Key status updates on the urgent stories in Olympic sport:
● XVI Paralympic Games: Tokyo 2020 ● NBC showed 1,200 hours of the Tokyo Paralympic Games, including 220 hours on television and set all kinds of records for Paralympic viewership in the U.S.
But that doesn’t mean that many people actually watched.
NBC’s own report stated that total viewership was about 14.1 million Americans, or 4.2% of the total U.S. population. It’s also about 9.4% of NBC’s reported audience of 150 million for the Olympic Games from Tokyo.
Still, it’s better than Rio 2016, when no primetime Paralympic programming was shown on NBC (over-the-air) at all. In 2021, it had three primetime shows:
● 29 Aug. (Sun): 2,096,000 viewers
● 04 Sept. (Sat): 883,000 viewers
● 05 Sept. (Sun): 1,473,000 viewers
These totals ran third or fourth among network shows at the same time; on 4 September, the Georgia-Clemson college football game had 8.86 million viewers and on 5 September, Notre Dame-Florida State drew 7.75 million.
The average audience for NBC’s 6.5 hours of Paralympic coverage was 1.2 million, almost double the Rio average of 640,000.
No audience over 200,000 was reported for any of its cablecasts; NBC reported “Primetime coverage on NBCSN averaged 180,000 viewers, up 27% vs. Rio 2016 Paralympics primetime coverage (143,000 viewers).”
NBC noted “Tokyo Paralympic Coverage on NBC and NBCSN Up 8% Over Rio Paralympics,” which is really not that much. The International Paralympic Committee has targeted the 2028 Los Angeles Games as a priority to increase awareness of the Paralympic Movement in the U.S. There is a long way to go.
● International Olympic Committee ● The IOC announced a long-term television rights sales agreement with the government-owned China Media Group for the Olympic Games in 2028 and 2032 and the Winter Games in 2026 and 2030.
No terms were disclosed, a considerable departure from announcements of agreements with other countries.
Kuwaiti Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah was found guilty on Friday of forgery by a Geneva court as part of a scheme to implicate rivals in an alleged coup plot in 2013.
Reuters reported “The case had revolved around videos purporting to show former prime minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammed and the former speaker of parliament, Jassem al-Kharafi, plotting to overthrow Kuwait’s then-emir.” Sheikh Ahmad turned the videos – which were fake – over to Kuwaiti authorities; he was one of five defendants in the case, all of whom were convicted.
Four received 29-month jail sentences, with 15 months suspended. In statement, Sheikh Ahmad, 58, confirmed he would appeal, but in the meantime, will “temporarily step aside as President as the [Olympic Council of Asia] until he has successfully appealed today’s verdict.” He suspended himself from the International Olympic Committee when the forgery charges were brought in 2018.
● XXVI Olympic Winter Games: 2030 ● A Spanish bid for the 2030 Winter Games in Barcelona and the Pyrenees has now been drawn into the long-running question of Catalonian independence.
During a television interview at the end of August, Catalonia President Pere Aragones said he believed a referendum on making Catalonia an independent nation would be held by the end of the 2020s.
“We want Catalonia to vote in a recognized way and, if it is done before 2030, it will be the first Games in which we will participate under our flag.”
In the meantime, Ada Colau, the Mayor of Barcelona, has demanded a referendum for her city on the question of participation in the bid since Aragones announced the regional bid in July.
Exactly what the International Olympic Committee’s Future Host Commission does NOT want to hear.
● Doping ● The German ARD public television channel made a major splash on 16 July with a documentary claiming to show that prohibited substances could be placed on a person through being touched by a cream.
The World Anti-Doping Agency responded at the time, noting: “[T]his possibility is well known within the anti-doping community. It is considered to be a very rare occurrence based on the small number of such cases that have arisen historically, and its potential is scientifically limited to a very small number of prohibited substances that could be absorbed through the skin into someone’s system.”
On Friday, WADA tweeted a three-part follow-up:
“Since its statement of 16 July, WADA confirms that upon its request, the team that produced a program for German broadcaster ARD has now provided limited information about the experiment it commissioned regarding prohibited substances being passed through the skin of athletes …
“This brief summary of the premise, substances and results of the project is lacking sufficient data for WADA to discern the scientific significance of the project …
“Accordingly, the Agency will await the publication of the peer-reviewed paper, as mentioned by the experiment’s authors in the documentary, to see if further follow-up is required.”
Is ARD being as transparent as it wants its subjects to be?
● Athletics ● The 80th edition of the famed Internationales Stadionfest – ISTAF – in Berlin came Sunday, marking 100 years since its debut in 1921. About 20,000 showed up under overcast skies for Sunday’s event and they got a great performance right at the start.
Tokyo Olympic women’s discus winner Valarie Allman of the U.S. spun the platter to an American Record 71.16 m (233-5) in the first round, improving on her 2020 record of 70.15 m (230-2) and moving her to no. 19 all-time!
How great is that? It’s the third-longest throw of the 21st Century behind two performances by double Olympic champion Sandra Perkovic (CRO). Moreover, everyone ahead of Allman on the all-time list – except for Perkovic – achieved their bests from 1980-92, a period of nearly unrestricted “chemical enhancements” in the Eastern Bloc (and others who have admitted they were doping).
As if to show the record toss was no fluke, her last was 68.80 m (225-9), the no. 8 throw in U.S. history!
Said Allman: “This stadium, the crowd, the competition was so incredible. This season had so many magic moments. One thing I wanted this season is to improve my best. 2021 is coming to an end and I have a PR; that is so good!” More highlights:
● Men/100 m (wind: 0.0 m/s): Marvin Bracy of the U.S. got his third European win in less than a month at 9.95, ahead of Jeremiah Azu (GBR: 10.16).
● Men/110 m hurdles (-0.1): American Devon Allen beat Jamaica’s Tokyo bronze winner Ronald Levy again – but close – by 13.10 to 13.11.
● Men/400 m hurdles: Norway’s Karsten Warholm won easily in 48.08, a slow time for him – at the end of a long season – but well ahead of Rasmus Magi (EST: 48.73).
● Men/Pole Vault: A U.S. sweep with Sam Kendricks beating Chris Nilsen on misses at 5,91 m (19-4 3/4) and K.C. Lightfoot third at 5.81 m (19-0 3/4).
● Men/Javelin: Home favorite Johannes Vetter thrilled the crowd with an impressive 88.76 m (291-2) to win.
● Women/1,500 m: Another European win for American Kate Grace in a lifetime best of 4:01.33, running away from Esther Guerrero (ESP: 4:04.45)
● Women/100 m hurdles (-0.2): Dutch star Nadine Visser ran 12.73 to out-last Americans Payton Chadwick and Christina Clemons, 12.73-12.75-12.86.
● Women/ High Jump: Olympic champ Mariya Lasitskene (RUS) won over Olympic silver winner Nicola McDermott (AUS): 1.98 m-1.95 m (6-6 to 6-4 3/4).
There’s one more major Continental Tour meet coming, in Zagreb (CRO) on Monday and Tuesday.
World road-race records fell in Herzogenaurach (GER) on Sunday, as Ethiopia’s Senbere Teferi ran 14:29 for 5 km and Kenya’s Agnes Tirop won the women’s 10 km race in 30:01.
Teferi, sixth in the Olympic 5,000 m in Tokyo, crushed the women-only mark of 14:44 by Sifan Hassan (NED) in 2019 and the 14:43 mixed-race record by Beatrice Chepkoech (KEN) last February, but also the 14:32 all-time best by Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN) before the distance became an official world record event.
Tirop’s 30:01 destroyed the women-only record of 30:29 by Asmae Leghzaoui (MAR) from 2002. The time moved Tirop – fourth in the Tokyo 5,000 m – to no. 7 on the all-time list. Runner-up Sheila Chepkirui (KEN) was second in 30:17, also faster than the old record.
Kenyans Jacob Krop, Rhonex Kipruto and Abel Kipchumba won in world-leading times in the 5 km, 10 km and Half Marathon races in 13:06, 26:43 and 58:48, respectively. That moves Krop to no. 3 all-time and Kipchumba to equal-20th all-time. Kipruto, already the world-record holder, ran the no. 3 time ever.
In another sign of a return to normalcy, the 5th Avenue Mile was held once again in New York. British stars Jake Wightman and Jemma Reekie won the men’s and women’s elite races in 3:49.5 and 4:21.6.
Ethiopia’s Derara Hurisa won the Vienna City Marathon on Sunday in 2:09:22, but was disqualified shortly thereafter for wearing shoes with 5 cm of thickness in the soles vs. the limit of 4 cm.
Hurisa confirmed his shoe choice – which met the rules – prior to the race, but decided to run in his training shoes instead; Kenya’s Leonard Langat finished in 2:09:25 and was declared the winner.
The race was run in high heat and one death – of an Austrian entrant – took place in the accompanying half marathon.
Comment: Now that this has happened once, look for much more rigorous shoe check programs coming in the future!
● Football ● The U.S. Women’s National Team has complained vociferously to the U.S. Soccer Federation that it should be paid the same as the Men’s National Team if the latter had won the FIFA World Cup, even though the amounts are controlled by FIFA, not the USSF.
The Men’s National Team’s Players Association has made many supportive comments about the women’s demands for “equal pay.” On Friday, U.S. Soccer Federation president Cindy Parlow Cone called them on it.
In an open letter to both the men’s and women’s player associations, she wrote “we have invited the players and both Players Associations to join U.S. Soccer in negotiating a solution together that equalizes World Cup prize money between the USMNT and USWNT.”
Moreover, the letter explained:
“As a federation, we would much rather negotiate a single collective bargaining agreement with both the men’s and women’s teams, but since neither team has agreed to take that approach, we are moving forward separately with each Players Association.”
The men’s team has been continuing to play under a long-expired bargaining agreement and the women’s team agreement ends on 31 December 2021. The appeal of the summary judgement against the women’s class-action suit against the federation is not expected to be heard the end of the year or early 2022.
Comment: This is a brilliant move by Parlow Cone and USSF, demonstrating once again that “equal pay” apparently does not mean the same thing to the men’s and women’s teams, further undermining the position of the women’s team. And the U.S. men’s team does not seem – at least right now – interested in giving away any of its money to the women, despite its claims to be in support of their interests. Stay tuned on this one.
A generational transition at the U.S. Women’s National Team may be accelerated with the announcement by striker Christen Press last Thursday that she is taking some time off:
“I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve been available for nearly every professional match for both club and country. And yet, that has come with a focus, intensity, and prioritization that has left little room for much else. I’ve made the difficult decision to take a couple of months away from the game to focus on my mental health, spiritual growth, and processing grief.”
Press, 32, was the first signee of the NWSL’s new Angel City F.C. team in Los Angeles, which will not begin play until the spring of 2022. So she should be back by then.
CBS Sports has the U.S. television rights to the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying games of all countries except the U.S. and Mexico. That includes rights to most of the U.S. away games, including the first-window matches at El Salvador and at Honduras.
But the Honduras game last Wednesday (8th) was not available on over-the-air or cable television; the English-language telecast was only available on the Paramount+ subscription-based streaming service.
Look for more of this in the future as each network works feverishly to build its subscriber base at the expense of non-subscribers. This is not confirmed to soccer; Saturday’s Toledo at Notre Dame college football game was not on NBC or NBCSN, but only on its Peacock subscription service.
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin (SLO) warned last week that the European and South American federations could boycott the FIFA World Cup if it is played every two years instead of every four.
In an interview, Ceferin said “To play every summer a one-month tournament, for the players it’s a killer. If it’s every two years it clashes with the women’s World Cup, with the Olympic football tournament.”
FIFA is currently studying the proposal made at the last Congress for a two-year World Cup cycle, but has announced no timetable for resolution.
Ceferin said he felt the same way about the European Championship also going to a two-year cycle: “It might be good for UEFA financially but the problem is we would be killing football like that. We are killing the players. I don’t see the clubs allowing the players to go and that would divide us completely.”
● Ice Hockey ● The issue of political interference in sport in Belarus heated up last week with an International Ice Hockey Federation announcement:
“The IIHF Independent Disciplinary Board has issued a five-year suspension to Belarusian Ice Hockey Association (BIHA) President Dmitri Baskov. …
“The Board cited sufficient evidence that Baskov has tried to directly influence others to support the Belarus government and has threatened and discriminated Belarusian athletes because of their political opinion … The Board also determined that Baskov abused his position as a representative of ice hockey in order to support the current President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko …”
Last Friday, Baskov said in a television interview that he would resign in order to keep his federation for being further penalized if he stayed on. Belarus’s National Olympic Committee is under investigation by the International Olympic Committee over such abuses; this will not help.
● Judo ● “For the IJF Disciplinary Commission, it is evident that the two Algerian judoka, with malicious intent, have used the Olympic Games as a platform for protest and promotion of political and religious propaganda, which is a clear and serious breach of the IJF Statutes, the IJF Code of Ethics and the Olympic Charter. Therefore, no other penalty than a severe suspension can be imposed in this case.”
That’s from the International Judo Federation’s Disciplinary Commission finding, imposing a 10-year ban, through 23 July 2031, for their actions at the Tokyo Games, specifically:
“On 23rd July 2021, during the Olympic Games in Tokyo, the Algerian -73kg athlete Mr Fethi NOURINE and his coach Mr Amar BENIKHLEF made public statements in the media that the draw shows they would face Israel in the competition and they are pulling out of the Olympics. They were unwilling to face Israel on the day of the competition, 26th July 2021.”
The decision is appealable to the Court of Arbitration for Sport; to its credit, the IJF has been one of the most rigorous in its oversight of anti-Semitic and other discrimination cases and followed up quickly after the Tokyo Games on this obvious infringement of the IJF Code of Ethics and the Olympic Charter.
● Swimming ● The FINA World 25 m (Short Course) Championships have sometimes gotten lost among other events as it is not seen in the same light as its massive World Aquatics Championships, which will next be held in the spring of 2022 in Japan.
So, in cooperation with the Abu Dhabi (UAE) organizers of mid-December’s 2021 Short-Course Worlds, the event is being significantly expanded with a new “Aquatics Festival” that will include diving, high diving and open-water swimming.
It’s an interesting idea and offers FINA some of the same bandwidth as the IOC uses for its Youth Olympic Games, to showcase new event and test-drive new concepts. For 2021, the program will include (1) the final High Diving qualifier for the 2022 Worlds, (2) a demonstration of a new Diving Mixed Team event, alternating between 3 m and 10 m dives and (3) the final leg of the FINA Marathon Swim World Series with a 10 km open-water race and a new event, a 4 x 1,500 m Mixed Relay. All of these events will have prize money purses for at least the top eight finishers.
FINA also announced that it will expand its individual scholarships program in swimming, open-water and diving to 140 for the 2021-22 time period. This is the highest number of scholarships available to date; the program saw great results in Tokyo where 57 swimmers and five divers qualified for and participated in the Olympic Games.
The fifth and sixth (of 11) regular-season matches of the International Swimming League season were held in Naples (ITA) over the weekend, with Toronto defeating the L.A. Current in the team battle, 536.0-452.5, with the D.C. Trident third (416.5) in the first meet.
American Tom Shields was the only multiple individual winner on the men’s side, taking the 100 and 200 m Butterfly event. Three women won two individual events: Madison Wilson (AUS) won the 100-200 m Frees; Louise Hansson (SWE) took the 100 m Fly and the 50 Fly Skins race, and Bailey Andison (CAN) won the 200-400 m Medleys.
On Saturday and Sunday, the London Roar won the team race with 529.5 points to 478.5 for the Cali Condors and 379.5 for the Aqua Centurions.
The Condors were hurt by losing superstar Caeleb Dressel (USA) to illness on the second day; Dressel won the men’s 100 m Fly on Saturday and was second in his first-ever short-course 200 m Medley in the no. 2 time in U.S. history (1:51.12).
Japanese star Daiya Seto took four individual events, the men’s 200 m Breast, 200 m Fly and the 200-400 m Medleys; Four-time Tokyo Olympic medalist Duncan Scott (GBR) won the 100-200-400 m Freestyles. American Kelsi Dahlia was a three-event winner in the women’s 100-200 m Flys and the 50 m Fly Skins race.
● Tennis ● Lots and lots of history was made at the 141st U.S. Open in New York, mostly on Saturday, with qualifier Emma Raducanu (GBR) defeating unseeded Leylah Fernandez (CAN), 6-4, 6-3.
Both are teenagers – Raducanu is 18 and Fernandez is 19 – and this was the first final in a major tournament between teens since 1999 and the first-ever final between unseeded women’s players in the Open Era (beginning 1968). Raducanu is the first British women’s Grand Slam Singles winner since Virginia Wade in 1977.
Raducanu entered with a ranking of 150, and not only won three qualifying matches and seven Open matches, but never lost a set! She is the 10th to achieve this and the first since Serena Williams in 2014. She’s the lowest-ranked player to win the Open since Kim Clijsters (BEL) in 2009.
Ranked 73rd coming in, Fernandez reached the final by defeating a startling array of talent: defending champion and no. 3 seed Naomi Osaka (JPN) in the third round, 2016 champ and 16th seed Angelique Kerber (GER) in the fourth round, no. 5 Elina Svitolina (UKR) in the quarters and no. 2 Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) in the semis.
On Sunday, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic was trying for a sweep of the 2021 Grand Slams, but was swept by Russian Daniil Medvedev, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Medvedev was seeded second and won his first Grand Slam title; it was the first such win by a Russian since 2005 and first at the U.S. Open since Marat Safin in 2000.
Australian Rod Laver remains the only man in the Open Era to win the tennis Grand Slam, in 1969.
In Men’s Doubles, Rajeev Ram (USA) and Joe Salisbury (GBR) defeated Jamie Murray (GBR) and Bruno Soares (BRA), 3–6, 6–2, 6–2. In Women’s Doubles, Samantha Stosur (AUS) and Zhang Shuai (CHN) won over Americans Coco Gauff and Caty McNally, 6–3, 3–6, 6–3. In the Mixed Doubles, Desirae Krawczyk (USA) and Salisbury swept Giuliana Olmos (MEX) and Marcelo Arevalo (SLV), 7–5, 6–2.
● Wrestling ● More details have surfaced about Olympic Freestyle 125 kg gold medalist Gable Steveson’s deal with the WWE, including a unique structure which will allow him to compete for the University of Minnesota this coming season.
The WWE agreement has been structured as a Name-Image-Likeness deal, allowing Steveson to compete in his senior season for the Gophers. After compiling a 15-0 record as a soph, the NCAA Championships were cancelled in 2020, but he won the nationals in 2021, compiling a 17-0 record; he’s 67-2 all-time at Minnesota.
It’s an outcome that makes all sides happy.
● Worth Noting ● Facebook signed on as “Official Supplier of Social Networks” to the 2023 Rugby World Cup, and while the activation will take multiple forms, France 2023 Managing Director Claude Atcher (FRA) explained the primary goal:
“We sold a lot of tickets but not all tickets. If we count the tickets sold to the general public and those to privileged partners of the competition, we have sold around 1.5 million tickets, so there is still a million left to sell.
“We will have to look city by city for ticket buyers for the less attractive matches. The stake is not France – New Zealand of the opening but America 1-Africa 1 on a Wednesday afternoon in Lyon. We have 60,000 tickets to sell for this match and Facebook will help us, because the network is able to identify all the rugby accounts in France, nearly 14,000 to our knowledge.”
It’s an unusual deal for Facebook, which usually has programs paying them, but news.in-24.com noted “During Euro 2020 football, TikTok signed a partnership contract with UEFA.”
Perhaps just as important is a joint initiative:
“Facebook will train the 3,000 apprentices of the Campus 2023 program in the professional use of social networks. ‘This learning program, designed by France 2023, aims to train the new generation of French sports professionals, with the ambition to leave a legacy to sports clubs and regional leagues new resources to further professionalize them. Digital community communication is now essential for the organization of sporting events, and the development of sports structures, it is therefore essential to train the users of tomorrow.’”
This is an important program worth watching and could be a major legacy program to be adopted by the organizers of almost every mega-event in the Olympic Movement.
For our 743-event International Sports Calendar for 2021 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!