The Sports Examiner

THE BIG PICTURE: Budapest plays politics with 2023 World Athletics Champs; USA Gymnastics & survivors pitch $427M settlement; Canada wins IIHF Women’s final

Three major developments in 20 hours in the Olympic-sport world:

● Athletics ● The Budapest General Assembly voted 18-13 on Wednesday (1st) “that the city will not host the 2023 World Athletics Championships if the government approves the construction of a campus for China’s Fudan University in place of a students’ quarter in the capital’s 9th district.”

While construction on the new, nationally-funded stadium continues, the proposal by Budapest’s Mayor, Gergely Karacsony, ties the hosting of the 2023 Worlds to the continuing controversy over the use of land for either a “Student City” with housing and services for about 8,000 out-of-the area students – supported by Karacsony – or a campus for China’s Fudan University, supported by the national government.

The real issue is the land use and not the World Championships. On Tuesday (31st), the National Election Committee approved a referendum process that would allow a national vote on whether the land can be used for the Fudan University or not. Some 200,000 signatures would have to be collected to allow the vote to take place.

The Hungarian Athletics Federation (MASZ) released a statement insisting that the City of Budapest had no say on whether the 2023 Worlds would be held there, since it was not a signatory to the hosting agreement with World Athletics, and that the national government was funding the program.

Karacsony said it was clear that “world championships are not held in a city which does not support the event.”

World Athletics has, quite properly, been quiet thus far. But it is clear that Karacsony and the city council are focused on the Student City vs. Fudan University issue and the 2023 Worlds is simply a hostage-in-waiting.

● Gymnastics ● A series of filings made late Tuesday afternoon offered a possible end to the years of litigation against USA Gymnastics for sexual abuse and other issues involving Larry Nassar and others.

USA Gymnastics and the Additional Tort Claimants Committee Of Sexual Abuse Survivors jointly proposed to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana a 133-page plan of reorganization for the federation, which would include:

● A $427.125 million fund to be distributed to the 510 valid abuse claimants;

● A end to all claims and litigation regarding Nassar and related matters;

● Final indemnification of all other parties, including all insurers, Bela and Martha Karolyi, former USAG President Steve Penny and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

This is a much larger settlement proposal than the $217.125 million offer made in February 2020 by USA Gymnastics and its insurers. But the new proposal is hardly sure to go through.

The new plan is offered by USA Gymnastics and the Survivors Committee, but not all of the insurers are on board. And that could be a problem. There are eight insurers involved, who covered either USA Gymnastics, the USOPC or both:

Agreed to fund $243.5 million (4): National Casualty Co., CIGNA Insurance Co., National Union Fire Ins. Co., Gemini Ins. Co.

Not yet agreed to $181.5 million (4): Virginia Surety Co. ($32.1 million), TIG Insurance Co. ($106.2 million), Great American Assurance Co. ($41.3 million), Philadelphia Indemnity Ins. Co. ($1.9 million).

The four not-yet-agreed insurers have until 4 October to declare whether they will participate in the plan. If they do, the vote will be to settle all matters at once, or for everyone to go their separate ways and litigate their own cases individually. If some do and others do not, the vote will be to accept the payouts from those who are participating, with the option still open to sue those non-participating insurers directly according to their policy coverages.

There are also a number of smaller claims which are to be handled separately, some by payouts from USA Gymnastics in annual installments through 2024. (This does not account for the possibility that the U.S. Congress could remove USA Gymnastics from its role as National Governing Body for the sport when it has the ability to do so in October of this year.)

The question of how much each of the 510 validated “Class 6″ abuse claimants would receive is also unclear. This will be in a yet-to-be-filed “Allocation Protocol,” due by 22 September. The reorganization plan does note that each “sub-class” of claimants would share equally in the amount designated for that group. If – and it’s a big if – the allocation percentages to each sub-class were the same as proposed in the 2020 plan, a rough estimate of the payouts would be:

● A: Elite Gymnasts: 40% or about $2.44 million each
● B: Non-Elite Gymnasts: 35% or about $993,000 each
● C: Other Claimants: 24% or about $34,000 each
● D: Derivative Claims: 1% or about $16,000 each

A hearing on the disclosure statement to be sent to all of the voters on the plan is currently scheduled for 4 October with voting to be completed by 8 November. The plan could be confirmed as early as 8 December 2021.

Credit for getting this far goes to the organizations involved, but also to Judge James M. Carr, appointed to lead a settlement conference last September. Per the Disclosure Statement:

“Shortly thereafter, Judge Carr commenced a series of telephonic settlement conferences
and mediation sessions with the various parties in interest. The Plan, as jointly proposed by the Debtor and the Survivors’ Committee, is the product of the Settlement Conference.”

● Ice Hockey ● Canada won four straight Olympic women’s hockey titles before the U.S. won gold in PyeongChang in 2018. So it was fitting that Canada, playing at home in Calgary, finally ended the American streak of five straight World Championships victory with a 3-2 win in overtime on Tuesday.

The game was complete different than the group-stage match, a 5-1 rout for the Canadians. This time, the U.S. came out on fire and scored twice in the first period. Alex Carpenter opened the scoring on a rebound at 9:55 and then got a second on a power play at 12:35 for a 2-0 U.S. lead.

Canada came back with a furious second period, out-shooting the U.S. by 16-8 and scoring four minutes into the period on a power-play goal by Brianne Jenner and then getting the equalizer from Jamie Lee Rattray on a rebound with just 6:42 gone.

Both teams pushed hard, but could not score. The defenses tightened and despite an 8-4 edge in shots in the third period, the U.S. could not get a shot past Canadian keeper Ann-Renee Desbiens.

In the three-on-thtee overtime, Marie-Philip Poulin took a pass from Jenner and her shot flew past U.S. goalie Nicole Hensley … into the goal and back out again, so fast that play continued! But the buzzer came on and the game ended at 7:22 of the overtime period.

It was Canada’s first world title since 2012 and its 11th overall, to nine for the U.S.

The teams won’t have long to face each other again, as “friendlies” have already been scheduled for October in order to keep the teams sharp prior to another possible meeting in Beijing at the 2022 Winter Games.

Canada’s Melodie Daoust was named Most Valuable Player, with Anni Keisala (FIN) named top goalkeeper, Daoust the top forward and American Lee Stecklein named top defender. Finland defeated Switzerland, 3-1, to win the bronze medal.

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