HEARD AT HALFTIME: Diack calls son “a thug,” Tokyo sponsors wavering on 2021, Australia-New Zealand looks best for FIFA Women’s World Cup ‘23

Former IAAF President and IOC member Lamine Diack of Senegal (Photo: Wikipedia)

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

Vox Populi ● Further to our Lane One column for 10 June (“Racism becomes issue one for IOC, but consensus will be favored over loud voices”), this from a veteran high school coach and devoted track & field fan:

“Very nice take on the rules re demonstrations. So much of world-wide competition is nothing except political, the most obvious and egregious being the limitations placed on number of competitors allowed per country based upon the citizenship of the participants.

“I’ve been thumbing through some of my old T&F News, particularly the World Championship issue from 1983.

“The ‘East’ German women dominated the sprints, jumps and hurdles. Equal representation given to the West Germans, although not as ‘successful.’ Where are the West and East Germans now?

“The ‘Soviet Union’ has since broken up, into all of the Balkans and the Stans, including Ukraine and Belarus. In the eighties, these teams were all allowed 3 representatives per team. With the expansion, or shrinkage of recognized international boundaries, the citizens of such have either been cheated out of, or given a ‘pass’ to participate worldwide.

“See Keni Harrison in the women’s hurdles, 2016: did not get to the Olympics, although she set the world record the same season following her ‘failure’ to qualify for the American team.

“On the other hand, Mondo Duplantis is pretty much assured a non-pressured acceptance to international competition, given his claim of Swedish citizenship, despite being raised as an American from Louisiana.

“Perhaps it’s time to recognize sectional representation for worldwide competitions, that would recognize these inequities. Examples would be, allowing a Western, Southern, Midwestern, and Eastern USA to have teams in the Olympics and Worlds for swimming and T&F. The question is, which national anthem to play on the medal stand?

“How about NONE. Do we really need to raise the flag? Get all teary-eyed, watching the Red, White and Blue being raised, listening to the Star Spangled Banner?

“No.

“The best meet, in my opinion, is the NCAA Championships, because of the identification with the schools and regions involved. I may be wrong, but I don’t recall the school songs being played at the medal ceremonies, including the team championship at the conclusions. This takes nothing away from the competition and excitement inherent in these meets.

“Much more on this subject, I’ve just raised the issue because of the inequities involved because of political affiliation. On any level.”
~ Ron Brumel (Los Angeles, California)

Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020“We’ve been asking if we can use the same venues for the same means. Adjustments remain, but we’ve reached a general understanding with about 80 percent.”

That was Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto last Friday, noting that discussions are continuing on availability and terms for the athlete’s village – with many of the apartments already sold to post-Games buyers – as well as two convention facilities: Tokyo Big Sight, slated to be the Main Press Center and Makuhari Messe in Chiba, expected to host fencing, taekwondo and wrestling.

According to a survey by the Japanese broadcaster NHK, about two-thirds of Tokyo 2020’s domestic sponsors are “unsure” whether they will extend their agreements beyond the end of 2020.

“NHK conducted a survey of 78 Olympic and Paralympic sponsor companies in May, and 57 of them responded.

“About 12 percent of the respondents said they intend to extend their contracts with the Organizing Committee. About 65 percent said they have not decided. Those sponsors said they have not started any specific talks with the committee on the matter.”

There was great concern among the respondents that the Games might be held without spectators, which was considered to be “tantamount” to a cancellation of the Games from the sponsor’s standpoint.

Athletics ● More astonishing testimony in the trial of former IAAF President and IOC member Lamine Diack (SEN) and others for bribery, extortion, money laundering and more in Paris.

On Monday, Diack was again on the stand. Agence France Presse reported:

“On Monday, he said he was surprised to discover how much commission his son [Papa Massata Diack] was taking on sponsorship deals he negotiated on behalf of the IAAF.

“Lamine Diack said he did not know that VTB, a state-owned Russian bank, paid 29 million euros ($32.75 million) to sponsor the IAAF from 2007 to 2011, while his federation only received 19 million euros.

“The remaining 10 million euros ended up in the account of a company called ‘PMD’, the son’s initials.”

The prosecutors have also accused Diack of allowing his son to skim money from IAAF sponsorships deals with Samsung and China’s CCTV broadcaster. Asked about his son’s role, Diack told the court, “I thought he could sell.”

Diack, now 87, was asked by his attorney if he regretted standing for a fourth term as federation chief; he answered “unquestionably.”

Last Thursday, the elder Diack confirmed his meddling in Russian doping cases. According to The Associated Press:

“Diack acknowledged, however, that he had intervened in the management of suspected cases of doping by Russian athletes, giving instructions that they be handled in a way that would avoid a scandal that could disrupt negotiations with a Russian sponsor and tarnish the 2013 world championships in Moscow.

“Rather than having a group of Russian athletes being sanctioned at the same time, ‘we said the procedures should be spread out,’ Diack said.”

Asked about his son’s activities by one of the judges, Diack replied “He conducted himself like a thug.”

The trial is expected to continue through Thursday.

There was actually some good competition last week, as the Bislett Games organizers in Oslo (NOR) put on “The Impossible Games,” last Thursday, with athletes competing in small groups – and without fans – in multiple locations.

A total of 13 events were held, with some excellent performances, leaving us to wonder what we might have been seeing in an Olympic year under other circumstances:

Men/300 m hurdles: Norwegian star Karsten Warholm ran alone and set a world best of 33.78 for the rarely-run distance.

Men/1,000 m: Norway’s Filip Ingebrigtsen ran a national record of 2:16.46, but was the only one of four starters to finish.

Men/2,000 m: Perhaps the most anticipated of the events, the Norwegian section (five runners) was won by Jakob Ingebrigtsen in a European Record 4:50.01, ahead of brothers Henrik (4:53.72) and Filip (4:56.91), with the other two starters failing to finish.

In Nairobi, Kenya, another five-man race was held, with Tim Cheruiyot winning in 5:03.05, ahead of Edwin Melly (5:13.12) and Elijah Manangoi (5:18.63), and two more non-finishers. If only they had all been on the same track at the same time!

Men/25,000 m: Norway’s Sondre Moen ran a European Record of 1:12:46.5 as the only finisher in a five-man race.

Women/10,000 m: This might have been the best performance of all, as cross-country skiing superstar Therese Johaug ran all alone and finished in 31:40.67, which would have ranked her 37th in the world for 2019 and seventh among all Europeans! Not bad for a 31-year-old, in her second track 10,000 m ever.

In the field events, Mondo Duplantis (SWE) won the vault at 5.86 m (19-2 3/4), Norway’s Marcus Thomson (21.03 m/69-0) won the shot and Sweden’s Daniel Stahl (65.92 m/216-3) took the discus.

Also last week, Noah Lyles posted a video of a workout time trial in Florida, winning a 300 m dash in a quick 31.51 despite easing up at the finish. In a real race, that mark would have moved him to no. 8 on the all-time list and no. 4 in U.S. history.

Cycling ● USA Cycling nominated its Mountain Bike, Road and Track Cycling teams for Tokyo for 2021 last Thursday, with several medal favorites among the selections.

In Mountain Bike, former World Champion Kate Courtney leads the squad and another Worlds medal winner, Lea Davison was also named.

The women’s Road team includes 2019 World Time Trial Champion Chloe Dygert, two-time World Time Trial champ Amber Neben, UCI Women’s World Tour star Coryn Rivera, 2018 Tour of California winner Katie Hall and 2017 Tour of the Gila winner Tayler Wiles.

The women’s Track squad includes Omnium/Points/Scratch Race star Jennifer Valente, along with her World Championships Team Pursuit title teammates Dygert, Emma White and Lily Williams.

Tejay van Garderen, who skipped the Rio Games due to Zika virus concerns, was named to the men’s Road squad and is a dangerous time trialer.

CyclingNews recently released its list of the 50 most influential people in the sport, with some surprises. At no. 10 was the disgraced Lance Armstrong, and the site noted “[T]he Texan – like it or not – still has influence, albeit of a different kind these days. When he talks, we listen, and in terms of stardom and infamy, he still has no equal.”

Road stars Egan Bernal (COL: no. 6) and Peter Sagan (SVK: no. 5) were described as the star of the future and “still the undoubted star of his generation,” respectively.

The top three show where the power is in the sport: no. 3 is Yann Le Moenner (FRA), the chief executive of the Amaury Sports Organization, which owns the Tour de France and controls the Vuelta a Espana and other historic races including Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. No. 2 is UCI chief David Lappartient (FRA) and no. 1 is Marie-Odile Amaury, owner of Groupe Amaury with her two children.

Vive la France!

Football ● FIFA issued its evaluation report of the three bids received for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, with the proposed Australia-New Zealand bid considered the most technically competent.

All three of the bids – also including Colombia and Japan – were considered sufficient to hold the 2023 tournament, which will be the largest ever at 32 teams. However, the Australia-New Zealand bid received 4.1 points out of a possible 5.0, with Japan at 3.9 and Colombia at 2.8.

Importantly, all three bids offered existing stadia for the event, with both the AUS/NZL facilities and Japan’s stadiums receiving a 3.7 grade. Colombia’s stadiums graded out at 2.5. The selection is slated for 25 June.

Gymnastics ● USA Gymnastics won a round in court last Thursday to allow the federation to pursue financial assistance under the CARES Act for its Paycheck Protection Program. Rules issued for the use of PPP funds by the U.S. Small Business Administration had prohibited firms in bankruptcy from trying to obtain such funds, but the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana issued an order allowing USAG to apply.

As to the continuing bankruptcy proceeding regard USA Gymnastics and the Nassar abuse cases, a pre-trial conference will be held on Wednesday afternoon to review procedures for a planned hearing on 24 June to consider the disclosure statement for the reorganization plan submitted by the federation.

Swimming ● The Southern California News Group’s Scott Reid reported last week that a series of law suits were filed in California against USA Swimming and “allege USA Swimming, including former executive director Chuck Wielgus, and other top officials, the local associations and clubs were aware of [national team coach Mitch] Ivey, [national team director Everett] Uchiyama and [coach Andy] King’s predatory behavior but refused to address it, creating a culture of abuse that exposed dozens of underage swimmers to sexual abuse and harassment. It is a culture, survivors maintain, that continues to exist within USA Swimming.”

Wielgus passed away in 2017, but the others are still alive. The story reported a statement from USA Swimming that “The organization and its current leadership remain committed to providing a safe environment and a positive culture for all its members. The three named offenders have long been on USA Swimming’s list of Individuals Permanently Suspended or Ineligible for Membership due to the allegations of misconduct from the 1980s and 1990s, and the U.S. Center for SafeSport has recognized and honored our bans.”

Accusations of abuse in swimming have long predated the Nassar scandal in gymnastics and some of the actions in the present suits apparently date back to the 1980s.

Weightlifting ● The World Anti-Doping Agency confirmed its continuing work in digging further into the doping issues presented by the McLaren Report to the International Weightlifting Federation. A Monday statement noted in part:

“WADA has since started to analyze the newly received information, which covers the period 2009-2014, to see what further action may be warranted in relation to anti-doping matters highlighted by the investigation. WADA is committed to ensuring that all athletes who are identified as having breached the rules, are brought to justice. The Agency has also made a request to the McLaren Investigation Team to share the remainder of the relevant information as described in Professor McLaren’s report published on 4 June, in particular so it can assess whether anything should be done from a compliance perspective.”

Amid all the promises of future action, USA Weightlifting announced last week that it had created a “a limited number of tuition scholarships to qualified black coaches to attend either the Level 1 or Level 2 Coach Certification courses. The scholarship covers the tuition cost of the certifications as well as one year of USAW membership. Any travel-related or non-tuition expenses are not covered.”

There are 10 full-tuition scholarships to be awarded annually. USA Weightlifting chief executive Phil Andrews tweeted “We listened, we found a donor, we acted. Scholarships to assist to generate more African American coaches.”

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