THE TICKER: Olympics complete, Paralympics coming; first Tokyo doping positives; volunteer helps Jamaica’s Parchment win 110 m hurdles!

Jamaica's 110 m gold medalist Hansle Parchment ... saved by a rowing volunteer!

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

● Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ●
Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto said in her Closing Ceremony address, “There are no words to describe what you have achieved in Tokyo. You have accepted what seemed unimaginable, understood what had to be done, and through hard work and perseverance overcome unbelievable challenges.”

However, they are not done. The Paralympic Games open on 24 August and preparations are now underway for the much-smaller Games, but ones which will still tax the organizers and the city.

A decision on whether to allow spectators at the Paralympics is expected next week.

The giant Olympic Rings monument in Tokyo – more than 108 feet wide – is being converted to the Paralympic symbol.

The organizers noted that the cast for the Closing Ceremony was cut from a planned 800 to just 200 in order to simplify the program since rehearsals were practically impossible due to the pandemic. Executive Producer Takayuki Hiroki said the program was essentially re-started from scratch beginning in March.

The first doping positives were reported by the International Testing Agency, all in track & field, and turned over to the Athletics Integrity Unit for follow-up. Four athletes were identified:

● Benik Abramyan (GEO): men’s shot (did not compete): anabolic agents

● Sadik Mikhou (BRN): men’s 1,500 m (8th in heat 2): blood transfusion

● Mark Otieno Odhiambo (KEN): men’s 100 m (did not compete): anabolic agents

● C.J. Ujah (GBR): men’s 100 m (eliminated in semis) and men’s 4×100 m (silver medal): anabolic agent.

The ITA will now examine the second sample from each athlete and turn its findings over to the AIU for sanctions beyond the Games. The only medal involved in these reports is the British men’s 4×100 m relay silver, which is now in jeopardy. Ujah, 27, could be suspended for four years and miss the Paris 2024 Games.

One of the best stories at the Games concerned Jamaica’s Hansle Parchment, the gold medalist in the men’s 110 m hurdles. Turns out that he got on the wrong bus at the Village and went to the wrong venue – the Sea Forest Waterway for rowing – in advance of his semifinal.

He was told to take the bus back to the Village and then get the right bus to the stadium, but by then he would miss his race. He asked a volunteer for help and she gave him some money to take a taxi to the stadium!

He made it to the warm-up track in time to qualify through to the final and then won the race. The day after, he went back to the rowing venue to see the volunteer, refund the taxi money, give her a Jamaican shirt and show her the gold medal she was responsible for!

Hear the story in his own words here.

One of the dumber incidents of the Tokyo Games was Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura, 72, biting into the gold medal of Japanese softball pitcher (and Nagoya native) Miu Goto during a ceremony at the Nagoya City Hall on 4 August.

He was also reported to have asked Goto, 20: “Are you prohibited from having romantic relationships?”

Kawamura apologized and offered to pay for a replacement medal for Goto; an exchange for a new medal will apparently be made. Oy.

The downturn in Olympic viewership in the U.S. – NBC reported 150 million Americans or about 43.6% of the population tuned in – was not reflected in other areas.

Discovery, which has rights for Europe – excepting Russia – through its Eurosport subsidiary, announced that 372 million people watched its coverage, including through its local broadcasters in many countries, about 60.9% of the total population.

In Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported “28 million viewers or 3 in 4 Canadians (74.4%) tuned in for Tokyo 2020 coverage on CBC/Radio-Canada.”

In Australia, 68% of all television viewers watched at least some of the Games and in Japan, a total of 115.8 million watched some part of the Games, a staggering 91% of the population.

Fernando Aguerre (ARG), the President of the International Surfing Association, has renewed his call for surfing to receive a share of Olympic television rights sales, since the sport will be part of at least two Games in a row in Tokyo and Paris in 2024.

Comment: Along with criticism, the most predictable outcome of the Games is greed. It is the Games which make the sports popular, not the other way around.

Antonio Espinos (ESP), President of the World Karate Federation, is continuing to promote a place for karate in Paris, despite not being included on the list of added sports for 2024. Chances? Not promising, especially as the program already includes judo and taekwondo.

Comment: As the Olympic Games are supposed to be devoted to peace, why are sports dedicated to hitting people – such as boxing, karate and taekwondo – still in at all?

Time to update the Olympic performance ledger of Tonga’s famed Pita Taufatofua in his third Games. In Rio in 2016, the man without a shirt lost his opening match in the +80 kg division of taekwondo by 16-1, then finished 110th in the men’s 15 km cross-country skiing event in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games and in Tokyo, he competed in the +80 k division, losing his two matches by 24-3 and 22-1.

USA Wrestling’s Living the Dream Medal Fund – funded by individual donors – will pay a total of $950,000 to the nine medal-winners from Tokyo.

The three gold medalists – Dave Taylor, Gable Steveson and Tamyra Mensah-Stock – will receive $250,000 each; silver medalists Kyle Snyder and Adeline Gray will receive $50,000 each and the four bronze winners – Tom Gilman, Kyle Dake, Sarah Hildebrandt and Helen Maroulis – will receive $25,000 each.

This is the third time the fund has rewarded the medal winners; it paid $575,000 for the 2012 London Games and $525,000 from the 2016 Rio Games. This is a separate program from the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s program of $37,500 for gold medals, $22,500 for silver and $15,000 for bronze.

Comment: As an initiative of a U.S. National Governing Body, this is remarkable and impressive. Good for USA Wrestling!

The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control has sanctioned the Belarus National Olympic Committee as part of a widespread pushback against “last year’s fraudulent election to demonstrate international unity against the Belarusian regime’s repression and in support for the Belarusian people’s democratic aspirations.”

The sanctions are directed at President Alexander Lukashenko; the Treasury Department statement noted:

“The Belarusian NOC also allegedly serves as a tool for Lukashenka and his inner circle to launder funds and evade sanctions. The Belarusian NOC is being designated pursuant to [Executive Order] 13405 for being owned or controlled by, directly or indirectly, Viktar Lukashenka.”

Lukashenko and his son Viktor – now named as the Belarus NOC President – had already been suspended “by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in December 2020 for failing to protect athletes who took part in protests against the Lukashenka regime.”

● Athletics ●
Business Insider reported that Nike shoes were worn by 21 of the 33 medal winners in the individual track events in Tokyo. The story noted:

Experts think differences in super-spike technology probably matter less in short races, since energetic efficiency is less of a factor when a race is over in under a minute.” That would point to advantages in the 800-1,500-Steeple-5,000-10,000 m races as opposed to those at 100-200-400 m.

The first World Road Running Championships will be held in Riga, Latvia in September or October of 2023, combining the World Half Marathon Championships, a new World 5 km Championships and more. A total of 13 cities applied, five were finalists and Riga was selected.

World Athletics also announced that the 2023 World Relays will be held in Guangzhou (CHN), likely in May.

Ecuadorian 200 m star Alex Quinonez, the 2019 Worlds bronze medalist, was absent from Tokyo as he was suspended for one year due to “whereabouts” failures from 25 June 2021 to 24 June 2022. If qualified, he will be eligible for the 2022 World Championships in Eugene.

The World Athletics Russia Taskforce reported that the Russian Athletics Federation is making “satisfactory progress” on the agreed-to reinstatement plan, and has paid the latest reimbursement invoice of $431,838 for expenses up to 31 March.

In view of this, the World Athletics Council agreed to have the membership vote in November on a resolution to allow the Council to reinstate the Russian federation if, and only if, all of the conditions for reinstatement are met.

A little lost in the avalanche of the Tokyo Games was a significant announcement of $2.448 million in athlete grants by the USA Track & Field Foundation.

The first package was a set of 50 grants of $8,000 each – $400,000 total – to elite athletes in events all across the event spectrum. The Stephen A. Schwartzman Grants for 2021 additionally gave $30,000 each to 65 athletes – $1.95 million – including many of the top U.S. stars in the sport, including Dalilah Muhammad, DeAnna Price, Gabby Thomas, Joe Kovacs, Keni Harrison, Paul Chelimo, Ryan Crouser, Sam Kendricks, Valarie Allman and more.

These grants bring Schwartzman’s personal commitment to $5.7 million in direct support; he has pledged a total of $12 million. Wow!

● Bobsled, Skeleton & Luge ●
The historic sliding track in Koenigssee in Germany – the first artificial track ever opened – was badly damaged during the storms on 17-18 July. Portions of the track were flooded and some parts were washed away.

However, the cooling pipes were not damaged and there are plans to re-open the facility as soon as October 2022. The planned World Cup events for this coming winter season are being moved to other facilities.

● Football ●
The U.S. Soccer Federation is now considering bidding for the 2031 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which would be held five years after the 2026 FIFA World Cup in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

The federation had considered bidding for 2027, but the obvious conflict with the 2026 event, especially in a sponsorship environment that included the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, makes 2031 look a lot better.

But what happens if Salt Lake City gets the 2030 Winter Olympic Games?

Reuters reported that after Brazil won the men’s football gold in Tokyo, the players appeared at the awards ceremony with their uniform jackets tied around their waists in an apparent attempt to hide the logo of Chinese apparel sponsor Peak Sport Products.

Instead, their uniform tops – with a Nike logo – was visible. Nike sponsors the Brazilian Football Confederation, but Peak Sport is a sponsor of the Brazil Olympic Committee (COB). The COB’s statement on the matter included:

“The COB repudiates the attitude of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) and the players of the national team during the awards ceremony.

“Only after the Games have finished will the COB make public the measures that will be taken to preserve the rights of the Olympic Movement, the other athletes and of our sponsors.”

● Ice Hockey ●
There is continuing confusion over whether the National Hockey League will allow its players to participate in the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.

The NHL sent two different schedules to teams in late July, with and without a break for the Beijing Games. There are multiple issues over insurance, transportation, timing and more still to be worked out between the NHL, the NHL Players Association, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and the International Olympic Committee.

● Swimming ●
FINA announced a major upgrade to its support for the World Short Course Championships, to be held in Abu Dhabi (UAE) from 16-21 December:

“Prize money for individual events has been increased by 50%, with a bonus of US$50,000 for any new World Record set in individual swimming events. This US$2.8 million prize pool represents the largest prize pool ever in a FINA Swimming event.”

The Short Course Worlds has always been a step-sister to the World Aquatics Championships held every other year. The increase was announced by newly-elected FINA President Husain Al-Musallam (KUW), who has promised to expand athlete support as part of a program to further popularize FINA’s championship events. This is a pretty good start.

● The Last Word ●
The Vermot & Associes Sporlympic VII auction of 22 July saw six Olympic torches sold at significant prices (€1 = $1.18):

1936 Berlin: €3,000
1960 Rome: €3,900
1968 Mexico City: €2,500
1972 Munich: €2,500
1980 Moscow: €3,800
2022 Salt Lake City: €2,200

The Associated Press reported that a winner’s medal from the 1896 Athens Games sold for more than $180,000 in an online auction that concluded on 22 July. A 2008 Olympic gold medal from the Argentina football team sold for more than $97,000 and a gold from the men’s basketball team during the 1984 Games sold for more than $83,000.

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