LANE ONE: What will the Olympic world do about Russia?

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Plus: IOC offers European TV rights (including Ukraine) for 2026-28 = Berlin 1936: Saving Cornelius Johnson’s Olympic Oak = Pan Am Games 2023: All 57 disciplines to be televised in Santiago = Athletics: The L.A. Marathon “Challenge” is back = Cycling: U.S. road star Leah Davison retires = Gymnastics: Abuse claims payments not started yet = Scoreboard: U.S. women stomp Iceland, 5-0, to win in SheBelieves Cup ●

So much for the Olympic Truce.

Passed by unanimous consent in the United Nations last December, the resolution specified the Olympic Truce period from seven days prior to the start of the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing on 4 February and extending until seven days after the close of the Winter Paralympic Games on 13 March.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday (24th) worsens the existing global tensions and could lead to further, greater chaos. The sports world in general and the Olympic world in particular have small roles to play, but they are highly symbolic.

So, what happens now?

The International Olympic Committee issued a statement on Thursday, stating it “strongly condemns the breach of the Olympic Truce by the Russian government” and:

Following recent events, the IOC is deeply concerned about the safety of the Olympic Community in Ukraine. It has established a task force to closely monitor the situation and to coordinate humanitarian assistance to members of the Olympic Community in Ukraine where possible.”

The immediate next steps will be up to the various International Federations, some of which have events coming up in Russia this year:

Winter (through March 2022):
● FIS: Cross Country, Freestyle, Ski Jumping, Snowboard

● FIE: Fencing
● FIG: Rhythmic Gymnastics, Trampoline
● FINA: Artistic Swimming, Diving, Swimming (World Juniors)
● FIVB: Men’s World Championship (10 cities)
● IJF: Judo

The UEFA Champions League final is scheduled for St. Petersburg in May; the giant SportAccord convention that brings all of the International Federations together is scheduled for Ekaterinburg, also in May.

Further, there are three Olympic federations with Russian presidents: Umar Kremlev for boxing (IBA: currently suspended), Alisher Usmanov for fencing (FIE) and Vladimir Lisin for shooting (ISSF). The only Russian chief executive of a federation is Alexander Ratner, also in shooting.

Outrage could lead to suspensions or expulsions of Russian IF executive committee members. Among the three top-tier summer federations, Russia is still on suspension by World Athletics; four-time Olympic gold medalist Vladimir Salnikov is a FINA Bureau member by virtue of Russia being the site of the 2025 FINA Worlds and Vassily Titov is a member of the FIG Council. Former Soviet Olympic gymnastics star Nellie Kim (BLR) is a FIG Vice President.

(Let’s note that as of Thursday noon Pacific time, the only Olympic-sport federations which posted any kind of notice on the Russian invasion were World Athletics and FIFA. The International Skating Union noted in a list of Council decisions that “Due to the new situation in Ukraine, which may have an impact on the holding of Championships and the travel of teams to attend Championships, the Council needs a few more days to assess the situation before taking a final decision.” The tone-deaf Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne posted a story on “UIPM athletes invited to apply for prestigious scholarship at Olympic University in Sochi (RUS).”)

Russia has two IOC members: former tennis player Shamil Tarpishchev (elected in 1994) and former women’s pole vault star Yelena Isinbayeva, a member of the Athletes’ Commission.

So what happens if all of them are thrown out of their positions?

What happens if Russia successfully conquers Ukraine and then is suspended or expelled from the International Olympic Committee?

The immediate comparison, of course, is to Germany following World War I and World War II. After the 1916 Games were canceled during the first war, Germany was not allowed to compete in Antwerp in 1920 or Paris in 1924, but was reinstated for Amsterdam in 1928.

After the horrors of World War II, Germany was banned from London in 1948, but was allowed to participate in Helsinki in 1952. From 1956-64, a “United Team” from Germany was allowed to compete and then separate teams competed from West Germany (FRG) and East Germany (DDR) from 1968-88. A post-Cold War, united German team competed in Barcelona in 1992 and ever since.

The Russian situation is different, as President Vladimir Putin has made clear his goal is to reconstruct the USSR, which had 15 republics at its height. At present, these are all independent countries, but some have joined the “Collective Security Treaty Organization,” an alliance of some of the former Soviet Republics:

● Russia
● Armenia
● Belarus
● Kazakhstan
● Kyrgyzstan
● Tajikistan

Three other countries were members, but withdrew:

● Azerbaijan
● Georgia ~ invaded by Russia in 2008
● Uzbekistan

The other six:

● Estonia ~ member of NATO
● Latvia ~ member of NATO
● Lithuania ~ member of NATO
● Moldova
● Turkmenistan
● Ukraine ~ now under attack

For the IOC and the international sports movement, the question is what to do if (when) Putin moves against all of these former Soviet possessions, or perhaps even beyond.

Let’s take this one step further and assume the IOC will suspend Russian participation in the 2024 Paris Games and perhaps more. What stops Russia – in whatever its configuration – from trying to start a breakaway sports federation and put on its own games of some type?

On its own, it could only compel attendance from the countries it controls, but what if it enlisted China? That would bring along North Korea, of course, but what about the 140 countries that are part of China’s Belt-and-Road Initiative – launched in 2013 – that saddles participating countries with debt in return for Chinese investment in infrastructure construction?

That program has tentacles in 140 countries, including almost all of Africa (including Ethiopia and Kenya), central and eastern Europe, much of the Middle East and some South American and Caribbean countries.

It’s easy to see the implosion of the entire world of international sport, including most or all of the Olympic Movement, if the Russian invasion of Ukraine spirals into something much bigger.

And it very well might.


● International Olympic Committee ● The IOC announced, with unfortunate  timing, that it will begin the sale of European television rights – including Ukraine, but not Russia – for Milan Cortina 2026 and Los Angeles 2028 and possibly 2030/32 as well.

The request for proposal will be issued on 10 March with bids to be returned by 25 April 2022. The IOC “will assess bids on their ability to meet the highest standards in broadcast quality, their capacity to reach the widest possible audience, their commitment to promoting the Olympic Games and the values of the Olympic Movement, and on the financial offer.”

U.S.-based Discovery, Inc. purchased pan-European rights for the 2018-20-22-24 Olympics in 2015 for $1.45 billion, selling sub-licenses to broadcasters in the larger countries and showing the Games on its EuroSport subsidiary in others.

● Games of the XI Olympiad: Berlin 1936 ● One of the few quaint customs associated with the 1936 Games, held in Nazi Germany, was the gift of an oak sapling to the gold-medal winners.

Los Angeles native Cornelius Johnson, fourth at the 1932 Los Angeles Games, won the men’s high jump at 2.03 m (6-8) and was presented with a sapling, which he planted at the family home at 1156 S. Hobart Street in Los Angeles upon his return.

According to Rina Rubenstein of the West Adams Heritage Association:

“I learned of the story last Thursday (10th), drove over to verify the 86-year-old tree’s existence on Friday, and the same day discovered that the property was just sold and demolition permits filed (not yet finalized) with the city, with plans to clear the lot and build an 8-unit building. Together with WAHA’s other historians and preservation advocates, we’ve made contact with city agencies, tree advocates, history groups, etc., to get some kind of quick, even if temporary, stay of execution while we try to landmark and save the tree.

“In the meantime, we’re continuing our research while reaching out to groups and individuals who may be interested in joining our efforts (and possibly have ideas for the future of 1156 S. Hobart). West Adams Heritage has long experience nominating historic properties, but we hope that others will recognize the importance and urgency of saving Cornelius Johnson’s Olympic Oak and this very personal memorial to one of Los Angeles’s great athletes, especially in the runup to the 2028 return of the Games to L.A.”

There are only a few of the ‘36 Olympic oaks still around; please contact Ms. Rubenstein to help with the presentation of Johnson’s gold-medal oak.

● Pan American Games: Santiago 2023 ● The Chilean organizers of the 2023 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games announced that global production company MediaPro Internacional has been contracted to produce the host broadcast of both events. The undertaking is ambitious:

“For the first time in the history of the Games, all sports (57 disciplines in the Pan Am Games and 18 in the Parapan American Games) will be broadcast live for an impressive total of 1,900 hours of coverage (1,521 during the Pan Am Games), 700 more than Lima 2019. The production will cost US $11.8 million compared to the US $20 million contract from Lima 2019, representing savings of 41%.”

The produced signals will be used by licensed national broadcasters to assemble their own coverage in their own territories. It’s a step up in class for the Pan Am Games to have all of the disciplines available live for broadcast to the participating countries.

● Athletics ● The Los Angeles Marathon has brought back one of its signature in-event promotions with the announcement of the Quincy Cass Associates Marathon Challenge for the 20 March race.

A part of the race from 2004-14, the program starts the women’s elite field about 18 minutes ahead of the men – the exact time depends on the best times of the competing elite runners – and the first person to the line, man or woman, gets a $10,000 bonus.

It’s a gimmick, for sure, but an interesting one, especially if one or both of the elite races become breakaways early on in an event which has not emphasized having world-class fields in recent years.

In the 11 times the challenge was held, women out-lasted the men, seven times to four.

● Cycling ● One of America’s Mountain Bike stars, Lea Davison, announced her retirement from international competition on Tuesday (22nd).

Now 38, she won two World Championships medals in Cross Country: a bronze in 2014 and a silver in 2018. She was in the 2012 Olympic Games in London (11th) and 2016 in Rio (seventh) and was a five-time national champion.

Davison was originally a runner and was the Vermont state cross-country champion when she started at Middlebury College. But injuries changed her focus and she eventually gravitated to cycling, where she become one of the world’s Mountain Bike stars. Davison said:

“For me, it’s been way more than the results. Bike racing gave me friendships, victories, and experiences that have far surpassed my wildest dreams. I traveled the world. It gives me joy to give back to the sport that has given me so much and mentor up-and-coming racers. Creating a team ethos (Team USlay) in an individual sport will remain one of my most proud achievements. I walk away from my World Cup career with an immense amount of gratitude for everything that it’s given me. I’ve lived my life turned up to 10 at full volume.”

● Gymnastics ● A motion by USA Gymnastics to allow the claims process to begin was heard by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana on Wednesday, and continued to a status conference on 14 March. So nothing is happening yet.

There is something going on here, as Judge James M. Carr was reinstalled as mediator in the case on 27 January, but no further details have been forthcoming from the court.


● Athletics ● More world-leading performances at meets outside of the World Indoor Tour Gold events (some of which got lost in our Winter Games reporting):

18 Feb.: Women/Vault: 4.87 m (15-11 3/4), Anzhelika Sidorova (RUS)
19 Feb.: Women/Shot: 19.72 m (64-8 1/2), Jessica Schilder (NED)
20 Feb.: Women/Long Jump: 6.96 m (22-10), Malaika Mihambo (GER)
20 Feb.: Men/Triple Jump: 17.27 m (56-8), Jordan Diaz (CUB)

On the roads, the Sevilla Marathon in Spain on 20 February produced world-leading wins for two Ethiopians: 2:04:43 win for Asrar Abderehman and a 2:18:51 for Alemu Megertu.

● Football ● The U.S. Women’s National Team was frustrated early, but broke through for two first-half goals against Iceland in 23-degree temperatures in Frisco, Texas on their way to a 5-0 win in the final match of the 2022 SheBelieves Cup.

Iceland, 16th in the FIFA World Rankings, had won its first two games in the tournament and could have won the title with a draw. But two brilliant goals by Catarina Macario in the 37th and 45th minutes – both arching shots into the Iceland goal – gave the U.S. an untouchable lead at the half. The Americans controlled 63% of the possession and had an 11-2 edge on shots.

Mallory Pugh got untracked in the second half, scoring in the 60th and 75th minutes, with Kristie Mewis getting a tap-in for the final goal in the 88th. The U.S. ended with 61% of the possession and 24 shots to eight for the visitors. Casey Murphy got the shutout, facing only one shot on goal.

New Zealand and the Czech Republic played to a 0-0 tie in the first match, so the final standings showed the U.S. at 2-0-1 for seven points, Iceland (2-1) with six, the Czechs at 0-1-2 (2) and New Zealand at (0-2-1) for one point.

It was the fifth SheBelieves Cup title for the U.S. in the seven times the tournament has been held.

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