HEARD AT HALFTIME: Tokyo 2020 plans heavier testing; Australia backs Brisbane ‘32 finances; U.S. TJ record for Orji, Leeper’s legs DQ’d again

American triple jump star Keturah Orji (Photo: University of Georgia Athletic Association)

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

Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● The Tokyo organizers are continuing to increase the virus testing protocol for athletes and officials coming to the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer.

Kyodo News reported today (27th) that plans are now being made for daily testing of visiting sports officials for their first three days in Japan, and then from 4-7 days after that, depending on their level of contact with athletes. Athletes and team officials are expected to be tested daily, using a saliva sample.

The Kyodo story noted “the government and the organizing committee have emphasized that protecting the health of participants and the Japanese people is their top priority.”

More details are expected tomorrow when the second edition of the IOC’s “playbook” for athletes and teams is released, with the second editions for officials and media due on Friday.

The first athlete boycott of Tokyo 2020 was announced on 10 April on the Facebook page of swimmer Win Htet Oo, 26, who stated he will not represent his country of Myanmar at the Games.

“I shall not march in the parade of nations under a flag steeped in my people’s blood,” he wrote, adding, “It is my hope that the IOC refuses to acknowledge the [Myanmar Olympic Committee] as the rightful organization responsible for the Olympic Movement in Myanmar.”

The military seized power on 1 February of this year and removed elected President Aung San Suu Kyi. Protests ensured and have continued across the country, with 745 deaths reported as of last week. Oo lives and trains in Melbourne, Australia.

“The IOC takes note of the letter and continues to evaluate the alleged issues.”

That’s the International Olympic Committee’s reply to an inquiry by the Jerusalem Post about a letter sent by the UnitedforNavid group of activists in Iran, calling for a suspension of Iran from participation in the Tokyo Games.

Named for Navid Afkari, a former Greco-Roman wrestler who was executed in 2020 after participating in anti-regime protests in 2018, the UnitedforNavid group has sent the IOC lists of athletes who have been “tortured, beaten, arrested and denied access to competition and sport” and asked for the IOC to act against the Iranian National Olympic Committee, which “has failed to protect athletes and their wellbeing.

The International Olympic Committee approved an excerpt from Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto no. 1 to be used in place of the Russian national anthem for the Tokyo Games.

The use of the actual anthem had been barred by the World Anti-Doping Agency’s sanctions and confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport decision.

The Tokyo organizers continued to run scaled-down test events to prepare for the Games, including a single-day event for Rugby Sevens last week. World Rugby reported:

“Organisers from the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the Japanese Rugby Football Union tested a variety of operational measures around exhibition matches featuring players from Japan’s men’s and women’s national sevens teams, albeit with no fans in attendance.

“Match-day operations were simulated as they will be during the Olympics, complete with match officials, ground staff, the teams being announced on the stadium speakers and music being played after every try.

“The event also provided organisers with another chance to test out COVID-19 countermeasures, including players wearing masks during the warm-up, all areas being frequently disinfected and the use of a small vehicle to return stray balls to the field of play.

“The Japanese players on show are currently within their own training bubble and were kept separate from media and officials during the event.”

Watch for more abbreviated test programs at future Games as a money-saving measure, especially for sports which are already played in host cities. Does Los Angeles really need a test event for basketball?

Games of the XXXV Olympiad: 2032 ● The Brisbane candidature for the 2032 Games took a giant step forward with confirmation from the Australian federal government of funding support for the infrastructure elements of the event.

ABC News Australia reported “The [Queensland] state government struck a 50-50 infrastructure funding deal with the federal government for Brisbane’s Olympics bid on Monday afternoon” and “Prime Minister Scott Morrison agreed to the joint funding arrangement, provided that a jointly owned, funded and run Olympic infrastructure agency was be set up to oversee all projects.”

The federal guarantee was reported to be received about an hour before the IOC’s requested deadline for confirmation of the guarantees. This paves the way for Brisbane to be formally awarded the 2032 Games at the IOC Session in Tokyo in July.

XXIV Olympic Winter Games: Beijing 2022 ● Reuters reported the latest condemnation of the Chinese government last week, urging a diplomatic boycott:

“The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in an annual report encouraged Washington to continue to impose targeted financial and visa sanctions on Chinese government agencies and officials responsible for ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations.’”

“It also recommended that the U.S. government ‘publicly express concerns about Beijing hosting the 2022 Winter Olympic Games and state that U.S. government officials will not attend the games if the Chinese government’s crackdown on religious freedom continues.’”

XXVI Olympic Winter Games: 2030 ● A business group from Quebec City (CAN) pitched the city as a possible host for the 2030 Olympic Winter Games, but has apparently been pushed away by the Canadian Olympic Committee.

Canada has emerged as a possible destination for the 2030 Winter Games, as no clear leader has emerged, although there is clear interest from Barcelona, Spain and Sapporo, Japan. Vancouver – successful host of the 2010 Winter Games – is being promoted as a possible site once again, perhaps in concert with other venues in British Columbia.

The Quebec City project, announced on 22 April, was reportedly ended by David Shoemaker, the COC Secretary General, on Monday (26th). The French-language site FrancsJeux posted a story which included Shoemaker as writing:

“Although we believe that Quebec City has the potential to present the viable candidacy in the future, the COC assessed, based on our overall analysis and the [negative] position of the current mayor, that the ideal conditions were not present to try to host the Winter Games in 2030.”

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee has designated Salt Lake City, Utah as its bid city for a future Winter Games, but with Los Angeles hosting the 2028 Olympic Games, the 2034 Winter Games would appear to be the earliest for a U.S. winter host.

Calgary was a possible bidder for the 2026 Winter Games, but a referendum on the bid project was defeated.

Athletics ● Yet one more world leader – and an American Record – from last weekend, by U.S. triple jump star Keturah Orji. She regained the American Record in Chula Vista, California on Sunday, winning at 14.92 m (48-11 1/2) on her first jump, placing her at no. 31 on the all-time world list.

Orji, still just 25, finished fourth in Rio, reclaimed the record she set twice in 2016, but lost in 2018 to Tori Franklin, who jumped 14.84 m (48-8 1/4) in May in Baie-Mahault, Guadeloupe.

World Athletics declared American para-sprinter Blake Leeper ineligible for the Tokyo Games using the new prosthetics created for him to comply with a prior negative decision on another set of prosthetics. The Mechanical Aids Review Panel head, David Grace (AUS) noted:

“World Athletics has satisfied its burden of proof on the balance of probabilities that the use of the mechanical aids by Blake Leeper in the form of passive-elastic carbon-fibre running specific prostheses (RSPs) that give him a leg length of 104 centimetres and a standing height of 184 centimetres [6-0 1/2] provides Blake Leeper with an overall competitive advantage over an athlete not using such aids, with the result that the use by Blake Leeper of such RPSs in any World Athletics sanctioned events is not allowed pursuant to Rule 6.3.4 of the Technical Rules of World Athletics.”

Leeper was tested in the new prosthetics in Dallas in February and March of this year and his arguments concerning the use of the Maximum Allowed Standing Height (MASH) rule and possible racism of that rule were considered and rejected.

There is no doubt that this decision will be appealed immediately to the Court of Arbitration for Sport; Leeper’s attorneys may also file for injunctive relief in the U.S. to allow him to run in the U.S. Olympic Trials as the CAS process will likely not be completed by that time.

The Russian news agency TASS reported that three Russian athletes – Yekaterina Koneva (women’s triple jump), Alexander Menkov (men’s long jump) and Valery Pronkin (men’s hammer throw) have submitted applications for neutral status, allowing them to compete internationally.

They are apparently the first from Russia to apply.

TrackTown USA, the local organizers of the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials, informed all of its ticket buyers last week:

“Based on state and local health regulations for stadium capacity and the high volume of tickets that already have been sold, the LOC has determined that the tickets held by existing customers cannot be fulfilled. As a result, all ticket customers will have their tickets refunded. A revised ticketing program with an updated seat inventory that is compliant with new regulations will be announced in May.”

The announcement noted, “The State of Oregon recently changed its regulations to allow spectators at sporting events, but those regulations specify limitations on stadium capacity based on the county’s risk level. Additionally, social distancing will be required in the seating bowl. Those two components will significantly reduce the number of seats and limit the distribution of seats that will be available for the Olympic Trials.”

Once the capacity is determined for the Trials, athlete families will get the first opportunity to purchase tickets, followed by previous ticket purchasers.

Oregon has been very stringent with its Covid-19 protocols, and an Olympic Trials – now just eight weeks away – with just a few scattered spectators is looking more and more likely.

The World Anti-Doping Agency made a lengthy, rare, public statement on the wild Alex Schwazer case, concerning doping infractions by the Italian race walker who won the 2008 Olympic 50 km title and was suspended for three and a half years in 2012, just prior to the London Games. WADA noted that “He was also prosecuted in Bolzano for doping (which is a crime in Italy), and entered into a plea bargain after admitting intentionally taking EPO and testosterone.”

As his ban was coming to an end, he was tested in January of 2016. The test came back negative, but his testosterone levels were elevated from his baseline Athlete Biological Passport levels and so the independent Athlete Passport Management Unit at the anti-doping laboratory in Montreal (CAN) asked for an additional test to see if the testosterone in the sample was natural or synthetic. It came back as synthetic and so Schwazer was charged with a doping violation.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport heard Schwazer’s appeal in 2016 and agreed that he had committed another doping violation and banned him for eight additional years.

As doping is a crime in Italy, a case was opened in Bolzano in 2016. The WADA statement noted:

“The investigating judge [Walter Pelino] has now decided that an unidentified person secretly obtained a third party’s sample that contained synthetic testosterone, exposed it to ultra violet rays to remove all traces of that third party’s DNA, mixed it with Mr. Schwazer’s January 2016 urine sample, then heated the combined sample to increase the concentration of synthetic testosterone in the (combined) sample.”

This appears to be ludicrous on its face, and does not impact Schwazer’s ban from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, since the Italian court was looking into a breach of the Italian criminal code. WADA, for its part, concludes:

“WADA is shocked that the investigating judge would see fit to issue a decree making these very serious accusations without first giving WADA or the other parties an adequate opportunity to defend themselves. That is not due process. WADA utterly rejects the allegations made against it by the investigating judge. So too will any fair-minded observer who is prepared to listen objectively to all of the evidence.”

One of the world’s great female athletes of the 1960s, but who was touched by controversy, passed away on Monday at age 83. Tamara Press was a Soviet star at the 1960 and 1964 Olympic Games, winning gold in the women’s shot in both, and a discus silver in Rome and gold in Tokyo. The Athletics International newsletter noted:

“She set six world records at the shot from 17.25 m [56-7 1/4] in 1959 to 18.59 m [61-0] in 1965 and six at the discus from 57.15 m [187-6] in 1960 to 59.70 m [195-10] in 1965. … Both Tamara and her younger sister Irina retired from the sport in 1966; perhaps coincidentally with the advent of sex testing.”

Perhaps? The Press sisters retired in 1966, when sex testing on-site became mandatory. Irina, a double gold medalist in 1960 (80 m hurdles) and 1964 (pentathlon) passed away in 2004.

Clemson University reinstated its men’s cross country and track & field programs, after announcing the programs would be cut in November of 2020:

“The decision comes after revised financial projections show the impacts of COVID-19, while significant, did not harm the University in as drastic a way as anticipated. Last fall, facing significant financial challenges due to COVID-19, the difficult decision to end men’s track & field and cross country was deemed the most prudent path forward. Today, significant contributions from philanthropic fundraising, along with state and federal financial support and appropriations, have positioned the University and the Athletics Department to reconsider its decision. Their generosity allows Clemson to reinvest in supporting the men’s track programs and to expand its women’s sports offerings.”

Clemson will also add one or more women’s sports as well, in order to keep the athletic program within overall Title IX gender-equity guidelines.

Curling ● The World Curling Federation’s Women’s World Championship was re-scheduled for 30 April-9 May, but has now suffered two positive Covid-19 tests in the sequestered environment in Calgary, Canada. The WCF statement included:

“The initial positive result was discovered in day-zero testing taken during the pre-competition quarantine period on Friday (23 April) and the second positive case was identified within the same team after enhanced testing protocols on Sunday (25 April).

“All recent arrivals to Calgary were isolated in the pre-competition quarantine hotel, and in an abundance of caution, will remain at that hotel following all the protocols required in order to protect themselves and the community at large, as Alberta Health continue to investigate the positive results and carry out all contact tracing. …

“The existing protocols developed with the public health authority will now feature enhanced testing to determine the safe return to sport for the existing members of the impacted team.”

Football ● The repercussions of the imploded European Super League continue to be felt, as the national football federation of Italy (FIGC) added a new rule which bans any team participating in a “privately run competition.

Inter Milan, Juventus and AC Milan were all primed to be part of the Super League, but – despite reports of signed agreements to participate – the proposed league fell apart due to public pressure last week.

Skiing ● The Federation Internationale de Ski’s Ski Jumping subcommittee did not approve a proposal by the Norwegian Ski Federation to permit women’s ski flying for safety reasons:

“The next step will be the women’s World Cup on the HS 147 hill in Willingen in the 2021/22 winter season.

“The Muehlenkopf-hill in Willingen is considered a small flying hill, the perfect introduction to Ski Flying hills. The hill in Willingen is the largest in the women’s World Cup so far. The experts want to have these competitions first and then make a decision concerning Ski Flying events next winter. …

“After a long and emotional debate, the committee voted 9-7 against the proposal of the Norwegians. Especially the arguments [on] safety and calendar planning led to the close vote against Ski Flying events for the women already this upcoming winter.”

As might be imagined, Norway’s Maren Lundby, the 2018 Olympic gold medalist, was not happy, calling the decision “unbelievable.” Norwegian officials felt the discipline will be added for 2023.

Weightlifting ● World records fell at the “2020″ Asian Weightlifting Championships, held in Tashkent (UZB) from 16-25 April, with China dominating the medal table as expected.

New world marks for the combined lifts of Snatch and Clean & Jerk:

Women/49 kg: 213 kg, Zhihui Hou (CHN)
Women/59 kg: 247 kg, Hsing-Chun Luo (TPE)
Women/+87 kg: 335 kg, Wenwen Li (CHN)

Chinese lifters won 10 of the 20 classes, with men’s victories from Fabin Li (61 kg), Lijun Chen (67 kg), Zhiyong Shi (73 kg; set a world Snatch record of 169 kg), Dayin Li (81 kg, world Snatch record of 175 kg) and Tao Tian (96 kg).

China won five of the 10 women’s classes, including Hou (49kg), Qiuyin Liao (55 kg), Wangli Zhang (76 kg), Zhouyu Wang (87 kg) and Li (+87 kg).

Iran won three golds, all in the men’s division, and Chinese Taipei won another women’s gold from Wen-Huei Chen (64 kg); those three nations were the only ones with more than one win.

At the BuZZer ● An ultra-rare, golden badge with a white ribbon from the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo that was issued for use by the Imperial Family was purchased for $130,000 to highlight Ingrid O’Neil’s Auction 89 that ended last Saturday.

The 459-item sale included many rare items such as Olympic medals and torches; some of the high-end items sold:

● $70,000: Oslo 1952 Winter torch
● $35,000: Los Angeles 1932 gold medal
● $35,000: Lake Placid Winter 1932 silver medal
● $28,000: Lake Placid Winter 1980 gold medal
● $22,000: Oslo 1952 Winter bronze medal
● $22,000: Innsbruck 1976 Winter torch
● $20,000: Turin 2006 Winter silver medal
● $14,000: Antwerp 1920 gold medal
● $12,000: Los Angeles 1984 silver medal
● $12,000: Tokyo 2020 torch

Many of the medals and torches did not sell. One unusual item that did sell was an Olympic Order in Bronze set of a necklace and pin, in original, green-leather cases. It went for $3,000.

You can receive our exclusive TSX Report by e-mail by clicking here. You can also refer a friend by clicking here, and can donate here to keep this site going.

For our 649-event International Sports Calendar for 2021 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!