight, including a 6-3 decision in 2023. This was another classic.

Both teams scored in the first, with Erin Ambrose opening for Canada at 6:32 and Edwards tying it for the U.S. at 8:12. Each side scored twice in the second, with the U.S. taking a 3-2 lead on an Alex Carpenter goal at 16:32, but Marie-Philip Poulin evening it at 18:58 for Canada.

On to the third, with Hilary Knight putting the U.S. back on top at 8:56, but Clark tying at 10:46. Then Canada got the lead again at 5-4 on Poulin’s second goal at 12:19, but once again, the U.S. got even with Caroline Harvey scoring at 14:58. All tied at the end of 60, with Canada having the edge on shots, 29-23.

The pool-play game between these two was also an overtime, won by the U.S., 1-0. This time, there were goals galore in regulation, but again one overtime goal. This time it went to Canada’s Danielle Serdachny, who beat U.S. keeper Frankel at 5:16 of the period for Canada’s 13th women’s world title.

In the third place game, Finland and the Czech Republic went to a shoot-out, with the Finns winning, 2-1, for a 3-2 victory. Finland now has 14 bronze medals in this tournament, but its first since 2021.

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● Archery ● The U.S. women’s team booked their places in Paris at the Pan American qualifier in Medellin (COL), making it to the final against already-qualified Mexico with a 6-2 win over home favorite Colombia, thanks to a final 10 by no. 1-ranked Casey Kaufhold, finishing up for Catalina GNoriega and Jennifer Mucino-Fernandez.

The all-Canadian women’s individual final saw Kristine Esebua defeat Virginie Chenier, 6-4, with Puerto Rico’s Alondra Rivera winning the bronze on a shoot-out against teammate Nilka Cotto, 6-5. Esebua, formerly of Georgia, qualified for Paris, as did Rivera, since only one per country was allowed to qualify at this event.

Colombia’s Santiago Arcila punched his ticket for Paris by winning the men’s individual title, 6-2, over Nicholas D’Amour (ISV). Both finalists qualified for Paris.

In the men’s Recurve team qualifying final, Arcila and Colombia defeated Canada in a shoot-off, 28-25, to qualify for Paris. The U.S. was eliminated in the semis by Colombia.

In the individual Pan Am Championships, Mexico’s Matias Grande won the gold over American Jackson Mirich, 6-4. Jack Williams of the U.S. won the bronze over Cuba’s Hugo Franco, 6-5. Kaufhold took the women’s title, 6-5 in a shoot-off with Alejandra Valencia (MEX).

A final qualifying event for individuals and teams will be held on 15-16 June in Antalya (TUR).

● Athletics ● Ever heard of Jacious Sears? You have now.

The Tennessee senior exploded at the Tom Jones Memorial in Gainesville, Florida on Saturday, winning the women’s 100 m final in 10.77 with 1.6 m/s wind, easily the fastest in the world this year.

The NCAA Indoor fourth-placer in the 60 m in 2024, she lowered her lifetime best from 10.96 and is now equal-15th on the all-time list and no. 7 all-time U.S. Only Sha’Carri Richardson and English Gardner have ever run faster among still-active American women! Georgia’s Kaila Jackson was a distant second at 11.10.

There were lots more world leaders:

Men/200 m: 19.90, Tarsis Orogot (UGA)
Men/200 m: 19.88, Courtney Lindsey (USA)
Men/110 m hurdles: 13.21, Grant Holloway (USA)
Men/400 m hurdles: 47.95, Chris Robinson (USA)

Women/400 m: 49.95, Kaylyn Brown (USA)
Women/100 m hurdles: 12.44, Nia Ali (USA)
Women/4×100 m: 41.94, USA Red (Brisco, Steiner, Prandini, Hobbs)
Women/4×400 m: 3:23.83, Empire Athletics (mixed nationalities)
Women/Long Jump: 6.71 m (22-0 1/4), Quanesha Burks (USA)

A new star, Arkansas frosh Kaylyn Brown, won the women’s 400 m in 49.95, the first under 50 seconds this season, ahead of Georgia’s Aliyah Butler (50.05). In the women’s 100 m hurdles, Ali won the final in 12.44 (-0.8 m/s), just ahead of Tonea Marshall (12.45).

Two U.S. women’s relay teams ran the nos. 1-2 times in the world this season, with Mikiah Brisco, Abby Steiner, Jenna Prandini and Aleia Hobbs winning a tight race in 41.94, ahead of Tamari Davis, Anavia Battle, Kiara Parker and Melissa Jefferson (41.99).

All of this overshadowed the men’s 100 m, with Noah Lyles winning at the line over Kenny Bednarek, with both timed in 10.01 (+1.7 m/s), and Kyree King third in 10.02. The women’s 100 m final was just as tight, with Tamari Davis edging Jefferson, with both at 10.94 (+1.2 m/s).

Goodness gracious, Jacious Sears!

The Rotterdam Marathon, at which the late Kenyan star Kelvin Kiptum was going to try for a sub-2:00 world record, was won by Dutch star Abdi Nageeye, the Tokyo Olympic silver winner, in a national record of 2:04:45, ahead of Ethiopia’s Amedework Walelegn (2:04:56), with two-time Tokyo Marathon winner Birhanu Legese (ETH) third in 2:05:16.

Four were in contention at 35 km, but Kenneth Kipkemoi (KEN) was dropped and then Legese let go past 40 km, and Nageeye sprinted home for the win. Leonard Korir was the top American, in 19th at 2:12:47.

Ethiopia’s Ashete Bekere, the 2019 Berlin Marathon champ, ran away from the women’s field after 30 km and won easily in 2:19:30, with Viola Kibiwot (KEN: 2:20:57) and Sally Chepyego (KEN: 2:22:46) finishing 2-3. The top U.S. finisher was Layne Hammer, in 30th at 2:48:19.

Another Russian doping positive from 2012, against Nikolay Chavkin, now 39, for two samples that were initially shown as negative as part of the state-sponsored doping program from 2011-15, but finally shown to be positive after retrieval of data from the Moscow Laboratory of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency.

Chavkin was an Olympic steeplechaser at London 2012, but did not make it out of the heats. He tested positive for the steroid methyltestosterone and was banned for 30 months, with his results from 4 July 2012 to 3 January 2015 nullified.

● Cycling ● The third and final Track Nations Cup was in Milton (CAN), with another win for American star Jennifer Valente.

The Tokyo Olympic Omnium champion, she won the women’s Elimination Race, beating Letizia Paternoster of Italy and could be in line for another win in the Omnium.

British star Kate Archibald scored two wins, first in the Team Pursuit – where she won a Rio 2016 gold – and then in the Madison – where she won in Tokyo in 2021 – this time with Neah Evans. Fellow Brit Ethan Hayter, the two-time Omnium World Champion, collected golds in the Omnium (of course) and in the men’s Team Pursuit.

Dutch stars Harrie Lavreysen (Tokyo Sprint champ) and Jeffrey Hoogland were busy, going 1-2 in the men’s Keirin, with Lavreysen winning and the two together with Roy van den Berg in the Team Sprint.

Canada’s 20-year-old star, Dylan Bibic, the 2022 World Scratch Race gold medalist, won the men’s Elimination Race. France’s Mathilde Gros, the 2022 women’s Sprint winner, won over the 2023 Worlds bronze winner, Ellesse Andrews (NZL).

At the Amstel Gold Race, the women started first and a crazy race ensued, with the peloton stopped with 45 km to go on the planned 158 km course from Maastricht to Berg en Terblijt due to an accident further ahead. After an hour’s delay, the route was shortened to comprise only 101.4 km and of course, resulted in a mass sprint to the finish.

There were 23 in the group heading to the line and Dutch star Lorena Wiebes, already with two Women’s World Tour wins this season, found a path and looked like the winner, throwing her arms up in celebration. But just at that moment, countrywoman (and three-time World Road Champion) Marianne Vos threw her bike ahead and won at the line in 2:35:02, her second win in this race and a shocking finish to a wild ride. Norway’s Ingvild Gaskjenn finished third.

The 68th men’s Amstel Gold Race was re-routed (but still 253.6 km) to avoid the women’s finish and found a group of four in front with 11 km remaining: Marc Hirschi (SUI), Tokyo Olympic Mountain Bike gold medalist Tom Pidcock (GBR), Tiesj Benoot (BEL) and Mauri Vansevenant (BEL). With 2 km to go, those four had a 30-second lead on the peloton, and Benoot attacked with 1,000 m left. He could not get away and Vansevenant sprinted with 300 m to go, but Pidcock had the most left in the tank and led Hirschi across the line in 5:58:17. Benoot and Vansevenant finished 3-4.

Pidcock is hardly unknown in road racing, winning a stage in the 2022 Tour de France and the Strade Bianche in 2023. But this is a signal win for him, perhaps a sign of more road work to come? He also made some history as the first British winner of this race; he was second in 2021.

● Fencing ● The U.S. husband-and-wife fencing duo of Lee Kiefer and Gerek Meinhardt – both Olympic medalists – are plotting their return to medical school once the Olympic season is completed.

Kiefer won the Tokyo gold in the women’s Foil and Meinhardt won a Team bronze there (also in Rio in 2016) and said in an interview:

“I was trying to figure out what direction my life was going after Tokyo. I really wanted to keep fencing because I still love it and enjoy doing it. I felt like I could keep growing my skills, my routine.

“However, the biggest obstacle was the [University of Kentucky] College of Medicine. I was not sure they would let me continue, which would have been totally understandable.”

Kiefer and Meinhardt are both studying medicine at Kentucky:

“My husband also felt the same way. We thought through the timeline and decided to keep fencing and came up with a logical proposal. We talked to the dean and here we are (still competing).

“Your last two years are in the hospital, so I will come back and restart my third year. We plan to rematriculate in June of 2025 when the semester starts after we have had some time to re-study. We know it won’t be easy, but that’s what we plan to do.”

They also have a good chance of landing on the podium in Paris, as Kiefer is ranked no.1 in the world in women’s Foil and Meinhardt is no. 9, with two Americans – Nick Itkin (1) and Alex Massialas (5) – ahead of him and forming a powerful entry in the Team Foil competition.

● Swimming ● Torri Huske was the story at the Tyr Pro Swim Series in San Antonio, Texas, especially in the women’s 100 m Butterfly, where she scared the world record and won in the no. 3 time in American history, in 55.68.

Huske, 21, was the 2022 World Champion in the 100 Fly and won three more relay golds, then took the bronze at the 2023 Worlds. Now she is back to top form and her 55.68 is now only the world leader for 2024, but the equal-9th performance in history and she owns three of those 10 fastest swims. Runner-up Gretchen Walsh touched in 56.14, now no. 5 in the world for 2024, but also no. 3 in U.S. history!

Huske wasn’t done and also won the 200 m Medley in 2:08.47, moving to no. 4 on the 2024 world list, beating 2022 World Champion Alex Walsh (2:08.60).

The comeback of Tokyo superstar Caeleb Dressel continued, tying for the win in the men’s 100 m Fly with Hungary’s Hubert Kos, both at 50.84, with Dressel storming up from fifth at the turn. It’s the fastest Dressel has swum in this event since his comeback and the time places he and Kos at no. 3 in the world for 2024. Kos also won the 100 m Back from Justin Ress of the U.S., 53.08 to 54.36.

Dressel was third in the men’s 50 m Free at 21.85, behind Mexico’s Gabe Castano (21.70) and fellow American Ryan Held (21.79).

Five-time Worlds gold winner Regan Smith was busy, winning three events: the women’s 200 m Fly on Thursday (2:05.97), the 200 m Back on Friday (2:05.46) and the 100 m Back on Saturday (57.74)

Freestyle superstar Katie Ledecky took the women’s 400 m Free on Thursday (4:01.41), then won the 800 m Free on Saturday in 8:12.95 – the second-fastest time this season – and was second in the 200 m Free in 1:54.97, moving to fourth on the world list for 2024.

The winner was Hong Kong star Siobhan Haughey, who finished in 1:54.52, now no. 2 for 2024, after Thursday’s win in the 100 m Free (52.74).

An upset in the men’s 200 m Breast had 2023 Worlds bronze winner Matt Fallon beating French star Leon Marchand, 2:08.18 (world no. 5 in 2024) to 2:08.40, after Marchand had won their 200-yard duel at the NCAA Championships. Marchand announced at the meet that would skip his remaining eligibility at Arizona State and was turning professional.

Another upset had Venezuela’s Alfonso Mestre winning the men’s 800 m over Tokyo Olympic champ Bobby Finke of the U.S., 7:52.22 to 7:54.48; Finke had won the 1,500 m Free on Wednesday.

In a fast women’s 50 m Free, Poland’s Kasia Wasick got to the touch in 24.20, ahead of American Abbey Weitzeil (24.27, equal-4th in 2024) and Gretchen Walsh (24.29, no. 6).

This was the last major U.S. tune-up meet ahead of the Olympic Trials that begin on 15 June at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

● Taekwondo ● At the Pan American Olympic qualifier in Santo Domingo (DOM), nine countries won places for Paris 2024, including Jonathan Healy, Faith Dillon and Kristina Teachout of the U.S.

All three reached the finals of their weight classes (there was no final), with Healy qualifying in the men’s +80 kg class, Dillion in the women’s 57 kg group and Teachout in the women’s 67 kg division.

Along with no. 2-ranked C.J. Nickolas at 80 kg, the U.S. has qualified a full complement of athletes for Paris. Brazil also qualified three for Paris in Santo Domingo, including 2022 Worlds 74 kg silver medalist Edival Pontes and 2023 Worlds bronze winner Maria Pacheco at -57 kg.

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VOX POPULI: World Athletics ~ a threat to modern Olympism?

/This is an essay by Professor Helmut Digel of Germany, a handball player in his youth, but well known as the President of the DLV, the German track & field federation, from 1993-2001 and a member of the IAAF (now World Athletics) Council from 1995 to 2015. As a professor of sport sociology, he taught at universities in Frankfurt, Tubingen and Darmstadt between 1978 and 2010. He now edits the online magazine Sport Nach Gedacht. His writing offers a sobering perspective, and his views are, of course, his alone./

Once again, it is “showmaster” and “rhetoric artist” Sebastian Coe – who is also of the English House of Lords – who, as President of World Athletics, speaks out with a spectacular message to secure the attention of the sporting world public with a populist action, in which he can be sure of the applause of some star athletes and their representatives.

In a press release in the second week of April 2024, World Athletics and its President Coe announced that the World Olympic Athletics Federation will introduce prize money as early as the 2024 Paris Olympics and that the winners of an Olympic gold medal will be rewarded with $50,000. At the same time, a commitment is made that the prize money will be extended on a staggered level to the winners of the Olympic silver and bronze medals at the 2028 Games in Los Angeles. In Paris, a gold medal will be awarded in 48 athletics events, bringing the total prize money to $2.4 million. The money is provided from the funds that World Athletics receives from the IOC every four years. For Coe, this underscores World Athletics’ commitment to “empowering athletes and recognizing the critical role they have in the success of the Olympic Games.”

As was hardly to be expected, Coe initiated his latest media coup without consulting the IOC and, quite obviously, without any solidarity with the other summer Olympic federations. “Solidarity” once again seems to be a foreign word for him. Rather, he is following the tradition of his predecessors in office and inflicting great damage on modern Olympism and endangering the further development of the Olympic Games with his solo effort. Was it the delusional IAAF presidents Primo Nebiolo (ITA) and Lamine Diack (SEN), who repeatedly cultivated a special affront to all other Olympic federations during their term of office and announced every four years that the Olympic Games actually only begin with the first competition of athletics, the Queen of the Olympic Games, and have never been willing to streamline the athletics program at the Games, to reduce the number of gold medals to be awarded and to give other and new Olympic disciplines more space to present their sports, the current World President of Athletics is following this unique selling point strategy by calling for even more athletics disciplines to be included in the Olympic programme and, like his predecessors, by withdrawing from any solidarity within the Olympic Movement. This also includes the hypocrisy of World Athletics towards the participation of neutral athletes in the Olympic Games and the unilateral action in the fight against doping, although athletics is the sport that has the most doping cases in the world.

The IOC has so far only reacted to the introduction of prize money at the Olympic Games by World Athletics with a very brief statement. It said that it distributes 90% of its income to the National Olympic Committees and to the International Sports Federations and that it is up to them to decide how the federations use the money. The IOC would distribute $4.2 million (€3.9 million) a day to support athletes and sports organizations around the world.

It now remains to be seen what further reactions the IOC will have. However, it can already be argued that the IOC has made a big mistake for a long time by transferring millions of dollars from the proceeds of the very successful sale of marketing and television licensing rights to the IOC’s stakeholders every four years, without tying the allocation of these funds to certain verifiable criteria of use.

It will also be interesting to see the reactions of the umbrella organisations of the international sports federations and the other international summer Olympic federations, which will now be confronted with the problem at the Paris Games that Olympic champions in athletics will receive 50,000 US $ in prize money for winning a gold medal. All other Olympic champions, on the other hand, have to be content with the honor of winning an Olympic gold medal.

For someone who knows the character of the president of World Athletics and his personality, his populist action is hardly surprising. In many respects, however, this action is completely unacceptable and must be seen as a threat to the future of the modern Olympic Games, because in this way Coe radically calls into question the unique selling point that has distinguished the more than 100-year history of the modern Olympic Games. He does this with the support of a council dominated by “yes-men” and “yes-women”, with the support of a secretary-general who exercises his office at Coe’s mercy, and with the support of ethics and compliance committees, whose members can be sure of the president’s friendship.

If Coe were to abide by the Olympic Charter to which he and World Athletics have committed himself, going it alone would be out of the question in every respect. For more than 100 years, the Olympic Games were for good reason “ad-free games” and, from a commercial point of view, deliberately limited games. During the Games themselves, in the Olympic sports arenas, commercial advertising, e.g. by means of advertising boards, is not allowed and advertising is only permitted to an extremely limited extent on the athletes’ clothing. The participation of athletes is subject to clear ethical guidelines and the payment of prize money is not provided for in the Olympic Charter. The Olympic Games are by no means a mere series of world championships of different sports. Their mandate is clearly defined in the Olympic Charter and since the IOC session in Beijing in 2022, all IOC members have spoken out in favor of a “communiter” and thus an extension of the Olympic motto in the Olympic Charter. The principle of solidarity thus applies to all participants in the Olympic Games.

The appropriate way to introduce prize money at the Olympic Games would therefore have been for World Athletics to submit its concerns to the IOC Executive at an early stage and, above all, to consult all other international federations. However, this path was not disputed by Coe for obvious reasons, as it was contrary to his own interests and he could not be sure of IOC support and the support of his IF colleagues. Rather, Coe seeks the applause of successful athletes such as Colin Jackson (GBR) or Robert Hartung (GER), who have already earned a lot of money with their sporting successes and only represent their own selfish interests with their support. Track and field athletes who will win a gold medal at the Paris Olympics can now count on $50,000 in prize money, although many of them do not need this additional income because of their other income. Most track and field athletes who win a gold medal have been so-called “sports millionaires” for a long time, who have sufficient advertising revenues, sponsorship contracts, entry fees and prize money at athletics meetings and world championships. Coe’s altruistic reasoning is therefore inaccurate in every respect, because it is above all those athletes who do not reach the finals of the Olympic competitions who are most likely to need financial support. With Coe’s initiative, rich athletes will become even richer and poor athletes even poorer, and the already far too wide gap between rich and poor Olympic sports will be widened. Because the promotion of the rich is at the expense of the promotion of all those who urgently need it.

The economic principle also applies to the revenues generated by the IOC that each euro can only be spent once. If all Olympic sports federations were to follow the example of Word Athletics and use the financial resources made available by the IOC to finance bonuses for their medal winners in the competitions of their sport, the question would arise as to which tasks can no longer be carried out by the international federations in the future. One thing is already certain. The unilateral action of World Athletics will lead to a new financial desire from athletes in all Olympic sports. After all, one question is legitimate and obvious: is it fair if the Olympic champions in one Olympic sport receive $50,000 for their gold medals, but the Olympic champions in all other Olympic sports are left empty-handed?

The objection of Coe’s compatriot, Britain’s five-time rowing gold medalist Steve Redgrave, to his grip on the Olympics is therefore particularly noteworthy. He points out that this attack goes against the “ethos of the Games” and that the Olympics are characterized by the fact that all athletes are at the same level of a platform and there is no “top” and “bottom.” Thus, a very special ideal of equality comes into play in the games.

Coe sees himself as a member of a generation that still walked to the honour of their own country for a 75 pence meal voucher and a second-class train ticket. He emphasizes this fact in order to demonstrate his competence for the changes that have been observed in modern high-performance sport in recent decades.

We agree with him that we live on a completely different planet today than we did when he competed. However, the conclusions he draws from it are in contrast to all the necessities and challenges that we face on our planet these days. In the face of an impending climate catastrophe, in the face of dangerous military conflicts and in the face of a global economic crisis, modesty and renunciation rather than the propagation of growth ideological maxims are the order of the day. A radical reduction of the CO2 emissions caused by world sport is demanded and an expansion of the existing competition operations is out of the question. Rather, a reduction in the number of international competition structures must be demanded. Coe’s announcement to extend or increase the competition season and the number of competitions is just too fatal. The gap between rich and poor must be reduced in the long term for the benefit of the disadvantaged of this world and must not be increased by the promotion of an insatiable greed for money.

With World Athletics’ decision to use remuneration from the IOC’s revenues to fund prize money, Coe has dangerously opened the door to new forms of commercialization of the Olympic Games. The demand for the release of “advertising on men” or “advertising on women” and advertising in the Olympic arenas could pose an even more serious threat. For those who still consider modern Olympism to be important and who emphatically express an interest in Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin‘s idea of peace even these days – despite all the dangers – the hope remains that the IOC will find ways to credibly oppose a creeping commercialization of the Games. The hope must also be combined with the wish that the international Olympic federations will be aware of their commitment to solidarity with the Olympic Charter and will also be prepared to resist self-destructive commercialization.

Comments are welcome here.

[≡The Sports Examiner encourages expressions of opinion – we really do – but preferably based on facts. Send comments to Editor@TheSportsExaminer.com. We do not guarantee publication of any comment, but all comments submitted will be considered and your submission implies your agreement to publication (and light editing if needed to meet our grammatical and punctuation standards) at our sole discretion. Please include your name and hometown on any comment submitted for publication.≡]

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TSX REPORT: Staggering doping levels in Russian 2012 medalist; worry over Olympic prizes fracturing the Games; UIPM to pick new chief

The Sports Examiner: Chronicling the key competitive, economic and political forces shaping elite sport and the Olympic Movement.★

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. CAS: Poistogova’s 2012 testosterone was 4.7x normal levels!
2. World Athletics’ Olympic prizes creating a two-tier Games?
3. World Boxing drawing more interest from national feds
4. Nike unveils Paris 2024 uniforms in multiple sports
5. Schormann to end UIPM Presidency at 31 years

● The written decision from the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the case of the ex-London 2012 women’s 800 m medalist Ekaterina Poistogova (now Guliyev) underscored the enormity of the Russian doping program as a test a month prior to the Olympics produced a testosterone score nearly five times higher than her personal norm!

● Some pushback on the announcement that World Athletics will award Paris 2024 gold medalists $50,000 prizes from British rowing icon Steve Redgrave, saying his federation can’t afford to match that and that the Olympic Games could be severely fractured.

● World Boxing reported that it is seeing much more interest from national federations in view of the International Olympic Committee’s warning that if a new international federation for the sport is not available by “early 2025,” boxing will not be included on the Los Angeles 2028 program.

● In Paris, Nike held a gala unveiling of uniforms and footwear it is providing to the teams it is equipping for Paris 2024, with new technology in the shoes, but some unhappy comments on the dramatic cut of the women’s track & field singlet!

● Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne President Klaus Schormann announced that he will not stand for re-election at the federation’s Congress late this year, and will conclude his 31-year term, in favor of new leadership.

World Championships: Ice Hockey (U.S. and Canada easily into semis of women’s Worlds) ●

Panorama: Commonwealth Games (Glasgow considering 2026 hosting) = Athletics (O.J. Simpson passes at age 76) = Football (2: FIFA study shows many women players also have second jobs; good TV audience for USA-Canada SheBelieves final) = Ski Mountaineering (France sweeps Cortina World Cup Sprint and Relay) = Swimming (Dressel, Ledecky, Jacoby and Smith win at Tyr Pro Swim) = Weightlifting (Armenia’s Lalayan concluded IWF World Cup with win) ●

1.
CAS: Poistogova’s 2012 testosterone was 4.7x normal levels!

While the report of the disqualification of Russian 800 m runner Ekaterina Poistagova (now Guliyev) at the London 2012 Olympic Games came from the All-Russian Athletics Federation, the Athletics Integrity Unit released Thursday the full decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The AIU explained on X (ex-Twitter):

● “The AIU has banned Ekaterina Guliyev (born Zavyalovya; divorced Poistogova) (Russia/Turkey) for 2 years from 28 March [2024] for Use of a Prohibited Substance/Method (McLaren and LIMS evidence). DQ results from 17 July 2012 until 20 October 2014.”

● “NOTE: Guliyev has 45 days (until 13 May 2024) to appeal. If that deadline elapses without an appeal, this decision becomes binding and the AIU will proceed with the next steps regarding Guliyev’s results at the London 2012 Olympic Games to send a sanction memo to World Athletics’ Competition Department to disqualify the athlete’s results and thereafter to notify the IOC that World Athletics has modified the relevant results and rankings on their website.”

● “The IOC will determine any reallocation of Olympic medals and any update of its database.”

So the process is underway. The 35-page written decision explained that Poistogova’s samples from 17 July 2012 and 25 July 2012 were reported as clean to the World Anti-Doping Agency, but investigation of the Russian state-sponsored doping program from 2011 to 2015 showed those tests on a “washout schedule” in the Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s Moscow Laboratory database. The tests apparently showed three prohibited substances: dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), androstenedione and boldenone, but the documentation (chromatograms) was rather obviously doctored to show a negative result.

The decision also noted that Poistogova’s testosterone levels were sky-high in the 17 July and 25 July tests at 108 ng//ml and 58 ng/ml, respectively, compared with “five other samples from the athlete, which feature normal testosterone concentrations between 8 ng/ml and 23 ng/ml.”

The arbitrator had plenty of grounds to hold Poistogova to be doping, and she was sanctioned for four years from 28 March 2024 – the date of the judgement – with two years removed for time she previously served for a prior doping sanction in 2014!

Her results had been nullified from 20 October 2014, but now reach back to 17 July 2012, and wipe out her London 2012 Olympic bronze from 11 August. Her bronze medal was upgraded to silver after the disqualification of the winner, Russian Maria Savinova, for doping, leaving South Africa’s Caster Semenya as the gold medalist.

Now her silver should be removed by the International Olympic Committee, moving Kenyan Pam Jelimo to silver and American Alysia Montano to the bronze. Montano, in an Instagram post, pointed to bronze medals she “won” at the 2011 and 2013 World Championships, both times being advanced from fourth after Savinova disqualifications. Now, two Russian disqualifications will move her to third for the London 2012 Games.

Observed: One important fact reported in the arbitrator’s decision was the testosterone level recorded for Poistogova: 108 ng/ml from the 17 July test, compared to her “normal” level of 8-23 ng/ml! That’s 4.7 times what her high-end “norm” was!

That’s what you can call “juiced,” and is a demonstration of how deeply into doping the Russians were during the 2011-15 time period and why so many athletes today are wary of trusting Russian athletes in any return to competition.

2.
World Athletics’ Olympic prizes creating a two-tier Games?

There was plenty of cheering after the World Athletics announcement that it would award $50,000 to the winners of each event at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, a total of $2.4 million.

But not everyone was happy. For example, British rowing icon Steve Redgrave, now 62, and a five-time Olympic gold medalist in 1984 in the Coxed Four and in 1988-92-96-2000 in the Pairs. He told the Daily Mail (GBR):

“I was very surprised. If you win an Olympic gold medal in any athletics event, you are able to earn substantial financial gains from those results.

“It smacks a bit hard for the sports that can’t afford to do this. Rowing is in that situation. We struggle bringing sponsorship and finance into it.

“This separates the elite sports to the others like rowing, canoeing and most combat sports. They just don’t have the same funding that there is in World Athletics.

“I would prefer that the money they’re putting in to be helping more of the grassroots of their own sports – or helping other Olympic sports to be able to be at the same level on the same footprint.’

“Most of the other sports won’t be able to follow this. You’re making this into a two-tier process. This is to me the wrong direction.”

World Athletics said that it would fund the prize money – and expand it for LA28 to the top three places – from its tier-1 share of the IOC television rights fees, which was $39.48 million from the Tokyo 2020 Games. Rowing, a tier-3 sport, received $17.31 million, which it uses to fund its operations over the four years between Olympic Games.

The new offer also caught the attention of Jamaican sprinting icon Usain Bolt, who won nine golds in the 100-200-4×100 m relay in 2008-12-16, but lost one of the relay golds to a doping positive of a teammate. His reply on X:

“Any retroactive payment (wink emoji)”

Bolt’s achievements would have been worth $325,000!

3.
World Boxing drawing more interest from national feds

With the clock ticking on boxing’s place at the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, it appears that significantly more interest is being turned toward the new World Boxing group which aims to form an international federation that can be recognized by the International Olympic Committee.

The Associated Press reported comments from Secretary General Simon Toulson (GBR):

“We’re in excess of 25, 30 countries asking us quickly if they can apply. And I think there’s another 25, 30 countries behind them that are starting to assess the implications and how they can join.”

World Boxing had just 27 national federation members at its formative Congress last November, but is the only obvious option for boxing to be included for the 2028 Games. Following the 3 April dismissal of the International Boxing Association’s appeal of the IOC’s withdrawal of recognition in 2023 by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the IOC issued a stern statement which included:

“[F]or governance reasons, the IOC is not in a position to organise another Olympic boxing tournament. To keep boxing on the Olympic programme, the IOC needs a recognised and reliable International Federation as a partner, as with all the other Olympic sports.

“The establishment of such a federation, which respects the IOC conditions for recognition, is now in the hands of the National Boxing Federations and their National Olympic Committees (NOCs). These conditions include good governance, the integrity of competitions, transparency of finances and accounts, and autonomy. Every National Boxing Federation and every NOC that wants its boxers to make their Olympic dreams a reality and win medals will now have to take the necessary decisions. The NOCs and National Boxing Federations thus hold the future of Olympic boxing in their own hands, and the required actions cannot be clearer.

“At the moment, boxing is not on the sports programme for the Olympic Games LA28. In order to remedy this, the IOC needs to have a partner International Federation for boxing by early 2025.”

What the IOC has not said is how many countries constitute a “partner International Federation.” If World Boxing can get to 100, it will certainly get a serious look from the IOC, which has repeatedly said it likes boxers and boxing, but not the International Boxing Association.

National boxing federations have an incentive to join as well, since most of them are funded by their governments, which will hardly be interested in supporting a federation which has no association with, or path to, the Olympic Games.

4.
Nike unveils Paris 2024 uniforms in multiple sports

Worldwide apparel giant Nike showed off the uniforms it has created for multiple sports and multiple countries on Thursday, with considerable controversy over its women’s track & field singlet.

Reuters reported that: “As well as outfitting U.S. athletes across all sports, Nike will provide kit for the athletics teams of Canada, China, Kenya, Germany, and Uganda at the Olympics, basketball for China, France, Japan, and Spain, and athletes in breaking – a new breakdancing event at the Paris Games – for Korea.”

The announcement was made in Paris, including stars such as Dina Asher-Smith (GBR) and Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge and Faith Kipyegon. It also featured details on new shoes, using new materials to be lighter and faster. Nike running footwear manager Elliott Heath told CBS Sports:

“For our sprinters and our track athletes, they need something that is stable and that they can control, but they want all that energy back on the track.

“This comes to life in a dual-chamber pod system that helps create stability as well as capture that force and return it to the athlete … that’s what makes Air Zoom different than the other types of Air from Nike is that you’re able to put high pressures and really shape that [Air] bag to design around it and deliver the performance that athletes need.”

The uniform which drew the most attention was the women’s singlet – Nike is the apparel supplier to USA Track & Field – which has an exceptionally high cut that drew derision in online comments from current and former athletes. Lauren Fleshman, a three-time U.S. World Athletics Championships team member, a former Nike athlete and later a Nike critic, posted on Instagram:

“I’m sorry, but show me one WNBA or NWSL team who would enthusiastically support this kit. This is for Olympic Track and Field. Professional athletes should be able to compete without dedicating brain space to constant pube vigilance or the mental gymnastics of having every vulnerable piece of your body on display. …

“This is not an elite athletic kit for track and field. … I don’t expect or enjoy seeing female athletes or male athletes put in a position to battle self-consciousness at their place of work. That is not part of the job description.”

Only a few images of the Paris uniform packages have surfaced, and Nike’s USATF uniform program has offered multiple options for athletes to choose from; details on the 2023 uniform program was exclusively covered by TSX last October. USATF International Teams Manager Brad Birling explained that, for example, the 2023 World Athletics Championships, athletes got to pick out four uniforms to use in Budapest last summer.

For Paris, Nike said it will offer U.S. track athletes a specially-designed uniform to wear for finals; it created a special uniform for the American relay teams for Budapest in 2023.

5.
Schormann to end UIPM Presidency at 31 years

“Dr Klaus Schormann announces today that he will not seek re-election as President of the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne at the 73rd UIPM Congress in November 2024.

“Dr Schormann, 77, intends to bring his Presidential tenure to a close at the end of this year having served at the helm of the global Modern Pentathlon movement since July 1993.”

The UIPM announcement follows up on a promise Schormann (GER) had already telegraphed during the difficult post-Tokyo period when the sport teetered on the brink of elimination from the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic program.

A incident during the riding competition in Tokyo in which German coach Kim Raisner hit the horse Saint Boy that would not jump for German star Annika Schleu caused the IOC to pressure the UIPM to change its program and eliminate riding. Schormann oversaw this process, which ended with obstacle racing being included – after considerable controversy – and the sport confirmed by the IOC for Los Angeles in 2028.

Schormann became the head of pentathlon in 1993, when the federation included both pentathlon and biathlon (UIPMB). The two sports were finally split for good in 1998, and Schormann has been the President of the single-sport Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne ever since.

He has been given credit for maintaining pentathlon’s place in the Games by maintaining close relationships with the IOC, despite his sport’s continuous ranking as the least popular in the Games.

The format of the sport has changed radically, from being held over consecutive days at five different sites, to a single venue and with the finals condensed for television to a 90-minute program in a specially-arranged arena. Beyond adding obstacle for 2028, the UIPM has absorbed the obstacle-racing federation (FISO).

A new president will be selected at the UIPM Congress in Riyadh (KSA) on 16-17 November of this year.

≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ≡

● Ice Hockey ● The quarterfinals of the IIHF Women’s World Championship, being held in Utica, New York, advanced Finland, the Czech Republic, Canada and the U.S. to the semifinal round.

Finland, the 2019 silver winners, stormed past Switzerland, 3-1, in the first game, scoring single goals in the second and third periods to break a 1-1 tie, and out-shooting the Swiss by 37:17. The tense second match had the Czech Republic defeating Germany, 1-0, on a third-period goal by defender Daniela Pejsova, with 7:06 to play.

Canada had little trouble with Sweden, winning 5-1 as Renata Fast scored twice and the Canadians had a 44-18 edge on shots.

The U.S., undefeated so far, got off to a 3-0 lead vs. Japan in the first period off scores from Lacey Eden at the 3:59 mark, then Hilary Knight at 8:35 and Alex Carpenter at 11:51. That ballooned to 9-0 in the second, with Abbey Murphy scoring twice. Carpenter got a second 5:25 into the third for 10-0 and that’s how it ended, with the U.S. out-shooting Japan, 48-14.

The semifinals – U.S. vs. Finland and Canada vs. the Czechs – will be held on Saturday, with the medal matches on Sunday. Twenty-one of the 22 finals in this tournament have featured Canada and the U.S., with Canada taking 12 titles all-time and the U.S., 10.

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● Commonwealth Games 2026 ● Sport Business reported that Glasgow (SCO), host of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, is discussing the possibility of hosting again in 2026. The Games have been looking for a home since the Australian state of Victoria pulled out from hosting responsibilities in mid-2023.

Ghana, which just hosted the African Games in Accra, has also shown interest. The Commonwealth Games Federation said it would have an announcement on the 2026 situation in May.

● Athletics ● The famed football star and accused murderer O.J. Simpson passed away on Wednesday (10th) from prostate cancer at age 76, according to his family.

He was a football superstar, winning the Heisman Trophy at USC in 1968 and going on to the NFL, where he became the first player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season (2,003) in 1973. He went on to fame as a broadcaster, actor and advertising spokesman, but was tried for the murder of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman in 1994. He was acquitted of criminal charges, but found civilly liable. He later went to prison from 2008-17 for an armed robbery incident in 2007.

Simpson was fast and was a member of the USC world-record 440-yard relay team that ran 38.6 to win the NCAA championship at Provo, Utah in 1967, with Earl McCullouch, Fred Kuller, Simpson and Jamaica’s two-time Olympic 100 m medalist Lennox Miller. Simpson on his own was a 9.4 100-yard man and won All-American honors for his sixth-place finish in the NCAA 100 yards in that 1967 NCAA meet (9.53 auto time).

● Football ● Interesting study from FIFA, surveying 736 female players from 12 countries – amateurs, semi-pros and professionals – and asking them whether they have second jobs, whether they made more on football than they spent, caregiving responsibilities and more. On the job question:

● Australia (45 players): 78% had another job
● Botswana (52): 44% had another job
● Brazil (171): 5% had another job
● Chile (35): 40% had another job
● England (27): 33% had another job
● Fiji (31): 55% had another job
● Korea (86): 3.5% had another job
● Mexico (75): 19% had another job
● New Zealand (34): 40% had another job
● Nigeria (62): 13% had another job
● Sweden (70): 40% had another job
● U.S. (27): 30% had another job

Overall, the survey showed that 67% of all of these players “earn a substantial portion of their total annual income from playing football.

The U.S. Women’s National Team penalty-shot win over Canada in Tuesday’s final of the SheBelieves Cup drew a quite respectable 621,000 audience on TBS, no. 3 in its time slot and the no. 7 sports show on the day. Even the post-game show did well, with 441,000 watching the trophy presentation; the pre-match program did 213,000.

● Ski Mountaineering ● At the final ISMF World Cup of the 2023-24 season, in Cortina d’Ampezzo (ITA), France swept the men’s and women’s Sprints.

The 2023 Worlds women’s bronze winner in Sprint, Emily Harrop won by nearly seven seconds in 3:18.63, trailed by Worlds runner-up Marianne Fatton (SUI: 3:25.43) and Celia Perillat-Pessey (FRA: 3:27.34).

The men’s Worlds silver medalist, Thibault Anselmet took a tighter men’s Sprint in 2:49.52, ahead of Swiss Arno Lietha (2:52.99) and Loic Dubois (2:57.82).

And, of course, Harrop and Anselmet teamed up to win the Mixed Relay in 33:43.45, from Johanna Hiemer and Paul Verbnjak (AUT: 33:51.50).

● Swimming ● The stars were out at the Tyr Pro Swim Series in San Antonio, with good, but not great times, and continued improvement from sprint star Caeleb Dressel.

The winner of five golds in Tokyo, Dressel has been slowly returning from time away from the pool since the middle of the 2022 World Aquatics Championships. He barely made it to the final of the men’s 100 m Free – he was the eighth qualifier – and was only fifth at the turn, but roared home and won in his fastest time since 2022 in 48.40. Fellow Americans Ryan Held (48.48) and Matt King (48.62) went 2-3.

That was the only men’s race won by an American on the night, as Brazil’s 2022 Worlds bronze winner Guilherme Costa took the 400 m Free in 3:46.61, ahead of Alfonso Mestre (VEN: 3:47.14) and Carson Foster (3:47.64). Denis Petrashov (KGZ) won the 100 m Breast ahead of 2024 World Champion Nic Fink, 59.83 to 1:00.03 and French star Leon Marchand won the 200 m Butterfly in 1:54.97, moving him to no. 7 on the world list. American Luca Urlando was second at 1:55.63.

Freestyle superstar Katie Ledecky posted her fastest time of the year in the women’s 400 m Free in 4:01.41, no. 2 in the world so far, ahead of 1,500 m Free winner Paige Madden (4:04.86). Hong Kong sprint star Siobhan Haughey won the 100 m Free in 52.74, beating Americans Katie Douglass (52.98, no. 5 in 2024) and Torri Huske (53.08: 7th in 2024). Rio 2016 co-champ Simone Manuel was fifth in 53.25.

Tokyo Olympic winner Lydia Jacoby won the women’s 100 m Breast in 1:05.74 to move to no. 3 in the world for 2024, ahead of Emma Weber (1:06.50) and Rio 2016 winner Lilly King (1:06.71). World leader Regan Smith, the Tokyo women’s 200 m Butterfly runner-up, took that event in 2:05.97, well ahead of Dakota Luther (2:09.51).

The meet continues through Saturday.

● Weightlifting ● The 12-day IWF Grand Prix in Phuket (THA) – the final Olympic qualifier – closed with the men’s +109 kg class and a win for 2023 World Championships silver medalist Varazdat Lalayan from Armenia.

Lalayan won the Snatch at 210 kg and barely edged Tokyo Olympic runner-up Ali Davoudi (IRI) in the Clean & Jerk by 253 to 252 kg. The Armenian’s total of 463 kg was a clear winner, with Davoudi at 454 kg. Fellow Iranian Ayat Sharifikelarijani finished third at 447 kg.

Americans Caine Wilkes and Alejandro Medina were 11th and 13th, respectively, finishing with totals of 384 kg and 380 kg.

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TSX REPORT: World Athletics to pay Paris winners $50,000! Montano asks for 2012 bronze at LA28; Dillard’s London ‘48 100 m gold on auction!

Harrison Dillard’s London 1948 Olympic 100 m gold medal is now on auction! (Image: Ingrid O’Neil Auctions)

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. World Athletics to pay $50,000 to Paris Olympic winners
2. ASOIF: New Olympic-program sports want IOC TV money earlier
3. Montano: “How can clean athletes be supported better?”
4. FloTrack to take over U.S. Diamond League rights in 2025
5. New auction features Dillard’s London ‘48 100 m gold!

● World Athletics became the first International Federation to award prize money for the Olympic Games, promising $50,000 to the 2024 Olympic champions in that sport in Paris. Moreover, the federation will pat the top three medal winners in 2028 in Los Angeles!

● At the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations meeting on Tuesday, the ASOIF Council and the head of the sport climbing federation asked the International Olympic Committee to help the new sports on the LA28 program with advanced TV rights sales money between 2025-28, instead of waiting until after the 2028 Games are over.

● Former U.S. 800 m star Alysia Montano is happy that she appears to be set to receive the London 2012 women’s 800 m bronze medal, but wants her ceremony in Los Angeles during the 2028 Olympic Games!

● FloTrack announced that it will have exclusive rights to the Diamond League track & field rights for all meets outside of the U.S., beginning in 2025, as NBC has decided not to continue showing the series, even with the 2028 Olympic Games coming to Los Angeles.

● A huge new auction of Olympic memorabilia has some memorable lots, including an Athens 1896 winner’s medal (in silver in those days), but especially Harrison Dillard’s 1948 Olympic 100 m gold, with the opening bid set at $120,000!

Panorama: Paris 2024 (logo designer accuses organizing committee of fraud) = Olympic Winter Games 2034 (IOC Future Host Commission visits Salt Lake City) = Cycling (UCI hires ex-Homeland Security investigator on technological fraud) = Sport Climbing (Narasaki wins men’s Boulder World Cup) = Swimming (Finke and Madden take Tyr Pro Swim 1,500s) = Weightlifting (China’s Li returns with big win in IWF World Cup) = Wrestling (Italian star Chamizo alleges bribe attempt at European Olympic qualifiers) ●

Errata: Wednesday’s post had a typographical error in the list of under-18 athletes at the Olympic Games in 2012-16-21; the London 2012 entry was shown as “London 2023″ and has been corrected. Thanks to Jill Jaracz of the “Keep The Flame Alive” podcast for the first notice.

1.
World Athletics to pay $50,000 to Paris Olympic winners

“In a landmark decision, World Athletics has today (10 April) announced it will become the first international federation to award prize money at an Olympic Games, financially rewarding athletes for achieving the pinnacle of sporting success, starting at this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris.

“A total prize pot of US$2.4 million has been ring fenced from the International Olympic Committee’s revenue share allocation, which is received by World Athletics every four years. This will be used to reward athletes who win a gold medal in each of the 48 athletics events in Paris with US$50,000.”

Wednesday’s announcement was truly a first, and the federation promised to do more in four years:

“This initiative by World Athletics also includes a firm commitment to extend the prize money at a tiered level, to Olympic silver and bronze medal winners at the LA 2028 Olympic Games.”

While it is true that no International Federation has been paying Olympic prize money, Olympic medal winners routinely receive cash awards from their National Olympic Committees. The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s “Operation Gold” will pay Paris 2024 Olympic medal winners $37,500-25,000-15,000 to gold-silver-bronze medal winners and many other countries provide awards to medal winners.

While the $50,000 Olympic winner’s bonus from World Athletics is a breakthrough, it is less than the federation pays for its own World Championships, where the top eight receive prize money. At the 2023 Worlds in Budapest (HUN), the prize pool was $8.498 million, with individual awards of $70,000-35,000-22,000-16,000-11,000-7,000-6,000-5,000 and relay awards of $80,000-40,000-20,000-16,000-12,000-8,000-6,000-4,000.

Said World Athletics President Sebastian Coe (GBR):

“While it is impossible to put a marketable value on winning an Olympic medal, or on the commitment and focus it takes to even represent your country at an Olympic Games, I think it is important we start somewhere and make sure some of the revenues generated by our athletes at the Olympic Games are directly returned to those who make the Games the global spectacle that it is.”

Observed: This is a leadership moment for World Athletics and Coe, a two-time Olympic champion himself, from 1980 and 1984.

There has been commentary that such a move would infuriate the International Olympic Committee, but this hardly seems likely as so many National Olympic Committees already award prizes for their athletes who win medals. Moreover, this was the tradition at the ancient Olympic Games in Greece, with the city-states who sent their athletes to the Games rewarded them for success at the Games.

As for the International Federations, they didn’t exist in ancient times, and the Olympic federations each receive millions from the IOC as a share of the television rights sales from the Games. For Tokyo in 2020, World Athletics received $39.48 million and expects to receive more after Paris 2024.

2.
ASOIF: New Olympic-program sports want IOC TV money earlier

Only a 10-minute discussion out of a day-long series of presentations at the General Assembly of the Association of Olympic International Sports Federations (ASOIF), but one to keep an eye on came at the end of the International Olympic Committee presentation by Sports Director Kit McConnell (NZL).

ASOIF President Francesco Ricci Bitti (ITA) followed with some issues raised by the ASOIF Council for the IOC to hear – not necessarily for McConnell to respond to – but to take back to Olympic House in Lausanne.

Ricci Bitti, the former head of the International Tennis Federation, again asked for a raise to $596.5 million in the IOC’s payments to the International Federations, as requested in 2023; the IOC paid out $540.0 million for both Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. Of note in this regard is that the new contract with NBC – $7.65 billion for the 2022-24-26-28-30-32 Games – is now in effect.

He also asked for a review on how the federations are “rated” for the purposes of how that money is distributed:

“The third point, we believe that, not in the short term, but perhaps in the longer term, means the next cycle – I don’t want to commit my successor, but I have to represent what the [ASOIF] Council feel – we need to review or to study – that doesn’t mean that you have to take measures [on the grouping] – but at least we have to review, to update, the study of the criteria of our federations because, basically, at the end, our aim is to evaluate data which is the level of contribution of each sport.

“And the sports are very different. Some sports are one discipline, some sports have many disciplines, so we have to see from a little bit different perspective what we did 10 years – 20 years ago, sorry – so we start to review, I think for many reasons and I hope you will always be available … to help us.”

Ricci Bitti then asked for the IOC to look at the situation for the federations for sport climbing (IFSC), skateboarding (World Skate) and surfing (ISA), which have now been included in three straight Games – Tokyo, Paris and Los Angeles – and their need for some advanced payments from what they will finally get following LA28 as a full, Olympic-program sport:

“We raise also the point that in the case of the new statute, that means that the new sports become full sports of the scheme in the third cycle, perhaps considering in the third cycle because these sports normally needs more money to have an advance payment, not to pay only after the Games some money they have cash-flow problems.

“I think this would be very useful to the small sports, and to the new sports.”

(At present, federations receive IOC TV money only after a Games has taken place. )

This was followed by International Federation of Sport Climbing President Marco Scolaris (ITA), to address “the topic of the transition from additional sport, now OCOG sport to program sport.

“The transition today affects us, climbing, surfing and skateboarding, our athletes and our governing bodies. It is not a caprice, it is a real issue. Please, you international federations, our colleagues, our friends, put yourselves in our shoes, and imagine to deliver in Paris the event of your dreams, and then you start living in the uncertainty, not having the resources to move from Paris to Los Angeles.

“The issue now on the table, some of you expressed their solidarity to us already and I wish that you could help us to find a solution together with the IOC. Thank you.”

Ricci Bitti added, “We are working on that as you know, to clarify what the IOC could do, and we are very sensitive to your needs.”

McConnell commented briefly on all of the requests, including on the money:

“We have continuing discussions with ASOIF on the revenue distributions, and we won’t go into that now, but I think being on the program for L.A. opens us a different discussion as we go forward to L.A.

“We fully understand the point you’ve raised regarding the timings of those payments, particularly for you, and you’re not building on the back of payments from Paris to get you through the cycle to Los Angeles, but in that regard I think we can also say we’ve had a lot of dialogue and provided a lot of support both through the Tokyo cycle and the Paris cycle, not only directly, but also through all of the other ways that the sports on the program benefit, through Olympic Solidarity, through CAS [Court of Arbitration for Sport], WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency], ITA [International Testing Agency], other investments, including the investments we’ve made for some of you around the Olympic Qualifier Series as well.”

This is not going to go away, especially as all three of these federations are veterans of a brutal process to get into the Games and then to stay in.

3.
Montano: “How can clean athletes be supported better?”

This has been a whirlwind week for former U.S. women’s 800 m star Alysia Montano, who is in position to be advanced to the bronze medal in the London 2012 Olympic women’s 800 m after the All-Russian Athletics Federation retroactively disqualified Ekaterina Poistogova (now Guliyev) for doping based on evidence from the Moscow Laboratory which supervised the Russian state-sponsored doping program from 2011-15.

Poistogova was originally third, then moved up to silver after Russian winner Marina Savinova was disqualified. Now, she stands to be disqualified by World Athletics and for the International Olympic Committee to move Montano up to third, behind Caster Semenya (RSA: gold) and Pam Jelimo (KEN: silver).

Montano expressed her mixed emotions about the news and what she wants to see happen in the future in an Instagram post on Tuesday:

“Time. It waits for no one. We’ve all heard that. It’s true, and it’s what we have that makes life’s moments so precious. Olympic Bronze medalist 12 years later … I think about loss, but I try not to … who was here that isn’t, mainly my grandma, Mama, our biggest supporter and inspiration. What could have been that isn’t … the struggle that didn’t have to be (my stomach in knots doing so). A mixed bag of emotions, truth prevailing, heartbreak and relief, joy and pain. A constant dull ache over the last 48 hours, one that I’d learned to suppress over the years, but there. It’s not a good feeling to live with for so many years. How can clean athletes be supported better?

“2012 – 12 years ago. A lot of loss. 3 podium moments that should have happened in real time that didn’t?!

“There is also a lot I moved forward with by knowing deep down. I couldn’t let dopers win. I moved forward with my family knowing this Olympic medal was mine. I laid it out there every time. I have no regrets, only that I wish I was supported in real time – I ran with integrity I represented myself, my family, my country, my friends, my supporters and my community with honor. I respected and respect my competitors and their pursuit. That’s what the Olympic spirit is suppose to embody. Respect, bravery, courage. I fought well and true and I always will. I put my foot forward to leave the sport better than I found it and I fight for the future and I’ll continue to fight. It’s time to fight for me in the present, but also her in the past … we fight for justice.

“We need policy reform we need to institute an athlete mental health protection policy plan and a institute a framework that pays athletes for their loss. Here’s my ask at the very least: I want my medal at LA2028 in front of my entire family and friends on my home turf. I waited this long, 4 more years to do it right. I also want financial losses recouped. The emotions are so very mixed, but I believe this is the least that can be done. Who’s with me?”

Montano’s story is excruciating. As she mentioned, the 2012 Olympic bronze would be her third medal awarded as a result of doping positives. At the 2011 World Championships in Daegu (KOR), she finished fourth in a race won by Savinova, later disqualified for doping as one of eight such Russian women medal winners.

In 2013 in Moscow (RUS), she was fourth again, with Savinova second and later disqualified for doping, and again moved up to third.

The only international medal she was awarded at the site of the race was her 2010 World Indoor bronze, in a race won by the Russian Savinova. Now 37, Montano says she wants her London 2012 bronze – still to be re-allocated by the IOC – in Los Angeles in 2028.

4.
FloTrack to take over U.S. Diamond League rights in 2025

“In a major announcement on April 10, FloTrack revealed it will add to its five-star live content schedule by streaming the Wanda Diamond League for U.S. audiences and territories beginning in 2025.

“FloSports, the global sports media company and operator of FloTrack, signed a multi-year media rights agreement with the Wanda Diamond League to distribute the world’s very best track and field meets, including events held in London, Monaco, Stockholm and Rome, among others.”

Wednesday’s statement signaled the end of NBC’s coverage of the Diamond League, except for Diamond League meets held in the U.S. (i.e., the Prefontaine Classic). NBC Sports Communications Vice President Dan Masonson confirmed that “this is our final season presenting Diamond League.”

The World Athletics Championships will remain on NBC’s channels through 2029, as will some other meets, but the top-tier invitational circuit will now only be on streaming. Much of NBC’s coverage had been heading to its Peacock streaming service anyway, but many of the Diamond League meets were shown – live or delayed – on CNBC or USA Network.

Peacock reached 31 million subscribers as of the end of 2023, well behind Disney+ (150.2 million) and Paramount+ (67.5 million), also with linear television networks. Peacock is available at $5.99 per month or $59.99 per year; Flotrack charges $29.99 per month or an annual rate of $150 per year.

Founded in 2006, FloSports provides streaming coverage of about two dozen sports, and has expanded its track & field footprint by absorbing the Track and Field Results Reporting System (TFRRS, for NCAA statistics) and MileSplit.com, a national high school reporting site.

Observed: Whether FloTrack will be a good home for the Diamond League is yet to be determined. But what is clear is that, with the Olympic Games coming to Los Angeles in 2028, NBC was getting so little interest in the Diamond League that it simply jettisoned it.

That’s not good.

5.
New auction features Dillard’s London ‘48 100 m gold!

A new, 478-lot auction of Olympic memorabilia from Ingrid O’Neil is on now featuring an enormous inventory of medals and some rare torches, including one of Harrison Dillard’s famous golds from the 1948 London Olympic Games.

Dillard was the heavy 1948 favorite in the 110 m hurdles, but failed to make the U.S. team, but did make it in the 100 m. In the final, he upset teammate Barney Ewell as both were timed in an Olympic Record of 10.3; this 100 m gold is on auction – with its leather presentation case – with a starting bid of $120,000. Dillard won the 110 m hurdles four years later in Helsinki, was on winning 4×100 m relays in both Games and passed away at age 96 in 2019.

There are 37 items with starting bids of $10,000 or more:

● $240,000: 1972 Sapporo Winter cased set of Olympic badges (48)
● $120,000: 1948 London gold medal won by Harrison Dillard
● $80,000: 1896 Athens first-place medal
● $65,000: 1952 Oslo Winter torch
● $65,000: 1992 Albertville Winter torch
● $30,000: 2012 London silver medal for men’s gymnastics
● $30,000: 1964 Tokyo Imperial Family badge
● $28,000: 1972 Sapporo Winter torch
● $24,000: 1956 Stockholm gold medal for equestrian
● $24,000: 1964 Tokyo gold medal for canoeing

● $22,000: 1956 Cortina Winter torch
● $22,000: 1988 Calgary Winter torch
● $20,000: 1908 London gold medal for football
● $20,000: 2016 Rio silver medal
● $20,000: 2016 Rio bronze medal (2 offered)
● $18,000: 1924 Sevres Porcelain Award vase for Johnny Weissmuller
● $16,000: 1936 Garmisch Winter gold medal
● $15,000: 1904 St. Louis silver medal for football
● $15,000: 1932 Lake Placid Winter bronze medal
● $15,000: 1968 Grenoble Winter gold medal for ice hockey

● $12,000: 1920 Antwerp gold medal for swimming
● $12,000: 1924 Chamonix Winter bronze medal (2 offered)
● $12,000: 1976 Innsbruck Winter gold medal for speedskating
● $12,000: 1988 Calgary Winter silver medal
● $12,000: 1994 Lillehammer Winter bronze medal for luge
● $12,000: 2000 Sydney gold medal for taekwondo
● $12,000: 1904 St. Louis Participation Medal
● $11,000: 1960 Rome gold medal for wrestling
● $11,000: 1964 Tokyo gold medal for fencing
● $11,000: 1988 Seoul gold medal for women’s fencing

● $10,000: 1948 London gold medal
● $10,000: 1964 Innsbruck Winter gold medal for speedskating
● $10,000: 1972 Munich gold medal for canoeing
● $10,000: 1984 Los Angeles gold medal for women’s gymnastics
● $10,000: 2008 Beijing silver medal for baseball

The 1896 winner’s medal from the first modern Olympic Games in Athens is silver, as the use of gold medals for winners did not start until Paris in 1900. The 1920 Antwerp gold is from the 4×200 m Freestyle relay, given to second-leg swimmer Pua Kela Keoloha of the U.S. team.

The 1924 vase presented to star American swimmer Weissmuller was authenticated by his wife in 1993 and was offered at a post-Paris ceremony by the French President, the head of the French Olympic Committee and IOC chief Baron Pierre de Coubertin!

There are many items from the 1906 Athens anniversary Olympic Games and the 1912 Stockholm Games, and a couple of badges from the 1919 Inter-Allied Games held after World War I. A large selection of items from the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles is available, including a child’s kimono ($150 starting price) and a gear-shift knob ($120)!

Lot 1 is a mystery package of “Winners Medals of the Olympic Summer and Winter Games” but without further details. The auction continues to 4 May 2024.

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● The FrancsJeux.com site reports allegations by the designer of the Paris 2024 logos, Sylvain Boyer, that his work has been insufficiently promoted and was “fraudulently sidelined” in 2020 by the hiring of another marketing agency. The French National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) is looking into the matter.

● Olympic Winter Games 2034 ● The IOC’s evaluation team for the 2034 Winter Games is in Salt Lake City, Utah, seeing the planned venues and program details in person this week. While the IOC team, led by Winter Future Host Commission Chair Karl Stoss (AUT) is not promising the Games are a sure thing – an evaluation report will be followed by votes by the IOC Executive Board and the IOC Session – he said, “We have a very good feeling” at the introductory presentation.

● Cycling ● The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has hired a former U.S. Department of Homeland Security investigator to head its efforts against technological fraud.

Nicholas Raudenski served with Homeland Security before moving on to FIFA and then UEFA in football, dealing with match-fixing and other corruption issues. He comes to the UCI from the International Testing Agency, where he headed investigations since 2021. His mission:

“[L]ead a detailed global strategy for the fight against technological fraud in cycling, building on the work already carried out by the UCI in this domain. He will strengthen the UCI’s programme, optimise the use of existing resources, monitor and assess current technological advancements and supervise the development of new methods to detect technological fraud. He will also analyse and investigate – swiftly and robustly – all allegations and reports of possible technological fraud.”

● Sport Climbing ● Heavy weather canceled the qualifying and 19 climbers went directly to the final of the men’s IFSC Boulder World Cup in Keqiao (CHN) on Wednesday, but it didn’t bother Japan’s Tomoa Narasaki.

The two-time Bouldering World Champion led a Japanese 1-2, winning with two tops and four zones (2T4Z ~ 2/4), ahead of teen star Sorato Anraku (17), who managed 2T4Z ~ 4/8. Hannes van Duysen (BEL) was third at 2T3Z ~ 4/4.

● Swimming ● The Tyr Pro Swim Series in San Antonio, Texas started on Wednesday, with Olympic champ Bobby Finke scoring a decisive win in the men’s 1,500 m Freestyle.

Finke won in 15:05.96, just behind his best for the year (15:04.43), which ranks 20th on the world list. He beat Austria’s Felix Auboeck, the 2021 World Short-Course 400 m Free winner (15:13.62) and American William Mulgrew (15:19.25). Paige Madden of the U.S. won the women’s 1,500 m in 16:19.77, well ahead of Densz Ertan (TUR: 16:33.20) and Paige Downey (USA: 16:35.01).

The meet continues through Saturday.

● Weightlifting ● At the IWF World Cup in Phuket (THA) – the final Olympic qualifier – Tokyo Olympic champ and world-record holder Wenwen Li of China returned from injury and destroyed a good field in the women’s +87 kg class by lifting 145/180/325 kg to win the Snatch, Clean & Jerk and the overall total. South Korean Hye-jeong Park – the 2023 World Champion – was second at 130/166/296 kg and teammate Young-hee Son was third (283 kg total).

American Mary Theisen-Lappen, the 2023 Worlds runner-up, finished fifth, lifting a combined total of 274 kg.

Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Akbar Djuraev (UZB) was an easy winner of the men’s 109 kg class, winning all three segments at 189/227/416 kg, way ahead of Dadash Dadashbayli (AZE: 177/211/388 kg). The competition ends on Thursday.

● Wrestling ● Shocking allegation of bribery reported in the Italian press involving Frank Chamizo, the two-time Freestyle World Champion at 65 kg (2015) and 70 kg (2017), who lost at the European Olympic Qualifier in Baku (AZE) last week in the semifinals of the 74 kg class to Azerbaijan’s 2021 European runner-up Turan Bayramov on criteria after an 8-8 tie in regulation.

Chamizo was awarded what appeared to be a two-point score late that would have won the match, but the decision was reversed on an appeal from the Azerbaijan corner. Chamizo, originally from Cuba, wrote on his Instagram page (computer translation from the original Spanish):

“sorry to whoever is watching this my sport is beautiful. This is just a group of bribed and corrupt people that sadness the heart cries to me … my sport is beautiful my sport is beautiful I’m sorry I’m sorry.”

By winning the semi, Bayramov qualified for the Paris Games.

According to an interview with the La Repubblica daily, Chamizo said:

“I knew I had to give double, triple in Azerbaijan, because I was fighting at their house and they had bought everything. The same referee was with the Azerbaijanis throughout the tournament. I made it, but then something happened that reminds me of boxing from many years ago. And so yes, I mean it, they came to me offering me money, $300,000 to lose.

“But Chamizo (not kindly) returned the offer to the sender: ‘I don’t want to say who did it, but it happened on the morning of the weigh-in. I sent them to … because I represent not only myself, but also Italy, my federation FIJLKAM, and the Army. I’m so disgusted that I don’t feel like talking about sports.”

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TSX REPORT: IOC formulating young-athlete guidelines, big LA28 venue reveal coming, can Ghana save the Commonwealth Games?

LA28 Senior Director of Sports Nicco Campriani at the ASOIF General Assembly, explaining the sports schedule timeline (ASOIF video screenshot)

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. ASOIF: IOC to introduce “youth athlete” guidelines
2. Paris readies 500,000 new tickets, LA28 to announce venues
3. ASOIF: Four new members, IBA excluded per statute
4. Ghana a possible 2026 Commonwealth Games host
5. Naeher saves U.S., beats Canada in SheBelieves Cup final

● At the General Assembly of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF), International Olympic Committee Sports Director Kit McConnell explained that the IOC is undertaking a framework on support for under-18 (minor) athletes, with a “consensus statement” coming in May and a more detailed guideline in 2025. The ASOIF also elected a new president, the FEI chief Ingmar De Vos.

● Also at ASOIF, a report from Paris 2024 said a new sale of 500,000 tickets will start on 17 April, the last large offering of tickets for the Games. An LA28 report indicated that announcements on venue locations will come later this year. Athlete quotas per sport for 2028 will likely be very close to or the same as for 2024, bad news for those sports which got cuts for Paris.

● The ASOIF General Assembly adopted new rules on how federations which are admitted for a single Olympic Games can become part of the organization for the purpose of receiving a share of the IOC television revenue for that Games. Also, the International Boxing Association was dismissed from ASOIF as it is no longer recognized by the IOC.

● Ghana has emerged as a possible host for the 2026 Commonwealth Games, with the national sports minister saying that the success of March’s African Games shows they can handle the event. The Commonwealth Games have never been held in Africa.

● The U.S. women won a thriller from Canada on penalty kicks (5-4) after a 2-2 tie during regulation time in the final of the SheBelieves Cup in Columbus, Ohio. American keeper Alyssa Naeher starred in the shoot-out, making three saves and scoring once herself!

World Championships: Ice Hockey (quarters set in Women’s World Champs) ●

Panorama: Paris 2024 (2: NBCU sees record ad sales for Paris; all holidays for Paris police canceled for Games period) = Athletics (China to fund $36 million in repairs to Robinson National Stadium in The Bahamas) = Football (2: FIFA settles Relevent Sports lawsuit, opening the door for national leagues matches to be held in a foreign country; Greece bans paper tickets, will require digital tickets for security) = Modern Pentathlon (UIPM approves 13 “neutrals” for World Cup entries, but won’t name them!) = Sport Climbing (Garnbret wins World Cup Boulder opener) = Swimming (796 qualified so far for U.S. Trials) = Taekwondo (World Taekwondo study shows 60% of elite-level athletes in mental-health distress) = Weightlifting (Dajomes returns from injury to win at IWF World Cup) ●

1.
ASOIF: IOC to introduce “youth athlete” guidelines

The appearance of very young athletes at the Olympic Games, notably 12-year-old Skateboarding Park silver medalist Kokona Hiraki of Japan and bronze winner Sky Brown of Great Britain and 13-year-olds Momiji Nishiya (JPN: gold) and Rayssa Leal (BRA: silver) in Street at Tokyo 2021, raised the issue of minors and their special needs.

The International Olympic Committee is now in the process of creating a framework on this issue, with IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell (NZL) explaining the concept and the timeline during Tuesday’s General Assembly of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF):

2024: Jan.-Feb.: Elite athlete survey
2024: Mar.-May: Federation, country consultations
2024: Mar.-May: Athlete consultations in 7 nations
2024: May: Consensus Statement on Elite Youth Athletes
2024: Oct.-Dec.: Stakeholder review
2025: (date tbd): Launch of the IOC Framework

McConnell also shared statistical data on under-18 athletes at recent Games, which has actually gone down considerably.

● 230 at London 2012 (2.15% of the athlete total)
● 190 at Rio 2016 (1.67%)
● 158 at Tokyo 2020 (1.39%)

He also noted that just 11 athletes in Tokyo were from 12-14 years old, 23 were 15, 43 were 16 and 81 were 17. By contrast, there were 180 athletes over 40 in Tokyo against 158 under 18.

As for the federations, McConnell explained that 29 of the 48 sports disciplines for Paris have minimum age limits and 19 do not.

The forthcoming “Consensus Statement” in May continues a series of IOC initiatives on international sport questions, and while not providing definitive rules – the IOC wants to leave the federations to work out what is best for them – makes its view known.

There was considerable activity at the ASOIF General Assembly, with the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) President Ingmar De Vos (BEL) elected by 29-0 as the next President of the organization. He was the only candidate and will take over on 1 January 2025.

There was no announcement about future distribution amounts or tiers of the IOC’s Olympic television rights money to the federations, with current President Francesco Ricci Bitti (ITA) explaining that the IOC has been well informed about the expectation of the federations that more money will be distributed for Paris 2024 than for Rio and Tokyo (both $540 million).

However, Ricci Bitti told the delegates that new, internal discussions were needed on the criteria for distribution, as the classification into five tiers – agreed in 2013 – needs to be updated, taking into account the rise of social media The IOC provides significant data on Olympic television viewing, but Ricci Bitti indicated that ASOIF has additional data which can be taken into account when determining who gets how much.

2.
Paris readies 500,000 new tickets, LA28 to announce venues

A big chunk of the ASOIF meeting was reports from future organizing committees, starting with the Paris 2024 team, led by President Tony Estanguet. The popularity of the Games was highlighted, with 7.9 million Olympic tickets sold so far, with 37% sold outside of France, and the U.S. and Great Britain the leading out-of-country buyers.

A major new sale is coming on 17 April, with 500,000-plus tickets to be made available, covering all sports and most sessions. These are tickets which had been held for contingencies and possible camera positions, but can now be sold.

With just more than 100 days to go, it was noted that the Paris organizers will still bring on some 2,500 paid staff for the Games. In the Sports Department alone, staffing between now and 26 July will rise from 326 to 514, and 10,932 volunteers will be assigned to the department.

LA28 Senior Director of Sports Nicco Campriani – the three-time Olympic gold medalist in Shooting from Italy – led the report from the 2028 organizing committee, accompanied by Senior Advisor for Sport Planning Katy Dunnet (CAN), representing the five-person LA28 Sports Department, addressed the assembly:

“We continue to be quite lean, not only as a Sports Department, but as an organizing committee. Just for your information, we’re approximately 180 in terms of head count. We are searching for our new CEO and we hope to make an announcement of the appointment before Paris.”

He indicated that staffing would rise quickly after Paris, and expressed appreciation for the arduous process of agreeing with the federations on the disciplines for 2028, confirmed by the IOC last year:

“We learned a lot in terms of cost and complexity within the Olympic context, as well as looking at optimization. And so, in the end, I think we were very creative in finding new venues shares, new field-of-play shares and we are here today, not having to cut disciplines, but looking at a more efficient way to deliver the Games, is thanks to our collaboration.”

He also thanked the federations for keeping quiet about the venue plans:

“I think we have engaged with each one of you and we have asked each one of you not to share your location, in particular if your location has changed since the time of the bid with anybody, because we are getting ready for a number of announcements throughout 2024. …

“We also have a number of venue changes; they’re exciting ones and we do stress the confidentiality, so we can all make a big splash when it comes to that announcement, all together. The reason is that we didn’t have venues for skateboarding, surfing and sport climbing in 2017 at the time of the bid. Of course, we have the new sports. …

“The announcements are coming, but the concept of the sport parks has not changed.”

LA28 has not announced venues for the five new sports, but changes are already known for flatwater canoeing and rowing, from Lake Perris in Riverside County, to the Long Beach Marine Stadium, and basketball from the Crypto.com Arena to the new Intuit Dome in Inglewood.

LA28 Chair Casey Wasserman said in March that UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion will not be used for competitions, so judo and wrestling will go elsewhere – possibly to the Los Angeles Convention Center and/or Crypto.com Arena, and there are questions about sites for equestrian and modern pentathlon, both originally located at the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area.

The most tantalizing rumors are for the canoe slalom to be held at the world-class Riverpark OKC in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and hushed whispers about relocating swimming from the proposed Dedeaux Field at the University of Southern California – in a temporary pool – to the 70,240-seat SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, the site of the opening ceremony.

(To do that, the scheduling for the Games from 1972 on, with swimming during the first week, would have to be shifted at least somewhat, to bring the temporary pools in. Wouldn’t that be something!)

Of high interest to the federations was the determination of the final event program for 2028. Federations submitted their wish lists in March, with post-Paris evaluation data to be collated by November of this year. Discussions – negotiations – will take place in December and January of 2025, with a proposal for approval by the IOC’s Olympic Program Commission and then the IOC Executive Board during the first quarter of 2025.

Once the events are formalized, the sports schedule by session – already under development – is expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2025.

With 35 sports already in the 2028 Games – the most ever – the number of athletes reserved for each sport is under extreme pressure. The IOC’s McConnell reminded the federations of the event framework adopted last November, including:

● “Avoid any increase to the respective sport specific quota allocation compared to the Paris 2024 Programme.”

● “Demonstrate a positive and sustainable impact on the Games and host, focusing on ensuring compelling and high-value sessions while reducing cost and complexity of operations, e.g., number of competition and training days.”

● “Use only existing venues and fields of play with no major adaptations, as per the discipline definition abovementioned unless otherwise agreed with the IOC and LA28.”

The agreed-on athlete quota of 10,500 for the 2024 Games in Paris is expected to be pushed to 11,242 for LA28 with the five added sports; for now, the cuts made to sports for 2024 will be maintained to 2028.

3.
ASOIF: Four new members, IBA excluded per statute

The ASOIF General Assembly welcomed in four new members, based on the new sports being added for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games, for cricket, flag football, lacrosse and squash. The votes were overwhelming, but not unanimous:

● International Cricket Council: 26 yes, 1 against, 1 abstained
● Int’l Federation of American Football: 26-2-0
● World Lacrosse: 25-1-2
● World Squash: 28-0-1

ASOIF also approved a rules change, necessitated by the now-common movement of sports on and off of the Olympic program. International Federations may now apply to be members – and therefore receive a distribution of International Olympic Committee television rights fee money – once their sport has been approved for inclusion in a specific Olympic Games. But:

“Associate Membership will only become effective for the Olympiad (meaning beginning on 1 January and ending on 31 December of the fourth year) relating to their inclusion.”

In this way, the IOC payout to a sport on the Olympic program for a single Games will receive money only related to that Games.

“The least we can say is that this process is not very stable,” said ASOIF chief Ricci Bitti at the post-General Assembly news conference.

“Originally, for the Tokyo Games, additional sports were intended to help the organizing country enrich the program with disciplines popular among its public. The Japanese did this. Paris 2024 also more or less respected this principle. But for Los Angeles, the process was totally distorted.

With the Americans’ choice [of five added sports], we will have 35 or 36 sports. We had 26 at the London Games in 2012.”

This impacts, of course, the amounts that all of the federations receive and although the choice of sports is up to the IOC and the organizing committees, Ricci Bitti noted, “But then we suffer the consequences.”

ASOIF also voted, by 28-0-1, to exclude the International Boxing Association, which was de-recognized by the IOC at the 2023 IOC Session in India. The ASOIF rules require that member federations are in “good standing” with the IOC and IBA is not.

So the vote was taken, with Ricci Bitti saying, “It is very regretful, but we have to do it this way.”

The IBA posted a statement that included:

“While this outcome is profoundly disappointing, we wish to stress our unwavering commitment to the sport of boxing and our remarkable athletes and coaches across the globe as the IBA starts its recognition journey.”

4.
Ghana a possible 2026 Commonwealth Games host

In an interview with Ghana’s GHONE TV, Mustapha Ussif, Ghana’s Youth and Sports Minister, said that the success of the recent African Games in Accra shows that the country could be the host for the 2026 Commonwealth Games:

“We have the existing facilities to host the Commonwealth Games, plus it won’t cost us much to host the games as compared to how much it cost us to host the African games if we decide to”.

“The Commonwealth Games secretariat even gives the host nation money unlike the African Games where the host solely funds every expenditure for the games, so Ghana can host it if we decide to do it.”

And the Commonwealth Games Federation – which announced this week that it would have a 2026 host by next month after losing the Australian state of Victoria as 2026 host in 2023 – has already been in Ghana to discuss it. Said Ussif:

“In fact, [Chris Jenkins/WAL] the President of the Commonwealth Games was in Ghana recently, and we held several meetings with him. He visited our facilities for the African Games and was impressed. They want an African nation to host the Games.”

The 22 prior Commonwealth Games have never been held in Africa, but seven times in England-Scotland-Wales, five times in Australia, four times in Canada, three times in New Zealand, and once in Jamaica, Malaysia and India.

The African Games in Accra were plagued by delays, but came off reasonably well. Held from 8-23 March, the program include 2,644 athletes from 53 nations, contesting 335 in 22 sports and seven more demonstration sports.

By contrast, the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham (ENG) had 5,054 athletes from 72 Commonwealth federations, competing in 280 events in 20 sports.

The Commonwealth Games Federation is offering a subsidy of £100 million (about $127 million U.S.), from the abandonment fee paid by the Australian state of Victoria when it gave up on the Games last year.

5.
Naeher saves U.S., beats Canada in SheBelieves Cup final

A tightly-contested contest ended in penalty kicks at the SheBelieves Cup final in Columbus, Ohio, with U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher once again the star at the end of the night, saving three penalties and scoring one herself, for a 5-4 final after a 2-2 tie.

Both sides were ready to go from the kickoff and the game was played at a hot pace for the first 20 minutes, but neither side could score. U.S. striker Jaedyn Shaw had a big chance in the 29th, taking control of the ball in the box and sending a point-blank shot at Canadian keeper Kailen Sheridan, who came out and smothered it.

In the 40th, Canada struck for the first goal, starting with a long pass down the right side of the pitch that resulted in a footrace between midfielder Ashley Lawrence and American defender Tierna Davidson trying to gain possession and Naeher coming out to clear. Lawrence and Naeher collided and the ball squirted toward the middle of the field, just above the box to defender Deanne Rose, who sent a pass to her left to striker Adriana Leon, who pounded a right-footed shot through the legs of defender Abby Dahlkemper and into the empty net for the 1-0 lead.

The U.S. had more chances, with an Alex Morgan shot inside the box blocked in the 42nd and Shaw sending a promising shot over the top of the net in the 44th. The Americans controlled possession with 63%, but Canada had a 5-4 shot edge and the lead.

The second half saw the U.S. on the attack and after Canada could not clear a few minutes in, the ball ended up on the right side of the field, with Shaw making a pass to forward Sophia Smith just beyond the box. Smith took a look and saw a path to the goal and sent a left-footed laser diagonally across to the far side of the goal and beyond Sheridan’s dive for a 1-1 tie in the 50th.

The defenses were stiff and the action was end-to-end, but Shaw once again broke the game open. She took a pass in the midfield from midfielder Lindsey Horan, then pushed the ball forward to sub striker Trinity Rodman between defenders and Rodman sprinted forward and fed Smith to her right. Running in stride, Smith ripped a right-footer across the goal and again beat Sheridan to the far side of the goal for a 2-1 lead in the 68th.

Canada poured on the pressure, but the U.S. was equal, then defender Crystal Dunn was called for a push in the back of Leon in the box in the 84th. Leon took the penalty and sent a rocket to the right of Naeher for the 2-2 tie in the 86th.

Defender Kadeisha Buchanan almost won the game for Canada in the 90th, as her header off a Leon corner hit the crossbar, then the ball was cleared. But it ended 2-2, with the U.S. at 60% possession and a 12-9 edge on shots thanks to an aggressive second half. But on to penalty kicks, the third straight game to finish for Canada this way.

Jessie Fleming and Leon hit their penalties for a 2-0 lead, then Smith scored (2-1) and Naeher took over. She saved Jade Rose’s try, then scored herself for a 2-2 tie and saved Cloe Lacasse’s shot. Horan gave the U.S. a 3-2 lead, but Julie Grosso tied it at 3-3. When midfielder Emily Sonnett sent her shot over the top, it was on to sudden death.

Lawrence started and scored easily, as did Dahlkemper, but Naeher stopped Evelyne Viens’ try, giving defender Emily Fox the chance to win it, and she did with a smooth right-footed strike to the left of Sheridan, for the 5-4 tally on penalties.

It’s another U.S. victory in the SheBelieves Cup, now seven of the nine held. Canada had its best-ever finish, having only medaled once, third in 2021.

There was nice interest in the SheBelieves semi between the U.S. and Japan last Saturday, with 393,000 tuning in on TNT at 12:28 p.m. and another 289,000 on Spanish-language Telemundo, for a 682,000 total that ranked fourth in its time slot.

≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP ≡

● Ice Hockey ● Pool play concluded at the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Utica, New York and the quarterfinals are now set.

The U.S. won Group A with a 4-0 mark, ahead of 3-1 Canada, and Germany finished with a 4-0 mark in Group B, ahead of Sweden (3-1).

The quarters will be held on Thursday, with a re-seeding for the semifinals:

● U.S. (4-0) vs. Japan (1-3)
● Canada (3-1) vs. Sweden (3-1)
● Germany (4-0) vs. Czech Republic (2-2)
● Finland (1-3) vs. Switzerland (0-4)

The semis will be on Saturday and the final on Sunday, at the Adirondack Sports Center. The U.S. and Canada have met in 21 of the 22 prior Worlds finals.

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● NBC announced commitments for $1.2 billion in ad sales for the 2024 Games, with 107 days prior to the opening on 26 July. It expects to break the Tokyo 2020 high of just over $1.2 billion, with sales running 18% ahead of sales for the 2021 event.

Dan Lovinger, NBCU’s President of Olympic and Paralympic Sales, said in a conference call with reporters that $350 million in sales is from new broadcast sponsors: “Very few properties can help (brands) build reach and know exactly where their advertising is running. That is why the Olympics continues to garner support from major advertisers.”

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in an interview, “I have canceled 100% of holidays and thank the police and gendarmes for their unprecedented efforts,” for the upcoming Olympic Games. He also noted that airspace over Paris will be closed.

He said that about 200,000 of the planned million security checks had been carried out so far.

● Athletics ● Repair to the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in Nassau (BAH) are being fully underwritten by the government of China and are expected to be finished ahead of the upcoming World Athletics Relays in May.

The gift of $36 million to renovate the stadium makes some sense given that the stadium, which opened in 2011, was also built by China with a $30 million gift. An athlete camp, including accommodations, is being built nearby as part of the project.

● Football ● A lengthy lawsuit by U.S. promoter Relevent Sports against FIFA to allow European league matches to be played in the U.S. was settled with a Tuesday filing at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York:

“Relevent and FIFA stipulate and agree to the dismissal without prejudice of all claims asserted by Relevent against FIFA in the above-captioned action, with each side bearing its own attorneys’ fees and costs.”

Relevent chief executive Danny Sillman said, “FIFA and Relevent Sports have agreed to resolve this matter specific to FIFA while FIFA considers changes to its existing rules about whether games can be played outside of a league’s home territory. Relevent Sports looks forward to supporting FIFA as both sides work to grow the game.”

A FIFA statement noted, “As it concerns FIFA, pending FIFA’s consideration of changes to existing FIFA policies with respect to playing official season games outside of a league’s home territory. FIFA has not admitted any liability and continues to deny the legal claims alleged in Relevent’s complaint.”

But this is a major step to clear the way for Relevent to promote matches of foreign leagues in the U.S., a move which FIFA’s rules does not currently allow and that the U.S. Soccer Federation has blocked. The court filing added that “The Stipulation has no bearing on Relevent’s claims against Defendant United States Soccer Federation, Inc. (‘USSF’).”

The suit was filed in 2019, dismissed in 2021, but overturned on appeal and revived in 2023.

Violence at Greek soccer matches resulted in the death of a police officer who was hit by a flare in Athens in December, and led to the closure of stadiums to fans for two months.

Now, the Greek government is eliminating physical tickets for league matches, except for children and seniors, and will require all other ticket holders to switch to a system of QR codes to be shown at entrances. This will allow security forces to know who is actually on site, as a government application will be required to verify online ticket purchases.

The physical ticket elimination will take place over about a month’s time.

● Modern Pentathlon ● The Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne announced that 13 athletes – 12 Belarusians and one Russian – have been approved as “neutral athletes” for the two World Cup events coming up in May, but did not name them. Only four men and four women can compete in the Sofia World Cup from 8-13 May.

Observed: Why aren’t these athletes named? Will they be identified only by number at the Sofia World Cup? If they are truly “independent athletes,” isn’t this a show of disrespect to these “neutrals”?

● Sport Climbing ● Slovenian star Janja Garnbret, three-time World Boulder Champion and Olympic combo champ from Tokyo 2020, showed why she is the favorite for Paris with a decisive win in the IFSC World Cup opener in Keqiao (CHN).

In the women Boulder final, she cleared four tops and four zones in just five tries (4T4Z ~ 5/5) to win over Italy’s Camilla Moroni (2T3Z ~ 10/13) and Zhilu Luo (CHN: 2T2Z ~ 2/2).

● Swimming ● SwimSwam.com reported that “the total number of eligible swimmers to 796, 354 women and 442 men” for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials in swimming that begin on 15 June in Indianapolis.

The last high-profile meet prior to the Trials is this week’s San Antonio stop of the Tyr Pro Swim Series, running from Wednesday through Saturday, but qualifying marks can be achieved up to 30 May. The swimmers with the most events so far:

Men: Carson Foster and Kieran Smith (8 each), Shaine Casas (7), seven with six each.

Women: Bella Sims (11), Katie Grimes and Regan Smith (9), Leah Smith and Rylee Erisman (8).

The most popular event among the men is the 400 m Medley, with 87 qualifiers, with the top women’s event the 50 m Free, at 68.

● Taekwondo ● World Taekwondo released a survey entitled, “Mental Health in Elite Level Taekwondo Athletes,” showing significant levels of strain among international-class competitors:

“Among athletes involved in the study, 60% surpassed the threshold for psychological distress, with 20% exceeding the threshold for anxiety and 23% for depression. Notably, 6% of the cohort indicated severe anxiety, while an equal proportion exhibited moderately severe depression. Additionally, 4% presented with severe depression. Alarmingly, 9% of athletes admitted to considering the use of harmful substances for weight loss.”

The survey covered 515 athletes from five continents, including three age groups: 21-25, 26-30 and 31+:

Athletes aged 26 to 31 reported the highest levels of psychological distress, anxiety, and depression, while those aged 31 and above reported the lowest ones. Significantly, Africa exhibited lower anxiety scores, while Asia demonstrated higher disordered eating scores. Europe, on the other hand, displayed lower disordered eating scores, while Pan America revealed higher depression scores.”

● Weightlifting ● At the IWF World Cup in Phuket (THA), Tokyo Olympic 76 kg champ Neisi Dajomes (ECU) scored an impressive win in the women’s 81 kg class, coming back from a knee injury in 2023.

She won the Snatch title at 123 kg, then finished second in the Clean & Jerk for a winning total of 269 kg, just ahead of China’s 2023 Worlds runner-up, Zhouyu Wang (267 kg). American Katie Vibert had a big performance, setting an American Record of 145 kg in the Clean & Jerk and tied the American Record for the total with 258 kg.

That placed Vibert fourth overall and moved her into sixth on the IWF Olympic rankings. But she likely won’t be going to Paris as three Americans are ahead of her in the Olympic rankings in other weight classes and each country is limited to three total lifters in each gender. According to USA Weightlifting:

“As it stands, Olivia Reeves ( 71 kg, 2nd), Jourdan Delacruz (49 kg, 4th), and Mary Theisen-Lappen (+81 kg, 5th) lead the U.S. women’s rankings heading into the final day of competition in Thailand where Theisen-Lappen will defend her position.”

At 87 kg – a non-Olympic class – Norway’s 2022 World Champion, Solfrid Koanda, was the clear winner, taking all three sectors at 123/152/275 kg.

Competition continues through the 11th.

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TSX REPORT: Commonwealth Games 2026 to be saved after all? Ukraine preps for Russians in Paris; USATF skips another World U-20 champs

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. Commonwealth Games Federation says 2026 host coming
2. Ukrainian protocol for meeting Russians in Paris on the way
3. Russian IOC member rips Pozdnyakov on tennis name-calling
4. USATF to skip World U-20 Champs for second time in four years
5. NAIA bans transgender athletes from women’s category

● The Commonwealth Games Federation announced that it will reveal a host for the 2026 Commonwealth Games – in some format – next month, after losing the Australian state of Victoria as its host last year and getting turned down by Malaysia and Singapore. It also endorsed a study of the 2022 Commonwealth Games that reported a £1.2 billion economic impact!

● Ukraine’s National Olympic Committee is working on a protocol for its athletes to follow in Paris, telling them not to be seen with Russian or Belarusian athletes, don’t take pictures with them … and don’t shake hands!

● The senior Russian member of the International Olympic Committee – and head of the Russian Tennis Federation – classified comments about Russian tennis players as “foreign agents” to be “stupidity,” as senior officials continued to criticize each other.

● USA Track & Field announced it will not send a team to the World Athletics U-20 Championships in Lima, Peru in August, citing unrest in the country, the late date vis-a-vis the U.S. school calendar and the lack of warm-up meets over the summer. It also announced its 2024 Journey to Gold schedule, with the same seven meets as in 2023.

● The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) passed a new transgender participation policy on Monday, requiring that only females by birth can compete in women’s competitions. It passed by 20-0.

World Championship: Ice Hockey (U.S. women take down Canada, 1-0, in overtime to win Group A) ●

Panorama: London 2012 (Russian Poistogova suspended for doping, losing 2012 women’s 800 m silver) = Paris 2024 (French Mint says medal production on schedule, despite protests) = Los Angeles 2028 (Kosovo government allocates €4 million to train athletes for LA28) = Athletics (3: Sensational 234-2 discus opener for Alekna in Berkeley; Kenyan marathoner Cheboror suspended for whereabouts; Butch Reynolds documentary premiere in Cleveland) = Hockey (USA Hockey explains why Carolina star Matson cannot try out for Olympic team) = Modern Pentathlon (new format for LA28 tipped from OBS meetings: more handicap racing) = Ski Mountaineering (Bonnet and Gachet Mollaret sweep first two races in Cortina World Cup) = Weightlifting (more world records at IWF World Cup) ●

1.
Commonwealth Games Federation says 2026 host coming

“Following the April meeting of its Executive Board, the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) is pleased to confirm that it is considering multiple proposals to Host the 2026 Games.

“Significant progress has been made and we are excited by the early concepts, which aim to reset and reframe the Games. We are now working collaboratively with the relevant Commonwealth Games Associations (CGAs) to undertake further detailed assessments, and aim to announce the 2026 Commonwealth Games Host in May. Our CGAs have asked, and we have agreed, to keep their proposals confidential while this process is on-going.”

So, a promise of more information to come on a 2026 Commonwealth Games next month. The 2026 situation and the future of the Commonwealth Games – first held in 1930 – has been in free fall since last year when the Australian state of Victoria abandoned the hosting duties it had signed onto in 2022. No other Australian hosts could be found with the requisite governmental support, and in the past month, both Malaysia and Singapore have turned down the opportunity to host in 2026, even with a subsidy of £100 million (~$127 million U.S., i.e., £1 = $1.27).

Not coincidentally, the CGF on Monday also promoted a year-after report by KPMG on the highly-successful 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham (ENG), highlighting a significant economic impact:

“The evaluation analysis estimates that the Games contributed approximately £1.2 billion [Gross Value Added] and approximately 22,380 FTE years of employment in the UK economy between FY 2017/18 and FY 2023/24.

“Of this total net GVA contribution at least £217.3 million of GVA is estimated to have been generated in Birmingham; and £516.3 million of GVA381 is estimated to have been generated in the West Midlands (including Birmingham).”

“The Games were delivered under budget. Financial data provided during the course of this evaluation shows that between FY 2017/18 and FY 2023/24 approximately £810.9 million (£858.7 million in 2023 prices) of Games-related spending was incurred to deliver the Games, including:

— £638.3 million (£670.8 million in 2023 prices) of operating spending to deliver the Games, of which £120.5 million (£124.5 million in 2023 prices) was funded through commercial income, resulting in a net operating cost of the Games of £517.8 million (£546.3 million in 2023 prices); and

— £172.7 million (£187.9 million in 2023 prices) of capital spending on sporting and other infrastructure needed to host the Games, providing assets for future use, of which approximately £25.0 million (£27.2 million in 2023 prices) would have been invested by SMBC in a new alternative leisure centre had the Games not taken place in the West Midlands and is therefore not considered an additional cost of the Games.

“This equates to a net Games-related public sector cost of £665.5 million (£707.0 million in 2023 prices).”

The report indicated that only 2% of ticket buyers for the 2022 Commonwealth Games came from outside Great Britain, a very minor percentage compared to other mega-events of this size. However, almost 835 million around the world saw the 2022 Games on television.

The new host announcement could be of a traditional host, or the disassembly of the Games into parts, held at different locations throughout the Commonwealth.

2.
Ukrainian protocol for meeting Russians in Paris on the way

“Don’t congratulate each other, don’t stand next to each other in photos, don’t give joint interviews, of course, and don’t shake hands.”

That’s the core of the code of conduct being worked on now by the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine, in preparation for at least some Russian and Belarusian “neutrals” being present at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

NOC chief Vadym Guttsait said during a television appearance that the complete requirements are being finalized: “That is, we are in the middle. Now we will resolve the last issues, and it [the protocol] will be approved.”

After the issues at last year’s world championships of the Federation Internationale de Escrime (FIE), where Sabre star Olha Kharlan was disqualified for not shaking hands with Russian Anna Smirnova after their elimination bout, Guttsait said the details are being discussed in advance with the relevant federations.

Ukrainian star high jumper – and World Champion – Yaroslava Makuchikh said on the World Athletics “Inside Track” podcast that she thinks of the situation at home all the time:

“I’m competing for my country, for my people, for our soldiers. I’m thankful to all of them that I have the opportunity to train outside of Ukraine and to represent my country. I like the fact that people have been inspired by me to start track and field. Doing sport is really important for your physical and mental health. Perhaps in 10 years’ time we’ll have a new generation of athletes in Ukraine.

“Sport has helped me to take on the challenge with this war. Being an inspiration for my country helped me to focus at the [2022] World Indoor Championships in Belgrade and win the gold medal.”

3.
Russian IOC member rips Pozdnyakov on tennis name-calling

Shamil Tarpischev has been a Russian member of the International Olympic Committee since 1994 and continues as the President of the Russian Tennis Federation. He did not take kindly to comments from Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov – a gold-medal-winning Olympic fencer – calling out Russian tennis players like Daniil Medvedev as “foreign agents” for their willingness to play at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

On Monday, Tarpischev told the Russian news agency TASS:

“Calling [tennis players] foreign agents is stupidity. An athlete does a job to which he devoted his whole life and never betrayed the country. This is utter stupidity.

“And that a tennis player plays more than 30 competitions abroad is the specifics of the sport. They performed before the pandemic, now, and will do so later. At the same time, when possible, many come home to prepare. Both [Veronika] Kudermetova and [Karen] Khachanov came to train here. Blame them for not spending much time at home.

“This is ignorance of the specifics of sports by those people who begin to speak out on this subject. There are no tournaments in Russia where tennis players could win points in order to be in the rankings.

“The sporting unity of Russia must be preserved, and not destroyed by statements. And I am grateful to the tennis players and other athletes that they are true patriots of our homeland.”

Russian and Belarusian wrestlers did very well at the final European Wrestling Qualifier for Paris 2024, with eight Russian and five Belarusians reaching the finals and securing an Olympic quota spot.

However, that does not mean that the Russians will go. Russian Wrestling Federation chief Mikhail Mamiashvili said Saturday:

“The Russian Wrestling Federation fully supports the policy of the President of Russia, and Russian wrestlers will consider the possibility of participating in the Olympic Games to prove that, despite all the difficulties, restrictions and sanctions, the medals of the main world sports forums will still go to the strongest power: Russia.

“But in order to make a decision on participation in the Olympic Games, you must first win the right to participate there on a sporting basis, which is what Russian wrestlers are doing today at a qualifying tournament. I want to emphasize that at the moment we are not talking about participation in the Olympics, but about winning the right to participate there.

“And Russian wrestlers, according to the sporting principle, are allowed to qualify, and according to the sporting principle, they compete for the right to be among the participants in the main sporting event of the four years, and after that we will decide whether to participate in the Games based on the criteria that will be proposed by the International Olympic Committee.”

4.
USATF to skip World U-20 Champs for second time in four years

USA Track & Field issued a statement on Monday, pulling out of another World Athletics junior championship:

“After careful consideration concerning both the domestic & international athletics calendar, consultation amongst the internal team, advice of security consultants and relevant government authorities, it has been decided that USA Track & Field will not be sending a Team to the 2024 World Athletics Under-20 Championships in Peru. …

“We understand that this decision may be disappointing for those who were looking forward to participating, but we have the responsibility to prioritize the safety and security of all involved.”

The U.S. government issued a travel advisory on 23 November 2023 concerning Peru of “Exercise increased caution.” Further USATF cited the timing and lack of competition in the U.S. after June:

“The August 26-31 date of the event is at the end of the summer period and will be problematic for many high school and college athletes as many will have already returned to school/campuses for the 2024-2025 academic year.”

(The World Athletics calendar shows two Continental Tour Silver meets in the U.S. July, with the Ed Murphey Classic in Memphis from 11-13 July and the Holloway Pro Classic in Gainesville on 19 July; none are shown in August.)

This is the second time in three World U-20 Champs that the U.S. will skip. USATF decided not to send a team to the 2021 World U-20s in Nairobi, Kenya, issuing a statement that noted:

“Due to a number of factors including timing, logistics, and most importantly the health and well-being of our athletes and team staffs, USATF will not send athletes to the following 2021 events,” which included the World U-20s, the Pan American U-20s in Chile and the NACAC U-23s in Costa Rica.

Lima was selected for the meet in 2021. It will be fascinating to watch the attitude of other U.S. federations toward Peru, as the 2019 Pan American Games was successfully held in Lima and will be held in Lima again in 2027.

USATF announced its “Journey to Gold” schedule for 2024, with the same seven meets as in 2023 (although on slightly different dates):

28 Apr.: Bermuda Grand Prix (Devonshire, BER)
04 May: Throws Festival (Tucson)
17 May: Distance Classic (Los Angeles)
18 May: L.A. Grand Prix (Los Angeles)
25 May: Prefontaine Classic (Eugene)
09 Jun.: NYC Grand Prix (New York)
21-30 Jun.: U.S. Olympic Trials (Eugene)

The Prefontaine Classic is a Diamond League meet and the L.A. and NYC Grand Prix meets are World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meets. The Bermuda Grand Prix and Throws Festival Continental Tour Silver meets.

5.
NAIA bans transgender athletes from women’s category

On a 20-0 vote from its Council of Presidents on Monday, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) adopted a new transgender participation policy which includes:

● “A. Participation by students in sports designated as male by the NAIA:
“All eligible NAIA student-athletes may participate in NAIA-sponsored male sports.

● “B. Participation by students in sports designated as female by the NAIA:
”Only NAIA student-athletes whose biological sex* is female may participate in NAIA-sponsored female sports.”

● “*For the sake of this policy, biological sex is defined by distinguishing characteristics and can be supported by birth certificate or signed affidavit. While rare, there have been cases where the sex assigned at birth does not match the biological sex, which led to the use of biological sex in this document.”

The policy does not apply to Competitive Cheer and Competitive Dance, which are open sports, not segregated by sex. Further, women who have begun “masculinizing hormone therapy” may practice, but not compete in a “countable contest.”

The NAIA is an association of 241 smaller colleges and universities, covering about 83,000 students who compete in athletics. The new policy will take effect on 1 August 2024.

The prohibition on transgender athletes in women’s sports is in contrast to the much-larger NCAA, which has allowed transgender athletes in women’s competitions, subject to lowered levels of testosterone. However, the NCAA policy on testosterone levels is separate and is not yet connected to those of any International Federation, leading to criticism – and a lawsuit – from some female athletes.

NAIA President Jim Carr told The Associated Press:

“We know there are a lot of opinions, and a lot of people have a very emotional reaction to this, and we want to be respectful of all that. But we feel like our primary responsibility is fairness in competition, so we are following that path. And we’ve tried as best we could to allow for some participation by all.”

The AP further noted that “At least 24 states have laws barring transgender women and girls from competing in certain women’s or girls sports competitions.”

≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ≡

● Ice Hockey ● The U.S. got a taut, 1-0 overtime victory over Canada in their final pool-play match at the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Utica, New York.

The two sides, which have met in 21 of the 22 prior women’s Worlds finals, put up 49 shots between them in regulation time, but neither American Aerin Frankel (26 saves) nor Canadian star Ann-Renee Desbiens (23 saves) could be beaten.

The Canadians had been on the offensive in the second and third periods, but the U.S. came out shooting in the overtime, piling up seven shots in the first 3:38, with Kirsten Simms finally getting the winner off a 3-on-1 break and a crisp pass by defender Caroline Harvey for Simms’ quick-release shot. Canada did not get a shot off in the overtime.

The two teams are in a path to meet again, with the U.S. winning Group A at 4-0 and Canada at 3-1. Group B play will finish on Tuesday, with Germany at 3-0 and Sweden at 3-1 so far. The playoffs will start on the 11th.

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● Olympic Games 2012: London ● Another historical doping positive, with more medals to be re-allocated, this time in the women’s 800 m.

Russia’s Marina Savinova won the race on the track in 1:56.19, but was disqualified for doping, along with sixth-placer Elena Arzhakova (1:59.21). That moved South Africa’s Caster Semenya (1:57.23) up to gold-medal status, followed by Russian Ekaterina Poistogova (1:57.53 for silver), then Pamela Jelimo (KEN: 1:57.59) for the bronze and American Alysia Johnson-Montano (1:57.93) in fourth.

In 2017, the World Anti-Doping Agency found Poistogova to be doping and suggested a lifetime ban, which was shortened by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on appeal to two years, annulling her results only since 24 August 2015.

Now, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, working off of data from the infamous Moscow Laboratory that oversaw the state-sponsored doping program from 2011-15, has imposed new penalties. According to the All-Russian Athletics Federation:

“The period of ineligibility for the athlete is from 28 March 2024 to 27 March 2026, taking into account the period of ineligibility served by the athlete in accordance with the decision in the case of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). All results achieved from July 17, 2012 to October 20, 2014 are canceled.”

That would take away her London (now) silver, which would go to Jelimo, with Johnson-Montano getting the bronze. This would have to be confirmed by the International Olympic Committee.

Poistogova, 33, now competes for Turkey, as the wife of 2017 World 200 m Champion Ramil Guliyev (TUR) in 2021.

● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● The French Mint said Monday that production of the medals for the Olympic and Paralympic Games is on target, refuting claims that the work had been interrupted by workers protesting for higher wages and an “Olympic bonus.”

A statement explained, “Production of the medals is not blocked. All of the medals have been minted and we are at the finishing stage. We will deliver on schedule and on time.”

● Olympic Games 2028: Los Angeles ● The government of Kosovo has created a €4 million (about $4.34 million U.S.) program called “Super Athletes” to develop new stars specifically for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

According to Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Hajrullah Ceku, “‘Super Athletes’ aims to provide sustainable support for the country’s athletes, focusing on athletes with high potential to achieve success in the international sports events.”

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 and has been dogged by political refusals to compete in certain countries which do not recognize it. Nevertheless, it has had success, especially in judo, where its athletes have won three total golds, in Rio in 2016 (1) and at Tokyo 2020 (2).

● Athletics ● A massive lifetime best and world-leading mark in the men’s discus at the Brutus Hamilton Invitational at Cal’s Edwards Stadium on Saturday for two-time Worlds medalist Mykolas Alekna of Lithuania at 71.39 m (234-2), moving him to no. 10 on the all-time list.

His big throw came in the third round, but it was no fluke, as his second-rounder went 69.82 m (229-1) and his fifth try reached 69.96 m (229-6).

At the same meet, World Champion Cam Rogers (CAN) scored a world leader in the women’s hammer at 76.87 m (252-2), on her fifth throw.

At the Miramar Invitational in Florida, Tokyo Olympic 200 m silver medalist Kenny Bednarek of the U.S. won the men’s 200 m over 2019 World 100 m gold medalist Christian Coleman, 20.35 to 20.43, into a 2.8 m/s headwind.

Another Kenyan doping suspension, this time of Kennedy Cheboror, 33, a 2:06:59 marathoner from 2019 who has not run since May of 2022. He was suspended for two years for “whereabouts” failures, and will be eligible again on 3 March 2026.

An ESPN documentary on the saga of 400 m star Butch Reynolds – the 400 m world-record holder for 11 years – is coming, focusing on his efforts to finally get a doping sanction removed.

Called “False Positive” and scheduled to air later this year, it premiered at the Cleveland International Film Festival last Saturday, telling Reynolds’ story as a track star, setting the world mark of 43.29 in 1988 and winning a relay gold and 400 m silver at the Seoul Olympic Games.

But the core of the film involved the years-long effort to overturn a 1990 doping positive, which Reynolds – now 59 – insists was not valid. Suspended for two years by the IAAF (now World Athletics), Reynolds fought the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ordered that he be able to compete at the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 400 m. He finished fifth and qualified for the U.S. relay pool, but was not allowed to compete in Barcelona by the IAAF.

After the suspension, Reynolds continued his career, winning World Championships silvers in the 400 m and relay golds in 1993 and 1995. He made the 1996 U.S. Olympic Team, but suffered an injury and didn’t quality for the 400 m final and could not run on the 4×400 m relay.

● Hockey ● USA Field Hockey issued a statement on Friday explaining why star player Erin Matson – who played for the U.S. at the Indoor Pan-Am Cup in March – was not eligible to be considered for Olympic selection in 2024:

“Erin Matson did not meet the qualification requirements and requested a special exception to the published Olympic Selection Process policies. This came after the team qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games and in the final stage of preparing the team for Olympic level competition.

“Erin was invited by USA Field Hockey to tryout in early 2023, but turned down the opportunity, which established the main pool of candidates for potential selection. Subsequently, Erin has not played in national or international competitions necessary to be evaluated on an ongoing basis since the original selection of the centralized athlete pool in early 2023. It was not possible for the selection committee to fairly evaluate the inclusion of Erin. As a result, Erin did not qualify under the mandatory terms of the selection criteria that all athletes had to follow for possible inclusion on the team.”

Matson was a mega-star for North Carolina, winning four NCAA titles as a player in 2018-19-20-22, then becoming the Tar Heel coach at age 22, winning another title in 2023. She has extensive USA Field Hockey experience, including a bronze medal with the U.S. Pan American Games team from 2019, scoring six goals.

In a November interview, Matson noted the situation was difficult: “The door (to playing for Team USA) is not closed, but it’s not open.”

● Modern Pentathlon ● Although no official announcement has been made, the possible format for the sport at the 2028 Los Angeles Games may have been previewed in a Web post by Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne Secretary Shiny Fang (CHN):

“The new TV product took further shape during a constructive meeting with a comprehensive [Olympic Broadcasting Services] programming team and senior leadership in their Madrid headquarters on March 12.

“One of their many intelligent suggestions related to the order of the event, to start in LA with Obstacle, marking the dawn of a new era and introducing Pentathlon with a series of short and thrilling head-to-head races to grab the attention of new audiences.

“Next comes the new Fencing with single-elimination format that our [national federations] are currently testing, followed by an innovative change to the operation of the Swimming event that is designed to appeal to viewers but is also sensitive to athletes. The idea is that athletes start Swimming with an overall time handicap from points gained in Obstacle and Fencing – something that had already been discussed at times within our community.

“The detail has to be worked out by our internal team and committees, and there are various options and ways to do this, but a Swimming handicap means more relevant races, which means viewers continue to follow the overall storyline without switching off. And then we finish with our dramatic Laser Run as per the status quo.”

This format has yet to be approved, and if a swimming handicap is included, it will make three of the five disciplines subject to a “handicap” system, as that is already in place for the Laser Run.

Observed: As modern pentathlon barely made it back onto the program for 2028, and its future will be judged by its popularity against all other Olympic sports in Los Angeles, there can be little doubt that the UIPM will do whatever OBS prefers in order to try to maximize its chances of audience success in 2028.

● Ski Mountaineering ● The final ISMF World Cup of the season is ongoing at Cortina d’Ampezzo (ITA), with superstars Remi Bonnet (SUI) and Axelle Gachet Mollaret (FRA) sweeping the first two events in the men’s and women’s divisions.

Bonnet, the reigning World Champion in the Vertical Race and Individual Race, won both, taking the Vertical in 24:05.93, ahead of fellow Swiss Marti Werner (24:39.51) and Aurelian Gay (24:42.06). Bonnet then won the 6,500 m Individual in 1:26:24.85, beating Italy’s Davide Magnini (1:27:51.18) and William Bon Mardion (FRA: 1:28:41.45).

Gachet Mollaret is also the current World Champion in the Vertical and Individual women’s races and won both in Cortina. She was a runaway victor in the Vertical in 27:35.51, ahead of Sarah Dreier (AUT: 28:59.87) and Tove Alexandersson (SWE: 29:11.90). In the Individual, she led a French 1-2 in 1:40:44.51, with relay World Champion Emily Harrop second (1:42:29.45) and Italian Worlds runner-up Alba de Silvestro third (1:45:31.01).

The Sprint races and relays will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday.

● Weightlifting ● More world records at the IWF World Cup in Phuket (THA), the final Olympic qualifier, with China’s 2023 World Champion Huanhua Liu winning the men’s 102 kg class and writing his name in the record books twice.

He was only fifth in the Snatch at 181 kg, but lifted a record 232 kg in the Clean & Jerk and the combined total of 413 kg was also a new world mark. Well back in second was Armenia’s Garik Karapetyan, the 2023 Worlds fifth-placer, at 401 kg total.

South Korea’s Jong-beom Won, the 2023 Worlds silver medalist, won the men’s 96 kg class, sweeping all three segments, lifting 170/219/389 kg. Egypt’s Karim Abokahla, last year’s World Champion, finished second at 165/205/370 kg.

North Korea won its fifth women’s gold, with Chun Hui Jong taking the 76 kg division, lifting 114 kg in the Snatch (second) and winning the Clean & Jerk at 145 kg for a 259 kg total. France’s Marie Fegue was second at 245 kg combined; American Estelle Rohr was eighth overall (223 kg).

Competition continues through the 11th.

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TSX REPORT: Olympic opening on the Seine re-confirmed; Salt Lake warned on Federal funds for 2034 Winter Games; Russians rage over tennis!

The Sports Examiner: Chronicling the key competitive, economic and political forces shaping elite sport and the Olympic Movement.★

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. Paris officials underline: Olympic opening is on the Seine
2. Romney warns Salt Lake bid on tight Federal budgets to come
3. Russian officials rage over tennis participation at Paris 2024
4. New York Governor says leave the NYC Marathon alone
5. ISU to allow somersaults in figure skating?

● Paris officials reiterated that the 2024 Olympic opening ceremony will take place on the Seine River, although the program could be tweaked in case of security concerns. But the event will be held on the water as planned.

● U.S. Senator Mitt Romney warned a Friday conference in Salt Lake City that a giant request for Federal funds to assist the 2034 Olympic Winter Games may not be available as the national debt continues to balloon. He opined that asking for much smaller amounts over time would be better.

● Russian sports officials have turned on each other over whether its tennis players should compete at the Paris Games. The head of the Russian Olympic Committee called them “foreign agents” but was rebuked by the national sports minister!

● The governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, told the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority to leave the New York City Marathon alone and stop trying to get more money out of the race for crossing the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. A study showed the race brings in even more than the MTA was asking!

● A Russian news report said that the International Skating Union will consider allowing somersaults in figure skating competitions at this summer’s Congress. No word on whether helmets will be required.

World Championships: Curling (Edin wins seventh title in men’s Worlds) = Ice Hockey (Canada and U.S. undefeated in women’s Worlds, play Tuesday) ●

Panorama: International Olympic Committee (Greece wants all future IOC Presidential elections at Olympia) = Alpine Skiing (Shiffrin and Kilde announce engagement) = Archery (Ellison and Kaufhold dominate Olympic qualifying in Arizona) = Artistic Swimming (six wins for China in World Cup I) = Athletics (2: Bor and Durgin win U.S. 10 Mile titles; Ethiopia’s Uma and Fikir win Paris Marathon in debuts) = Cycling (3: Ayuso wins Tour of Catalonia as Vingegaard, Roglic and Evenepoel all hurt in stage four crash; van der Poel dominates Paris-Roubaix and Kopecky sprints to women’s win; Valente dominates Pan Am track champs) = Fencing (2: Virgin Islands wins Paris spot in Pan-Am qualifiers; Hungary’s Kun charged with “whereabouts” failure) = Football (U.S. edges Japan and Canada penalty-kicks Brazil in SheBelieves Cup semis) = Gymnastics (France’s de Jesus dos Santos wins two at FIG World Challenge Cup) = Rowing (Kohler makes third U.S. team at Olympic Trials) = Rugby (New Zealand sweeps Sevens Series in Hong Kong) = Sailing (Italy wins two at Trofeo Princesa Sofia Olympic-classes regatta) = Shooting (U.S. wins three at final Americas Olympic qualifier) = Water Polo (U.S. women sail past Australia in first of three exhibitions) = Weightlifting (Reeves shines with three American Records in IWF World Cup) ●

1.
Paris officials underline: Olympic opening is on the Seine

Days after French President Emmanuel Macron and Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera spoke openly about a “Plan B” for the Olympic opening on the Seine River on 26 July, Paris city officials hustled to dispel talk of a possible change in venue.

Paris First Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire and Deputy Mayor Pierre Rabadan – whose portfolio includes sports – told reporters on Friday the show will be on the river, for sure. Said Rabadan:

“We have the possibility to reduce the impact and the facilities of the opening ceremony if the international risk becomes harder. We can reduce it, the show, the number of people. But there is no plan B.”

A record crowd for an Olympic opening of 326,000 is currently expected, with 104,000 on the lower quays with purchased tickets and another 222,000 on the upper level, with free tickets distributed by the French government. That total could be reduced if security concerns require it. Said Gregoire:

“Of course, we talk about hypotheses. We are focused on preparing the situation. We are doing our best to guarantee security with major, major measures.

“The police need to check who they are in case they represent a threat to security. They will have strong security measures days before. The idea is to maintain the possibility that neighbors can welcome friends and family. At the same time [we need to] to guarantee security.”

Rabadan also expressed full confidence that the Seine will be safe for athletes for the open-water swimming events and the triathlon:

“There is no plan B. We know that if there is a problem, we can postpone the event by two days.

“We will finish all the work and water quality, unless there is two months of continuous rain in the summer, then we will be ready.”

2.
Romney warns Salt Lake bid on tight Federal budgets to come

“Ten years from now, our country is likely to be facing some very tough financial times.

“If Salt Lake goes to the government and says, ‘Hey, we need $3 billion or $4 billion for security and transportation,’ that may not be a welcome request, and it may not be granted.”

That’s U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) – the head of the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic organizing committee – talking to the Salt Lake City political and Olympic bid leaders at a Friday forum at the University of Utah.

“So instead of asking for $3-4 billion down the road, we’re able to get $200 million or $300 million year after year going into special accounts.”

He suggested looking toward what the Games can mean to Utah beyond 2034 and beginning to coalesce around solutions to issues:

“I think what made [the 2002] Olympics so successful was that people began to realize this was an opportunity for us to help serve the world. This was about service. It was about giving, not receiving.

“Acknowledge the difficulties. … Travel’s going to be hard. It’s going to be intrusive. Acknowledge those things.”

Utah State Senator Mike McKell acknowledged that the 2034 Winter Games could be the backdrop to a discussion of Utah’s future:

“It’s time to have that discussion. I don’t think we know exactly as a state what we want to accomplish, right now. And I think we need to decide. We need to harness government at all levels … we need to decide what is the legacy, what do we want to accomplish.”

Former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt underlined a theme of his recent memoir series, reflecting on his term and what he learned about looking to the future:

“The Olympics is a 17-day activity, then it’s over.

“That isn’t the value of the Olympics to the state. The value … is the 10 years in advance of the Games, during which there is a huge amount of back pressure that will allow you to get a lot of things done that you could never get done in their absence.”

A U.S. General Accounting Office report in 2001 specified that identified governmental spending on the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City was projected at $567 million (in 2001 dollars):

● $342 million: U.S. government
● $150 million: State of Utah
● $75 million: Local governments

The national government spending for 2002 was concentrated on security ($185 million), transportation ($106 million), venues ($27 million), operations ($19 million) and housing and infrastructure support ($4 million). The report, filed after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., noted that added spending – perhaps $25-30 million – would be made in light of extra security requirements.

At, let’s say, $600 million for government spending in 2002, the equivalent amount today would be just more than $1.05 billion.

3.
Russian officials rage over tennis participation at Paris 2024

Russian tennis star Daniil Medvedev has been clear that, if allowed, he is ready to play as a “neutral” at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

In response, he and other Russian and Belarusian tennis have been bitterly criticized by Russian sports officials. The latest was Russian Olympic Committee President – and four-time Olympic gold medalist in fencing – Stanislav Pozdnyakov:

“Currently, a discussion has unfolded in the public space between [Russian rhythmic gymnastics chief] Irina Viner and tennis representatives regarding performance at the Olympic Games in a neutral status. I would like to emphasize that I share and support Irina Aleksandrovna’s position, our opinions here completely coincide.

“The only thing is that I do not agree with [her] definition of ‘a team of homeless people’ specifically in the case of tennis players who live abroad most of the time, earn money there, while claiming that they are ‘playing for themselves,’ condemning the policies of their country and the Central Military District.

“So, from my point of view, it’s more correct to call it a ‘team of foreign agents.’ For which there will definitely not be any obstacles to representing themselves at the Olympics. Moreover, individual Olympic entrepreneurship is now being actively promoted from Lausanne. I sincerely respect the achievements of the masters at courts, but from a human and civil point of view, our approaches to the current situation are diametrically opposed.”

That touched off a storm of comments aimed at Pozdnyakov and Viner:

● From famed figure skating coach Tatyana Tarasova: “I think it’s insulting, ugly and unfair that sports leaders called athletes who decided to go to the Olympic Games and who will compete for Russia this way.”

● From Russian Cycling Federation President Vyacheslav Ekimov:

“If we ignore the Olympics, we may not be allowed to attend the next one. Of course, we are not expected at these Games in Paris. I look at this story like this: we have these couple of dozen people, they must go.

“I don’t see any big reasons why we shouldn’t go. You can remember how we went to Tokyo and Beijing without a flag and an anthem, however, there was another excuse, but we went, then everyone honored our champions. Here is the challenge for us: they’re not waiting, so we have to go, otherwise we just gave up without a fight.”

● From Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin:

“Today it is especially important to treat each other with respect within the professional sports community; accusatory rhetoric against Russian athletes performing on the international stage is unacceptable.

“We are a single sports family, at this difficult moment it is necessary to unite and treat those with respect.” who with their hard work won the right to compete at the Olympics. We have a great country with a great history and glorious victories, behind every achievement there is enormous work, the contribution of coaches, medical personnel and other specialists, and therefore the entire sports industry.

“After all, we know that these are Russian athletes and they are going to the Games to defend not only their sporting honor, but also the honor of their native country, despite the discriminatory decisions of the International Olympic Committee. Now the gaze of the entire world sports community is turned on us, so it is especially important to demonstrate an example of consolidation, not to give reasons for disunity.”

● Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov:

“The President has already repeatedly said that the athletes themselves make this decision.”

Peskov rejected a Viner suggestion that a “coaching council” be assembled to decide whether Russian athletes should go to Paris, noting that “the IOC promised not to force anyone to sign anything. Therefore, each athlete, each federation makes their own decision.”

On Saturday, Pozdkyanov acknowledged the differences in opinion, but doubled down on his position:

“It should be directly noted that the Russian Olympic Committee is on the side of those of our compatriots among athletes who deliberately choose the other side of the ‘barricades’ and dividing lines stubbornly erected by Lausanne since February 2022. For whom the IOC conditions are unacceptable neither in essence nor in form.”

Peskov also dismissed claims by French President Macron that Russia will try to undermine the Paris 2024 Games through misinformation and Czech transport minister Martin Kupka that Russian hackers are trying to disrupt European railways:

“These are absolutely unfounded accusations in both the first and second cases. They are often heard, but they are never supported by any adequate evidence or argumentation. We absolutely do not accept such accusations.”

4.
New York Governor says leave the NYC Marathon alone

“I’ve directed the MTA to fix this mess and allow the marathon to move forward as it always has.

“The marathon is an iconic symbol of New York City’s tenacity and resilience that unites communities across the five boroughs each fall.”

That’s New York Governor Kathy Hochul from Friday, as she instructed the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority to abandon its demand for an additional $750,000 for the race’s 50,000-plus runners to cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from Staten Island to Brooklyn to begin the event.

Last Wednesday, the head of MTA Bridges and Tunnels, Catherine Sheridan, demanded:

“Taxpayers cannot be expected to subsidize a wealthy non-government organization like the New York Road Runners to the tune of $750,000.

“The MTA is prepared to continue working toward a final agreement with the NYRR, provided it leads, over time, to full reimbursement for the lost revenue.”

Hochul put a stop to the request and to the transit agency’s threat to limit the use of the bridge to only one level, which would slow the start considerably.

The New York Road Runners, which puts on the race, had already agreed to increase its payment to the MTA from $150,000 to $200,000. Chief executive Rob Simmelkjaer told the New York Post:

“We have agreed to increase payments to the MTA in the form of both direct payments and the purchase of advertising on subways and buses. The MTA has made few concessions in these negotiations, however, and continues to insist on 100% reimbursement of lost toll revenue.”

That’s over now. The Post noted that ridership on MTA on Marathon Sunday in 2023 was up by 365,000 over normal levels, a race-day bonus of $1.1 million for the agency, not including any payments from the NYRR.

5.
ISU to allow somersaults in figure skating?

“It is planned to remove the somersault from the list of prohibited elements, and this proposal is planned to be included among other proposals of the ISU technical committee at the organization’s congress. This item is not yet included in the published proposals of the technical committee.”

This report, from an unnamed source according to the Russian news agency TASS would be a big change in skating. Celebrated Russian coach Tatyana Tarasova was less than enthusiastic:

“There will be more injuries while they teach it, plus they will need to attract new acrobatics coaches, pay them separately. Don’t they think about that? Some guys do somersaults, and everyone will learn, but if a person is tall, but it will be hard to do this element, apparently. They don’t care much about that.

“This is a trifle, there are more serious issues, like, for example, our admission to competitions.”

≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ≡

● Curling ● The 65th World Curling Men’s World Championship finished the way 26 of the previous tournaments did, with Canada or Sweden as the winner. And for the seventh time, it was Sweden’s Niklas Eden who hoisted the trophy at the KSS Sports Complex in Shaffhausen (SUI).

Edin’s rink led the qualifying at 11-1, ahead of Canada’s 2017 World Champion Brad Gushue and Scotland’s 2023 winner Bruce Mouat, both at 10-2.

The U.S. squad, led by 2018 PyeongChang Olympic gold medalist John Shuster, won its final two round-robin games and got into the final playoff spot – sixth – with a 7-5 record, but was eliminated by Mouat by 8-4 in the quarterfinals.

Edin’s squad got past Joel Retornaz and Italy in the semis by 5-3, with three points in the seventh end, and Gushue broke open a tight match with Mouat with three points in the sixth and eighth ends for a 9-4 win.

In the final, Edin got up 2-0 in the second, was ahead by 3-2 (4th) and 5-3 in the 8th, but Gushue got two in the ninth to tie and go to extras. But Edin scored one in the 10th and claimed the title (again) with a 6-5 triumph.

The Swede has now won five of the last six Worlds, while Gushue lost in the final match for the third straight Worlds: twice to Edin and once to Mouat. His Scots were up, 6-3, after the ninth end in the bronze-medal game, but Retornaz and Italy scored three to tie and another in the 10th to win, 7-6.

● Ice Hockey ● Pool play continues at the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Utica, New York, with the U.S. continuing undefeated in Group A and meeting Canada for first place on Monday.

The Americans are the defending champions and cruised past Switzerland, 4-0, in their opener (two goals for defender Haley Winn) then crushed the Czech Republic, 6-0, on a hat trick by Alex Carpenter, and beat Finland by 5-3, with Kendall Coyne Schofield getting two goals.

The Canadians beat Finland by 4-1, shut down the Swiss (3-0) and moved past the Czechs, 5-0 on Sunday. Sweden (3-0) and Germany (2-0) are leading Group B.

The U.S. and Canada have met in the final of all 22 editions of the women’s Worlds, going back to 1990 and both appear ready to get there again.

Pool play will finish on Tuesday (9th) and playoffs will begin with the quarterfinals on Thursday (11th); the championship final will be next Sunday.

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● International Olympic Committee ● The head of the Greek Olympic Committee wants the IOC to elect all of its future presidents at Olympia. Spyros Capralos told Agence France Presse:

“My dream is to have this election in Ancient Olympia, to remind everybody where the Games started, 2,800 years ago.

“Every eight or 12 years to organise the election of the IOC president in Ancient Olympia, this is something that is feasible. I think that overall it would give positive vibes to everybody in the Olympic Movement.”

Athens was selected to host the 143rd IOC Session in 2025, when the next IOC Presidential election is scheduled.

● Alpine Skiing ● Hardly unexpected, but happy news for skiing stars Mikaela Shiffrin, 29, of the U.S. and Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, 31, who announced their engagement.

They have been together since 2021 and both spend time this past season recovering from bad injuries, with Shiffrin returning just before the season’s end.

● Archery ● A surprise at the AAE Arizona Cup in Phoenix, as top-seeded and three-time Olympic medalist, Brady Ellison, was eliminated in the round of 16 and Tokyo Olympian Jack Williams surged to victory in the men’s Recurve division, with a 6-2 win over Davaang Gupta of Canada.

The women’s top seed, Olympic Casey Kaufhold, won the women’s Recurve title with a 7-3 finals triumph over no. 11 Emma Kim.

However, in the three-day third stage of the USA Archery Olympic Trials that preceded the Arizona Cup, Ellison impressed by (1) winning the 72-arrow round at 688 to 680 over Gabe Anderson, (2) then went 15-for-15 in the round-robin matches, (3) won the Team Round simulation, 347-344 over Jackson Mirich, and then won the Stage 4 72-arrow round at 672, with Trenton Cowles the closest at 661.

Kaufhold won the Stage 3 72-arrow round at 677, then tied with Kim for second in the round-robin with 12 wins (Jennifer Mucino-Fernandez had 13), was second to Mucino-Fernandez in the Team Round simulation, 339-336, and won the Stage 4 72-arrow round at 664, to 644 for Catalina GNoriega.

Ellison and Kaufhold are well in front for Olympic qualification, as the U.S. has secured one spot each for men and women so far for Paris.

● Artistic Swimming ● China dominated the World Aquatics World Cup I in Beijing (CHN), winning six events. Huiyan Xu, 18, won the women’s Solo Technical, 244.9183 to 234.8867 over Belarus’ Vasilina Khandosha, and Xu took the women’s Solo Free, scoring 240.3021 to 206.7833 for Isabel Cui (ESP).

Yanhan Lin and Yanjun Lin won the Duet Technical, 238.8985 to 210.5867 over Spain’s Rocio Calle and Aurora Lazaro, while Israel’s Shelly Bobritsky and Ariel Nassee won the Duet Free over China’s Yanhan Lin and Xu, 225.7613 to 221.0156.

China’s Muye Guo and Heyue Ji, both 15, won the Mixed Duet Technical, 206.8800-199.4450 over 2024 World Champions Nargiza Bolatova and Eduard Kim (KAZ) and Italy’s Filippo Pelati joined with Flamina Vernice – both 17 – to win the Mixed Duet Free (175.9655).

Jordi Caceras (ESP) won the men’s Solo Technical, then was second to Italy’s Pelati in the men’s Solo Free.

Kazakhstan won the Team Acrobatic, China won the Team Technical and the Team Free.

● Athletics ● Hilary Bor won his third USATF 10 Mile Championship in a row on Sunday morning at the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile in Washington, D.C., out-running Nathan Martin in the final stretch to win by 45:56 to 46:00. Biya Simbassa finished third in 46:17.

Bor crushed his own American Record of 46:11 in the process, but was actually third in the race overall, with Kenyan Wesley Kiptoo winning in 45:54, ahead of countryman Raymund Magut (45:55).

The women’s U.S. championship race was a runaway for Emily Durgin – third in this event in 2022 – winning in 51:26 to 51:40 for defending U.S. champ Rachel Smith, who was fourth overall.

Uganda’s defending champ, Sarah Chelangat, who finished sixth in the recent World Cross Country champs, was a clear overall winner at 51:14 – 12 seconds up on Durgin, who was second – with Kasanesh Avenew (ETH: 51:38) third overall.

At the Paris Marathon, Ethiopians Mulugeta Uma and Mestawut Fikir won in their debut performances at the distance. Uma was a clear winner in the men’s race in 2:05:33 and moved to no. 10 on the 2024 world list. Kenya’s Titus Kipruto and Elisha Rotich finished 2-3 in 2:05:48 and 2:06:54.

Fikir ran away from fellow Ethiopian Enat Tirusew in the final meters of the race, winning in 2:20:45 – no. 14 in 2024 – to 2:20:48, with four-time Worlds 5-10,000 m winner Vivian Cheruiyot, now 40, third in 2:21:46.

● Cycling ● The 63rd edition of the Itzula Basque Country stage race in Spain got its first home winner since 2019 and its first Spanish 1-2 since 2017 as Juan Ayuso won in 15:56:50, 42 seconds up on Carlos Rodriguez and 43 seconds over Dane Mattias Skjelmose. American Brandon McNulty was fifth (+1:56).

Slovenian star and two-time winner Primoz Roglic won the opening stage and led through three stages, but the fourth stage last Thursday (4th) changed everything.

A major crash about 36 km before the end of the hilly, 157.5 km ride into Legutio, during a major descent from the Olaeta climb. On a tight right-hand turn, one rider slid out and about 12 riders in all went down, with six taken to the hospital for care.

Roglic was one of those who ended up in a concrete drainage ditch, but worst off as two-time Tour de France winner Jonas Vingegaard (DEN), who suffered a broken collarbone and broken ribs. Belgian star Remco Evenepoel, the 2022 World Road Champion and a medal favorite for Paris 2024, also suffered collarbone and right shoulder injuries. The stage was closed down, except for the six breakaway riders ahead of the crash, who were allowed to finish on their own.

Sjolmose had the race lead after stage four and kept it after stage five, but with the top 10 all within 30 seconds. In Saturday’s final stage, Rodriguez and Ayuso broke away and finished 1-2 in the same time, but 41 seconds up on the field, including Skjelmose in fourth and that made the difference.

The 121st Paris-Roubaix race on Sunday was a showcase for Dutch star Mathieu van der Poel, who defended his 2023 win and took his sixth career “Monument” win with a sensational 59.6 km breakaway, winning by 3:00 over the 259.7 km route.

Jesper Philipsen (BEL), Mads Pedersen (DEN) and Nils Politt (GER) finished together in places 2-3-4, but way behind van der Poel, who won his third race of the season in five tries, also with a second at Gent-Wevelgem.

The women’s Paris-Roubaix – the fourth – saw a final sprint of five riders at the end of the 148.5 km route that started in Denain. Belgium’s 2023 World Champion Lotte Kopecky got her third Women’s World Tour win of the season, crossing the line ahead of Elisa Balsamo (ITA), Pfeiffer Georgi (GBR), Marianne Vos (NED) and Amber Kraak (NED), all in 3:47:13.

The U.S. and Colombia both won 17 medals to lead the field at the Pan American Track Championships in Carson, California, but Olympic Omnium gold medalist Jennifer Valente was the star.

The seven-time Worlds gold medalist won five golds, taking the Elimination Race, Scratch Race, Points Race, Omnium and the Madison, teaming up with Megan Jastrab! The other double individual winner on the women’s side was Colombia’s two-time World medalist Martha Bayona, who took the Keirin and the 500 m Time Trial.

American Emily Ehrlich won the Individual Pursuit and was on the winning U.S. Team Pursuit squad. Daniela Gaxiola (MEX) won the Sprint, beating Tokyo Olympic winner Kelsey Mitchell (CAN), 2-0.

Trinidad & Tobago’s Nicholas Paul won the Sprint and Keirin in this event in 2023 and doubled up again, winning the Sprint over Colombia’s Cristian Ortega, 2-0.

Grant Koontz of the U.S. won the Elimination Race, took the Madison with Peter Moore and was part of the Team Pursuit winners. Moore also won the Points Race, and teammate Anders Johnson took the Individual Pursuit.

● Fencing ● Six more tickets to Paris were punched at the Pan American Olympic qualifier in San Jose, Costa Rica, with only the winner to qualify.

In the men’s events, Nicholas Zang (CAN) won the Epee; Kruz Schembri (ISV) triumphed in Foil and Mexico’s Gibran Zea qualified in Sabre.

The women’s Epee winner was Maria Doig Calderon of Peru, with Mariana Pistoia (BRA) winning the Foil tournament and Katherine Paredes (VEN) taking the Sabre title.

The International Testing Agency announced that Hungarian Epee star Anna Kun has been charged with three “whereabouts” failures over the past year. She won the Budapest Grand Prix on 8 March and is ranked fourth worldwide.

She has not been suspended (yet) and the case has been referred to the FIE Doping Disciplinary Tribunal.

● Football ● The U.S. and Canada managed wins at the 2024 SheBelieves Cup and will meet for the tournament title on Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio. But it wasn’t easy.

Saturday’s games were played at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta with a big crowd of 50,644 in attendance, the biggest U.S. home crowd since the 1999 FIFA World Cup final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena!

Nevertheless, Japan went up 1-0 after 31 seconds after midfielder Kiko Seike scored off a long pass down the right side, then dribbled into the box and ripped a shot to the left corner of the net, past U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher.

But the U.S. took control from there and earned a tie in the 21st as striker Jaedyn Shaw sent a hard shot from the top of the box into the left corner for the 1-1 tie, taking advantage of a turnover by defender Sam Coffey. It was Shaw’s fifth goal already in 2024.

While the Americans had 53% of possession and an 18-6 edge on shots, it took until the 77th minute for the winning goal. Striker Sophia Smith was fouled in the box and earned a penalty, converted by midfield star Lindsey Horan with a low shot to her left for the 2-1 final.

Canada and Brazil played a tight second match, with defender Tarciane getting the first goal in the 22nd off a penalty against striker Ludmila in the box. The Brazilians stayed on offense, but could not beat the Canadian defense again and defender Vanessa Giles finally tied it for Canada on a header off a cross from midfielder Jessie Fleming in the 77th.

The game went to penalties, with both sides missing their first attempts, but then the Canadians made four in a row, with sub striker Julia Grosso scoring the last one to close out a 4-2 total and advancing the Canadians to face the U.S. on Tuesday.

● Gymnastics ● France came away with three wins and four-time European champ Melanie de Jesus dos Santos was the individual star at the FIG Apparatus World Challenge Cup in Osijek (CRO).

A member of the Worlds Team bronze winners in 2023, de Jesus dos Santos won on the Uneven Bars (14.533) and Floor (13.866) and finished second on Beam to Ukraine’s Anna Lashchevska, 14.000 to 13.133. France won the Vault as well, with two-time European champ Coline Devillard scoring 13.700.

Through two rounds of the World Challenge Cup series, de Jesus dos Santos already has five medals!

Two-time Worlds medalist Ilia Kovtun of Ukraine won all three legs of the FIG World Cup series so far on the Parallel Bars, but this time started off with a win in the men’s Floor, scoring 14.400 to best Ilyas Azizov (KAZ: 14.200). But 2023 World Champion Lukas Dauser edged Kovtun on the P-Bars, 15.550 to 15.350.

Azizov won on the Pommel Horse, 14.600 to 14.300 over 37-year-old home favorite Filip Ude, the 2008 Olympic runner-up. Croatia did get a win in the men’s Vault, with Aurel Benovic and Spain’s Paul Jimenez both scoring 14.575, but Benovic winning on criteria.

Chinese Taipei’s Chia-Hung Tang, the 2018 Asian Games champ, took the Horizontal Bar over Tokyo silver medalist Tin Srbic of Croatia, 15.350 to 14.650. Kevin Penev of Bulgaria won in Rings at 13.250.

● Rowing ● The US Rowing Olympic Trials were held in Sarasota, Florida, with Kara Kohler winning the women’s Single Sculls and qualifying for her third Olympic team. She was a clear winner over Margaret Fellows, 8:04.01 to 8:10.68.

Jessica Thoennes and Azja Czajkowski won the women’s Pair and qualified for Paris and won in 7:37.62, almost eight seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Thoennes was on the women’s Eight in Tokyo.

William Bender and Oliver Bub won the men’s Pair in 6:54.64, taking the lead in the second half of the race and making their first Olympic teams. Anders Weiss and Alexander Richards, both prior Olympians, finished second in 6:57.37.

The remaining winners will advance to the World Olympic qualifier in Lucerne (SUI) from 19-21 May to try to get to Paris. In the men’s Single Sculls, Jacob Plihal won in 7:25.99 over Casey Fuller (7:29.65), while Ben Davison and Sorin Koszyk won by more than 30 seconds in the men’s Double Sculls in 6:36.85, and Sam Melvin and Cooper Tuckerman took the men’s Lightweight Double Sculls in 6:48.50, ahead of Zachary Heese and Jimmy McCullough (6:52.28). All-star boats also qualified in the men’s and women’s Quadruple Sculls and will try to advance in Lucerne.

● Rugby ● New Zealand swept the men’s and women’s Sevens Series tournaments in Hong Kong, their third win in a row on the men’s side and first of the season for the women.

France, Australia and Canada all went 3-0 in the women’s pool play, but the Canadians were knocked out by New Zealand in the quarters by 26-7. In the semis, the U.S. held France down, 19-5, and the Kiwis doubled up Australia, 28-14. That set up the final, won by New Zealand over the U.S. by 36-7.

By winning, the Kiwi women are now in a tie for first in the seasonal standings, with 106 points and own the tie-breaker over Australia. France sits third at 88 and the U.S. fourth at 82.

New Zealand and South Africa were the only undefeateds in the men’s pool play, but South Africa was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Australia (15-0), while New Zealand edged Fiji (19-12). Neither semi was close, as France sailed past Ireland, 26-10, and New Zealand beat Australia, 26-7. The final was a defensive gem, as New Zealand won by only 10-7.

The men’s standings still have Argentina on top at 94, followed by Ireland (86), Fiji (76) and France (74).

● Sailing ● Italy came away as the only country to win twice at the important, pre-Olympic Trofeo Princesa Sofia regatta off Palma de Mallorca (ESP).

In the IQ Foil, a new Olympic class, 2024 Worlds silver medalist Pawel Tarnowski (POL) was the easy winner, scoring just 18 net points – winning his first six races – to win over 2021 World Champion Nicolas Goyard (FRA: 30). Norway went 1-2 in the women’s tournament, with Mina Mobekk winning over Maya Gysler, both with 22 points, but Mobekk won on criteria and had three wins.

Singapore’s 2023 World Champion, Maximilian Maeder, won the men’s Formula Kite class, winning the final over Riccardo Pianosi (ITA). American Daniela Moroz had the best regatta on the women’s Formula Kite competition, with 12 wins, but was second in the final to Australia’s Breiana Whitehead.

Worlds bronze winners Diego Botin and Florian Trittel took the men’s 49er title, 75-81, against Hernan Umpierre and Fernando Diz (URU), with Andrew Mollerus and Ian MacDiarmid fourth (94). The women’s 49erFX tournament came down to the wire, with Jana Germani and Giorgia Bertuzzi (ITA) eking out a 73-74 victory against Helene Naess and Marie Ronningen (NOR).

Britain’s 2023 Worlds silver medalist Michael Beckett was the decisive winner in the men’s Laser class, scoring just 36 net points and taking four wins to defeat 2018 Worlds bronze winner Philipp Buhl (GER: 80). The women’s Laser Radial class was much tighter, as 2023 Worlds gold medalist Maria Erdi (HUN) finished with 90 points to win over Zoe Thomson (AUS: 97).

In the mixed-crew 470, Camille Lecointre – a two-time women’s Olympic bronze medalist – and Jeremie Mion of France won the lack-of-wind shortened, nine-race program, 38-39 over 2023 Worlds silver winners Jordi Xammar and Nora Brugman (ESP).

The Nacra 17 racing was an Italian 1-2 for Olympic and World champs Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti over Gianluigi Ugolini and Maria Giubilei, 77-107.

● Shooting ● The last Americas qualifier for Paris 2024 was held in Buenos Aires (ARG), with several qualifiers actually finishing second or third in specific events because the athletes ahead of them were from already-qualified countries.

The U.S. won three events, all of which they had already Olympic qualification as Sagen Maddalena won the women’s 10 m Air Rifle over fellow American Alison Weisz, 253.0 to 249.9, and took the 50 m Rifle/3 Positions win, defeating Brazil’s Geovana Meyer – who qualified for Paris – by 460.5 to 455.9.

Ecuador’s Andrea Perez won the women’s 10 m Air Pistol over American Katelyn Abeln, 241.4-239.3, and took the 25 m Pistol by 30-26 over Cuba’s Laina Perez (who qualified for Paris).

In the men’s 10 m Air Pistol, Chile’s Diego Parra earned his Olympic spot with a 244.2 to 238.6 win over American Nick Mowrer, who would have qualified if he had won.

Cuba’s Leuris Pupo, already qualified, won the men’s 25 m Rapid-Fire Pistol over teammate Jorge Alvarez, 30-22, but Alvarez is now qualified. Keith Sanderson of the U.S. was fourth.

The 10 m Air Rifle title went to Marcelo Gutierrez of Argentina and American Ivan Roe won the 50 m Rifle/3 Positions tournament by 453.7 to 446.9 over Tye Ikeda of Canada (who therefore qualified).

Mexico won the Mixed 10 m Air Pistol final, 16-12, over Ecuador and in the all-American final of the Mixed 10 m Air Rifle, Weisz and Rylan Kissel won over Maddalena and Roe, 17-13.

● Water Polo ● The U.S. women started a three-game exhibition set against Australia on Sunday at Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta, California with a 10-4 win, thanks to four goals from captain Maggie Steffens – two in the final quarter – and two from Maddie Musselman.

The U.S. opened a 4-2 lead at the quarter and 7-2 at half and Ashleigh Johnson made 15 saves in goal to assure the victory. Australia had the edge in shots, 30-24, but converted only four, compared to 10 for the U.S., who also had 21 blocks during the match.

The American women are the three-time defending Olympic champs and will play Australia again on the 9th in Long Beach, California and on 13 April in Irvine, California.

● Weightlifting ● The final qualifying event for Paris 2024, the IWF World Cup in Phuket (THA) turned into a Sunday showcase for American Olivia Reeves, who not only won the women’s 71 kg class, but set American records in all three lifts.

The no. 2-ranked Reeves already owned the U.S. marks at 115/147/262 kg, but won the Snatch at 118 kg, the Clean & Jerk at 150 kg and the total at 368 kg. The 2023 Worlds bronze medalist, she defeated China’s 2023 World Champion, Guifang Liao, who made 115/149/264 kg.

North Korea took its fourth women’s gold at 64 kg, as Un Sim Rim and Suk Ri went 1-2, at 258 kg (winning all three elements) and 248 kg.

In the men’s 81 kg class, North Korea scored its third men’s gold, with Asian Games champ Chong-song Ri easily winning all three segments with 166/200/366 kg. It was much tighter at 89 kg, with Karlos Nasar (BUL), the 2021 Worlds winner at 81 kg, setting a world record of 181 kg in the Snatch, then seeing it surpassed by Yeison Lopez of Colombia, at 182 kg! But Nasar won the Clean & Jerk at 215 kg and the overall title at 396 kg to 392 for Lopez.

Competition continues through the 11th.

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TSX REPORT: Australian stars demand new 2032 stadia, but Miles says no; death of the Commonwealth Games? Paris opening “Plan B”?

The Paris 2024 concept for the Opening Ceremony on the Seine (Image: Paris 2024)

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. Australian athletes rip Brisbane 2032 plan as “embarrassment”
2. Commonwealth Games 2026: Singapore not interested either
3. Aquatics Centre inaugurated in Paris, “Plan B” for opening?
4. Fewer and fewer Russians willing to go to Paris as neutrals
5. NBC planning U.S. Trials coverage in five sports

● A group of 14 star Australian athletes, including Olympic gold winners Sally Pearson and Leisel Jones, are insisting the Queensland government to reconsider its position not to spend A$3.4 billion on a new stadium for the 2032 Olympic Games. The Premier responded, “I can’t justify spending billions more on stadiums, no matter how many swimmers ask me.”

● The future of the Commonwealth Games dimmed further as Singapore decided not to host the 2026 edition, even with an £100 million subsidy from the Commonwealth Games Federation. There are currently no known bidders for any future Commonwealth Games, which is to mark its centennial in 2030.

● The new Centre Aquatique Olympique, purpose-built for the 2024 Olympic Games, but a legacy facility for the Saint-Denis area, was formally inaugurated on Thursday. French President Emmanuel Macron said there was a “plan B” for the opening ceremony on the Seine River if security concerns merit changes.

● Russia media reported that many Russian athletes are deciding not to go to Paris, even if qualified, due to the requirement to perform as a “neutral.” United World Wrestling removed Russia’s two-time Olympic wrestling gold medalist Abdulrashid Sadulaev from qualifying, for actions taken in support of the war against Ukraine.

● NBC released its U.S. Olympic Trials broadcast schedule, with coverage of six sports and wall-to-wall coverage of swimming, diving, track and gymnastics from 15-30 June.

World Championship: Curling (Edin and Gushue clinch playoff spots at men’s Worlds) ●

Panorama: Paris 2024 (athletes will sit, not march at Paris closing) = Athletics (84% of top-eight finishers at 2023 Worlds had 3+ out-of-competition doping tests) = Swimming (Rio-Tokyo champ Peaty takes world lead in 100 Breast) = Tennis (WTA signs three-year deal for finals in Saudi Arabia) = Weightlifting (more world records at Phuket World Cup) ●

1.
Australian athletes rip Brisbane 2032 plan as “embarrassment”

Queensland Premier Steven Miles and his government rejected both the planned rebuild of the Gabba Stadium and the idea of a new, A$3.4 billion stadium in Brisbane suggested by a review committee as poor value for money. (A$1 = $0.66 U.S. today)

Instead, a renovation of the Queensland Sports and Athletics Centre (QSAC) for athletics, the Gabba, and SunCorp Stadium – also known as Lang Park – for football and other sports is proposed, with the view to cost efficiency and legacy use, albeit at more than A$2 billion combined.

That’s not what some of Australia’s famous athletes want.

In a letter released Tuesday, past stars such as London 2012 women’s 100 m hurdles champ Sally Pearson and 2004-08 triple Olympic swimming gold medalist Liesel Jones and others – 14 in all – demanded something bigger and better:

“We, the undersigned, representing current and former Queensland Olympians and Paralympians, implore you to revisit your decision to host the 2032 Olympics and Paralympics events at the current Queensland Sport and Athletic Centre at Nathan.

“While we understand that you want to get the best value for taxpayers out of the Games, we do not believe that the QSAC site represents that, not just financially but also in terms of a legacy for Brisbane and Queensland. And frankly, a main stadium with a capacity of only 40,000 would be an embarrassment which in no way would represent the go-ahead spirit of Queensland.

“Also, the QSAC facility is the nursery of athletics in this state, and any disruption to the site could only hurt our performance in our home Games. We all remember the magnificent event that Sydney put on in 2000. Queensland deserves something equally spectacular, without a centrepiece that would reek of compromise. It’s not too late to change your mind, Mr Miles.”

Swim star Ariarne Titmus, the reigning Olympic champ in the 200 and 400 m Freestyles, previously said that a new, national aquatics center should be built. Current plans call for the swimming events to be held in a temporary pool inside a massive new arena, which is planned to be constructed as part of the 2032 plan.

Miles shot back later in the day:

“They’re entitled to their opinions but we listen to Queenslanders. They’re talking to me about their hospital, about their school, about how hard they’re finding it to make ends meet.

“When Queensland is facing those kinds of day-to-day challenges, I can’t justify spending billions more on stadiums, no matter how many swimmers ask me.”

Observed: That the Queensland Sports and Athletics Centre would be the site for ceremonies is certainly an open question, as Suncorp Stadium/Lang Park seats 52,500 now and could be a better ceremonies site.

The demand by more than a dozen elite athletes for billions in new spending certainly puts them at odds with the International Olympic Committee’s drive to make the Olympic Games less expensive and less complex. And Miles is quite right in pointing out it’s not their money at stake, it’s taxpayer money.

2.
Commonwealth Games 2026: Singapore not interested either

“Commonwealth Games Singapore and Sport Singapore have studied the feasibility of hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games and have decided not to make any bid to host the Games.”

Wednesday’s statement came just more than two weeks after Malaysia also decided to pass on hosting the 2026 edition, citing too little time and too much potential cost.

The Commonwealth Games Federation made a subsidy offer of £100 million (about $126.5 million U.S.) to both countries, after receiving A$380 million (~$237.6 million U.S.) from the state of Victoria (AUS) in 2023, after it pulled out of its hosting agreement, citing high projected costs.

This leaves the Commonwealth Games, started in 1930 as the British Empire Games, in Hamilton (CAN) potentially with no host for 2026 and none on the horizon. Since Victoria pulled out, other cities or regions in Australia have not come forward – a short-lived bid from Gold Coast was shut down as Queensland said it was concentrating on the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane – and no one else has indicated an interest.

The event was successfully held in Birmingham, England in 2022; that could be the last one for a while. Costs, which included the construction and renovation of several venues, has been estimated at £778 million (~$984.1 million U.S. today).

The Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive, Katie Sadleir (GBR), told Agence France Presse last month:

“The process to determine a host for the 2026 Games is continuing at pace with interested Commonwealth Games Associations. While acutely aware of the incredibly tight timeframe, we have encouraged proposals that will reset the Games.

“Alongside this process, we have accelerated work to refresh and reframe the Games. This has included exploring innovative new concepts and event opportunities.”

Observed: This could be the end of the Commonwealth Games altogether, or it could be disassembled into individual championships, or morph into something else.

One of the elements which has hurt events of this type is the enormous expansion of competitive opportunities – whether Grand Prix or World Cup-type series – in each individual sport, greatly lessening the need for multi-sport games to offer chances for top-quality competition.

That’s only going to increase, making it even more difficult for the Commonwealth Games to survive, unless it is re-imagined or finds a country wanting the publicity shot that such events bring.

3.
Aquatics Centre inaugurated in Paris, “Plan B” for opening?

The major new sports venue built for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, the Centre Aquatique Olympique, was formally handed over for operations on Thursday, in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron.

The facility is in the Saint-Denis area, close to the Stade de France and will seat up to 5,000 for the Games, depending on its configuration. For Paris 2024, it will be the home of artistic swimming, diving and water polo matches. Seating will be reduced to about 2,500 for post-Games use.

The cost came in at €180 million (about $195.2 million U.S.), overseen by the government’s SOLIDEO agency, responsible for Olympic construction.

During the inauguration event, Macron was asked if he expected trouble from the Russians related to the Games, and replied “Without a doubt, including in the field of information.

“Every day it is putting out stories saying that we are unable to do this or that, so (the Games) would be at risk.”

An aide added later, “There is a hardening from Russia, which we have been seeing for several months.”

As for the opening ceremonies on the Seine River, Macron added:

“We will be ready. We are preparing several scenarios. If the threat were to evolve, if we considered that circumstances made it necessary, we have back-up scenarios.”

Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera told the France 2 channel, “Today there is no specific terror-related threat targeting the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

She also pointed to the opening and noted, “It’s not because we are not talking about a Plan B that there isn’t one.”

4.
Fewer and fewer Russians willing to go to Paris as neutrals

The popular Russian site Sport-Express.ru posted a Wednesday story headlined, “‘We decided that it was impossible to perform.’ Many Russian athletes refuse the Olympics,” detailing specific sport groups which have elected not to go to Paris, or to even try to qualify (computer translation from the original Russian):

● “There are fewer Russian athletes ready to go to the Olympic Games in Paris in a neutral status literally every day. The day before, representatives of rowing and sailing announced their refusal to participate in the Olympic selection. Given previous refusals, the pool of our potential neutral Olympians continued to narrow.”

● “And it’s not to say that Russian rowers didn’t think about participating in them: in March, qualifying races were held in Mingachevir, Azerbaijan, as a result of which a team was even created to participate in the European qualifying rounds. But the team will never go to Szeged [qualifying races]. And here’s why. The national team’s coaching staff and athletes held a general meeting, deciding to refuse Olympic selection on the terms of the IOC and the International Rowing Federation. And on April 2, this decision was supported by the Russian Rowing Federation.”

● “Russian archers, who, we recall, won two silver medals at the Tokyo Games in 2021, abandoned the Olympics in Paris. ‘Firstly, our leading athletes represent Dynamo or CSKA. We interviewed the entire team. The team said that without a flag and anthem, in a gray uniform, they have no desire to participate in the selection and in the Olympic Games. Secondly, there is a sports component. The strongest athletes refused to participate. It turns out that from the point of view of elite sports this is not serious. The sporting principle is violated. The best athletes refused to participate in the Olympic Games,’ Vladimir Yesheev, head of the Russian Archery Federation, told SE.”

● “Even earlier, the leadership of Russian artistic and rhythmic gymnastics, swimming, diving and weightlifting declared their reluctance to perform at international competitions and specifically at the Games in Paris in a discriminatory status. So it is already obvious that in Paris, if we see neutral Russians, it will be at a minimum.”

On Wednesday, 200 m Breaststroke world-record holder Evgeniia Chikunova told Russian MatchTV, “Will I go to the Olympics? No. And I will not receive neutral status. I’ll keep an eye on it. But I don’t see myself as a neutral athlete.”

On Thursday, the Russian federation for sport climbing said its athletes will not compete at the IOC-staged Olympic Qualifier Series 2024, in Shanghai (CHN) from 16-19 May and Budapest from 20-23 June, and therefore, will not qualify for Paris.

A major announcement underlining the eligibility screening of Russian athletes came from United World Wrestling on Thursday, removing two-time Olympic Freestyle champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev, 27, from Olympic consideration:

“Abdulrashid SADULAEV has been ruled out of the European OG Qualifiers in Baku after he failed to meet the eligibility criteria set by the International Olympic Committee for Individual Neutral Athletes.

“The two-time Olympic champion was ruled ineligible by the United World Wrestling Eligibility panel. This third-party panel continuously monitors the eligibility of wrestlers based on the criteria defined by the IOC.

“Sadulaev was declared ineligible after the panel found new information about his support of the Ukraine-Russia war and that he is still officially declared a member of the Dynamo club.

“Each Individual Neutral Athlete goes through a rigorous vetting process by UWW in preparation for any tournament and is examined based on the criteria set by the IOC which rules thorough background and social media checks of individuals from Russia and Belarus.”

Sadulaev had been repeatedly listed as an athlete who should be declared ineligible due to his promotion of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The latest came on 3 April, in a letter from the Ukrainian Ministry of Youth and Sports to IOC President Thomas Bach (GER) and to UWW President Nenad Lalovic (SRB), in which nine wrestlers – including Sadulaev – were singled and named in specific instances of support for the Russian invasion. The conclusion:

“We would like to reiterate Ukraine’s steadfast stance: as long as Russian troops, supported by the Belarusian government, continue their brutal war against the Ukrainian people, Russian and Belarusian athletes must be banned from participating in any international competitions, in any status, including as neutrals. We rely on your solidarity with the Ukrainian sports movement.”

5.
NBC planning U.S. Trials coverage in five sports

Beginning in April and continuing through the end of June, NBC will show U.S. Olympic Trials competitions in six sports – canoeing, diving, gymnastics, rowing, swimming, track & field and wrestling – with its broadcast schedule released on Thursday.

Most of the coverage, of course, is on the Peacock streaming network, but some is on NBC and its related cable channels:

Apr. 06-07: Rowing: Peacock only (2 shows)
Apr. 13-14: Canoe Slalom I: Peacock only (2)
Apr. 19-20: Wrestling: USA Net (2: finals) and Peacock (4)
Apr. 26-27: Canoe Slalom II: Peacock only (2)
Jun. 15-23: Swimming: USA (8: heats)-NBC (9: finals)-Peacock (17)
Jun. 17-23: Diving: USA (1: final)-NBC (7: finals)-Peacock (18)
Jun. 21-30: Track & Field: USA (2: finals)-NBC (8: finals)-Peacock (11)
Jun. 27-30: Gymnastics: USA (1: qualifying)-NBC (3: 2 finals)-Peacock (5)

Much of the USA Network coverage of the swimming trials will be same-day delayed coverage of the morning heats, coming on just prior to the finals on NBC.

Daily primetime coverage is slated for 15-24 June and 27-30 June.

≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ≡

● Curling ● At the 2024 World Curling Men’s World Championship in Schaffhausen (SUI), Sweden’s reigning Olympic champion Niklas Edin and his squad scored two major wins and clinched a playoff spot.

Edin and Sweden defeated John Shuster’s U.S. rink, 6-4, overcoming a 4-3 deficit in the final two ends, then beat Canada’s Brad Gushue, 6-5, in the evening. Those wins brought Sweden to 10-0 and the round-robin leader, with two matches left.

Gushue (8-2) and Scotland’s 2022 Olympic-runner-up Bruce Mouat (8-2) also clinched playoff berths, with the round-robin matches to finish on Friday. Italy (Joel Retornaz: 7-3) is fourth, and the Swiss and Germans are 5-6 at 6-4 each. Shuster and the U.S. are 5-5 and sitting seventh, outside the playoffs, but will play the Czech Republic and New Zealand and will be favored for two wins.

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● The FrancsJeux.com site reported that Paris 2024 ceremonies director Thomas Jolly (FRA) foresees a different protocol for the Olympic closing ceremony at the Stade de France: no parade of athletes.

Traditionally, athletes from all countries romp into the stadium for a lap of honor, before being seated to watch the show. Jolly’s comments to Telerama indicated athletes will be seated in the stadium and that the ceremony will center on “an Olympic flag relay with Los Angeles 2028 and a big show where only music will resonate.”

● Athletics ● Posted on Thursday by the Athletics Integrity Unit was a look at testing for the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest, showing a clear testing focus on athletes who were likely to be finalists:

Total athletes: 2,004
● 45% had 3+ out-of-competition tests
● 28% had 1-2 out-of-competition tests
● 27% had 0 out-of-competition tests

Athletes finishing in the top 8: 329
(in individual events)
● 84% had 3+ out-of-competition tests
● 10% had 1-2 out-of-competition tests
● 6% had 0 out-of-competition tests

All of the top-eight finishers had at least one test – in-competition or out-of-competition – by the end of the championships.

The most-tested teams in the 10 months prior to Budapest 2023:

● 11.4: Kenya average total tests per athlete on the Budapest team
● 11.3: China
● 8.9: Ethiopia
● 7.1: Morocco
● 6.2: United States
● 5.4: Uganda
● 5.3: Nigeria and the Netherlands
● 5.2: India
● 5.1: Spain

The total number of tests was way up from Eugene in 2022, from 6,358 to 8,466 total, and from 4,235 to 5,542 for out-of-competition tests.

● Swimming ● The two-time Olympic 100 m Breaststroke champion and world-record holder, Britain’s Adam Peaty, showed he is ready to defend his title in Paris by winning the British Trials in London this week.

Peaty cruised past the world-leading time by American Nic Fink, 58.53 to 58.57 in the heats, then won the final going away in another 2024 world leader, 57.94, the no. 29 performance of all-time (he owns the top 14 and 21 of the 29).

Perhaps most importantly, it’s his fastest time since the Olympic year of 2021.

● Tennis ● The Women’s Tennis Association announced a three-year agreement with the Saudi Tennis Federation to host the 2024-25-26 WTA Finals in Riyadh, meeting the stated desire of players for more money:

“The agreement with the Saudi Tennis Federation will offer record prize money of $15.25 million at the WTA Finals in 2024 with further increases in 2025 and 2026. The partnership will also support broader investment in the future development and growth of women’s tennis, including the WTA’s plans to grow the global fanbase for women’s tennis through increased investment in marketing, digital and fan engagement.”

This follows the 28 February announcement from the men’s Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) of a multi-year agreement with the Saudi Public Investment Fund.

● Weightlifting ● World records continued to fall at the IWF World Cup in Phuket (THA), with lifters from North Korea and China making new entries.

Won-ju Ri won the men’s 67 kg class, and set a world record of 189 kg in the Clean & Jerk, adding a kilogram to the mark set by countryman Jong-ju Pak in 2019. Ri was second in the Snatch to Sergio Massidda (ITA), but with his record C&J lift, won the overall title at 333 kg to 317.

Indonesia’s 2022 Worlds runner-up Rizki Juniansyah set a world record for the combined total to win the 73 kg class, lifting 164/201/365 kg, one kg better than China’s two-time Olympic champ Zhiyong Shi in Tokyo in 2021.

The women’s record-setting continued as well, with China’s Shifang Luo taking the 59 kg division at 248 kg, one kg better than Tokyo Olympic champ Hsing-Chun Kuo (TPE) in 2021. Luo tied for the win in Snatch, won the Clean & Jerk easily and finished with a 248-240 win over Il Gyong Kim (PRK).

The competition, the final qualifier for Paris 2024, continues through the 11th.

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TSX REPORT: Salt Lake City offers all-existing venues for 2034 Winter bid; IOC puts boxing feds on the clock for new IF; worries on LA28 transport!

The Olympic Cauldron Plaza at the University of Utah, commemorating the 2002 Olympic Winter Games (Photo: University of Utah)

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. Salt Lake City: 100% existing venues, 82% same as 2002
2. IOC puts national boxing feds on notice: 2028 decision next year!
3. Future of ANOC World Beach Games decided on 28 April?
4. Worrying has officially started on LA28 transportation
5. WADA reports testing in 2022 up, close to pre-pandemic levels

● With the International Olympic Committee’s Future Host Commission coming next week for a visit, the Salt Lake City-Utah Commission for the Games released its venue assignment proposal for the 2034 Olympic Winter Games. No new venues are planned, with all 11 sites previously used for the 2002 Winter Games; the ceremonies and village will once again be at the University of Utah.

● The IOC posted a statement on the dismissal of the International Boxing Association appeal of its expulsion from the Olympic Movement, and warned national boxing federations that the sport will not be included on the LA28 program if a new international federation – such as the new World Boxing group – is not in place by “early 2025.”

● At the Oceania National Olympic Committees General Assembly last week, the fallout of Indonesia’s cancellation of the ANOC World Beach Games last week was noted, with the Association of National Olympic Committees possibly pursuing a lawsuit to recover losses from the event not being held. The future of the World Beach Games concept may be decided at the next ANOC Executive Committee meeting on 28 April.

● A Los Angeles Times story reported on a worried Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority over its responsibilities for public transportation during the 2028 Olympic Games. But Metro Director (and L.A. City Council member) Katy Yaroslavsky said of the Games, “It’s also an excuse to go after federal funding and state dollars in a way we might not otherwise be able to do.”

● The World Anti-Doping Agency released its 2022 testing report, showing total doping tests close to the 2019 pre-pandemic level. However, the number of positive tests was significantly lower than in 2019, a good sign. The most-tested sport and the sport with the most positive tests was Athletics.

World Championships: Curling (Edin’s Swedes undefeated in men’s Worlds so far) ●

Panorama: World University Games (North Carolina’s 2029 WUG will be held from 11-22 July) = Russia (World Rowing charging CHF 20-22,000 to evaluate neutrality of six athletes and two staff for qualifying events) = U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (Athletes’ Commission asking for petition signatures for independent status) = Athletics (New York MTA asking N.Y. Road Runners for $750,000 for NYC Marathon crossing the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge) = Football (3: Rubiales arrested and released on Spanish Super Cup inquiry; Morocco to build 115,000-seat stadium for 2030 World Cup; FIFA confirms North Korea forfeit of March World Cup qualifier vs. Japan and adds a fine) = Swimming (Chicago River also being cleaned with open-water event in September) ●

1.
Salt Lake City: 100% existing venues, 82% same as 2002

The Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games announced its venue line-up for its proposed 2034 Olympic Winter Games on Wednesday, with nine of 11 competition sites the same as at the 2002 Winter Games and all 11 sports sites both existing and heavily used in 2002 (* = same venue as in 2002):

Alpine Skiing: Snowbasin* (in Ogden, Utah)

Biathlon: Soldier Hollow Nordic Center* (Midway)

Bobsled and Skeleton: Utah Olympic Park* (Park City)

Cross Country Skiing: Soldier Hollow Nordic Center* (Midway)

Curling: Salt Palace Convention Center (Salt Lake City)

Figure Skating: Delta Center* (Salt Lake City)

Freestyle Skiing 1: Block 85 (Salt Lake City: Big Air)
Freestyle Skiing 2: Deer Valley Resort* (Park City)
Freestyle Skiing 3: Park City Mountain* (Park City)
Freestyle Skiing 4: Utah Olympic Park (Park City)

Ice Hockey 1: Maverik Center* (West Valley City)
Ice Hockey 2: Peaks Ice Arena* (Provo)

Luge: Utah Olympic Park* (Park City)

Nordic Combined 1: Soldier Hollow Nordic Center* (Midway)
Nordic Combined 2: Utah Olympic Park* (Park City)

Snowboarding 1: Block 85 (Salt Lake City: Big Air)
Snowboarding 2: Park City Mountain* (Park City)
Snowboarding 3: Utah Olympic Park (Park City)

Speed Skating 1: Delta Center* (Salt Lake City: short track)
Speed Skating 2: Utah Olympic Oval* (Kearns: long track)

The major changes from 2002:

● Alpine Skiing is all at Snowbasin, after being spread between Snowbasin (Downhills and Super-Gs), Deer Valley (Slaloms) and Park City Mountain (Giant Slaloms).

● Curling was at the 2,000-seat Ice Sheet at Ogden in 2002; the sport is being moved to the larger Salt Palace Convention Center – with seating for 6.500 – which will also house the Main Media Center, as it did in 2002.

● Freestyle Skiing included just four events in 2002 – aerials and moguls – all at Deer Valley. For the 2026 Winter Games, Freestyle has 15 events, now distributed among four venues, including Block 85 in downtown Salt Lake City, which served as the Medals Plaza in 2002 (and will again).

● Snowboard, like Freestyle, had only four events in 2002 – halfpipe and parallel giant slalom – taking place at Park City Mountain. For 2026, 11 events are scheduled, assigned to three venues, including Block 85.

The ceremonies are once again proposed for the University of Utah’s 51,444-seat Rice-Eccles Stadium, with the Olympic Village at the University of Utah, both already existing and operating.

Salt Lake City-Utah Committee chief executive Fraser Bullock, who was the Chief Operating Officer of the 2002 Salt Lake Organizing Committee, said in a statement:

“Our venue partners represent a modern, sustainable approach to sport. They have continued contributing to Utah’s sports legacy with ongoing programs and regular updates. And the ability to bring Big Air into downtown Salt Lake City will create great memories for athletes and spectators.”

The Salt Lake all-existing plan is especially remarkable considering the 2002 Games had seven sports and 78 events and the 2026 Milan Cortina Winter Games will have eight sports and 116 events.

And there are possible new venues coming to the Salt Lake City area, having nothing to do with a Winter Games, including talk of a new arena and perhaps a baseball stadium. If built, they could be incorporated later.

The International Olympic Committee’s Future Host Commission will visit Salt Lake City next week, from 10-13 April. As the targeted candidate for 2034, Salt Lake City is expected to be formally selected at the IOC Session in Paris in July.

2.
IOC puts national boxing feds on notice: 2028 decision next year!

The International Olympic Committee was cheered by the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport announced Tuesday that dismissed the appeal by the International Boxing Association of its 2023 withdrawal of recognition.

But its statement issued on Wednesday was much stiffer, following up on warning from President Thomas Bach [GER] warning to national boxing federations that they will need to figure out their next move – which does not include the IBA – pretty soon if they want to see boxing on the Los Angeles 2028 program:

“Following the IBA’s suspension and the subsequent withdrawal of its recognition by the IOC, the Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024 boxing tournaments, including the qualification process, were and are being organised by boxing units set up by the IOC. This has been done to protect the sport of boxing and the athletes. Because of the universality and high social inclusivity of boxing, the IOC wants it to continue to feature on the programme of the Olympic Games.

“Unfortunately, this is far from certain for the Olympic Games LA 2028 because, for governance reasons, the IOC is not in a position to organise another Olympic boxing tournament. To keep boxing on the Olympic programme, the IOC needs a recognised and reliable International Federation as a partner, as with all the other Olympic sports. …

“Every National Boxing Federation and every NOC that wants its boxers to make their Olympic dreams a reality and win medals will now have to take the necessary decisions. The NOCs and National Boxing Federations thus hold the future of Olympic boxing in their own hands, and the required actions cannot be clearer.

“At the moment, boxing is not on the sports programme for the Olympic Games LA28. In order to remedy this, the IOC needs to have a partner International Federation for boxing by early 2025.”

The World Boxing group, formally constituted last November, was set up to provide a new international federation to ensure boxing’s continued inclusion in the Olympic Games. But it has only 27 national federations at present and forecast it would have 50 by the end of this year.

Now, however, the IOC has enormously increased the pressure on most national federations to make a choice between their existing relationship with the IBA and moving to World Boxing … or doing something else.

Not to be lost in the discussion is the real possibility that if boxing is not included for LA28, some national federations could lose their government funding. So the pressure from the IOC’s deadline will come from multiple sides.

The IBA issued its own statement, decrying – as expected – the Court of Arbitration decision and insisting it did nothing to merit expulsion from the Olympic Movement:

“The International Boxing Association (IBA) has disappointingly heard that the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) did not uphold IBA’s appeal against the decision of the IOC Session that withdrew the recognition of the organization.”

The statement lists the changes that the IBA has made – fully sufficient in its view – and concludes:

“The IBA feels that disregarding these and other improvements suggests a biased view. We further understand this noting that CAS is far from independent of the IOC, bringing those doubts based on comments from [IOC President] Thomas Bach on Tuesday [GER]; by virtue, his expectations of what would be happening, were interestingly released ahead of both parties receiving communication directly from CAS. He also announced the IOC’s victory in this dispute prior to the award being issued.

“Driven by personal and purely political reasons, IOC President disrespected the Olympic Charter and discredited himself and the IOC as an organization naming the reason behind IBA’s recognition withdrawal.

“The IBA will refrain from further comments until the CAS award has been thoroughly analyzed by its legal experts which is taking place right now to draw a conclusion whether the organization appeals to the Swiss Federal Tribunal.”

This is a continuation of the IBA’s position over the many months since its suspension by the IOC. While it can appeal the judgement to the Swiss Federal Tribunal, the grounds on which any changes can be made are quite narrow, and unlikely.

World Boxing posted a statement which concluded:

“This is an urgent situation and the clock is ticking. The leaders of boxing’s National Federations now have a critically important decision to make and we urge every one of them that cares about boxers and the future of the sport to apply to join and support World Boxing in its efforts to ensure boxing remains at the heart of the Olympic Movement, before it is too late.”

3.
Future of ANOC World Beach Games decided on 28 April?

Indonesia was set to host the second edition of the ANOC World Beach Games in Bali in August 2023, but the refusal of the Bali governor to allow Israel to compete caused the event to be canceled on 5 July. The organizers cited a refusal of the national government to release funds for the event, but the refusal to allow Israelis to compete – Indonesia is politically strongly pro-Palestinian – was the real reason.

The implosion of the 2023 event left considerable carnage in its wake and the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) has been trying to determine the way forward, if any.

The decision on the future of the event may come this month.

ANOC Secretary General Gunilla Lindberg (SWE) explained the current status at the General Assembly of the Oceania National Olympic Committees last week:

“As you know, we had problems with last year’s ANOC World Beach Games, and the General Assembly in Bali. They cancelled just four weeks before the event, and we have been struggling and they have really done a lot of harm, to our organization, to the NOCs, and, of course, most of all to the athletes that had qualified.

“We are working with them, we are trying to get money out of them and the good thing is that we at least managed to pay all the NOCs back for the travels that concerning the athletes and your trips.

“But, we don’t give up. We had the President of the Indonesian NOC as I said, at the [ANOC Executive Committee] meeting in December [8th]. He promised he would have a solution until the end of December. Now we are in March, and we have to take other actions, and that may be juridical one.

“So, next meeting coming up is in Athens, in April, the day after the handover of the Torch from Greece to Paris, that’s on the 26th of April. At that meeting, we will, of course, have further discussion about the World Beach Games, and also our ANOC strategic plan evaluation and see our program for the coming year.”

Translation: look for a lawsuit against the Indonesian NOC to be filed, a circumstance which will certainly impact any discussions Indonesia wishes to have with the IOC concerning a future Olympic Games in that country.

Lindberg further detailed the next steps in the life or death of the event:

“We will, of course, make an evaluation on if we should continue or not and what our different stakeholders have to say, so we have had [a] meeting with the previous host, the Qatar Olympic Committee, the IFs, the technical working group of NOCs, the Athletes and the Events Commission, and we will make a report until the next meeting.

“I can say so far all the stakeholders have been very positive, especially of course the athletes, and the IFs want to promote their sport, but we also say that we have to make another format, we have to cut the cost and it should not cost the NOCs anything.

“So we’re trying to have that as a special project.”

Lindberg’s presentation on the World Beach Games showed a slide with the meeting on 28 April to include the “ANOC Executive Council decision.”

4.
Worrying has officially started on LA28 transportation

The headline of Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times story read, “As Paris Olympics near, Los Angeles officials worry about preparations for 2028.”

The focus was not on the LA28 organizing committee, but one of the intransigent aspects of Southern California life over the last century: traffic:

“The steep financial cost of the 2028 Olympic Games is starting to come into closer focus in the run-up to the Paris Games, as Los Angeles planners are tabulating the billions of dollars that will be needed to prevent traffic jams and long waits for commuters.”

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass is the current Chair of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (“Metro”), and told the Metro Board during its meeting last Thursday (28th):

“We took a delegation to Paris to prepare for the 2028 Olympics and to make sure – here we are on the 40th anniversary of the ‘84 Olympics – but to make sure we have the same kind of outcome and legacy in 2028 that we did in 1984, where, to this day, we continue to benefit from those Olympics.

“So I’m glad that Board Directors [Paul] Krekorian, [Katy] Yaroslavsky and CEO Stephanie Wiggins were also on that trip. And I think it was an exciting trip, but I also think it put fire under us to realize that we need to get far more involved in Olympic preparation and all that it might mean, and I look forward to when the Olympics is over in Paris, that the staff – the [Paris] Mayor’s Office – agreed to do a deep-dive debrief with us on lessons learned.

“The Mayor of Paris agreed to that , and I think we will really look forward to that and I am sorry that other mayors couldn’t be along, especially Mayor [James] Butts [of Inglewood], but he was a little busy during that time.

“But while we were in Paris, the L.A. region secured $900 million in funding to strengthen critical infrastructure …Metro will also receive $139 million to reconnect communities … and improve connectivity throughout L.A. County.”

Yaroslavsky, also an L.A. City Council member, was more explicit about the Paris trip and what happens next:

“It was very illuminating. It was a little bit terrifying. I just want to add a little bit. It really highlighted for me the enormity of the opportunity and the workload we have in front of us, to deliver the Games in four short years.

“Heading into the trip I was really eager to explore the housing, transportation and urban tree canopy investments delivered by Mayor [Anne] Hidalgo and other leaders ahead of those Games.

“The transformative nature of the work was palpable, but it also reinforced for me how rapidly we need collaboration at all levels to deliver the Games in a sustainable way. I’m thinking about 2028 as the drop-dead deadline for accelerating all the work we want to do.

It’s also an excuse to go after federal funding and state dollars in a way we might not otherwise be able to do, and in my mind, a lot of that is going to be around first-mile, last-mile, delivering our priority transit projects, ensuring we’re not using dirty diesel buses for the Olympics, and, most paramount of all, of course, is housing for our unhoused population.” (Emphasis added)

The Board approved a motion to create a “Legislative Advocacy Working Group for the 2028 Games” specifically designed to lobby for federal and state funding.

The Times’ story quoted Metro’s Chief Innovation Officer Seleta Reynolds, from a committee hearing in March:

“We have a huge challenge when it comes to the supplemental bus system.

“There are no discretionary grants that the federal government offers that will cover operations at that scale. There are very, very few sources of money that could cover that kind of cost.”

Metro reportedly estimates the cost of spectator transit for the 2028 Games at $700 million and could rise of $1 billion if buses have to be leased.

So the worry game is now on, but not related to the Games at all, perhaps another Los Angeles Olympic first.

Observed: It’s important to note that Metro’s transit concerns are not related to the athletes, coaches, officials or news media attending the 2028 Games, as their needs are handled by the LA28 organizing committee.

Metro’s role is for public transportation – including Olympic spectators – which it has worked on tirelessly for decades and has thus far been unable to break Southern California’s long love affair with the car.

5.
WADA reports testing in 2022 up, close to pre-pandemic levels

The 320-page 2022 Anti-Doping Testing Figures report released Wednesday shows the anti-doping world nearly getting back to the pre-pandemic levels for testing, but with – happily – a significant drop on positive tests.

The overall picture showed an increase from 2022 over 2021, but still behind 2019:

2022: 256,769 samples analyzed
2021: 241.340
2019: 278,047

2022: 218,774 samples analyzed in Olympic sports
2021: 207,008
2019: 227,032

2022: 1,986 total positive tests (0.77%)
2021: 1,560 (0.65%)
2019: 2,702 (0.97%)

2022: 1,222 total positives in Olympic sports (0.56%)
2021: 1,013 (0.49%)
2019: 1,519 (0.79%)

So, while testing levels are almost back to pre-pandemic levels, the number of positive tests is down significantly, by 297 in Olympic sports, in 2022 vs. 2019.

The type of tests have not changed substantially, but the beginning of dried-blood-spot technology – a very promising development – was started in 2022. Urine samples accounted for 80.3%, blood tests were collected in 7.9% of cases, dried-blood-spot testing was used for 1.0% and Athlete Biological Passport cases comprised 10.8%.

The top Olympic sports in terms of testing:

1. 33,960: Athletics ~ 259 positives (0.8%)
2. 33,601: Football ~ 92 positives (0.3%)
3. 22,551: Cycling ~ 133 positives (0.6%)
4. 15,943: Aquatics ~ 65 positives (0.4%)
5. 12,897: Weightlifting ~ 153 positives (1.2%)

Sports with 1% or more positive tests included boxing (49: 1.1%), equestrian (13: 1.4%), golf (4: 1.1%), and wrestling (70: 1.0%).

Among the winter sports, skiing (all forms) had the most tests at 8,398, followed by skating (all types) at 4,607 and then ice hockey (3,779).

The most active national anti-doping agencies in terms of collections in 2022:

1. China: 19,228
2. Germany: 13,653
3. Russia: 10,186
4. France: 9,775
5. Italy: 9,101

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency ranked seventh at 6,782.

The anti-doping organizations returning the highest positive-test rates were Syria (50.0% across two tests), Philippines (34.6%), Cambodia (33.3%), Angola and Tanzania (16.7%), Myanmar (15.0%), Oman (12.5%), Guatemala (10.8%), Iraq (10.3%), and Grenada (10.0%).

As usual, the busiest labs in the world were at Cologne (GER: 31,118 tests) and Siebersdorf (AUT: 24.571).

Steroids are still the biggest issue in doping. Among the positive tests, the leading categories were anabolic agents (1,124 or 42%), followed by the related groups of diuretics and masking agents (419 or 16%), then Stimulants (412 or 15%), hormone and metabolic modulators (288 or 11%) and cannabinoids (134 or 5%).

≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ≡

● Curling ● The World Curling men’s World Championships continue in Schaffhausen (SUI), with round-robin play now two-thirds complete. Sweden’s Niklas Edin, skip of the 2022 Olympic champs and six-time World Champion, leads the standings with his rink at 8-0, followed by Canada’s 2006 Olympic champ Brad Gushue (7-1), followed by Switzerland (Yannick Schwaller: 6-2) and Scotland’s Beijing 2022 Olympic runner-up Bruce Mouat (6-2).

The top six will advance to the playoffs; the U.S. team is skipped by 2018 Olympic champ John Shuster, sitting seventh at 4-4 so far. Round-robin play will finish on Friday and the playoffs will be held on the weekend.

● Ice Hockey ● The U.S. got strong goal tending from Aerin Frankel and Haley Winn scored twice on the way to a 4-0 win over Switzerland in their opening match of the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship, being played in Utica, New York.

Winn scored at 5:23 of the second period for a 1-0 lead and Kendall Coyne Schofield made it 2-0 at the 16:00 mark. Veteran star Hilary Knight scored the third goal at 10:47 of the third and Winn got her second at 14:41. The U.S. out-shot the Swiss by 55-11.

Group play continues through the ninth, with the playoffs beginning on the 11th.

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● World University Games ● The North Carolina organizers and the International University Sports Federation (FISU) agreed on the dates for the 2029 World University Games from Wednesday, 11 July through Sunday, 22 July 2029.

Hill Carrow, Board Chair and chief executive for the North Carolina organizers said in a statement:

“These were the dates recommended and requested by our university hosts and other venues involved in our bid as being the best dates for those host institutions and facilities to be able to accommodate the Games. Now that the dates have been set, we can add more specificity to our project timelines as we continue to plan for the big event.”

● Russia ● There is a cost to trying to qualify as a neutral athlete for the Paris Olympic Games, according to Russian Rowing Federation President Sergei Svirin:

“Russian athletes, who last year were tested by World Rowing for compliance with neutral status, would have to go through this again in the Olympic season.

“For studying the data of six athletes and two specialists, we had to pay the international federation from 20 to 22 thousand Swiss francs.” (CHF 1 = $1.11 U.S.)

Remaining qualification options for Russians include the European qualifier from 25-28 April in Hungary and the world qualifier in Lucerne (SUI) from 19-21 May.

● U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee ● The Team USA Athletes’ Commission is pushing for Congress to pass legislation which would make the entity “independent,” with its own funding, although where that funding will come from is not stated.

American athletes are being urged to add their name to a letter to sent to Representatives and Senators which notes the recommendation of the Commission on the State of the U.S. Olympics and Paralympics to make the Athletes’ Commission independent:

“One recommendation is to make Team USA AC completely independent of the USOPC. This is a monumental step for all Team USA athletes, and a long-awaited change in the right direction to ensure a truly empowered athletes’ voice within the Movement.”

The letter says this entails “fairly easy amendments to the Ted Stevens Act to … ensure a steady revenue stream for Team USA AC and any method of securing independent funding must guarantee a revenue stream with which an empowered Team USA AC can hire professional staff with a legal duty to act in athletes’ best interests.”

Observed: Nothing dealing with the Congress and money is ever “easy.”

● Athletics ● New Yorkers love Marathon Sunday, but taxpayers cannot be expected to subsidize a wealthy non-government organization like the New York Road Runners to the tune of $750,000.”

That’s Catherine Sheridan, head of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, in a statement saying the NYRR should pay a crossing fee for its runners to cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from Staten Island to Brooklyn at the start of the annual New York City Marathon.

NYRR spokesperson Crystal Howard told The Associated Press the organization has asked for the mathematics behind the $750,000 claim, noted the race provides significantly increased MTA ridership and:

“The impact of MTA’s request would represent a material change to the cost structure and would require an increase to how much runners pay to run the Marathon, making it less affordable for local runners and those who travel to New York City from around the world – both of whom contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the City’s and State’s economy.”

● Football ● Luis Rubiales, the former head of the Royal Spanish Football Federation who lost his position after forcibly kissing Spanish midfielder Jenni Hermoso during the victory ceremony following the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, was arrested and later released on Wednesday by Spanish authorities.

Rubiales was detained as part of a continuing investigation into arrangements made by Rubiales and the RFEF to play the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia. The first Super Cup to be held in Saudi Arabia was in Jeddah was in 2020, and has subsequently been held there in 2022-23-24, all in Riyadh.

The RFEF reportedly agreed in 2019 on a three-year arrangement, receiving €120 million ($130.04 million U.S. today) to play an expanded four-team tournament in the Middle East.

Rubiales was held and released on his return to Madrid from the Dominican Republic; he is being investigated for “illegal commissions” from the Super Cup deal, with prosecutors asking for a 30-month jail term. Rubiales are denied any impropriety.

A long-planned, giant football stadium near Casablanca, Morocco is coming closer to reality, with €456 million (~$494.1 million U.S.) allocated and construction to be completed by 2026.

If built, it is expected to be the largest stadium in the world at 115,000 seats, and a strong candidate for the 2030 World Cup final; the tournament will be held in Spain, Portugal and Morocco.

The “Grand Stade de Casablanca” would actually be built in El Mansouria, a coastal town of about 20,000, with the design by the Populous (U.S.) and Oualalou + Choi (MAR) selected.

The FIFA Disciplinary Committee ruled Wednesday. on the North Korean forfeit of the 26 March 2024 Asian qualifying match (for the 2026 FIFA World Cup) against Japan, slated to be played in Pyongyang. But the Koreans claimed an “infectious disease” in Japan would not allow them to play. Per FIFA:

“After analysing the various factual elements in light of the applicable regulations, the chairman of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee has decided to declare the match lost by forfeit 3-0 by the representative team of DPR Korea. Additionally, the DPR Korea Football Association has been ordered to pay a fine to the amount of CHF 10,000.”

● Swimming ● While Paris has trumpeted the return of swimming to the Seine River – banned since 1923 – for this summer’s Olympic open-water swimming and triathlon events, a similar effort in the U.S. will re-opened the Chicago River to swimming.

The “A Long Swim” organization, which raises funds for ALS research, is putting on the first Chicago River swims in about 100 years on 22 September. Registration continues to 28 April, with one-mile and two-mile swims being offered, subject to proper water quality.

Participation is limited to 500 swimmers, with participants selected by lottery on 6 May. All swimmers must have previously completed a one-mile or two-mile swim, and in addition to a $50-70 participation fee, all swimmers “agree to fundraise a minimum of $1,500 (USD) for 2-mile swimmers or $1,000 (USD) for 1-mile swimmers to support A Long Swim.”

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TSX REPORT: IOC’s Bach insists sport must engage with politics, that digitalization is the future; Johnson & Kahn both eye big-pay T&F concepts

U.S. weightlifter Hampton Morris celebrating a world record in the 61 kg class Clean & Jerk at the IWF World Cup in Thailand (Photo: USA Weightlifting)

The Sports Examiner: Chronicling the key competitive, economic and political forces shaping elite sport and the Olympic Movement.★

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. Bach: “I hope we will always have issues with politics”
2. Bach: digitalization “will determine the future of sport”
3. Court of Arbitration throws out IBA appeal vs. IOC
4. Johnson and Kahn talk up big-money track & field events
5. Albuquerque says $3.4 million in direct spend from indoor track

● International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach gave a groundbreaking speech before the General Assembly of the Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC) last week in Fiji, saying that sport and politics do mix and that sport must engage with politics, but retain its autonomy.

● Bach told the delegates that the single most important force they must deal with for the future is digitalization. The two prime areas of interest today are engagement with eSports to maintain the interest of youth, and with artificial intelligence. He said the IOC would start an AI vision project in April.

● The Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed the appeal by the International Boxing Association of the withdrawal of recognition by the IOC in 2023. The arbitrators reinforced the idea that the IOC can run its Olympic Games – within reason – how it wants, with who it wants and its own terms.

● Atlanta Olympic star Michael Johnson and former Cornell distance runner and software entrepreneur Barry Kahn are both working – separately – on high-profile, high-paying track & field meets. Johnson’s project is a multi-meet package aimed at 2025, but Kahn wants to stage a $1 million extravaganza later this year, limited to the men’s and women’s 100 meters.

● Visit Albuquerque reported that eight indoor track & field meets at its convention center provided a direct-speed boost to the region of $3.4 million! It’s part of a 16-event program expected to bring $18 million in spending in 2024.

Panorama: Olympic Games 2036 (Indonesia confirms interest in bidding, will observe in Paris) = International Paralympic Committee (IPC moving into new home in Bonn) = Swimming (2: Bowman to continue training elite swimmers in Austin; Singapore’s Schooling retires at 28) = Weightlifting (records galore at IWF World Cup, including first by a U.S. man since 1969) ●

1.
Bach: “I hope we will always have issues with politics”

A new formula for engagement between sport and politics as intertwined and essential was described last week by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (GER) in an important, 48-minute keynote address to the General Assembly of the Oceania National Olympic Committees, meeting in Fiji.

Bach spoke directly to the issues between the IOC, representing world sport, and governments around the world that have their own issues and interests. It’s easily the most exacting description of how any IOC President has ever seen the intersection of sport and politics:

“When speaking about good governance and promoting the relevance of sport in our society, then it’s also about respecting the different roles of the actors in society.

“And that is, in particular, true for politics. We will, hopefully, always have issues with politics.

“Because if we don’t have issues with politics any more, it means we are not relevant any more.

“Politicians are only interested in successful organizations. If we are not successful, if they don’t have the feeling that we have access to so many people in society, that we can contribute something, they will not be interested.

“So, I hope we will always have issues with politics, but what we need to do is that we can address these challenges in the right way and that means that we have to deal with politics in mutual respect.

“It means for us, in the world of sport, we have to respect that the world is run by politicians, and not by us. Unfortunately. But we also have to make politics understanding, in politicians understanding that we can only contribute to society, if they respect our autonomy.

“If they want to politicize us, if they want us to use as political tools, we cannot contribute any more, because then we are losing our values.

“Politics is always divisive. You always have different opinions, you also always have confrontation, you always have a clash of interests. Sport is unifying. Sport is the contrary of being divisive. Sport is the glue which holds our societies together.

“To mention only one example, for the differences between sport and politics. So we have to defend by all means our autonomy. And I say it here – I don’t know for how many times I’ve said it already, but it needs, apparently, to be repeated – that does not mean that we are apolitical, that we behave as if we would live on an island of the Saints, and that we would not acknowledge that also our actions have a political impact, and should have a political impact.

“Because otherwise, again, we would not be relevant. But, and that’s the difference, we have to be politically neutral. That means, for you as an NOC, whoever is in government, always realize that tomorrow they can be in opposition. And the ones who are in opposition can be in government tomorrow.

“And that they have, by nature, different interests than we have and must have in sport. So, keep your neutrality, work closely with them, as long and as much they respect your autonomy. But draw the line when you feel they want to take you over and they want to absorb you into their political field.

“And what is true on a national level is also true in an international level. This is why the IOC Executive Board just last week, together with [IOC Vice President] John Coates [AUS] and [ONOC President] Robin Mitchell [FIJ], we passed a declaration against the politicalization of sport, which is about the international level, where we can see such kind of efforts by or the other governments trying to start organizing purely politically-motivated games and sports events without any respect for our values and for our rules.”

Observed: So we can say that, as of 25 March 2024, any further discussion of sport being separate from politics must be dismissed. Bach has worked tirelessly – and to the distress of many observers – to further embed the IOC in United Nations projects, which he also spoke to during his ONOC address.

By following this path, Bach believes that it is better, in today’s ultra-connected world, to be engaged than apart. So far, he is pulling it off, but it is an open question how well any concept of comity amidst a deeply divided and increasingly hostile world can survive, let alone thrive, now, or for his successor.

2.
Bach: digitalization “will determine the future of sport”

IOC President Bach, now in his 12th year at the helm of the Olympic Movement, also spoke passionately and in deep detail about staying current and getting ahead of the digital future, and promised a new initiative from the IOC:

I would like to encourage you to stay ahead of the curve in particular with regard to the one topic that will determine the future of our lives, of our personal lives, that will determine the future of our societies, and which will also determine the future of sport and this is digitalization.

“The ever-accelerating development of digitalization will, within a couple of years, change our world. And this, when it comes to sport, true, in particular with regard to two work streams.

“The one is with regard to eSports and eGames, where we cannot ignore that about three billion people on this planet are familiar with these games, and are not necessarily familiar any more in the young age with sport and physical activity. Therefore, we have to look into this area. We cannot ignore it; if we just ignore it, we will lose with we have, with hard work, got back in the last couple of years and what we can see from the numbers and figures in [social-media] followership for games and for sports [by] the young generation. …

“We have gained them back. But we will not maintain it, again, if we do not change, if we do not address their areas of society, if we do not address their lifestyle, if we do not address their interests, and there, eSports and eGames is a very important factor. This is why I’ve asked, there at the latest IOC Session in Mumbai last November our Esports Comission to study the establishment of Olympic Esports Games, where we want to make an effort in this respect, while, of course, always respecting our values, our values of nonviolence, of non-discrimination, of respect and tolerance. These will not be given up, but we have to go, we have to approach this community, to win them over for us, and to keep them interested in us.

“And the other, even more overwhelming development is artificial intelligence, which has the potential to start to change sports in every respect, from the training of the athletes to judging and refereeing and the fight against doping, to the experience of spectators, be [it] live – where it will be more immersive – be [it] on the screen, where everybody can be there own director in the future and has not to rely on the directors of the broadcasts and so on.

“There is a huge potential, related also with an imminent risk, like every new technology has risks, which have to be addressed, but there again, sport is different. Not from all other areas of society, but from most of the other areas of society, because there they discuss whether AI will take over their areas. Whether AI will take over human beings, whether AI will replace human beings, and there, for not being alleged of something, let’s take our profession, John [Coates, IOC Vice President], we remember that once we have been lawyers, where many people are saying in 10 years you don’t need lawyers any more, maybe already in five years.

“This is different in sport. The 100 meters will always have to be run by an athlete. They will be run by a robot, it’s not sport any more.

“So in sports, this principal question is answered: there in sports, AI can help, can assist, can support, but cannot replace the athlete.

“And it can help all of us organize sport in a more efficient, in a more sustainable, in a better way.

“There, you will see next month [in April], already in a couple of weeks – mid of next month – an initiative of the IOC where we will present such a project which brings together a vision of artificial intelligence in sport, and I can only encourage you maybe at your conference preceding your general assembly next year, maybe to dedicate to this topic of AI, in follow-up and implementation of this vision of AI in sport because, again, this will be the main challenge, and, you know me, I’m not so much worried about challenges. I always like to look at the bright side of life, to look at the opportunities AI is offering for us and to do it at the right time, again, before others are taking us over in this respect.”

3.
Court of Arbitration throws out IBA appeal vs. IOC

“The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has dismissed the appeal filed by the International Boxing Association (IBA) against the decision taken by the IOC Session on 22 June 2023 withdrawing the IOC’s recognition of the IBA as the IF for the sport of boxing.”

Tuesday’s announcement was likely the end of a long-shot attempt by the IBA to overturn what was essentially a expulsion from the Olympic Movement. The matter was heard in November and the statement noted:

“The Panel determined that these three elements justified the IOC Session’s decision to withdraw recognition of the IBA and emphasized that the IOC’s right to control the circumstances in and the conditions on which it confers recognition outweighed the IBA’s personality rights.” The specific elements included:

● “The IBA had not increased its financial transparency and sustainability including through diversification of revenues.”

● “The IBA had not changed its process relating to referees and judges to ensure its integrity, including a monitoring period for IBA’s own competitions ahead of the Olympic Games Paris 2024.”

● “The IBA had not ensured the full and effective implementation of all the measures proposed by the ‘Governance Reform Group’ established by the IOC, including a change of culture.”

In other words, the decision reinforced the IOC’s position – as owner of the Olympic Games – that it can choose – within reason – whomever it wants to be in charge of any sport on its Olympic Games.

A further appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal is possible, but the review there is extremely limited.

During his ONOC address on 25 March, IOC chief Bach told the delegates that unless the world’s national boxing federation coalesce around a new International Federation (such as the new World Boxing group), boxing will not be included at the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He said that the IOC will not serve as the boxing organizer beyond Paris 2024, having already managed the sport at Tokyo 2020.

4.
Johnson and Kahn talk up big-money track & field events

A Sports Business Journal story on Monday profiled two concurrent development projects in track & field, one headed by Atlanta Olympic icon Michael Johnson and the other by former Cornell distance runner and later software entrepreneur Barry Kahn.

Johnson had previously announced an agreement with Winners Alliance, the for-profit agency founded in 2022 as part of the Professional Tennis Players Association, to create a series of meets in 2025. These would have larger prize purses than the current Diamond League meets ($10,000 winner’s prize); although no schedule or other details have been posted, Johnson shared his formula for success in a 2022 Twitter thread that included:

● “I asked what sport represents a successful example of what track & field could be or should be. In the thread below I have listed my response to some of the replies, and end with my opinion what the sport needs to achieve its potential.”

“Tennis/Golf. Individual sports, most comparable to track. 4 ‘Majors’ every year serve as the pinnacle. T&F calendar is confusing & crowded. Olympics, World Champs, 14 Diamond League events. All presented as major, but Olympics is ‘The Major’, and not controlled by the sport.”

● “Team sports. Make T&F a team sport. Sports fans identify with teams. NFL, NBA, EPL, etc. To successfully transition to a team sport or add a team element requires a well orchestrated approach that won’t create more confusion with athletes sometimes team and sometimes not.”

Kahn proposes a different kind of project, a single-event extravaganza that would be held over two or three days. His Duael Track concept is hoped to launch after the Paris 2024 Olympic Games; the story explained:

“Duæl Track will hold head-to-head matchups in the 100 meters and, ultimately, the mile as well. It will launch with Duæl 100 in September in Jamaica, though the exact date and location have not been finalized. The three-day event will feature 10 men and 10 women, racing head-to-head in heats of two until a winner stands atop the bracket.”

The program is built for television and could expand to 40 athletes in 2025 and an event for the mile could launch in 2026, with more added in the future.

The 100 meter event is slated to have a $1 million prize pool, with $500,000 to be paid to the two winners.

Both groups are looking for television and sponsorship agreements, as well as venues.

5.
Albuquerque says $3.4 million in direct spend from indoor track

Eight indoor track & field meets drew about 9,000 athletes, coaches and fans to the Albuquerque Convention Center in January and February, resulting in direct spending of $3.4 million in the region.

Visit Albuquerque said in a statement that the events are part of a larger program of sports events attracted to the area, which are expected to bring in more than 35,000 attendees and more than $18 million in direct spending.

Scheduled events for the remainder of the year are in archery, boxing, cycling, gymnastics and volleyball, addition to track.

The first-quarter track events included the USA Track & Field Indoor Championships, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Indoor Track Invitational, University of New Mexico Team Open, New Mexico Collegiate Classic, Don Kirby Elite Invitational, Mountain West Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships, Great Southwest Track & Field Indoor Meet and Western Athletic Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships. Indoor track events have contributed $10.4 million in direct spending over the last three years in Albuquerque.

The USATF Indoor meet produced a direct-spend in the region of $700,000, but was expected to be the second-largest indoor track event of the season, at 1,500 total attendees. The annual Don Kirby Elite Invitational, held the week prior, was expected to host a total of 1,600.

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● Games of the XXXVI Olympiad ● Indonesia confirmed that it is in discussions with the IOC concerning a future Olympic hosting – possibly for 2036 – and will send an observer delegation to Paris for this summer’s Olympic Games.

In addition to representatives from the Indonesian Olympic Committee, the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing will be included in the Paris delegation.

Observed: Beyond the questions of venues, villages, transportation and so on, Indonesian officials will have to explain to the IOC why they should be considered after the cancellation of the ANOC World Beach Games in 2023 and forfeit of the FIFA men’s U-20 World Cup because the government would not allow Israel to participate. Although FIFA withdrew the men’s U-20 World Cup over the rejection of Israel – which eventually won the bronze in the relocated tournament in Argentina – it awarded its men’s U-17 World Cup to Indonesia, held in November and December last year (Israel did not qualify).

● International Paralympic Committee ● Headquartered in the same building in Bonn (GER) since 1999 – its first central office location – the IPC closed the doors on 28 March and is moving to a new home just about 500 m away.

From its initial 10 staff members in 1999, the IPC’s 130-strong staff will soon occupy the former State Representation building in Bonn, close to the Bonn World Conference Center. The German State of North Rhine-Westphalia decided in 2019 to provide the facility at Dahlmannstrasse 2 in Bonn for IPC use beginning in 2020, but subsequent events – like the Covid-19 pandemic – put everything on hold.

The IPC had staff in multiple buildings in Bonn, but all will now be under one roof.

● Swimming ● New Texas coach Bob Bowman was introduced in Austin at a news conference on Tuesday and said that the swimmers who are training with him for the U.S. Trials and the Olympic Games will continue to do so.

That includes French star Leon Marchand, who led Arizona State to its first NCAA men’s swimming title in March and is expected to be a gold-medal contender in multiple events in Paris, and Hungarian backstroke star Hubert Kos, the 2023 World Champion in the 200 m Back.

Bowman’s American post-collegiate trainees, such as Rio Olympic women’s 100 m co-champ Simone Manuel, Tokyo Olympic men’s 400 m Medley gold medalist Chase Kalisz and others, will train with Bowman for a few more days at Arizona State. After the Tyr Pro Swim Series meet in San Antonio, Texas next week, Bowman will split time between Tempe and Austin, then go to a training camp in Colorado in May and then coach his swimmers in Austin up and through the U.S. Olympic Trials in June.

Singapore’s Joseph Schooling, a 12-time NCAA swimming gold medal winner and the 2016 Olympic 100 m Butterfly winner, announced his retirement on Tuesday at age 28.

Schooling, now 28, will be remembered most for his startling upset win at Rio in an Olympic record of 50.39, destroying a fine field that included American superstar Michael Phelps, who tied for second with Chad Le Clos (RSA) and Laszlo Cseh (HUN) at 51.14. Schooling received a reward of S$1,000,000, or about $739,810 U.S. today; the NCAA allowed him to keep the money since he was a foreign student.

● Weightlifting ● The record books are being rewritten at the IWF World Cup in Phuket (THA), with two men’s marks and North Korean women claiming seven records in the first three classes!

In the men’s 61 kg class on Tuesday, China’s Tokyo Olympic champ Fabin Li set a world record of 146 kg in the Snatch and won the overall competition at 312 kg, but not far behind was American Hampton Morris. Still just 20, Morris was only seventh in the Snatch (127 kg), but set a world record for the Clean & Jerk at 176 kg and vaulted up to second overall at 303 kg.

He broke Li’s world C&J mark of 175 kg from 2022. This was the first world record by an American man since 1969 when Bob Bednarski set marks for the Snatch and total at 110 kg. Morris also got U.S. records for the Snatch and total at 61 kg and now ranks no. 2 in the IWF’s Olympic rankings.

North Korea is dominating the women’s lifting, with Hyon Sim Won taking the 45 kg class with 87 kg (Snatch) ~ 109 kg (Clean & Jerk) ~ 196 kg (total), setting world records in all three segments! Siriwimon Pramonghkhol (THA) was well back in second at 176 kg (total).

PRK teammate Song Gum Ri won the women’s 49 kg division over China’s Tokyo Olympic champ, Zhizhi Hou, 221 kg to 217 overall. Hou started with a world record of 97 kg in the Snatch, but Ri lifted 97/124/221 and took the world mark for the total. (Hou got the world mark for the Snatch over Ri because she lifted it first.)

At 55 kg, Hyon Gyong Kang (PRK) continued the sweep, lifting 103/131/234 to win easily against Romanian Mihaela-Valentina Cambei (91/110/201). Kang got world records in the Clean & Jerk (131 kg) and total (234 kg), in both cases breaking her own marks from the 2023 Asian Games.

The competition – the last Olympic qualifier – continues through the 11th.

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TSX REPORT: Promised U.S. Center for SafeSport reforms announced; Paris Mayor Hidalgo enrages Russia; star swim coach Bowman heads to Texas!

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo

The Sports Examiner: Chronicling the key competitive, economic and political forces shaping elite sport and the Olympic Movement.★

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. SafeSport announces key process changes as promised
2. Russia’s Pozdnyakov inflamed over Hidalgo’s dismissal
3. Wasserman on LA28: “To me, this is a public service”
4. IHF promoting Beach Handball with demo program in Paris
5. Star swim coach Bowman wins NCAA at ASU, leaves for Texas!

The U.S. Center for SafeSport promised significant reforms at last month’s Congressional hearings. These were announced Monday, including a revision of its “administrative closure” process, a more efficient structure and new training for trauma sensitivity, all long requested.

● Anne Hidalgo, the Paris Mayor, said on a video recorded in Kyiv that Russian and Belarusian athletes “are not welcome in Paris.” Russian reaction was angry and bitter, even with the International Olympic Committee assuring the those “neutral” athletes allowed to compete in Paris will be accommodated in the Olympic Village.

● LA28 Chair Casey Wasserman was asked last week on The Rich Eisen Show what his grandfather – legendary entertainment giant Lew Wasserman – would think of his role, and spoke of pride, but also legacy. Former L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke directly to what that legacy will be in 2019.

● The International Handball Federation is trying to get Beach Handball into the Olympic Games and will have a three-day demonstration of the sport at the French Handball Federation during the Games in Paris this summer.

● Two days after leading Arizona State to its first-ever men’s NCAA Swimming & Diving title, coach Bob Bowman was announced as the new Director of Swimming & Diving at the University of Texas! Wow! And what happens to the many post-collegiate stars Bowman is training in Tempe?

Panorama: Athletics (world best at Texas Relays in women’s 4×2) = Football (report from Mexico says Estadio Azteca behind on 2026 World Cup renovation) ●

1.
SafeSport announces key process changes as promised

The U.S. Center for SafeSport announced a series of organizational and policy changes for better efficiency and performance, as promised during Congressional hearings last month:

“After spending the past eight months conducting a top-to-bottom review of its processes and seeking feedback from athletes and national governing bodies (NGBs) along the way, the Center has launched an initial set of process improvements that impact nearly every aspect of its work.”

SafeSport was a significant focus of the 1 March report of the Commission on the State of the U.S. Olympics and Paralympics and the House and Senate sub-committee hearings, at which SafeSport chief executive Ju’Riese Colon was a central witness.

The changes highlight the concerns made over several years:

● The heretofore-separate Intake and Resolutions, Investigations, and Legal groups were combined into a single Response and Resolution unit for better service, and much-requested trauma-sensitivity training is being developed:

“The Center is dedicating 50% of an employee’s time to implementing a comprehensive training curriculum for its Response and Resolution department, including enhanced trauma-sensitivity training grounded in research and best practices.”

● The much-maligned “administrative closure” process is being modified:

“Center will be redefining and recategorizing Administrative Closures and Holds to provide more clarity and understanding. As a part of this change, the Center will provide to participants in its process and NGBs specific categories that explain the reason for these outcomes, without compromising Claimant confidentiality.”

● Communications will be improved: “The Center is taking steps to ensure consistent communication with those involved in its process by asking Claimants their preferred method and cadence of communication and committing to providing updates as requested. The Center will also contact Respondents every 30 days.”

● A specialized team has been formed to handle interviews involving minors.

● Deeper examination of grassroots sports: “Considering the substantial number of minor athletes competing at non-national level events, the Center began conducting audits to seek accountability deeper into grassroots sports. These audits began in January of 2024 and were announced in 2022.”

During her Senate sub-committee appearance, Colon said, “The Center is requesting legislative change to establish a definition for National Governing Bodies that is inclusive of locally-affiliated organizations, and makes clear that NGBs have oversight over them.” This change could be included in a forthcoming House bill from Rep. Deborah Ross (D-N.C.), tentatively titled the “Safer Sports for Athletes Act of 2024.”

SafeSport operates on a budget of about $23 million in 2024; Colon said at last month’s hearings that it requires $30 million a year to handle the current and foreseen caseloads.

2.
Russia’s Pozdnyakov inflamed over Hidalgo’s dismissal

The latest cause celebre for Russian sports officials came Saturday from a video posted by the Ukrainian outlet, United News, in which Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said “I want to tell Russian and Belarusian athletes that they are not welcome in Paris and to tell Ukrainian athletes and all the Ukrainian people that we support them very strongly.” She was visiting Kyiv and toured a training site for Ukrainian athletes.

The International Olympic Committee, in response to an inquiry from the Russian news agency TASS, explained any Russian “neutrals” will be hosted in Paris:

“Like all other athletes competing at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, Individual Neutral Athletes are entitled to accommodation in the Olympic Village (or satellite villages, as applicable) as well as logistical support necessary for their participation in the Games.”

But Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov, a four-time Olympic gold medalist in fencing, posted a bitter but spirited response on his Telegram page:

“In theory, if the host city is not ready to host athletes who have received the right to participate in competitions, then the IOC should at least move the Games to another place, but the IOC leadership does not comment on Ms. Hidalgo’s individual political demarche at all.

“Should silence be regarded as a transfer of authority to host the Games to the Paris authorities, who have the right to determine who they are happy with and who is not? However, the mayor of the French capital has rendered a great service to the IOC.

“Now, if there are any problems with ‘unwanted guests,’ there is always someone to point the finger at – the Paris City Hall – which ‘did not want to see’ and generally behaved not in the spirit of the Olympic Truce.

“It is not so important whether the words of the mayor of Paris are an irresponsible anti-Russian slogan or a responsible official statement of intent. After all, it is no coincidence that the capital of France is hung with Ukrainian flags, such is the political situation.

“This does not change the essence: even completely impersonal athletes from our country really do not want to [be viewed] at the Olympics. Neither the host country, which has repeatedly stated the lack of security guarantees for neutralized athletes, nor the IOC, which has done everything possible to eliminate Russia from the international sports arena and reduce to a few potential depersonalized applicants for a trip to Paris.”

That Pozdnyakov could reference the Olympic Truce in view of Russia’s continuing invasion of Ukraine is amazing, but he kept going, continuing to rail at the IOC:

“In recent years, the leadership of the international Olympic Movement has skillfully mastered the skill of proving that black is white, and shifting its own responsibility to anyone to solve custom tasks. Such as squeezing everything Russian out of the international sport usurped by them, for example. The fact that Lausanne is now a political player and the sport is completely in politics has finally been officially announced. One less myth. …

“The Olympic boycott is today about the suspension of athletes on a national basis by the IOC, which at the same time, with ‘titanic efforts,’ masterfully managed to ‘resolve problems and dilemmas’ with all parties involved, without contacting, however, at the same time in any way with the Russian side, which was also stated publicly. Olympic magic, no less.”

3.
Wasserman on LA28: “To me, this is a public service”

More on LA28 Chair Casey Wasserman’s interview on The Rich Eisen Show on the Roku Channel last week, as Eisen asked what Wasserman’s grandfather, the legendary head of MCA Universal, Lew Wasserman, would think of his role at the head of the 2028 organizing committee:

“I think he would be proud.

“To me, this is a public service. I’m giving back to the city I was born in and love. The city loves the Olympics, and if we do this right, we can truly change this city forever, and I think L.A. is one of the two or three most important cities in the world.

“And so my ability to use my skill set – look, I could not do this job in any other city in America, and I couldn’t do this job if my day job wasn’t my day job – so I’m like lucky that I have that day job and I live in Los Angeles, because if this Olympics was in New York, obviously, it’s a different perspective, right?

“We’re not building things, this is not a construction project, this is a commercial project, so my day job and my city are allowing me this opportunity, and so I’m willing to do this and work hard and have two jobs essentially and I think he’d be very proud because the legacy of the Games won’t be buildings, the legacy of the Games will be an incredible human impact that we could have for generations.”

Casey Wasserman referred to his “day job,” which is as founder and chair of his privately-owned Wasserman agency, allowing him the freedom to work on both programs at the same time. He served – at the invitation of then-Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti – as the volunteer head of the Los Angeles 2024 bid effort and continues as the LA28 Board Chair, also an unpaid, volunteer position.

His grandfather was not only a giant in the entertainment arena, but also a key member of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee Board of Directors and its Executive Committee for the 1984 Olympic Games, who saw the rise of the organizing effort from the start in 1978.

Casey Wasserman’s reference to a human legacy of the 2028 Games reflects how former Mayor Garcetti talked specifically about this at the 2019 Los Angeles Sports Summit:

“Let me turn for a second back to the Olympics. Every Olympics says that they create a great legacy, and I think they mean it. And when they are bidding certainly …. It’s very important for us to remember what it is that the Olympics are about. They were about, initially, a truce – peace between warring folks in ancient times – and secondly about an opportunity of competition.

“I think for a long time we have moved away [from that]. We’ve got cities scared to bid for the Olympics because they cost so much, because people so much infrastructure for two and a half weeks; that wasn’t a very sustainable model.

“The legacy that people want to leave behind often is the last thing they are able to do because they are still trying to get the plumbing to work at the Olympic Village. We created a different model. In L.A., we made a million bucks in ‘32. We made about $250 million in ‘84 and I think we will make at least a billion dollars net in 2028, because we have the ability to look at the profitability, to think about that legacy right away and a longer time to plan.

“So I told you about the swim lessons, but it is my goal to make sure that no family looks at the opportunities for their children and says, ‘we can’t afford for them to play sports.’ … That shouldn’t be a barrier for a kid’s dreams.

“So without taking a single spot away from a boy, by adding more dollars and programming to girls with something called ‘Girls Play L.A.’ that my wife and I have led, We were able to get to 45% participation in just two years, from 25% of girls in our Rec & Parks program. That’s the sort of legacy we want to leave behind.”

If the 2028 Games do leave behind a surplus – and that is expected – then the Games Agreement between the City of Los Angeles and LA28 calls for the formation of a new, charitable entity that will continue the support of youth in sports into the future.

4.
IHF promoting Beach Handball with demo program in Paris

There’s no better place to promote a future Olympic event that at the Olympics, right? That’s the thinking behind the International Handball Federation’s beach handball demonstration program announced last week for Paris.

Four men’s and women’s teams – with a total of eight players per side (four play at any one time) – will play on three days – 27-28-29 July – at the French Handball Federation’s headquarters in Creteil, just outside of Paris. The French national team will play and the other three teams will be global all-star assemblies – from 18 countries – including American men Drew Donlin and Ebiye Udo-Udoma and Christine Mansour on the women’s side.

The reason for the show is clear. Said IHF Beach Handball Working Group Chair Giampiero Masi (ITA): “After its debut at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, this is another step towards its presence at the Olympic Games as an official sport in the future.”

Handball joined the Olympic program at Munich in 1972 and has been part of the Games ever since, with the women’s competition added in 1976. But it has not expanded beyond that, but has had success with its beach version in several multi-sport events in recent years.

5.
Star swim coach Bowman wins NCAA at ASU, leaves for Texas!

The story was so startling that SwimSwam.com had to put a line at the top of its story: “this is not an April Fools article.

Just two days after coaching Arizona State to its first-ever NCAA men’s Swimming & Diving title, iconic coach Bob Bowman – he who coached Michael Phelps at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club – was announced as the new Director of Swimming & Diving at the University of Texas, and the head coach of the men’s squad.

Bowman, 58, literally resurrected the Arizona State program, which he joined prior to the 2016 season. From a first season with two points in the NCAA meet, Bowman’s team emerged after the pandemic, placing sixth nationally in 2022, second in 2023 and won the 2024 title, led by French star Leon Marchand, who won three individual events for the second year in a row.

Now he’s headed to Austin, to take over from another legend, Eddie Reese, who is finally retiring – after a false start in 2021 – after 46 years, leaving an unparalleled legacy of winning a record 15 NCAA team championships. Reese will formally conclude his tenure at Texas at the end of the U.S. Olympic Trials in June.

Texas will be Bowman’s third collegiate stop. He started at Michigan, from 2004-08, then went to Baltimore and to Arizona State.

Bowman’s move will have repercussions for the U.S. national team and others. In addition to his duties with the Sun Devils, he has been working with a group of world-class swimmers including Olympic stars Simone Manuel, Olivia Smoliga, Regan Smith, Chase Kalisz, Jay Litherland, Allison Schmidt and others.

And, of course, he is Marchand’s coach. Do some or all follow him to Austin? When?

The Texas women’s team, NCAA runners-up the last three years, will continue to be coached by Carol Capitani, under Bowman’s overall direction.

Arizona State named Associate Head Coach Herbie Behm to take over for Bowman.

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● Athletics ● More highlights from the weekend, including the first sub-10 clocking of the season in the men’s 100 m, from Nigeria’s Favour Ashe, an Auburn junior, who won the Florida Relays in 9.99.

At the Texas Relays, the four-nations quartet of Dina Asher-Smith (GBR), Rhasidat Adeleke (IRL), Lanae Thomas (JAM) and St. Lucia’s Julien Alfred won the women’s 4×200 m in a world-best time of 1:27.05. That’s better than the listed world record of 1:27.46 by the “USA Blue” team at the 2000 Penn Relays, but World Athletics only recognizes relay records with all of the team members from one country. So it’s a world best now.

The same quartet won the women’s invitational 4×400 m in 3:25.31, no. 2 in the world for 2024.

● Football ● Chatter about Mexico’s historic Estadio Azteca and the 2026 FIFA World Cup, with 365ScoreMexico posting on X (ex-Twitter) last Friday (computer translation from the original Spanish):

“AZTECA STADIUM DELAYED.

“@365scoresmx has learned EXCLUSIVELY that the Azteca Stadium did NOT pass the FIFA tests for the 2026 World Cup.

“The first report of the year has arrived and the Azteca is DELAYED by 6 months according to its planned renovations.

“Unlike BBVA [Monterrey] and Akron [Guadalajara], which are going according to plan.”

There’s a couple of years to go, but the worrying can start anyway.

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