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News, views and noise from the non-stop, worldwide circus of Olympic sport:
● Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● News media were given a tour of the Olympic Village over the weekend, getting an introduction to the 21-building complex on the Tokyo waterfront. Kyodo News reported special attention has been paid to food service:
“The seats in the main dining and casual dining halls have been reduced by a third to around 3,000 and 280, respectively, to avoid crowds, while transparent acrylic panels will be installed at tables. …
“The main dining hall will provide about 700 options ranging from Japanese, Western and Asian to halal, vegetarian and gluten-free cuisine to cater to various preferences, cultures and religions, with nutritional information per serving displayed. It will offer 45,000 meals a day.
“The casual dining hall, meanwhile, will offer 3,000 meals a day of Japanese cuisine, using ingredients from all of the country’s 47 prefectures.”
Get ready for all kinds of minute details about the Olympics, reportedly breathlessly from Tokyo. On Sunday, it was reported that alcoholic beverages will be allowed to be brought into the Village, but only for in-room consumption. However, condoms will not be distributed as at past Games, but only on departure as an awareness-raising exercise against AIDS.
Whether alcoholic beverages will be sold at the sports venues is still under consideration. One important factor is whether such drinks will lead to behaviors inconsistent with the coronavirus restrictions.
On Saturday, a Ugandan team member arriving in Tokyo tested positive for the coronavirus, the first such case from an Olympic visitor. The rest of the delegation moved on to the host town in Izumisano and will undergo daily testing.
The infected team member had been vaccinated prior to coming to Tokyo, as had all of the other members of the arrival group.
The Ugandans were the second group to arrive for the Games, after the Australian softball team. A team of 14 Danish rowers was the third to arrive, on Sunday, and moved on to their host town of Ogata in Akita Prefecture.
The Indian Olympic Association is upset with the Tokyo organizers for extra precautions being taken for 10 delegations where specific variants, such as the Delta variant, are widespread. Tokyo 2020 has asked that India and nine other delegations not interface with any others for three days upon arrival.
● U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee ● Board chair Susanne Lyons and chief executive Sarah Hirshland briefed reporters on Monday on last week’s USOPC Board meeting, noting the organization’s focus on the Tokyo Games, as well as the 2022 Winter Games coming next February in China.
In addition, Lyons noted a significant effort being undertaken on oversight of the U.S. National Governing Bodies. A now-separate “NGB Oversight Committee” has begun a detailed certification renewal program that will review the actions and compliance activities of each National Governing Body; Lyons was happy to report that “We’re seeing significant progress in the area of NGB compliance and governance.”
That’s an area of major emphasis for the USOPC in the wake of the passage of the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic and Amateur Athletes Act in 2020 and in advance of the eventual operation of the Commission on the Study of the U.S. Olympics and Paralympics in the fall.
Also on the agenda was fund-raising; Lyons explained:
“We talked about the long-term opportunities to grow the [U.S. Olympic and Paralympic] Foundation. We hope to leverage the lead-up to L.A. ‘28 – when we are hosting the Games on U.S. soil – and we hope to use that time to strengthen and grow philanthropic support of Team USA.”
This is another area of concern for the EOPAAA Commission, which will review not only how the USOPC’s money is spent, but what revenues it has and what can be done to increase funding. There are a lot of recommendations for spending USOPC money, but not many about how to raise more.
Lyons also touched on an important, but little-noticed element of Olympic Movement politics: Americans who serve on boards or commissions of International Federations and related organizations. There are more than 100 U.S. members of various bodies around the world, and support from the USOPC can help them not only be more effective, but can pave the way for upward movement within federations and to bring more U.S. reps on board. This is routinely done in many European NOCs, but has only intermittently been a U.S. priority. It’s crucial in today’s swirling context of international sports politics.
With the naming of women’s basketball stars Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, plus Sunday’s qualification of Allyson Felix in the women’s 400 m, the U.S. will have at least three five-time Olympians on its team.
How rare are five-time Olympians? According to Dr. Bill Mallon, a founder of the encyclopedic Olympedia.org results and research site, there have been only 418 five-time Olympians in summer Games history: 4.0%. Counting all Olympians with five or more Games – the record is 10 – there have been just 561 out of 114,887 summer Olympic participants through 2016, or 4.8%. That exclusive company indeed.
● Archery ● Monday saw the completion of the World Archery final qualification tournament for the Tokyo Games in Paris (FRA), with the individual matches for men and women.
The men’s winner was Russian Galsan Bazarzhapov, who defeated Moldova’s Dan Olaru, 6-2, in the final. Finland’s Antti Vikstrom won the bronze medal over Oleksii Hunbin (UKR), 6-4.
Romanian Madalina Amaistroaie defeated Sylwia Zyzanska (POL) by 6-4; Czech Marie Horackova won the bronze match over Evangelina Psarra (GRE), 7-3. The top seven men and five women won qualification to Tokyo.
● Athletics ● Here’s a positive outcome of the long-running suspension of the Russian Athletics Federation by World Athletics: $2 million of the fines paid by RusAF will be paid to athletes at the 2022 World Championships in Eugene and the 2023 Worlds in Budapest (HUN).
Some $1 million each will be added to the prize pool for each Worlds, expected to be in addition to the $7.53 million paid out at the 2019 World Championships in Doha (QAT).
Sergey Shubenkov, Russia’s 2015 men’s 100 m hurdles World Champion, was cleared by the Athletics Integrity Unit of doping resulting from a positive test from 15 December 2020. The AIU announcement included:
“AIU accepted that the positive finding resulted from his unintentional ingestion of residue from medication being used to treat a family member.
“The AIU charge was referred to a three-person panel of the Disciplinary Tribunal, which found that it was a ‘genuinely exceptional’ case, accepted the Athlete’s plea of No Fault or Negligence and rejected the AIU’s request that a period of ineligibility be imposed. Accordingly, no sanction has been imposed.”
Shubenkov, now 30, has not run outside of Russia since 2019; he won the Russian Cup in Sochi in 13.29 on 29 May. If fit, he could be a medal contender in Tokyo.
● Football ● A lot more Covid cases have popped up at the Copa America in Brazil. The South American confederation CONMEBOL reported on Monday that there are at least 140 positives found during the tournament, way up from 66 reported last Thursday.
In context, however, the incidence rate is still low. Some 15,235 tests have been conducted, so the infection rate is only 0.9%. The CONMEBOL report noted, “Most of the affected are workers, members of squads and outsourced staffers. In comparison with the previous figures, the incidence of the coronavirus is lower, which is a clear sign that preemptive measures and health protocols are working as expected.”
Group play will continue through the 28th, with elimination games starting on 2 July.
At Euro 2020, the best news came last Friday as Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen was released from the hospital after surgery to install implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to guard against further cardiac arrests. Eriksen suffered an attack during the 12 June match vs. Finland and had to be resuscitated on the field.
Eriksen actually visited the Danish team before heading home to recuperate. After losing its first two group-stage games by one goal each, Denmark advanced to the knock-out round by clubbing Russia, 4-1, on Monday in Copenhagen.
UEFA is looking into “potential discriminatory incidents” at games held in Budapest, Hungary, at which “Anti-LMBTQ” banners were apparently seen. An “ethics and disciplinary inspector” has been appointed to investigate the incident. Reuters noted that “Hungary’s parliament passed legislation last week that bans the dissemination in schools of content deemed to promote homosexuality and gender change, amid strong criticism from human rights groups and opposition parties.”
UEFA also announced that it would not sanction German keeper Manuel Neuer for wearing a rainbow armband, calling it “symbol of diversity and thus a good cause” and not a political symbol, which would normally draw a penalty.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino (SUI) spoke out strongly against the European Super League concept, but is definitely behind a new “Super League” concept … in Africa.
With a goal of further raising the profile, attractiveness and finances of football in Africa, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) is studying the options. Infantino apparently had the idea as far back as 2019, with 20 permanent members and others who could join via qualification.
New CAF chief Patrice Motsepe (RSA) has acknowledged the need for reforms, noting:
“There is a poor perception of CAF concerning its adherence to governance, auditing, ethical, financial and management good practices. These negative perceptions may, to some extent, be confirmed by the incriminating and damning audit which identified irregular, unethical and improper transactions and conduct.”
CAF has been beset by scandals of all kinds for many years, even with many outstanding players coming from African countries.
The infamous anti-gay chant used by Mexican fans has now led to sanctions from FIFA:
“The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has sanctioned the Mexican Federation with a fine of 60,000 Swiss francs and the condition that they play their next two official home games behind closed doors as a consequence of the anti-gay chants heard in the matches against the Dominican Republic and the United States, played in Guadalajara on March 18 and 24, respectively.”
The penalty is in response to the chant being heard during a CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament game, not from the recent CONCACAF Nations League semifinals and finals in Denver. In those instances, the games were stopped and anti-discrimination messages from CONCACAF were shown on the scoreboard and announced publicly. Another inquiry over the same issue is being made into the Mexico-Iceland friendly on 29 May in Arlington, Texas.
Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani told reporters that only visitors who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to attend the 2022 FIFA World Cup to be held in that country.
The tournament is expected to be played in full stadiums.
● Gymnastics ● The USA Gymnastics operations report for May was filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana on Tuesday, showing legal fees in the ongoing proceedings have now reached $14.116 million, of which $8.485 million has been paid. Of that unpaid total, 90% is more than three months in arrears.
USA Gymnastics showed cash on hand of $6.953 million at 31 May, but is still in the midst of a fight with more than 500 plaintiffs from the Larry Nassar scandal, its insurers and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee since the 15 December 2018 filing with the Bankruptcy Court.
● Volleyball ● The FIVB Women’s Nations League completed round-robin play on Sunday, with the top four teams advancing to the playoffs in the sequestered environment in Rimini (ITA).
The U.S. finished on top at 14-1, but losing its final match to China, followed by Brazil (13-2), Japan (12-3) and Turkey (11-4). China was fifth at 10-5.
Brazil will play Japan in the first semi on 24 June, and the U.S. will play Turkey afterwards. During the round-robin, Brazil shut out Japan, 3-0 and the U.S. got past Turkey, 3-1 on 14 June.
● Weightlifting ● The New Zealand Olympic Committee confirmed on Monday that Laurel Hubbard, 43, has been selected for the Tokyo Games in the women’s 87+ kg class.
Hubbard is a transgender athlete and competed as Gavin Hubbard until transitioning to female in 2015, following the International Olympic Committee’s regulations that require such athletes regulate their testosterone levels to below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months.
However, other federations – such as World Athletics – have championed 5 nmol/L as more appropriate, and there is an ongoing debate about the propriety of allowing athletes to transfer to the women’s division after having gone through puberty as a man. The “normal” healthy testosterone level is considered to be 9.2 to 31.8 nmol/L for men, but between 0.3 and 2.4 nmol/L for women.
Hubbard has followed the regulations, and ranked seventh in the International Weightlifting Federation’s final qualifying list for Tokyo. Regardless of what happens in Tokyo, this is another issue that the IWF – and the IOC – will have to confront after the Games.
● At the BuZZer ● The next big event to come to the United States might not be the 2030 Olympic Winter Games for Salt Lake City, but the Rugby World Cup.
USA Rugby is making a bid for the men’s 2027 or 2031 World Cup, or the women’s 2029 World Cup. It’s a massive event, as the 2019 edition in Japan saw 1.83 million tickets sold, 242,000 international visitors come matches in 12 cities across 44 days. A World Rugby-commissioned study indicated that the total economic impact of the tournament was £4.3 billion, or about $5.98 billion U.S. Bid documents are due in January.
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