The latest news, notes and quotes from the worldwide Five-Ring Circus:
≡ SPOTLIGHT ≡
The fallout from the announcements on the “initial sports program” for the Los Angeles 2028 Games came thick and fast from the federations that will join the party – skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing – and from those whose future is clouded, namely boxing, weightlifting and modern pentathlon.
The International Federation of Sport Climbing release summed up the feeling of all three sports with its headline: “CLIMBING COMMUNITY ECSTATIC TO BE RECOMMENDED FOR INCLUSION AT LA28.” Also:
● “The International Surfing Association (ISA) has today expressed its joy and gratitude to the IOC Executive Board and the organizers of the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games.”
● Said World Skate President Sabatino Aracu [ITA]: “That’s … Three!! With three Olympic Games confirmed and as one of the 28 Summer Olympic IFs, World Skate’s position takes on a new dimension that will bear fruits in the future for both the International Federation and our NGBs.”
LA28 Chair Casey Wasserman saluted the additions:
“These quintessential West Coast sports share a youthful energy and creative vibe and will be perfect for the LA28 Olympics. We are eager to have the LA28 sport program include some of the most iconic LA sports and welcome the IOC Executive Board’s proposal. These sports will bring fresh excitement and relevance to the Olympic Games in America and connect the Olympics with younger fans across Los Angeles and around the world. … We want to build on tradition, while progressing the Olympic Games forward.”
The reaction from the folks in boxing, weightlifting and modern pentathlon wasn’t as happy.
● Boxing: “The International Boxing Association (AIBA) is grateful for the decision made today by the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) whereby boxing will remain on the Olympic Programme for Paris 2024 and a pathway has been established for inclusion on the Olympic Programme of Los Angeles 2028.
“Continued progress made by AIBA towards reform has also been acknowledged by the IOC, which has established a clear roadmap whereby AIBA’s suspension could be lifted in 2023.”
● Weightlifting: “The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) yesterday welcomed the decision of the IOC Executive Board to maintain weightlifting’s place on the Paris 2024 programme and reiterated its commitment to completing reforms aimed at safeguarding the sport’s long-term Olympic future.”
The IWF noted, however, that it does not expect to hold new elections quickly, but by “the end of the first semester of 2022.” Former Interim President and current IWF Presidential candidate Ursula Papandrea (USA) ripped the IWF’s continued errors that jeopardizes the sport’s place on the Olympic program:
“[T]here is no alleviation of the repeated risks the IWF Executive Board continues to take and the long-term Olympic future of our sport is now undeniably at stake. … As weightlifting survives another potential blow, the IWF Executive Board remains in full control of the sport a full seven months past their mandate, which expired in May 2021.
“The IWF Executive Board continues to put the sport’s long-term status in question. They have delayed our elections multiple times over the last year, with the latest postponement in direct violation of the newly adopted Constitution. They blatantly ignore transparency provisions of the Constitution and have yet to live stream Executive Board meetings. The new Constitution is useless if not properly implemented.”
● Modern Pentathlon: “UIPM gratefully accepts the clear communication from the IOC Executive Board, after its meeting on December 7-9, about the pathway for potential changes to Modern Pentathlon to be enacted via the 5th Discipline consultation. …
“We are delighted that the IOC Executive Board has noted the critical and timely stakeholder communication in recent weeks that has resulted in the agreement of the UIPM Executive Board and approval granted by UIPM Congress, where more than 80% of National Federations (NFs) voted in favour of replacing Riding.”
The UIPM is in a really difficult position. While the IOC handed it a tactical victory in recognizing the removal of riding, IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell (NZL) also handed it a considerable challenge:
“They’ll be doing testing of different alternatives throughout the course of the European summer in 2022 and then finalizing a proposal later next year and after we see that proposal, once we understand how it meets those objectives of being more accessible, reducing cost and complexity, which is a critical element across the Games and obviously a focus of this modern pentathlon review and we see the outcomes of that, we can further assess the situation. …
“The other point I’d make is that the athletes have to be a very central part of that review process and we’ve made ourselves available to discuss that with the UIPM Athletes Commission to be sure they have a very clear understanding of the position of the IOC in the pathway forward as well, to make sure they are well educated on the process and understand fully what needs to be done from this point on.”
The problem with athlete involvement is that many pentathletes do not want to have riding replaced and the national federation of Denmark has filed a challenge to the UIPM actions with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Further, many of the top pentathletes hold the UIPM responsible, with Pentathlon United tweeting, “Now our sport is potentially out of the Olympic Program.”
This sport is in a lot of trouble.
There are many more impacts to yesterday’s announcements. For World Skate, the International Surfing Association and the IFSC, their inclusion as part of the general sports program for 2028 means they will get a share – size to be determined – of the IOC’s television revenues from the LA28 right sale. That money won’t come until 2029, but there is Olympic gold for them at the end of the decade.
Further, the LA28 sports list is not final. The LA28 organizers can ask for added sports to the 2028 Games, with details on the selection criteria and timelines due by April 2022; a final decision by the IOC won’t be made until mid-2023. There is a long list of sports that want in and the conversations have already started.
≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
● Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● The IOC released some details from a report on the worldwide exposure of the Tokyo Games, with Timo Lumme (FIN), the IOC’s Managing Director of Television and Marketing Services explaining:
“The total number of viewers of the Olympic Games on linear television – so traditional television and digital – is 3.05 billion for Tokyo 2020. So this is made up of actually two areas. The first is television, which is 2.8 billion viewers and then digital, or Internet viewers, which is 2.2 billion.
“But the 2.8 and the 2.2 billion somewhat overlap, so you do not add them up together; in fact, around just under nine out of 10 of people who watched on the Internet also watched on TV; so an unduplicated number is the 3.05 billion.”
“The 28 billion video views on the rights-holding broadcasters digital platforms is indeed a big increase, the corresponding number for Rio was 11.6 billion.”
Lumme was asked about the impact on the IOC’s sponsors of the closed nature of the Tokyo Games due to the Covid countermeasures, and his reply was fascinating:
“It was very well understood by everyone that some of the activities such as showcasing or hospitality, attendance of foreign guests, had to be restricted purely because of the Covid countermeasures. …
“Looking at future Games, one thing has come out very clear from the debriefs with the TOP Partners, they see increasing value in the association with the IOC, with the Olympic Movement and the Olympic Games. … we are talking about the development of the digital [platforms] that I mentioned, but also – importantly – the focus on athletes and the many purpose-led activities growing the footprint of the IOC’s activities in areas outside of Games organization.
“So what they are seeing is a values-based organization really delivering on the mission of the IOC and I think this is making us feel quite comfortable moving forwards in our relationships with future organizing committees, future bidders but also, of course, TOP Partners.”
● XXIV Olympic Winter Games: Beijing 2022 ● Following announcements of diplomatic boycotts of the Beijing Games by the U.S., followed by Australia,. Great Britain and Canada, French President Emmanuel Macron stated that France will not agree, telling the BBC:
“I don’t think we should politicize these topics, especially if it’s to take steps that are insignificant and symbolic … To be clear: You either have a complete boycott, and don’t send athletes, or you try to change things with useful actions.”
In the U.S., pressure has shifted to the role of American companies and NBC at the Games, with Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott both critical; Rubio’s open letter of 8 December called for the event to be pulled out of Beijing and be postponed, or “pull all of their advertising dollars from the Olympic Games if they continue to be held in Beijing.”
In reply, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told Bloomberg News: “What individual companies do is entirely up to them. We’re not going to pressure them one way or another. So if a company decides – as many companies have – that they want to make a statement against human rights abuses, then that would be great. But we’re not going to be pushing anyone to make that decision.”
The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Council met earlier this week and “discussed the status of the Chinese men’s ice hockey team ahead of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. The Council confirmed that it will uphold the decision by the 2018 IIHF Congress to grant the Chinese men’s national team a host qualification position in the 2022 Olympic Games.”
There are grave concerns that the Chinese team is of such weak quality that it will lose by embarrassing scores during the Games. We’ll know a lot more on 10 February when the men’s tournament opens with China facing the U.S., a medal favorite, at the Beijing National Indoor Stadium.
● XXVI Olympic Winter Games: 2030 ● The race for the 2030 Winter Games came up at Thursday’s IOC Executive Board news conference, in the aftermath of the online meeting days earlier with the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games. Said IOC chief Thomas Bach (GER):
“What you could feel there is this great unity. … they were very well prepared, they were very well informed and that the dialogue will continue to see when Salt Lake City would like to enter into a closer dialogue with the IOC and I think they are also looking for our advice there a little bit. So it was, from the part I attended, a very friendly and fruitful conversation.”
Asked if there could be a double-hosting award of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games as was done for 2024-28 summer Games, Bach dryly noted: “All this is in the hands of the Future Hosts Commissions, of which I am not allowed to be a member.”
● International Olympic Committee ● The IOC Executive Board made some personnel recommendations on Thursday, including three new members: Slovakian shooter Danka Bartekova, who had already played an important role as an IOC Athletes’ Commission member, David Lappartient (FRA), President of the Union Cycliste Internationale, who has also been heavily involved with IOC affairs, including liaison with the eSports community, and Yiech Pur Biel, originally from South Sudan, but a refugee now living in the U.S. He competed in the men’s 800 m in the 2016 Rio Games on the Olympic Refugee Team and is a goodwill ambassador for the United National High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Three long-serving IOC members were nominated to be Honorary Members as they will be age limited in 2022: Richard W. Pound of Canada, the current doyen; Pal Schmitt, a two-time fencing gold medalist who was also President of Hungary; and Israeli Alex Gilady, the first IOC member from his country.
The Executive Board recommended extension of the term of Colombian Luis Alberto Moreno as he is the IOC’s Permanent Observer to the U.N., and re-election of Dane Poul-Erik Hoyer.
Nicole Hoevertsz (ARU), the former artistic swimmer who is the head of the IOC’s Coordination Commission for Los Angeles 2028, is recommended for re-election as an individual member. This is a change of status from her affiliation as an NOC officer for Aruba and confirms her importance within the IOC. Now 57, she can serve to age 70 if confirmed and is considered a possible candidate for the IOC Presidency in 2025.
● Athletics ● World Athletics announced the full calendar of its World Indoor Tour, with 38 total meets and seven in the top-level Gold category:
28 Jan.: INIT Indoor: Karlsruhe (GER)
29 Jan.: Millrose Games: New York (USA)
06 Feb.: New Balance Indoor Grand Prix: Staten Island (USA)
17 Feb.: Hauts-de-France: Lievin (FRA)
19 Feb.: Muller Indoor Grand Prix: Birmingham (GR)
22 Feb.: Copernicus Cup: Torun (POL)
02 Mar.: Madrid 2022: Madrid (ESP)
On prize money: “Each Gold meeting will offer at least USD$7000 in prize money for each individual discipline on the programme, including USD$3000 to the winner.” The scoring events for 2022 are 60 m, 800 m, 3000 m/5000 m, pole vault, triple jump and shot put for men, and the 400 m, 1500 m, 60 m hurdles, high jump and long jump for women.
● Boxing ● A new, 96-page report from McLaren Global Sports Solutions examined the actions of AIBA post-Rio 2016, a period marked by the federation’s suspension by the IOC in 2019. What happened? In short, the report noted:
“AIBA staggered through a revolving door of Presidents and Executive Directors causing instability and a lack of cohesive leadership from the top. Behind the curtain, there was constant interference from those formerly in charge of AIBA. Those bad actors combined with the instability created by the revolving door of top management provided the environment where the corruption and manipulation could continue with similar intensity to the conduct at Rio. As a result, this Stage 3 Report uncovers the weaknesses of the destabilised AIBA structure. There was a loss of organisational knowledge and institutional memory; inconsistent application of rules; no appetite to investigate the organisation or individual complaints; and ineffective disciplinary process without the force of sanctions. All of these problems contained within a failing organisational structure, ineffective in its operation.”
The report cites improvement as demonstrated at the recent men’s World Championships in Belgrade (SRB), with a more open attitude toward concerns from referees, judges and technical officials:
“This is a definite seed of change from Rio, where with a few exceptions, a wall of silence existed. Given that in the years leading up to and including Rio the fear, intimidation and sanctioned corruption came from AIBA leadership. There was no trust in the organisation nor leadership so complaints or reports of bad behaviour were rarely made. Often if an R&J did make a complaint, they were not taken seriously and, to add insult to injury, would have likely resulted in loss of nominations to tournaments since they did not support the systemic manipulation.”
The report sees the situation as hopeful, noting “There has been noticeable improvement in the operation and administration of AIBA due to the leadership of the current President [Umar Kremlev/RUS] and the officials he has appointed such as the new Secretary General Istvan Kovacs [HUN] and others.”
The conclusion supports the governance reform process commissioned by AIBA from outside experts, including an independent “integrity unit,” a better whistleblower system, election vetting and reforms such as term limits, an integrity education program and better disciplinary procedures.
● Swimming ● To no one’s surprise, Tokyo superstars Caeleb Dressel and Katie Ledecky were named USA Swimming’s Athletes of the Year at the Golden Goggle Awards in Miami, Florida.
It was Ledecky’s seventh such honor and the third for Dressel. Tokyo women’s 100 m Breaststroke gold medalist Lydia Jacoby won both the “Breakout Performer” and “Female Race of the Year” awards, while the men’s “Race of the Year” winner was Tokyo winner Bobby Finke in the 800 m Free.
Breaststroke star Annie Lazor won the “Perseverance Award” after her U.S. Trials win in the 200 m Breast and later the Tokyo bronze. Coach of the year honors went to Gregg Troy, the 20-year coach at the University of Florida and most recently of the ISL Cali Condors.
The Golden Goggle Awards have been held since 2004 and raise money for the USA Swimming Foundation.
The newest fight in the questions surrounding transgender athletes is in the pool. From editor-in-chief John Lohn of SwimmingWorld Magazine.com:
“[T]he biggest storyline of the NCAA Women’s Championships [next March] could be the presence of Lia Thomas on the pool deck.
“The story is well-known. Thomas is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, and a transgender athlete. She previously competed for three years as a member of the Quakers’ men’s team, earning All-Ivy League accolades. A year ago, the conference, as the COVID-19 pandemic raged, canceled all athletics. Meanwhile, Thomas had transitioned to female, and awaited the opportunity to represent Penn in women’s collegiate competition. That time has now arrived.
“In recent weeks, Thomas has been firing off a multitude of top times – primarily in the distance-freestyle events. At last weekend’s Zippy Invitational, on the campus of Akron University, Thomas blasted automatic NCAA-qualifying efforts in the 200-yard freestyle (1:41.93) and 500 freestyle (4:34.06). Both times rank No. 1 in the nation, and her 200 free performance was quicker than last year’s gold-medal time at NCAAs.”
Lohn examines the issue in detail, one that is being hotly debated now at the international level. He also noted:
“‘There’s absolutely no question in my mind that trans women will maintain strength advantages over cis women, even after hormone therapy,’ said sports physicist Joanna Harper in an interview with WEBMD Health News. ‘That’s based on my clinical experience, rather than published data, but I would say there’s zero doubt in my mind.’”
Keep an eye on this story.
Swimming Australia, fresh off a great Tokyo Games where its athletes won 20 medals, has been accused of ignoring sexual abuse allegations by Rio 2016 silver medalist Maddie Groves.
Groves skipped the Tokyo swim trials in protest over abuse by elite coaches that she says has been covered up or ignored. Former elite coach John Wright is awaiting trial on multiple charges of abuse of teenage boys in the 1980s and 1990s, but Groves commented:
“I think seeing the report on the John Wright case, there’s this attitude that that type of thing is a historical issue and it doesn’t happen anymore and that times have changed. But I don’t think that’s necessarily true.”
Swimming Australia has pledged that her claims are being looked into by Sport Integrity Australia, an independent agency.
● Weightlifting ● Three more doping sanctions for Russian weightlifters dating from tests in 2012 were announced by the International Testing Agency.
Svetlana Shimkova, Oksana Slivenko and Rinat Kireev were all found to have used steroids back in 2012, based on data from the infamous Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s Moscow Laboratory and investigations by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren.
Shimkova and Slivenko received two-year bans and Kureev, four. All are now retired and did not challenge the suspensions.
● Wrestling ● United World Wrestling named its award winners in each of its 30 classes, with the top three in the year-end rankings receiving cash prizes of $10,000-7,000-3,000 for a $600,000 total.
American men’s Freestyle stars Tom Gilman (57 kg), Kyle Dake (74 kg), Jordan Burroughs (79 kg) and David Taylor (86 kg) all topped their rankings, with Daton Fix (61 kg), Alec Pantaleo (70 kg) and Kyle Snyder (97 kg) second, and Olympic champ Gable Steveson (125 kg) third.
In women’s Freestyle, the U.S. also had four winners with Sarah Hildebrandt (50 kg), Helen Maroulis (57kg), Tamyra Mensah-Stock (68 kg) and Adeline Gray (76 kg). Kayla Miracle (62 kg) was third.
The Comeback Wrestlers of the Year were Maroulis (women’s 57 kg Freestyle World Champion) and Russian Roman Vlasov (77 kg Greco World Champion).
≡ SCOREBOARD ≡
● Handball ● The first stage of the 2021 IHF Women’s World Championship in Spain has concluded, with the championship field from 32 down to 24 teams.
The group-stage pool winners included France (Group A: 3-0), Russia (B: 3-0), Norway (C: 3-0), the Netherlands (D: 2-0-1), Germany (E: 3-0), Denmark (F: 3-0), Brazil (G: 3-0) and Spain (H: 3-0).
The four-group Main Round is underway and will be completed over the weekend. The top two teams in each of the four groups will advance to the quarterfinals, to start on 14 December. The championship match will be on the 19th.
● Weightlifting ● The World Weightlifting Championships in Tashkent (UZB) survived the country’s Covid restrictions and are underway, albeit weakened by the absence of the Chinese and North Korean teams, and many Tokyo medalists.
Among the winners in the lighter weights are home favorite Doston Yokubov, who won the men’s overall title at 67 kg. Thailand, which has been damaged by doping issues, has two wins in the women’s division, from the reinstated Thunya Sukcharoen at 45 kg and Surodchana Khambao at 49 kg.
The competition continues through the 17th.
≡ THE LAST WORD ≡
Ken Goe, the sort-of-retired sportswriter of The Oregonian, in a tweet last week about track & field:
“The only sport I covered in 43 years that had the mantra, ‘It’s all about the athletes.’ It’s not going to be more popular unless it’s about the fans.”
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