HEARD AT HALFTIME: Putin says Vladivostok for 2036? Diamond League final starts Wednesday in Zurich; wrestling’s Steveson heads to WWE!

Olympic 125 kg Freestyle Champion Gable Steveson ... on his way to the WWE!

(For our updated – as of 1 September – 743-event
International Sports Calendar for 2021 and beyond, click here!)

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

● Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● The Games really are over.

The 94-ton, 77-foot-long, triple-crescent symbol of the International Paralympic Committee, which had replaced the Olympic Rings on a barge in Tokyo Bay was removed on Monday.

A tug moved the barge out of Odaiba Marine Park and headed for Yokohama, where the structure was created. The materials are expected to be recycled.

A TSX reader who bought tickets for the 2020 Olympic Games reported:

“Co-Sport issued reimbursement at 83%. I expect the Japanese agent will return 100% (as we had tickets from U.S. and Japan agents).”

A class-action suit against CoSport, the authorized ticket reseller for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee for the Tokyo Games continues in the U.S. District Court in New Jersey: Suzanne Caruso et al. v. Jet Set Sports LLC, d/b/a CoSport (Case No. 3:21-cv-09665).

The National Olympic Committee in Belarus is under investigation from the International Olympic Committee after the Krystsina Tsimanouskaya affair, in which the sprinter was removed from the Games after criticizing her coaches on social media. Rather than return under pressure to Belarus, she sought help from Japanese police and eventually was offered a humanitarian visa for Poland.

Now the Belarus NOC is being criticized again, but this time by the country’s President, Alexander Lukashenko. Already facing popular protests over his controversial re-election in August, Lukashenko told a meeting on sports development:

“God forbid we have one more failure like we had in Tokyo. … This is a mess, a total lack of discipline. And there must be discipline.”

Belarus won seven medals in Tokyo (3-1-3), its lowest-ever total since it first competed as an independent country in 1996. Said Lukashenko:

“I understand that the competition has increased, and that we are unlikely to run better than African athletes. But we have always had good results in technical sports, such as athletics. Where have these schools gone to? …

“We will pay money, and good money. We will find money. But don’t even hope for that without good results. You will be responsible for the money you spent. I tell this to you as officials. There will be no more easy money.”

● Games of the XXXVI Olympiad: 2036 ● Russian President Vladimir Putin told the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok last week that the host city – Vladivostok – may be a candidate for the 2036 Olympic Games.

For those not familiar, Vladivostok is a port city at the far southeastern tip of Russia, adjacent to China and the Korean Peninsula. With a population of just 605,000, it’s a impossible choice and is now in competition with St. Petersburg and Kazan as Russian candidates for 2036.

As is usually the case with Putin, his message was all about Russia:

“Regrettably, there have been ever fewer contenders in the world for hosting the Olympics. … If it happens the way I am describing now, we are not excluding the possibility of Russia hosting the Olympic Games. … it is too early to discuss this issue and everything will have to undergo a thorough evaluation.”

● Anti-Doping ● Still smarting from its two-year sanctions imposed by the World Anti-doping Agency – after being slimmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport – Russia continues to complain that it is being unfairly targeted. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last week:

“We see the West trying to advance the policy of bringing all international competition under their control … [and] have been trying to actively impose a mechanism on the signatories to the [UNESCO doping] convention that would allow the secretariat to determine those guilty of doping or, in other words, would create opportunities to significantly manipulate this convention.

“Therefore, the implementation of the convention would be taken out of the control of the member states that drafted it. There are many gimmicks but the spirit and the focus on results that are characteristic to all our athletes will help them to overcome any efforts and vain attempts to artificially hinder the development of Russian sports.”

According to a TASS report, “The Minister noted that, out of 14 WADA Executive Committee members, about 12 are NATO countries plus Australia and Japan.

“‘I am certain that the vast majority of Western athletes are not too happy that their competitiveness is being artificially raised via such unscrupulous methods.’”

Comment: Wow. Does he write his own stuff, or is someone doing it for him?

● Athletics ● The Diamond League finale in Zurich (SUI) gets going on Wednesday in a specially-built, mid-city location featuring the men’s and women’s shot, men’s and women’s long jump, women’s high jump and men’s and women’s 5,000 m on an oddly-shaped 560 m elevated track. NBCSN will televise the meet at 11:30 a.m. Eastern time.

The main session comes on Thursday at the famed Letzigrund Stadium, with NBCSN televising the meet beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern.

American Fred Kerley, the Tokyo silver medalist, claimed a Diamond League first by winning the 100 m at the Memorial Van Damme in Brussels. He’s the first man ever to win Diamond League races at 100, 200 and 400 m!

Although the Diamond League ends this week, the competitions are coming thick and fast in Europe with seven meets in September in the World Athletics Continental Tour. Over the last few days:

31 August in Rovereto (ITA): American Marvin Bracy continued his career year in the men’s 100 m, winning in 9.98, and Michael Cherry won again in the men’s 400 m in 44.55, his 12th straight race under 45 seconds! American Olympian Shelby McEwen won the men’s high jump over Olympic co-champ Gianmarco Tamberi (ITA) at 2.28 m (7-5 3/4).

5 September in Chorzow (POL): Canada’s Tokyo 200 m winner Andre De Grasse won in 2021; Cherry won again in 44.94 (13 in a row sub-45), and Jamaican Olympic gold medalist Hansle Parchment (JAM) beat Devon Allen of the U.S. in the men’s 110 m hurdles, 13.26-13.37. American Chris Nilsen won the men’s vault at 5.86 m (19-2 3/4) and shot superstar Ryan Crouser won the shot with a superb 22.39 m (73-5 1/2), ahead of Olympic silver winner Joe Kovacs (USA: 22.00 m: 72-2 1/4). Germany’s Johannes Vetter impressed with a javelin win at 89.60 m (293-11).

Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won the women’s 100 m at 10.81 and Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan won the women’s 100 m hurdles over Jamaica’s Olympic bronze winner Megan Tapper, 12.64-12.75.

5 September in Padua (ITA): American Michael Norman won the men’s 100 m in 9.97, from Bracy (9.98), Ronnie Baker (10.10) and Justin Gatlin (10.17). Wil London of the U.S. won another 400 m race, this time in 45.22; Australia’s Stewart McSweyn ran another quick 1,500 m, winning in 3:33.49. Add American Josh Awotunde to the 22 meter club (72.2 1/4) in his win in the shot put.

Americans went 1-4 in the women’s 100 m with Javianne Oliver (11.19) beating Sha’Carri Richardson (11.19), Candace Hill (11.26) and English Gardner (11.36).

Next up: the famed ISTAF meet in Berlin (GER) on Sunday (12th).

● Beach Volleyball ● Reports over the weekend noted what is purported to be the final competitive match for U.S. star Jake Gibb, 45, who retired from international play after the Tokyo Games and now from national events following elimination of he and Taylor Crabb on Sunday at the AVP Chicago Open.

Gibb and Tri Bourne tied for ninth in Tokyo; it was Gibb’s fourth Games, finishing fifth in Beijing 2008 (with Casey Patterson) and London 2012 (with Sean Rosenthal) and 19th in Rio 2016 (with Rosenthal). He competed in eight World Championships with a best of fifth in 2007 and 2015.

He won 35 times on the AVP Tour from 2000-21 and seven times in the FIVB World Tour. A two-time cancer survivor, he joins fellow international retirees Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena in making way for the next generation of American men’s beach players, but also as one of the best ever to play the game.

● Football ● The third FIFA World Cup qualifying match for the U.S. Men’s National Team comes Wednesday night in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time. Amazingly, it is only being shown on Paramount+ in English, but on Telemundo and Universo in Spanish.

The U.S. and Honduras have both played to draws in their first two matches. The U.S. played to a 0-0 final in El Salvador and 1-1 with Canada in Nashville. Honduras drew with Canada, 1-1 and also played a 0-0 tie at El Salvador.

The next match window will be from 7-13 October.

Congratulations to Italy, which extended its unbeaten streak to a record 36 matches last Sunday with a 0-0 draw with Switzerland. That eclipsed the old mark of 35 straight set by Brazil from 1993-96 and by Spain from 2007-09.

Italy, which did not qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia – same as the U.S. – started this streak in October 2018 and has won 29 games with seven draws and a 88-12 scoring differential. That includes its win at Wembley Stadium earlier this year against England in the UEFA Euro 2020 final.

Italy plays next on Wednesday (8th) against Lithuania in Reggio Emilia.

Last Sunday’s Brazil-Argentina World Cup qualifying match in Sao Paulo was stopped after seven minutes, when local health officials required that four Argentine players from English Premier League clubs – Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia (Aston Villa) and Tottenham’s Giovanni Lo Celso and Cristian Romero – be in quarantine instead of on the field!

The Brazilian health agency, Anvisa, said it had told the Argentine team that the players could not be included on the squad, but that their directive was ignored. FIFA is now looking into what happens next with the match having been abandoned, with no score.

The proposal to study the possibility of holding the FIFA World Cup every two years was approved by 166-2 at May’s FIFA Congress, but Reuters reported “that any attempt by FIFA to introduce such a change would face resistance from European governing body UEFA, the European Club Association (ECA) and is unlikely to win the backing of the major domestic leagues.”

According to UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin (SLO): “The value of this competition is precisely because it is held every four years. Playing it every two years would devalue it.”

One major issue for the clubs is the amount of time their top players would be spending with national teams instead. Concerns about overshadowing the Women’s World Cup were also expressed. A feasibility study is being carried out currently.

● Swimming ● The third and fourth matches of the International Swimming League season were completed over the weekend in Naples, Italy, with familiar names once again sweeping multiple events.

In match 3, Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey tripled in the women’s 100-200-400 m Free races, and Swedish sprint star Sarah Sjostrom took the 50 m Free, 50 m Fly and the 50 m Free Skins final. Britain’s Duncan Scott was the only men’s triple winner in the 100-200 m Frees and the 200 m Medley. Energy Standard (FRA) won the match with 640.5 points; the London Roar was second (436.5).

In match 4, American superstar Caeleb Dressel was busy, winning six events: the 50-100 m Flys, 50-100 m Frees, 100 m Medley, and the 50 m Free Skins race. His Cali Condors teammates Lilly King and Kelsi Dahlia (both USA) won three events each; King took the 50-100-200 m Breaststroke events, while Dahlia won the 100-200 m Flys and the 50 m Fly Skins race. The Condors won the team race, scoring 594.0 to 444.5 for the L.A. Current.

● Wrestling ● The stunning story of American Freestyle super-heavyweight Gable Steveson, shock Olympic champion from Tokyo, continues with his agreement to go to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

Steveson, the NCAA champion from Minnesota, stormed through his first three bouts at the Tokyo Games, then faced Georgia’s three-time World Champion Geno Petriashvili in the final. Down 8-5 with less than a half-minute left, Steveson got a takedown to close to 8-7 and then scored again in the final second for a 9-8 lead and eventual 10-8 win. He was the first U.S. winner in the 125 kg division since Bruce Baumgartner in 1992.

He had signed a name-image-likeness deal with Mixed Martial Dave Martin, but announced last Saturday that he has agreed to work with the WWE in the future.

● At the BuZZer ● The International University Sports Federation (FISU) confirmed the receipt of bids on the first day available for the 2027 World University Games from the U.S. and South Korea.

The U.S. bid came from the triangle region of North Carolina; the U.S. has only hosted the summer WUG once, in Buffalo in 1993. Korea has hosted the summer WUG twice recently: in Daegu in 2003 and Gwangju in 2015.

The bid process for 2027 and 2029 will continue open through 31 January 2022.

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For our 743-event International Sports Calendar for 2021 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!

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