(For our Highlights of the weekend’s major competitions, click here)
News, views and noise from the non-stop, worldwide circus of Olympic sport:
≡ SPOTLIGHT ≡
Utah Senator Mitt Romney, the former head of the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games organizing committee submitted an amendment to the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act for 2022 (H.R. 4350) last Thursday that would define a U.S. diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Games.
Romney’s amendment was buried in the Congressional Record and was one of 231 amendments proposed to the massive defense bill. But it followed his already-suggested formula of allowing athletes to compete in Beijing and making the U.S. anger over China’s human-rights policy felt off the playing field.
Proposed by Senators Romney (R-Utah), Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Todd Young (R-Indiana), and titled “Diplomatic Boycott of the XXIV Olympic Winter Games and the XIII Paralympic Winter Games,” it includes:
● “It shall be the policy of the United States – (1) to implement a diplomatic boycott of the XXIV Olympic Winter Games and the XIII Paralympic Winter Games in the People’s Republic of China; and (2) to call for an end to the Chinese Communist Party’s ongoing human rights abuses, including the Uyghur genocide.”
● “The Secretary of State may not obligate or expend any Federal funds to support or facilitate the attendance of the XXIV Olympic Winter Games or the XIII Paralympic Winter Games by any employee of the United States Government.” An exception is made for Federal support of the U.S. teams and “to provide consular services or security to, or otherwise protect the health, safety, and welfare of, United States persons, employees, contractors, and their families.”
Romney noted in a tweet that “It’s outrageous that China is hosting the Olympics while the Chinese Communist Party commits genocide against Uyghurs. Our bipartisan amendment would impose a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, seeking to harm the [Chinese Communist Party] rather than punish American athletes.”
The massive bill is a long way from being passed, in any form, but Romney and his co-sponsors were ready with the amendment right at the start of the process for consideration.
≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
● Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● Those who predicted a voter backlash against the Japanese government for hosting last summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games saw their predictions vaporized on Sunday as the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and the smaller Komeito Party won 291 seats (62.6%) in the National Diet, a net loss of 14 seats, but still well ahead of all others combined (174).
This means that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will continue for a full term after replacing Yoshihide Suga, who was Prime Minister during the Games but was also blamed for a slow roll-out of anti-Covid measures, especially vaccines.
Comcast Corporation announced its third-quarter earnings in government filings and presentations to the investment community last week, showing impressive revenues from the delayed Tokyo Games.
In its Security & Exchange Commission document filings, Comcast’s NBCUniversal division showed advertising revenues of $1.238 billion and distribution fees of $522 million, a total of $1.759 billion compared to a reported $1.62 billion from the 2016 Rio Games.
Sportico.com reported that the rights fees for the 2020 Olympic Games was $1.42 billion, so although no comment was made on profitability of the 2020 Olympic project, it likely showed at least a modest profit for the broadcaster. NBC has said that 3,400 staff worked on the Games, but 1,600 were in Tokyo and the majority – 1,800 – were in the U.S.
Tokyo Olympic Gold Partner NEC Corporation revealed some of its technologies that were used at the Games – now that the event is over:
● “Athletes, staff, volunteers and other attendees at the Tokyo 2020 venues, as well as the Athletes’ Village, Main Press Center and International Broadcasting Center, were admitted after being cleared with a face-recognition system, the first of its kind to be used at the venerable sports event. Their faces were scanned at entry points and compared to images on a database of registered photos; accreditation cards equipped with IC chips were also linked to the system.”
● A “congestion visualization system was implemented at the Athletes’ Village, which hosted over 10,000 Olympians and Paralympians. In a first at the Games, athletes were able to check congestion levels at village cafeterias, fitness centers and other facilities via displays and a smartphone app that received data from a network of cameras. The technology was also used to support security measures around the Olympic Stadium.”
● “NEC provided real-time security information to the Games Security Coordination Center. This consisted of automatic updates on traffic, weather, emergencies and accidents related to 43 event venues, in addition to relevant social media messages. A risk analysis was performed for each incident, giving security personnel an immediate understanding of important threats so that security issues could be prevented.”
Look for all of these systems to be used for Paris 2024 and beyond.
● Games of the XXXIII Olympiad: Paris 2024 ● One of the key – perhaps the key – evolution of the Paris 2024 organizers is the introduction of mass-participation events during the Games.
This project got its first public taste of the program on Sunday, as 3,600 runners came to the Champs-Elysees in Paris to “race” against two-time Olympic Marathon champ Eliud Kipchoge (KEN). Some 1,000 runners finished “ahead” of Kipchoge – who jogged along at a 14-minute pace and had a handicap in addition – and earned an entry into the mass-marathon that will be run after the Olympic race in 2024.
“This is the first time I am happy to have lost! My defeat is a victory for several hundred people to whom I look forward to meeting in 2024 here in Paris,” said Kipchoge. The during-the-Games Paris marathon will be accompanied by a 10 km race as well.
● International Olympic Committee ● Continuing its commercial expansion into areas previously only run locally by Games organizing committees, the IOC announced the opening of its worldwide online store in conjunction with U.S.-based Fanatics, Inc.
“The Olympic Shop will offer the largest assortment of Olympic-branded merchandise to date, distributed through Fanatics’ vertical, on-demand manufacturing model and globally connected supply chain,” which will include licensed products of future Games organizers in Paris (2024), Milan Cortina (2026), Los Angeles (2028) and eventually Brisbane 2032.
In addition, the “Olympic Heritage Collection” will offer “products featuring art and design elements from previous Games editions, such as apparel, mascots and souvenirs.” So, if you’ve always wanted to get that plush Misha bear from the 1980 Moscow Games, you may get a chance!
Other items will be offered that are currently only sold at the Olympic Museum Shop in Lausanne. The Olympic Shop is currently live for the U.S., Mexico and Europe and has a separate (of course) site for China. Availability is expected by summer 2022 “except for China and Russia.”
● National Olympic Committees: France ● A fascinating program was relaunched in France, where the national minister for sports, Roxana Maracineanu announced a new version of the “Coordination du Sport Francais a l’International” or CFSI.
Originally created in 2013 to coordinate international support for the Paris bid for the 2024 Olympic Games, the new edition of the CFSI will be tasked with advancing France’s “sporting influence, hosting strategy for major events [and] international impact” in the sports sector.
The project is a joint effort of multiple players in French sport at the national and local levels (computer translation of the original French):
“These stakeholders are the Ministry in charge of Sports, the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the French National Olympic and Sports Committee, the French Paralympic and Sports Committee, the Paris 2024 organizing committee, the Agence nationale du Sport, the Association of Mayors of France, Business France, the GIE France Sport Expertise, the Union Sport et Cycle, the Territoires association of sporting events.”
This is about events, about creating a larger role for France in international sport and to use the Paris 2024 Games as leverage for the future. Among the 16 recommendations were aggressive concepts to set up a French “outpost” in Lausanne to be closer to the IOC and the many International Federations headquartered there, and to host a “state summit” during major events in France such as the 2023 Rugby World Cup and the 2024 Olympic Games to promote the “French sporting model.”
Observed: This is good, forward thinking, looking for a decade or more past the Paris 2024 Games. If successfully organized – and that’s a big if – this will make a significant difference for France going forward and leave other countries behind.
One element of this which the French appreciate already is the opportunity to use sport to further support its relations with other French-speaking countries in the world, especially in Africa. Other countries would do well to consider such possibilities, especially in offices outside their embassies.
● Doping ● After last week’s World Anti-Doping Agency report which slammed Ukraine’s national anti-doping organization for warning athletes ahead of what were supposed to be surprise out-of-competition tests, the top two executives of the Ukrainian National Anti-Doping Organization (NADC) have resigned.
Ukrainian Sports Minister Vadym Huttsait announced last Wednesday that “The NADC has violated the international testing standard. Today, the director of the NADC, Ivan Kurlishchuk, and his deputy, Yaroslav Kruchek, resigned. The ministry states that we take a clear position in the fight against doping and will not allow anyone to violate anti-doping rules.”
On Friday, the WADA Compliance Committee announced that the anti-doping organizations of Romania, Montenegro and the German Community of Belgium are on the compliance “watchlist,” meaning they have four months to complete the required, corrective actions.
These three join five others who are also currently non-compliant: Indonesia, Russia, North Korea, Thailand and the Deaf International Basketball Federation.
● Athletics ● Kyodo News reported that the Japanese government “has settled on a policy of retaining the National Stadium’s athletics track rather than carrying out its original plan to remove it after the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.”
The Olympic stadium track is obviously crucial to a planned bid for a future World Athletics Championships, with a bid for 2025 already made to the federation. It’s a welcome development for the sport, with so many tracks being ripped in order to offer closer seating for football and rugby.
USA Track & Field released a strange document last Tuesday (26th), outlining the procedures for selecting the U.S. entries into the men’s and women’s marathons at the 2022 World Championships in Eugene.
In a change from prior procedures, the new protocol specifies that up to three athletes can be selected in each gender, with one coming from the top American finisher in the Tokyo Olympic marathons, if in the top 10. That would be Galen Rupp for the men (8th) and bronze medalist Molly Seidel, if they want to go.
The other team members would be selected in their finish places in the top 10 from World Athletics Platinum Label Marathons held in the U.S. in 2021. That’s the Chicago, Boston and New York Marathons, held on 10 October, 11 October and 7 November.
So, the selection process uses results from races already run, plus one to be run two weeks later? What happened to planning for “trials”? Further, if the placements are the same for two runners, the faster time will be used. Would runners have opted for Chicago’s flag course vs. Boston’s hills or the winding New York course if they wanted to make the Worlds team? No way to change that strategy now.
The New York Marathon is this Sunday (7th), so at least the American runners know the task ahead of them. From the others already done:
● Men/Chicago: (2. Rupp, 2:06:35); 6. Colin Mickow (2:13:31), 7. Nico Montanez (2:13:55), 9. Reed Fischer (2:14:41); 10. Wilkerson Given (2:14:55).
● Men/Boston: 7. Colin Bennie (2:11:26), 10. C.J. Albertson (2:11:44).
● Women/Chicago: 2. Emma Bates (2:24:20); 3. Sara Hall (2:27:19); 4. Keira D’Amato (2:28:22); 6. Meagan Krifchin (2:30:17); 7. Carrie Verdon (2:31:51); 8. Sarah Pagano (2:33:11); 10. Lindsay Flanagan (2:33:20).
● Women/Boston: 6. Nell Rojas (2:27:12).
For a deeper look at the impact of this late announcement, see the in-depth report by Jonathan Gault at LetsRun.com here.
● Fencing ● The Russian news agency TASS reported that Federation Internationale de Escrime (FIE) President Alisher Usmanov of Russia is the only candidate for the office and will be re-elected for a fourth term during the FIE Congress on 27 November.
This is hardly a surprise as Usmanov, a Russian billionaire, has donated more than $82 million directly to the federation during his tenure beginning in 2008.
● Football ● “[T]he 10 countries that make up CONMEBOL confirm that they will not participate in a World Cup organised every two years.”
The statement by the South American confederation CONMEBOL is the latest broadside against the concept of biennial World Cups which is being explored (and promoted) by FIFA. A discussion of the concept will be held by FIFA in December; CONMEBOL, the European confederation UEFA and the IOC are all against the project, but federations in Africa, Asia and the Americas are thought to be more amenable.
● Gymnastics ● The irrepressible Scott Reid of the Southern California News Group reported late last week that the security firm “Security Concepts Group was terminated less than four months after its CEO reported potential misconduct at a USA Gymnastics event to the U.S. Center for SafeSport.”
The lengthy story goes on to explain actions by Security Concepts Group chief James Cameron which he believes led to the end of his firm’s service contract with USA Gymnastics. The story focuses not on artistic gymnastics – in which Larry Nassar was involved – but on rhythmic gymnastics and actions by coaches with athletes which Cameron believes were not in line with the U.S. Center for SafeSport guidelines.
“Everything that has happened to me is because I reported the SafeSport violations,” said Cameron. USA Gymnastics provided a statement to Reid that the termination of Cameron’s firm was due to performance issues, which Cameron denies.
Observed: The next question is whether this ends up in court, or in another Congressional hearing. Given the already thin ice that USA Gymnastics is on with the Congress, this is not a good time for an issue like this to surface. Under the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic and Amateur Athletics Act of 2020, the Congress now has the authority – by Joint Resolution – to de-certify USA Gymnastics as the National Governing Body for the sport in the U.S.
Such a move would place the U.S. in violation of the Olympic Charter and make the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee subject to IOC sanctions, but does the Congress (other than Sen. Romney of Utah) know this?
● Swimming ● Two-time Olympic medal winner Cody Miller of the U.S. told SwimSwam.com that a boycott or strike against the International Swimming League for slow payments is not realistic. Of a strike, he explained:
“[T]hat is an option. But to say that swimmers within this [Swimmers] Alliance were actively considering a strike is a far cry… I mean, everyone understands that a strike, for the ISL, would be stupid, because it wouldn’t help the sport; it wouldn’t move the sport forward.”
Miller said that monies due to athletes have been made. The ISL playoff rounds begin on 11 November. Miller said he believed that a fourth season for the money-losing ISL is likely.
● Triathlon ● Another Russian doping positive, this time of Alexander Bryukhankov “for the presence of EPO in his urine sample on an in-competition doping control on 19 June, 2021, at the Europe Triathlon Sprint & Relay Championships in Kitzbuhel, Austria, in which he finished in the 5th place in the Final B.”
Bryukhankov received a three-year suspension through 25 August 2024.
● Wrestling ● United World Wrestling completed its 2020 Congress a year late due to the pandemic, but re-elected President Nenad Lalovic (SRB), 63, for a second full term, through 2026.
Lalovic outlined a five-year plan for the federation which will focus on “youth engagement, women’s wrestling, associated styles, the image of wrestling and digital transformation.”
≡ SCOREBOARD ≡
● Curling ● Top-seeded Vicky Persinger and Chris Plys defeated Jamie Sinclair and Rich Ruohonen, 7-6, with a score on the final stone in the eighth end to win the championship match of the U.S. Olympic Mixed Doubles Trials in Eveleth, Minnesota. It was exactly the same score by which Persinger and Plys had won their round-robin match against Sinclair and Ruohonen, also with a score in the final end.
Persinger and Plys now head to the Mixed Doubles Olympic Qualification Event 2021 from 5-9 December in Leeuwarden, Netherlands. The top two finishers will qualify for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
≡ AT THE BUZZER ≡
Amazing tweet from baseball researcher Tom Shiber last Wednesday, marking 58 years since Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles hosted a three-day ski jumping event in 80-degree weather and sunshine!
Yes, really, and he has the video to prove it. He added, “Some past and future Olympians competed in the event, including Frithjof Prydz Jr. (NOR) and a pair of future United States Ski and Snowboard Hall of Famers: Gene Kotlarek (USA) and Ansten Samuelstuen (competed for USA but born in Norway).”
With former World Surf League chief Sophie Goldschmidt – her office was in Santa Monica – now in charge of U.S. Ski & Snowboard, will we see a repeat?
For our 743-event International Sports Calendar for 2021 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!