HEARD AT HALFTIME: Tokyo cancellation would not implode most sports federations; Tokyo 2021 speculation reaches new lows; Diacks probe continues

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

Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told the World Economic Forum via teleconference last Friday:

“We are holding the Olympics and Paralympics this summer. I am determined to achieve the games as a proof of human victory against the pandemic, a symbol of global solidarity and to give hope and courage around the world.”

Although only a small part of his 25-minute address, Suga’s comments are important, because as long as the Japanese government remains committed to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, it is almost sure that the events will happen.

International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates of Australia spoke in detail with Sky News Australia show host Chris Smith about the Tokyo Games last Thursday, explaining the approach to the preparations for the Tokyo Games in 2021:

“We spent the first three months identifying all of the scenarios, from the worst-case scenario of Covid continuing to be there and there won’t be a vaccine, and it’s on that basis that our planning is still taking place, because we’ve had a second wave of Covid as you know in winter.

“So, we’re planning on the basis that it will take place without a vaccine. We have planned something like 40-odd countermeasures and we’ll just decide which ones we need from our ‘tool kit’ as it were. We will be releasing next week a series of we call them, ‘playbooks’ – 20 pages – which say for the athletes on the Australian team, we’ll give them instruction on what is required from them before they go to the Games, to use that as an example.

“They must undertake testing – saliva and nose – within 72 hours of traveling to Tokyo, like we’ve now introduced in Australia for people coming here. They’ll be tested on arrival. Then they’ll be tested, if they continue to be negative, every four days.”

Coates noted there will be no quarantine required. “They will be limited just to the Olympic Village and the transport to their venue for competition and training. That’s it. No going downtown. We’ll have lockdown, virtually.”

On whether spectators will be admitted – domestic, foreign or both – Coates said the decision will taken in April or May, saying “we should leave those decisions as late as possible.”

“But if the very worst comes to the worst of course federations would suffer. Some budgets would have to go. But by and large federations would not declare themselves bankrupt.”

That’s from Andrew Ryan, Executive Director of the Association of summer Olympic international federations (ASOIF), in an interview with Reuters last Thursday (28th). Ryan noted that about half of the 28 summer Olympic federations took loans from the IOC, totaling about $40 million.

Said Ryan, “It is always thought that the international federations are all very dependent on the Olympic revenues. But if you took an average across all federations [other than FIFA] about 30 percent comes from the Olympic Games.

“The ones with the exposure are the bigger federations that burn a lot of money from their reserves. That is where the risk lies. If a total catastrophe happened there would be painful cuts to budgets and difficult choices to make. But I don’t think there are federations thinking ‘it is all over for us’ if it was not to happen.”

Ryan is being optimistic; check on our exclusive analysis of International Federation finances from May 2020 here.

Former Dentsu executive Haruyuki Takahashi, who controversially received $8.2 million to spend on lobbying during Tokyo’s bid campaign in 2013, then joined the executive committee of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee and suggested last June that the Games should be further delayed after being postponed to 2021, has opened his mouth and stuck his foot in it again.

He told the Wall Street Journal last week that

“It’s up to the U.S. I hate to say it, but Thomas Bach and the IOC are not the ones who are able to make the decision about the Games. They don’t have that level of leadership.”

He called instead of U.S. President Joe Biden to make a positive statement. The International Olympic Committee replied with a statement:

“It is regrettable that Mr. Takahashi does not know the facts. First: It is USOPC that decides about the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic team. Second: USOPC has never left a doubt about their participation. Therefore, his comments are obsolete.”

No word about when Takahashi last had a drug test.

Japan’s Kyodo News Service posted a story on Saturday that the French judge reviewing allegations of vote-buying by the Tokyo has deemed the Japanese investigation that cleared former Japanese Olympic Committee head and IOC member Tsunekazu Takeda “flawed.”

Takeda was questioned about a payment of about $2 million for bid lobbying paid to a company called Black Tidings, essentially a front for Papa Massata Diack (SEN), the son of then-IOC member and IAAF President Lamine Diack (SEN). The Japanese investigation cleared Takeda, but the story noted that

“In the eyes of the French investigators, their Japanese counterparts’ probe was unsatisfactory, with the preliminary judge quoted by the sources as telling Takeda that Japanese prosecutors ‘failed to question all the witnesses or seize documents’ that had been requested from the French side.”

Said Takeda in 2017, “It is true that I signed off the contract with Black Tidings as the final decision-maker, but I was not involved with the selection of all the consultants.”

The French probe into potential vote-buying on behalf of Tokyo in 2013, with the Diacks as the center of attention, is continuing.

FoxBusiness.com posted a story on Thursday from its “Cavuto: Coast to Coast” show that Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis “met with the International Olympic Committee” last Wednesday.

In the 4:27 interview with anchor Neil Cavuto, Patronis did not mention who he spoke with. No surprise there.

During his news conference last Wednesday, IOC chief Bach was asked about Patronis’s letter; he said he was unaware of it.

The IOC made a major commitment, announced last Wednesday, to sustainability, promising to “reduce its direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent, by 2030″ and by 30% by 2024.

This will not be done by eliminating or reducing its activities, but “[t]his will be mainly done through the Olympic Forest project, which is part of the Great Green Wall – an existing UN-backed initiative to combat desertification in Africa’s Sahel region. These offsets will make the IOC climate positive by 2024, meaning that it will be removing more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits.”

Whether this is real sustainability or simply trading theoretical “credits” can be discussed, but the IOC’s statement also included:

“All upcoming Olympic Games, including Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022, have committed to carbon neutrality.”

“From 2030 onwards, each Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (OCOG) will be contractually obliged to:

– minimise and compensate its direct and indirect carbon emissions; and

– implement lasting zero-carbon solutions for the Olympic Games and beyond.”

This raises real questions for each upcoming Games organizing committee, in providing the correct experience to athletes, officials, staff members and attendees: Will the ubiquitous bottles of seated water or isotonic drinks available to athletes and staff at each venue be replaced with some kind of common dispenser and does this open the possibility of sabotage, especially regarding doping? Will all paper records, start lists and results be eliminated, and what happens if one or more electronic systems go down? What about concessions, or is food service at venues to eliminated? How about souvenirs, even something as simple as a list of entries, for spectators? Is such information to be unavailable to those without smartphones or other electronic devices? Does recycling count for carbon neutrality?

These are only some of the questions to be considered by Games organizers, especially for the more massive summer Games. The answers will very likely determine, in a significant way, what the future Games experience is like for everyone involved.

World Anti-Doping Agency ● Good news for WADA, as it announced new contributions from the governments of Cyprus, France, Greece and Poland of $195,501 for scientific research and investigations and intelligence activities.

The IOC will match, as it has promised, these contributions dollar-for-dollar, bringing the added funding to $391,000. The initiative to raise additional funds for research and investigations has attracted donations from China, Egypt, India and Saudi Arabia, with a total impact of $5.58 million.

A defamation suit brought by three retired Russian biathletes – Olga Zaitseva, Yana Romanova and Olga Vilukhina – against Russian doping whistleblower Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov has been withdrawn from a New York court in view of changes in state law.

The Russian TASS news agency reported that the three women, who retired in 2017, had been banned for life by the IOC, but filed successful appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. They sued Rodchenkov for defamation in 2018, but their efforts became much more difficult after New York’s 2020 changes to its expanded protections afforded (retroactively) to defendants in lawsuits brought based on the exercise of free speech rights, known as “anti-SLAPP” laws (SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation”).

Said Scott Balber, the U.S.-based attorney for the three plaintiffs, “To this end, we will continue to pursue all avenues open to us in European courts to defend the reputations of all three biathletes.” Rodchenkov, who is under U.S. protection, continues to wanted in Russia, which has unsuccessfully asked for his extradition.

U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee ● Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) announced, in cooperation with Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) his selections for the “Commission on the State of the U.S. Olympics and Paralympics” last Wednesday (27th).

Wicker had already announced that Olympians Brittney Reese (track & field/long jump) and John Dane (sailing) would be appointed. His final two nominations were for former U.S. Olympic Committee President (and IOC member) Bill Hybl and Metro Denver Sports Commission founder Robert Cohen.

Hybl is currently the Chair of the U.S. Olympic Endowment, and was President of the United States Olympic Committee from 1991-92 and 1996-2000. He was a member of the IOC from 2000-02. His longtime experience with the Olympic Movement at the executive level brings a dimension lacking in the make-up of the Commission so far.

Cohen is the head of IMA Financial Group and was a founder of the Metro Denver Sports Commission. He currently serves on the United States Olympic Museum Board of Directors and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Foundation.

This brings the total number of Commission nominees to 12, with only Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) remaining to appoint the final four members. According to the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2020, the Commission’s report is due at the end of July, but an extension of this date and funding for a staff are being arranged.

Athletics ● The postponement of the Olympic Games from 2020 to 2021 created casualties. Those include the Weeks twins, now Lexi Jacobus and Tori Hoggard, both of whom were NCAA champions at Arkansas. At age 24, they both announced their retirements on Instagram on 8 January, and both will pursue careers in pharmacy.

Lexi cleared a lifetime best 4.70 m (15-5) to make the U.S. Olympic Team in 2016 and won for NCAA titles, while Tori was the 2019 NCAA champ, with a best of 4.61 m indoors (15-1 1/2).

Wrote Hoggard, “After much thought and prayer, I have decided to retire and switch my focus to my professional career in pharmacy. For those of you who don’t know, I took a year off after I graduated from the U of A to commit wholeheartedly on training for the Olympics … The Olympics were postponed a year, but I decided to start my 4-year pharmacy program and train simultaneously. …

“This last year has proven that it is impossible to commit 100% to both school and training. I found myself physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. … While it was an extremely difficult decision to make, I am confident I am making the right one.”

Said Jacobus, “I think I am ready to close this chapter and wholeheartedly open the next
one. The decision was not an easy one, but it is the best decision for me in this point in my life.”

Football ● Japan withdrew from the 18-24 February SheBelieves Cup tournament to be played in Orlando, Florida due to concerns over the coronavirus. Argentina was quickly named as the replacement team and will face Brazil in the opening game.

The U.S. and Canada are the other teams in the tournament.

Weightlifting ● IOC chief Bach said during his news conference last week:

“With regard to the International Weightlifting Federation, there, our – again – great concerns are about the apparent weakening of their anti-doping rules and about also other governance issues. But concentrating on the anti-doping rules, we had to note that obviously, IWF wants to change the anti-doping rules which were the basis for the approval of the IOC for their qualification system [for Tokyo]. This is really something upsetting, and even more so that all this happened without any consultation with the IOC.”

The IWF replied in a posting on Friday (29th), which included:

“The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) notes with deep concern the recent news that raised serious concerns about an apparent weakening of the anti-doping rules by the IWF seeking to change these rules approved by the IOC as part of its qualification system for Tokyo 2020 with the qualifications already in place and without any consultation with the IOC.

“Faced with these public considerations, the IWF is obliged to make some clarifications. The IWF categorically denies any action that violates the standards set by the IOC.”

In fact, the 2021 edition of the IWF’s anti-doping rules do contain a couple of important changes, especially in the penalties section:

● Sec. 12.5 of the 2018 rules list specific sanctions for three or more doping violations by a member national federation in a calendar year, from three up to nine. The 2021 rules, in sec. 12.3, changed this to four violations within any 12-month period and lowered the highest fine amount from $500,000 to $300,000.

● Sec. 12.7 of the 2018 rules, which allowed almost unlimited penalties for “conduct connected or associated with doping or anti-doping rule violations [that] brings the sport of weightlifting into disrepute,” was eliminated.

Also on Friday, the European Weightlifting Federation posted a statement heavily criticizing the IWF, including:

“We have also noticed that the IWF Executive board has changes the anti-doping rules and made them weaker, in a way that most probably will make it easier to nations with a doping problem to avoid reactions. The changes are in our opinion a direct neglection of the demands from the IOC to work even harder to defeat doping. This neglection is totally unacceptable and we are shocked that the IWF Executive board does not understand this.

“We are really afraid that the demonstration of lack of understanding within the IWF executive board will be a disastrous message to the world. …

“The entire board should resign, and an interim executive board, should be put in charge until a new executive board are elected.”

Weightlifting’s future is in peril.

At the BuZZer ● Best Tweet of the week has to go to Chad Gunnelson, coach at the University of Dubuque in Iowa. Over a photograph of U.S. President Joe Biden signing executive orders, @CoachGunny wrote:

“BREAKING NEWS – President Joe Biden signs executive order stating field events must have equal air time on all track and field broadcasts.”

Plenty of replies, some of which were just as clever:

Hoping there’s also a clause to report English measurements along w metric in all field event results. *especially US college results.”

Also, in that Executive Order, I think, it, also, stated that each lap of the 10,000m, Steeple Chase, and 5,000m are to be aired.

There were also some replies appeared to take Gunnelson’s original Tweet seriously! Nooo…

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