The Sports Examiner

HEARD AT HALFTIME: U.S. Tokyo ticket buyers to lose 20% CoSport fee; Milan-Cortina logo elected; Ross & Klineman clinch Tokyo berth

On their way to Tokyo: U.S. beach stars April Ross (l) and Alix Klineman (Photo: USA Volleyball)

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

(For coverage of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s new protest regulations for trials events, click here)

Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020CoSport is the authorized ticket reseller for the National Olympic Committees in Australia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Jordan, Norway, Sweden and the United States.

On Saturday (27th), CoSport USA e-mailed a letter signed by company president Robert Long which noted that the Tokyo 2020 organizers will refund the face value of tickets purchased and shipping costs, but not until the third quarter of 2021. Also:

“We hope you understand CoSport is unable to go beyond the Terms & Conditions [in the purchase agreement] and refund the rest of your costs, namely the 20 percent handling fee. Authorized Ticket Resellers, such as CoSport, conduct international ticket programs on behalf of organizing committees and are allowed to charge this fee for doing so. As the program was developed and mostly implemented a year ago, this fee has been expended. In fact, due to the refund process, some of our costs, such as financial transaction processing fees and currency conversion, will be doubled.”

The refund process – such as it is – for U.S. ticket buyers requires a submittal by purchasers by 9 April. The form cancels all ticket orders, and “release[s] CoSport from any further claim related to these orders.” That will not sit well with any attorneys who purchased tickets from CoSport.

There was a highly negative reaction to the letter on Twitter, of course, but also a posting of a notice from the broker – Team GB Live – in Great Britain which included:

“We would like to take this opportunity to remind you that if you have bought a travel package(s) through us, they are protected by our Covid-19 guarantee, offering a 100% refund.

“We will therefore be in touch as soon as possible with information on how you obtain your refund.”

This is only the beginning of this story; more to come.

Further to Monday’s Lane One story on the impact of Japan’s desire to cut as many as 30,000 accredited visitors to Japan for the Games, out of a total of 90,000, the IOC posted a question-and-answer session with several Olympic broadcasters.

Gary Zenkel, the head of the NBC Olympics unit, explained that the network may reduce its headcount in Tokyo by about 10% – it had 2,000 people in Rio in 2016 – but:

“If you are viewer of NBC’s Olympic coverage here in the USA, your experience, if it had taken place in the summer of 2020 versus what you will have the opportunity to watch in the summer of 2021, other than environmentally, [is] not going to be different.”

However, Francois Messier, the CBC Executive Producer of Productions and Sport indicated that the network had 285 staff in Sochi (RUS) for the 2014 Winter Games, but has been cutting back since. It plans for 130 staff in Tokyo and 250 more in studios in Canada in Toronto or Montreal:

“We will have a position in the Olympic Stadium for all the athletics [events] and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Also from the pool, where we [tend to] have good results for Canadian athletes. And the pool also includes diving, where we also have some good competitors. We will also be calling gymnastics and basketball. The rest will be called either from Toronto or Montreal.”

Achim Hammer, the creative director for German public network ZDF, which shares Olympic rights with the ARD public network, added:

“For the first time, due to the overall situation around COVID-19, we are organising production mainly from Germany. … Our aim is that the spectators receive the same service as they have been used to receiving from ARD and ZDF and do not notice the new production form.

“Editing is done in Germany. We have ENG [electronic news-gathering] crews with reporters onsite, who provide footage, interviews, etc. but editorially the pieces, stories, etc. are done in Germany. Most of the commentary is off-tube [from the televised feed] and comes from Germany. Only selected sports will have commentary positions onsite.”

All agreed that the use of remote production is only going to increase in the future.

The French-language site FrancsJeux polled a several press agencies, with Agence France Presse still planning to take 150-160 people to Tokyo. Emmanuel Pionnier said:

“The constraints linked to the health crisis will modify our coverage of the event. We will have to adapt and be more creative. For example, we used to have 8 journalists on athletics, all languages combined. We may not have as many seats in the stadium in the press gallery. Suddenly, we will go elsewhere, on sports that are usually less covered … We have to do our agency job, being where others are not.”

The famed French all-sport daily L’Equipe still plans to take up to 35: 25 reporters, three editors, 4-5 photographers and some support staff, but the site in the U.S. – which specializes in the business of the Olympics rather than the competitions – will keep its staff home and have only its Japanese correspondents on the ground in Tokyo.

While Japan is committed to holding the Games beginning in July, there are warnings from in-country medical observers, such as infectious-disease specialist Dr. Norio Sugaya at Keiyu Hospital in Yokohama told The Associated Press:

“It is best to not hold the Olympics given the considerable risks. The risks are high in Japan. Japan is dangerous, not a safe place at all. Tens of thousands of foreigners are going to be entering the country, including mass media, in a short period of time … the challenges are going to be enormous.”

Games of the XXXIV Olympiad: Los Angeles 2028 ● The LA28 Chief Marketing Officer, Amy Gleeson, shared a little more of the organizing committee’s view of its approach to the next seven years in a short interview with C-Suite Quarterly earlier this month:

“While we’re still very much in the early days, we are working to highlight the many voices of L.A. to write the LA28 story together. Los Angeles is a city that defies a singular identity. We’re a collection of individuals and stories that come together to make L.A. what it is: a city where everyone is different and where creativity flourishes in that diversity. …

“L.A.’s strength is in its diversity. It’s a place unlike any other. Here in L.A., we have hundreds of cultures coming together with different beliefs, different backgrounds, different languages, and deeply personal stories. We celebrate individuality and self-expression and make space for everyone while coming together as one community.

“The LA28 Olympic and Paralympic Games are a chance to shine a light on those stories and be more inclusive and equitable around stories that may be underrepresented. One example is telling stories of people with disabilities. While 2028 will be the third time Los Angeles hosts the Olympic Games, it’s the first time the Paralympic Games will be in L.A. We have an unprecedented chance to raise awareness and understanding for people living with physical disabilities, not only in 2028, but ahead of the Games as well, through storytelling, policies, and advocacy.”

Gleeson, a U.C. San Diego grad, was the director of marketing for Madison Square Garden from 1998-2004 and then moved to credit-card giant Visa from 2005-17, where she managed – among other roles – the company’s Olympic marketing, global brand and sponsorship marketing for the 2012 Olympic and 2010 and 2014 Winter Games.

XXV Olympic Winter Games: Milan-Cortina 2026 ● The logo for the 2026 Winter Games in Italy was chosen in a vote in which 871,000-plus votes were cast online (from 169 countries), and with almost 75% choosing the ice-on-white “Futura” design.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee ● The USOPC’s Athletes Advisory Council and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency continued their campaign for change at the World Anti-Doping Agency with a joint statement on Monday (29th), which included:

“All athletes have been promised the opportunity for a fair, safe, and level-playing field and WADA must transform itself immediately to deliver on this agreement.

“As WADA has acknowledged the need to reform and now embarks on a governance reform consultation with stakeholders, athletes and NADOs call for more independence, transparency, and accountability at WADA. The only way WADA can achieve these objectives is to eliminate conflict of interest and truly embrace athlete input.”

The statement called for enhancement in the athlete’s share of voice, more independence in governance including a new rule that “no sport official should be permitted to serve on the WADA Executive Committee,” and fuller public transparency, with all Executive Committee and Foundation Board decisions made public.

A closing comment included, “Without athletes, WADA would cease to exist.” What is also true is without the funding by the IOC and national governments around the world, it would never have existed at all, or exist in the future.

AthleticsMarquise Goodwin was a 2012 Olympian in the long jump, finishing 10th but has spent most of his time playing wide receiver for Buffalo and San Francisco of the NFL. But as a free agent, he has time to go back to long jumping and showed he might have to be reckoned with at the Olympic Trials in June.

Goodwin, now 30, reached 8.12 m (26-7 3/4) to win the Florida International Pro Addition long jump last Saturday in Miramar, Florida, moving to fifth on the outdoor world list for 2021. He has a lifetime best of 8.45 m (27-8 3/4) from 2016. Stay tuned.

Another astonishing tale in the long-distance shoe wars came from Britain’s Chris Thompson, 39, won secured his place in Tokyo (actually, Sapporo) with a come-from-behind lifetime best of 2:10:52 to win the national Olympic Marathon Trials. He lowered his 2014 best of 2:11:19 and reached the Olympic qualifying standard easily.

Just as amazing was the report that despite being sponsored on On Running, he wore Nike VaporflyNext% shoes, which he painted over in all-black to obscure the Swoosh logo. Just as extraordinary was that he did so with On’s permission!

Canada’s Running Magazine reported, “While On Running does have a carbon-plated shoe, the Cloudboom, it is not yet up to the standards that Nike, Adidas, ASICS and other brands have created” and allowed Thompson to try for the Games in one of the best shoes available. However, at the awards ceremony, Thompson was once again wearing white On racers.

One of the mystery meets on the USA Track & Field “Journey to Gold” schedule has been fixed: the 24 April “USATF Grand Prix” will in fact be the Oregon Relays, to be held at the new Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. This will be a World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meet.

The USATF Throws Festival will be held in Tucson, Arizona on 22 May and will be a Continental Tour Silver meet.

Basketball ● Many sports have worked tirelessly to introduce new competitions, leagues and series, most of which have failed to attract worldwide attention. That’s one of the reasons that the launch of the Basketball Africa League will be closely watched.

A project of the International Basketball Association (FIBA) and the NBA, the Basketball Africa League will start on 16 May in Kigali, Rwanda. The league includes 12 club teams, with one each from Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Egypt, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Tunisia. Each club will play an 18-game schedule, with eight teams qualifying for single-elimination playoffs.

Will this work? Can the NBA’s expertise create a unique, exciting and alluring new league in Africa? This is an experiment very much worth watching.

Beach Volleyball ● “The ‘A Team’ now has 9,080 provisional Olympic ranking points and no U.S. team can move ahead of it.”

That’s from a USA Volleyball announcement that with the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) confirming only five more beach volleyball World Tour events will be held in 2021, the team of April Ross and Alix Klineman have mathematically clinched a spot in the top two among American women’s teams and have qualified for Tokyo.

A maximum of two teams from one country can compete in the men’s and women’s beach tournaments in Tokyo. In addition to Ross and Klineman, currently ranked no. 1 in the FIVB standings, the other American contenders include (with current FIVB rankings):

5. Brooke Sweat/Kerri Walsh Jennings, 6,960 points
6. Kelly Claes/Sarah Sponcil, 6,720
7. Kelley Kolinske/Emily Stockman, 6,320

Among the men, the top U.S. contenders:

8. Taylor Crabb/Jake Gibb, 7,000 points
13. Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena, 6,400
14. Tri Bourne/Trevor Crabb, 6,360

Sweat and Walsh Jennings have been moving up steadily, but the U.S. entries will be decided after a three-event program in Cancun (MEX) from 16 April-2 May, then tournaments in Sochi (RUS) and Ostrava (CZE).

Equestrian ● The Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) approved a return to competition beginning 12 April after a devastating outbreak of the Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) in Europe.

The disease “originated in Valencia (ESP) in February 2021 and has led to the FEI cancelling international events in 11 countries on the European mainland from 1 March to 11 April 2021.” Some 18 deaths of horses are linked to the virus, with cases reported in Belgium, Denmark, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland and Qatar.

Competitions were canceled in a dozen European countries, but can be held again starting next month, with added precautions being taken.

Modern Pentathlon ● No more free modern pentathlon streaming from the UIPM!

The federation announced recently that full-length coverage of major competitions is now by subscription, at €29.99 (~$35.29 U.S.) for the year, but with 50% off available for the remainder of 2021.

Live coverage on the federation’s streaming service of the final event – the Laser Run – and highlights of the prior events, will remain available for free (with registration required). Per the federation:

“Subscribers will receive unlimited access for a full year to all live streams in the UIPM Pentathlon World Cup and World Championships. All disciplines are included: Swimming (World Cup Final, World Championships only), Fencing Bonus Round, Riding and Laser Run.”

The UIPM service started in 2016, and it’s the latest in a long line of sports content providers taking the direct-to-consumer route.

Unfortunately, in the first World Cup event of the season – and the first under the new access rules – the Laser Run finale in Budapest (HUN) on 27 March was not available: “[T]echnical issues prevented us from live-streaming the exciting climax of the day and we are sorry for the inconvenience and disappointment caused.”

Swimming ● Perhaps it’s not really that important, but comebacking Ryan Lochte – the 12-time Olympic medal winner, now 36 – beat sprint superstar Caeleb Dressel in the 200 m Individual Medley at the ISCA Senior Cup in St. Petersburg, Florida on 24 March.

The time wasn’t amazing, 1:59.72 to 2:00.50, which moved Lochte to only no. 15 on the 2021 world list, but with heavy training continuing, it’s worth noting. Dressel is not likely to undertake this event at the Olympic Trials, but for Lochte to win against the likely dominant male swimmer of the upcoming Games is a measure of the veteran’s competitiveness, in an event in which he is a three-time Olympic medal winner.

At the BuZZer ● One of the great coaches in swimming, Eddie Reese, 79, announced his retirement after his Texas Longhorns won the 2021 NCAA men’s Swimming Championship in Greensboro last weekend.

Reese won NCAA titles with Longhorn teams in the 1980s-90-00s-10s-20s, a sensational 15 in total. He was the U.S. Olympic swimming coach in 1992, 2004 and 2008, and was an assistant coach for the U.S. in 1996, 2000 and 2012.

Swimming World Magazine reported that Reese’s retirement came quickly:

“Reese said that he just decided within the last week that he would be retiring. Reese called Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte on Saturday (while he was at NCAAs but before Texas officially clinched the national championship) to tell Del Conte of his decision to retire, but Reese did not tell his swimmers until a 3 p.m. meeting Monday afternoon.”

An astonishing run for a coach who coached 22 Olympic gold-medal winners, and has been widely praised for his work over 43 seasons at Texas; he will continue to work with his athletes through the U.S. Olympic Trials, with assistant Wyatt Collins to take over in the future.

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