THE TICKER: Get our 526-event Int’l Sports Calendar; how Tokyo will save $283 million; USATF gets $8 million pledge; more Russian weightlifters banned!

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The latest news, notes and quotes from the worldwide Five-Ring Circus:

Our International Sports Calendar ● Even though the coronavirus has scrambled most of the international sports schedule for 2020, sports are re-starting and so is our International Sports Calendar!

This edition shows 526 events as of 5 October 2020 through the end of June 2021, with a few more after that date thrown in for good measure!

Be warned: this listing will change! The coronavirus will see to that, but this edition is a good checklist for following many of the events coming up, especially in the winter sports.

Two calendars are included in the single PDF download: an 11-page listing in chronological order and a 12-page listing by sport (and in date order within each sport).

It’s free! Get your download right now here!

Coming Attractions ● The calendar shows that activity is picking up in some sports, with more action expected this weekend. Highlights are expected to include:

Cycling: End of the first week of the Giro d’Italia, plus the Gent-Wevelgem Classic for men and women in Belgium on Sunday.

Having completed the opening stages in Sicily, the 103rd Giro d’Italia is now on the Italian mainland. After the close of the sixth stage (of 21), Portugal’s Joao Almeida – just 22 – has a 43-second lead thanks to his third-place finish on the punishing third stage that ended at Mt. Etna! While Almeida has been the most consistent, there have already been two double-stage winners: Italy’s Filippo Ganna (stages 1 and 5) and France’s Arnaud Demare, winner of stages 4 and 6. Only four riders are within 1:01 of Almeida, including Pello Bilbao (ESP: -0:37) and Wilco Kelderman (NED: -0:48). Two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali is fifth, 1:01 behind, with a long way to go.

Cycling: Even though most of the World Cup season was wiped out, the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships are on this week in Leogang (AUT). Swiss superstar Nino Schurter is going for a sixth Cross Country title in a row and has won a total of eight individual world titles in his career. Two-time winner Pauline Ferrand-Prevot is the defending women’s champion and 2018 gold medalist Kate Courtney of the U.S. is a strong contender once again.

France has both of the Downhill defenders as Loic Bruni won his fourth world title in the Downhill in 2019 and Myriam Nicole won her first.

Wrestling: The USA Wrestling National Championships are on in Coralville, Iowa, with strong fields including Rio Olympic 97 kg Freestyle champ Kyle Snyder and five-time World 76 kg Champion Adeline Gray, 2018 Worlds 50 km silver medalist Sarah Hildebrandt and two-time Worlds 57 kg silver medalist Alli Ragan.

This is the first major competition of the year for U.S. wrestlers and if the UWW Worlds is held as scheduled for 12-20 December in Belgrade (SRB), the team would be selected from this event.

Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● Where did the announced ¥30 billion (~$283.42 million U.S.) in savings for the Tokyo Games come from? A detailed Kyodo News story broke most of it down:

● ¥ 15.0 billion (~$141.71 million): reducing temporary venue facilities and lighting
● ¥ 3.0 billion (~$28.34 million): reducing organizing committee staffing
● ¥ 1.0 billion (~$9.45 million: reducing venue decor at venues & villages
● ¥ 1.0 billion (~$9.45 million): reducing non-athlete participants by 10-15%
● ¥ 800 million (~$ 7.56 million): reducing torch relay staff and vehicle support

That’s $196.51 million, or 70% of the total expected savings. Toshiro Muto, the organizing committee chief executive, expects further savings to be found in the coming months.

Athletics ● Billionaire investor and philanthropist Stephen A. Schwarzman confirmed another generous donation of $8 million to the USA Track & Field Foundation, to be used for further direct-to-athlete grants.

This pledge will be funded over the next four years, providing 65 grants of $30,000 each to USATF athletes, and will be matched by the USATF Foundation for a total of $16 million for 2021-24. Schwarzman, by far the most generous individual patron of the sport, has now provided and/or pledged athlete funding of $12 million from 2013-24, with 290 grants already distributed through 2020.

Cycling ● Good news for American road star Chloe Dygert, who was released from the Hospital Maggiore in Bologna (ITA) late last week after crashing out of the UCI World Road Championships time trial in Imola in late September.

Leading and looking like a repeat winner, Dygert lost control and sailed over a guard rail – bike and all – late in the race and was finally retrieved by a medical rescue team. She suffered injuries to her left leg and right wrist and will continue her recovery in the U.S.

Figure Skating ● Two-time World Champion Evgenia Medvedeva withdrew from the Cup of Russia competition due to a recurrence of a spinal injury.

Now 20, Medvedeva caused a sensation when she left coach Eteri Tutberidze for Canadian coach Brian Orser, but has now rejoined Tutberidze.

Famed Russian coach Alexander Zhulin told reporters, “This was the right decision to renew partnership with Tutberidze. She returned to her first coach who had taught her to skate. If she doesn’t succeed here, this would mean that her time has passed. This is her last attempt to return to elite sport.”

Weightlifting ● As a follow-up to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation of the Russian doping scandal from 2011-15, the International Weightlifting Federation announced 14 doping cases against Russian lifters in 2019 and 2020. The first conclusions have been made, with six lifters suspended for doping, with action on the other eight in process.

In addition, three more provisional suspensions were posted on Wednesday (7th), for a total of 17 current cases.

The six suspended athletes from the first group included five World, Olympic or European medal winners, but almost all of their medal performances came prior to the dates of their suspensions:

Ruslan Albegov: four years from 12 November 2017
(2012 Olympic +105 kg bronze; 2013-14 World Champion)

Egor Klimonov: four years from 9 December 2017
(2018 World Championships 96 kg: ninth)

Dmitriy Lapikov: four years from 9 December 2017
(2006 World Champs 105 kg silver; 2008 Olympic 105 kg bronze disqualified for doping)

Maxim Sheyko: four years from 9 December 2017
(2012 European Champs 105 kg silver)

Yulia Konovalova: four years from 9 December 2017
(2014 European Champs +75 kg silver)

Tima Turieva: four years from 9 December 2017
(2013 World 63 kg Champion, 2014-15 Worlds silvers)

The three provisional suspensions of Aleksey Emelyanenko, Arsen Boraganov and Feliks Khalibekov are as of 7 October 2020 and are being handled by the International Testing Agency, which is now responsible for IWF anti-doping activities according to contract. Kalibekov won a European silver medal in 2016 in the 62 kg category.

None of this is good news for a federation once again under review for possible contraction or exclusion from the 2024 Olympic program, this time because of governance issues.

Wrestling ● The International Olympic Committee’s Executive Board discussed, but did not take any action against the Iranian National Olympic Committee in the aftermath of the government’s execution of Greco-Roman wrestler Navid Afkari.

International pressure for action against Iran over what IOC President Thomas Bach called a “deplorable” incident has continued. Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, requests for action were noted from multiple human rights groups and activists. The National Union for Democracy in Iran’s letter to the IOC noted sanctions against South Africa for apartheid and against Afghanistan when controlled by the Taliban and asked for similar action against the government of Iran.

Even one of the most colorful characters in professional wrestling history chimed in: Hossein Khosrow al Vaziri, known to U.S. fans as “The Iron Sheik” tweeted:

“IOC PRESIDENT THOMAS BACH @Olympics @iocmedia YOU NEED TO HELP ME TEACH THE WORLD ABOUT THE IRAN SANCTION ON THE CHAMPION WRESTLER NAVID AFKARI.”

Although the matter was discussed, the IOC Executive Board took no action.

United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee ● Concerns over the possible implosion of college sports in the U.S. has led to the creation of a “Sustainability Think Tank” to consider shoring up future opportunities in Olympic sports in which the NCAA system is an especially important part of the elite-athlete “pipeline” in the U.S.

The announcement noted that the process will include athletes, the U.S. National Governing Bodies, collegiate leaders and USOPC staff. The goals:

“Together the group will explore sport-specific regulatory adjustments, new revenue options, cost saving mechanisms, sport sponsorship incentives and partnership opportunitites across conference and/or national-level programming.”

This program is an outgrowth of the USOPC’s Collegiate Advisory Council, headed by Duke Athletic Director Kevin White, who is also a member of the USOPC Board of Directors.

XXXI World University Games: Chengdu 2021 ● If future organizers are looking for ways to cut down on the development costs of their opening ceremony, perhaps the Chengdu organizers can offer a suggestion.

An open call for ideas; the organizers reported that “From 16 January [to] 31 May, a total of 1,597 proposals were received from all around the world, with the creators ranging from five years old to 79-years-old. The majority of the submission were from university students and professional agencies. …

“The two ceremony directors are currently reviewing the shortlisted proposals. The 200 shortlisted proposals will be rewarded with free tickets to Chengdu’s main tourist attractions.

“Finally, the best 20 entries will receive an ‘Outstanding Award’ as well as round-trip tickets to visit Chengdu, a five-day stay and admission to the opening ceremony of the FISU World University Games. The top 10 entries will receive a ‘Gold Award’ and RMB100,000, as well as an official invitation to the Games.”

The Last Word ● IOC President Bach was asked at Wednesday’s news conference about possible cost savings for the always-expensive Opening Ceremony in Tokyo next year.

Noting how important the ceremony is to any Games – with about a billion people watching around the world – he also had a laugh when contemplating some advice for the organizers:

“[W]hat is important – like all the other measures being taken – that we should not and we will not touch on the athlete’s experience. We will therefore have these parts included in the Opening Ceremony. The way how the country is showing its culture is mostly up to the country and they may have some ideas. I have not been advised about these ideas so far. …

“[M]aybe we have gotten an indication – I’m speculating now, which I should not do – but we may have got a hint in the ‘One Year To Go’ ceremony, which was a very sober, but still emotional ceremony, which was very well appreciated. And if I would be the artistic director of the organizing committee, I would look into this matter. But I should not give advice and not over the media, so better forget it!”

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