The latest news, notes and quotes from the worldwide Five-Ring Circus:
≡ SPOTLIGHT ≡
“It is one month until the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Winter Games. Yet a scan of the digital presence of the five U.S.-based global IOC sponsors might lead you to believe the Games weren’t even happening.”
That’s the opening of a short but insightful post by highly-respected sponsorship strategist Jim Andrews (USA), writing on TicketManager.com.
He contrasted the silence of American sponsors a month before the Beijing Winter Games to the extensive programming seen for other Olympics, and foresees the same silence in the fall in advance of November’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar:
“Clearly, geopolitics related to China and Qatar, as well as the ongoing COVID crisis, are significant reasons why we are hearing nothing but crickets from these global marketers. We can expect enthusiasm from sponsors to markedly improve when the Olympics and World Cup return to Europe and North America in coming years.”
Andrews notes that the choice of venues by the IOC and FIFA can have a significant impact on the important work of its commercial partners in creating and maintaining links with consumers that are tied to these marquee events.
With the emergence of the newest generation of consumers in the 2020s, will 2022 become an opportunity lost to concerns about human rights in the host countries?
Observed: One of the central players in these mega-events has already changed the way it selects its hosts. International Olympic Committee has moved past host-city elections to a quiet, discussion-based process that is far less likely to place events in authoritarian nations. FIFA, on the other hand, is considering expanding its World Cup footprint to every two years and potentially fracturing its membership between football super-power regions Europe and South America and the rest of the world.
The response of the commercial partners of both organizations to their changes will be fascinating to watch.
≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
● XXIV Olympic Winter Games: Beijing 2022 ● “As Games participants start to arrive in the Chinese capital, everything is on track to stage safe Olympic Winter Games for all participants and the Chinese people, reported Juan Antonio Samaranch [ESP], Chair of the IOC Coordination Commission for Beijing 2022. …
“[Olympic Games Executive Director] Christophe Dubi [SUI] emphasised that the closed-loop management system has begun operating, and the arrivals procedures have worked very smoothly.”
That’s from an IOC announcement of a series of conference calls with National Olympic Committees, International Federations and athlete representatives in advance of the Beijing Winter Games.
Dubi added in a video news release, “The venues are ready. They look fantastic. They have now received the look of the Games and frankly it’s impeccable.”
The instructions and protocols of the “playbooks” were emphasized on the calls, with IOC President Thomas Bach (GER) explaining:
“Beijing starts now for all of us. We must do everything to ensure that the Olympic dreams of athletes are not taken away just days before departure. The Playbooks are not just a rule book – they should now be a way of life.”
Japan’s Kyodo News Service reported Thursday this head-scratcher:
“North Korea has pledged not to participate in the Beijing 2022 Olympics and Paralympics, as the United States has been trying to prevent the successful opening of the Winter Games, state-run media reported Friday.”
What? The North Koreans were already suspended by the IOC last September for not sending a team to the Tokyo Olympic Games last summer, so they weren’t going to compete anyway. And now this?
Developments more than 2,000 miles west of Beijing recall the selection of China as the host for the 2022 Winter Games, as rioting continued in the capital of Kazakhstan, Almaty.
Remember that Beijing was selected over Almaty by just 44-40 in the IOC’s 2015 election for the 2022 host. Imagine if the vote had gone Almaty’s way, as anti-government riots exploded on Sunday when the price of automotive fuel (liquified petroleum gas: LPG) was doubled.
In response to the violence, which has included dozens of deaths and more than 1,000 injuries, the entire Kazakh cabinet resigned and President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared a state of emergency. He asked for assistance from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military alliance of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan and Russian paratroops were said to have arrived in Almaty on Thursday. Wow; what if …
● World Anti-Doping Agency ● The tug-of-war between the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the World Anti-Doping Agency over the U.S. payment of its agreed contribution appears to be over. WADA announced:
“In December 2021, the Director of ONDCP, Dr. Rahul Gupta, approved the release of the second tranche of U.S. funding that amounts to USD 1,331,923 out of its total annual contribution of USD 2,931,923, which has now been received by the Agency.
“WADA President Witold Banka said: ‘I welcome the decision by ONDCP to release the second tranche of its 2021 annual contribution to WADA. It is a clear demonstration of support by the United States Government for WADA’s global collaborative mission for doping-free sport.’”
The fight over money began in the Trump Administration, with demands for more U.S. representation in what was widely seen as a “pay for play” request. As WADA has continued its promised reform program, with greater independence, more athlete representatives and an outside Ethics Board, the Biden Administration decided to provide the agreed-to U.S. contribution for 2021.
The total WADA budget for 2021 was $43.4 million.
● Athletics ● Philippine national pole vault record holder Ernest John Obiena was the 2019 World University Games gold medalist, the Asian Record holder at 5.93 m (19-5 1/2) and was 11th in Tokyo at last summer’s Olympic Games.
But he is now at the center of a wild drama over money with the Philippine Athletics Track & Field Association (PATAFA) and now the Philippine Olympic Committee.
In November, PATAFA accused Obiena of not transferring €85,000 (about $96,000) in training fees to his coach, Vitaly Petrov (UKR), the former mentor of superstar vaulter Sergey Bubka (UKR) and others. Despite a letter from Petrov saying that he had been paid, PATAFA President Phillip Ella Juico expelled Obiena from the federation on Tuesday (4th), which could preclude Obiena’s participation in the forthcoming Southeast Asian Games in May in Vietnam or the Asian Games in Hangzhou (CHN) in September.
In response, Philippine Olympic Committee President Abraham Tolentino issued a statement noting:
“We in the POC will make sure EJ will be in Hanoi and Huangzhou, and in all other major world competitions. We’ll fight for EJ.
“I expected EJ [would] be dropped from the national team by his [national sports association] as a vengeful act. The action of Mr. Juico in removing EJ Obiena from the national pool is an expected result of his expose. A vengeful act that shuts down the chances of the Philippines from its Olympic dream.”
The POC has declared PATAFA’s Juico “persona non grata” and has escalated the matter to the governmental Philippine Sports Commission. Stay tuned.
World Athletics formally recognized the first-ever world records in the 50 km distance, with American Des Linden now a world-record holder for her 2:59:54 win in a mixed race on 13 April 2021 in Dorena Lake, Oregon.
The men’s record is now 2:42:07, by Ketema Negasa (ETH) in Port Elizabeth (RSA on 23 May 2021. In the same race, Irvette van Zyl (RSA) won the women’s race in 3:04:24 for the women-only record.
Kenyan marathon great Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) told reporters at the promotional launch of the Agnes Tirop Memorial World Cross Country Tour to begin on Eldoret (KEN) on 12 February that there are bad people within the sport that must be rooted out.
According to The Nation, Kipchoge said on Monday, “These people are inside our sport and we know them. We must expose them or we shall continue witnessing cases of depression and deaths in athletics. … Eighty per cent of athletes are into alcoholism. Let us speak the truth. If we actually want to live in this world well, we must live by our conscience.”
A report detailing abuse in athletics in Kenya is expected to be released in February.
The newest study of the use of prosthetics in running found no advantage for athletes like Blake Leeper (USA) vs. biological legs. This one was conducted at the University of Colorado in Boulder, with study author Alena Grabowski, an associate professor of integrative physiology, stating “With this study, we show that the use of running prostheses provides no competitive advantage over 400 meters compared to biological legs.”
Leeper has been on a mission to be allowed to compete with his prosthetics in open competitions and has placed as high as fifth at the 2019 USATF Championships 400 m and has a best of 44.38 from the same year.
He has been refused entry into open competitions by World Athletics (and confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport) not because of his prosthetics per se, but because the height of the prosthetics he wants to use in competition are considered to give him a competitive advantage. The new Colorado study will not doubt be the basis of new appeals by Leeper to be able to compete in open competition.
Grabowski and her team had previously published a study that claimed that height made no difference in speed, a finding which has not been embraced.
● Football ● “In recent months, members across our Federation have approached me with their concerns about the direction of U.S. Soccer and have asked me to consider running again for president. In speaking with many of you, I’ve heard your desire for a new approach. I’m especially grateful to members who put my name in nomination over the past week.”
That’s former U.S. Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro, announcing his decision to stand again for President after resigning in March 2020 in the aftermath of a filing in the U.S. Women’s National Team equal-pay lawsuit that stated that women players do not “perform equal work” in comparison to male players.
Former National Team star Cindy Parlow Cone stepped in as USSF President and has calmed things down with the national teams, and is running for election for a term of her own on 5 March during the USSF’s Annual General Meeting.
On his election Web site, Cordeiro explained his candidacy as a personal response to fix his failure to be directly involved in the Women’s National Team litigation, but also to pay more attention than is currently being made to youth and adult soccer, to the creation of a National Training Center, bringing a FIFA Women’s World Cup to the U.S. as soon as possible (2027 is the next available), being more accessible and inclusive and settling the equal-pay issues of the women’s team and the collective bargaining agreements of the men’s and women’s teams.
Chatter within the USSF community points to the lack of attention that the youth and adult (amateur) soccer sectors feel they get from Parlow Cone, and these groups control many votes in the March election. However, Cordeiro will be a controversial candidate because of his lack of oversight in the filings made on the USWNT suit, for which he has apologized.
Cordeiro also notes the lack of promotion in the U.S. for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which will be shared with Canada and Mexico, and he is not alone in this concern. But Parlow Cone will be a formidable candidate and difficult – but not impossible – to defeat in March.
U.S. Soccer announced the details of the seventh SheBelieves Cup, to be held on 17-20-23 February with the U.S., Iceland, New Zealand and the Czech Republic, in Carson, California and Frisco, Texas.
These will be the first matches of 2022 for the no. 1-ranked U.S. women, against no. 16 Iceland and the 23rd-ranked Czechs. New Zealand is a co-host of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, for which the U.S. expects to qualify in July.
● Taekwondo ● During a meeting of its continental confederations, World Taekwondo announced that – in another demonstration of the impact of Covid in China – the World Taekwondo Championships will not be held in Wuxi as scheduled in April:
“Ten Member National Associations have expressed their interests in hosting the rescheduled World Championships, expected to take place in November of this year.”
The last Worlds was held in Manchester (GBR) in 2019 and the 2021 Worlds in Wuxi were postponed due to Covid until 2022.
● Tennis ● Where is the Novak Djokovic story now?
Facing deportation from Australia based on a Australian Border Force decision that he did not have an appropriate visa to enter the country, the matter is now in court and will be heard on Monday (10th).
The Australian Open – which Serbia’s Djokovic has won nine times – is due to start 17 January. Djokovic is, for now, in “immigration detention” and waiting for his hearing before the Federal Circuit and Family Court.
● Wrestling ● United World Wrestling revealed its list of the most-viewed videos on YouTube from 2021, with U.S. wrestlers featuring in four of the top 10:
● 8. Tokyo 2020/Men’s 97 kg final: Abdulrashid Sadulaev (RUS) d. Kyle Snyder, 6-3.
● 7. World Champs/Women’s 62 kg final: Aisuluu Tynybekova d. Kayla Miracle, 7-0.
● 2. World Champs/Men’s 86 kg final: Hassan Yazdani (IRI) d. David Taylor, 6-2.
● 1. World Champs/Men’s 97 kg final: Sadulaev (RUS) d. Snyder, 6-0.
Unfortunately, the U.S. wrestlers lost all four matches, but equaled Kyrgyzstan for the most wrestlers appearing in the top-10 videos.
≡ SCOREBOARD ≡
● Alpine Skiing ● Poor snow conditions have hampered racing in the Alpine World Cup for both men and women this week.
The men’s mid-week Slaloms in Zagreb (CRO) were both canceled and will be re-scheduled at another venue. Next up are Giant Slalom and Slalom races in Adelboden (SUI) on the weekend.
The women’s Slalom in Zagreb on Tuesday was held, with World Cup overall champ Petra Vlhova (SVK) winning over American Mikaela Shiffrin, 1:56.99-1:57.49, with Katharina Liensberger (AUT: 1:59.10) third. It was Vlhova’s fourth win of the year – all in Slaloms – but Shiffrin maintained her overall World Cup lead by 830-715 over Vlhova.
A Giant Slalom and Slalom are scheduled for 8-9 January in Kranjska Gora (SLO).
● Figure Skating ● The U.S. Figure Skating Nationals have started in Nashville, with the first shock coming on Wednesday, when reigning national Pairs champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier withdrew, with Frazier having contracted Covid-19 despite being fully vaccinated.
They had performed well during the ISU Grand Prix circuit and were the top U.S. entry, finishing fourth at Skate America and third at the Internationaux de France. They can still petition to be named to the U.S. Olympic Team for Beijing – to be announced on Sunday – for one of the two Pairs slots for American skaters.
The Pairs Short Program and women’s Short Program will lead off the senior schedule tonight (6th), followed by the Ice Dance Rhythm Dance and Women’s Free Skate on Friday. The men’s Short Program, Pairs Free Skate and Ice Dance Free Dance are on Saturday and the men’s Free Skate on Sunday.
● Freestyle Skiing ● The fifth of nine competitions in the FIS Aerials World Cup was held on Wednesday at Le Relais, Quebec (CAN), with China sweeping both events and taking four of the six total medals.
Jiaxu Sun won his third individual World Cup title – and first in three years – in the men’s final, scoring 120.81 to edge teammate Longxiao Yang (119.81) and Swiss Nicolas Gygax.
The women’s title went to 2014 Olympic silver medalist Mengtao Xu, who swamped the competition with 103.92 points, with Canada’s Marion Thenault second (93.41) and China’s Fanyu Kong (92.70) third.
● Ski Jumping ● The famed Four Hills Tournament concluded in Bischofshofen (AUT) after two days of jumping, with Japan’s Ryoyu Kobayashi taking the third leg and then the overall title.
On Wednesday, the postponed third competition was held on Bischofshofen’s 142 m hill with a third straight win for Kobayashi, scoring 291.3 points to 286.6 for Marius Lindvik (NOR) and 282.4 for Halvor Egner Granerud.
On Thursday, Austria’s Daniel Huber, 29, got his first career individual World Cup win, scoring 286.8 to hold off Granerud (282.4) and German Karl Geiger (281.9). Kobayashi was fifth, but ended up with a combined total of 1,162.3 points for his second career Four Hills crown, also in 2019.
Lindvik finished second (1,138.1) and Granerud was third (1,128.2). The latter now has six medals in the 13 World Cups this season!
● Speed Skating ● The U.S. Olympic Trials are underway in Milwaukee, with Ethan Cepuran coming from behind to win the men’s 5,000 m and collect a spot on the Beijing team by 0.04.
Casey Dawson led most of the race, including at the bell, but Cepuran made a hard push around the final turn and crossed first, 6:16.54-6:16.58, with Emery Lehman a close third in 6:16.71.
Although no spectators were allowed into the Pettit National Ice Center as a Covid countermeasure, Cepuran did hear the familiar voice of his brother Gordon, who was the public address announcer (even with no public in the building).
One athlete who will not be able to compete as the Trials continue through the weekend will be 21-year-old Blair Cruikshank, the daughter of Olympic legend Bonnie Blair-Cruikshank, who tested positive for Covid, despite being asymptomatic.
The younger Cruikshank was not expected to be contender to make the team and had been looking to gain experience ahead of a push for the 2026 Winter Games in Milan Cortina.
For our 832-event International Sports Calendar for 2022 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!