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(For our updated – as of 10 April – 620-event International Sports Calendar for 2022 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!)
● Plus: Winter Games 2030: Aragon suggests a new distribution of events for Spanish bid = Olympic Games 2036: A cheap Games in Copenhagen? = On Screen: Modest viewing of USATF Bermuda Games and USA-UZB women’s game = Athletics: World Athletics creates Ukraine Fund; Canadian sprinter Williams passed at 62 = Football: FIFA+ free streaming service announced = Gymnastics: Paris 2024 qualification system streamlined = Judo: Passing of two-time Olympic silver winner Rodriguez = Sailing: Shock death of teen Tunisian in training accident = Speed Skating: Retirements from Kodaira and Nana Takagi = SCOREBOARD/Swimming: More world leaders; seven swimmers hold world leads in 19 of 34 individual events = THE LAST WORD: Strong (ridiculous?) auction prices for official’s badges from Los Angeles 1932 and beyond ●
The latest news, notes and quotes from the worldwide Five-Ring Circus:
≡ SPOTLIGHT ≡
Slava Malamud describes himself as “a Soviet-born American citizen who came to the US as a refugee in 1991 after deciding to not linger in a part of the former USSR that was getting into the business of civil war. Another thing that is true is that for many years I was one of Russia’s premier sports journalists while working for Sport-Express as the national daily’s foreign correspondent in North America.”
In mid-March, he posted a startling 31-Tweet thread to dove into the close ties between the Russian government and Russian sport. Some highlights:
● “The main point: never, ever, ever take seriously any talk by any Russian athlete/sports official/sports writer that sports and politics must be separate.”
● “Sports and politics in Russia aren’t only inseparable, they are synonymous. Sport is an organic part of Russia’s body politic and is unimaginable without it. At the same time, while Russians KNOW very well that sport is politics, they are conditioned to always SAY the opposite.”
● “Soviets slowly began to understand the ideological value of big-time sports. Italy’s win at the 1934 World Cup was a huge boost for fascism and, of course, Hitler’s 1936 Olympics were a propaganda bonanza. There was much to emulate there. …”
● “Stalin, who was by no means interested in sports in and of themselves, absolutely refused to let the Soviets participate in international competitions without solid guarantees of a triumph.”
Malamud underlines that one cannot understand Russian attitudes toward sport without understanding the history, and his thread is a guided tour of how the USSR got into international sport, beginning at the Helsinki Games in 1952. Absolutely worth reading.
≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
● XXIII Commonwealth Games: 2026 ● Australia continues to reel in major events, with the Commonwealth Games Foundation announcing that the State of Victoria will host the 2026 Games in March of that year, primarily in Melbourne, Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat and Gippsland.
The region had been selected for “exclusive dialogue” in February, so the confirmation of the award was hardly a surprise. A total of 16 sports have been identified so far and others may be added. It’s the first time the Commonwealth Games has used the regional approach adopted by the International Olympic Committee.
This will be the fifth Commonwealth Games in Australia, previously in 1938 (Sydney), 1962 (Perth), 1982 (Brisbane) and Gold Coast in 2018.
Australia and New Zealand will host the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023, now the Commonwealth Games in 2026 and the Games of the XXXV Olympiad in Brisbane in 2032.
The 2026 Games was originally supposed to go to Birmingham (ENG), but after Durban (RSA) abandoned the 2022 Games due to costs, Birmingham moved forward to take this year’s event, requiring the Foundation to find a new 2026 host.
● XXVI Olympic Winter Games: 2030 ● The tug-of-war between the regions of Aragon and Catalonia continues in Spain. Calling the announced division of sports between the two region unfair, Aragon proposed a new division of the events for a projected Spanish bid for the Winter Games.
This concept would place biathlon and snowboarding in Aragon, with freestyle skiing and ski mountaineering in Catalonia and both regions hosting parts of alpine skiing and nordic skiing.
Aragon would host curling figure skating and short-track, while Catalonia would have ice hockey and speed skating.
The next move is up to the Spanish Olympic Committee to try and find a solution that works for the political leadership of both regions.
● Games of the XXXVI Olympiad: 2036 ● GamesBids.com reported on an interview in a Copenhagen (DEN) newspaper with city council member Mia Nyegaard of the Social Liberal party Radikale, proposing holding the Olympic Games there on a “small budget.” Per the report:
“Radikale party culture spokesperson Zenia Stampe told Berlingske ‘I thought it would be difficult, but now I can see that it could be done in a way so that it develops Copenhagen’s urban space, and that it could develop the way you hold the Olympics.
“‘A kind of moon landing – a goal on the horizon that can be used to create urban development.’”
This is yet another indication of how the International Olympic Committee’s changed bidding format has altered the views of local politicians on the value of having the Games. Of course, there is also the reaction of the marketing manager of Dansk Erhverv (the Danish chamber of commerce), Lars Ramme Nielsen, to a possible hosting of the Games:
“Basically, at the moment, it is not possible – as in not at all – to do so.”
At a minimum, a new main stadium and an Olympic Village would have to be built, making the cost of the event not-so-small after all.
● On Screen ● The big U.S. television stars of the week were the Monday NCAA men’s basketball tournament final between Kansas and North Carolina, drawing 17.952 million combined across TBS-TNT-TRU TV, and the final round of the Masters, with 10.173 million watching on CBS.
In terms of Olympic sport on television, the USATF Bermuda Games, shown on NBC on Saturday afternoon, drew 607,000. The U.S. women’s friendly against Uzbekistan later on Saturday on Fox drew 438,000 viewers.
● Athletics ● “World Athletics, together with the International Athletics Foundation (IAF) and the Members of the Diamond League Association, has today launched a Ukraine Fund to support professional athletes affected by the conflict in their home country.”
The fund was initiated with $190,000 in donations from those three partners, targeted at up to 100 Ukrainian athletes who are qualified (or be expected to qualify) for a World Athletics championship event, as well as to coaches, team leaders and family members of the athletes.
The primary focus is on athletes who are affiliated to the Ukrainian Athletic Association and have qualified, or have a credible chance to qualify, for any upcoming World Athletics Championships. The second priority includes those acting as a designated coach or team leader, as well as parents, spouses and children of those athletes.
The state of Oregon and the city of Eugene continue to spend money on the Oregon22 World Championships coming in July, but now on a free festival site for both locals and visitors to the area.
The Downtown Riverfront Park will be the site, with the event open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. from Monday through Thursday and noon to 10 p.m. on both sets of Friday-Sunday weekends. The show is budgeted at $1.2 million in total, with Eugene contributing $400,000 and Travel Oregon giving $100,000. Sponsorships are being sought by local producer REVERE and added governmental funding.
The state of Oregon has provided $40 million in funding for the World Championships, against a projected budget of $75 million.
Staffing will be provided by professionals and volunteers; the Worlds is recruiting about 1,500 volunteers for its programs, and the festival will wait until those needs have been mostly filled.
More sad news, of the passing of Canadian sprint star Desai Williams, at 62. He was a bronze medal winner at the Los Angeles 1984 Games in the men’s 4×100 m relay, and had career bests of 10.11 (1988) and 20.29 (1983). He also competed at the Olympic Games in Seoul in 1988.
Born in St. Kitts & Nevis, Williams was a consistent contender, but never an outright star in the sprints, and was overshadowed by the infamous Ben Johnson, who won the 1988 Olympic 100 m title on the track, but was then disqualified for steroid use.
Williams coached sprinters in Canada for many years, and was a speech coach for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. He was a coach for Athletics Canada, but was reported to have violated its sexual harassment policy in 2015 and was banned in 2018.
● Football ● FIFA announced the launch of FIFA+, a direct-to-consumer online service that will provide
“access to live football matches from every corner of the world, interactive games, news, tournament information, ground-breaking, unrivalled video content delivering truly global storytelling around the men’s and women’s game and much more. FIFA is the first sports federation ever to offer such an extensive streaming and content experience to its fans.”
The programming will include 29,000 men’s and 11,000 women’s matches in 2022, an archive of FIFA World Cup matches of the past, a live “Match Centre” with data from hundreds of competitions, news, games and original programming, including documentaries and interviews with greats of the game.
It will initially be available with support for five languages – English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish – with six more language editions coming in June.
The service is free at the start, and geo-blocking will be used to protect rights-holding broadcasters in specific territories. But it is an interesting experiment, by the federation best positioned to try it, even if only as value-added for its existing and future sponsors.
“Deloitte and U.S. Soccer Federation announced today a multi-year sponsorship renewal continuing Deloitte’s role as the Official Professional Services Provider of U.S. Soccer and Foundational Sponsor of SheBelieves.”
The worldwide professional services firm has made headlines of late with its TOP sponsorship with the International Olympic Committee, on top of its existing agreements with the LA28 Olympic Organizing Committee and National Olympic Committees in Canada, Germany, Ireland, Poland and the U.S.
The specific goals for the continuation of its sponsorship of the U.S. Soccer Federation are ambitious:
“Deloitte will continue to provide professional services to support the evolution of the Federation and its business needs to meet its 2030 goals and achieve its mission of becoming the preeminent sport in the United States. Deloitte will help support some of the Federation’s most important business opportunities covering a range of strategic initiatives, such as developing U.S. Soccer’s organization-wide sustainability strategy, defining a roadmap for the future of technology across the organization, and helping U.S. Soccer identify a world-class home for a National Training Center.”
● Gymnastics ● The Federation Internationale de Gymnastique confirmed some of the details of the qualification program for the Paris 2024 Games. Of special note are changes in Artistic Gymnastics:
“The qualifying path has been simplified compared to that for the Tokyo 2020 Games. The main changes concern the number of gymnasts per team, with a return to a maximum of five gymnasts, who can take part in both the team and individual competitions.
“Also, while a country that qualifies for the team event may no longer win any additional individual spots above the five places it has already obtained, a country that has not qualified a team can earn up to three places for the individual competitions.”
There will be 192 places for Artistic gymnasts, 94 for Rhythmic and 32 for Trampoline.
Most of the qualifying places will come from the results of the World Championships in 2022 and 2023, with a small number of other places from continental events and some of the FIG World Cup series.
● Judo ● Sad news of the death of Cuban star Estela Rodriguez, who won Olympic silvers in the women’s +72 kg class in Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996. She was World Champion in the Heavyweight and Open-weight classes at the 1991 Pan American Games in Havana.
Just 54, Rodriguez became a coach after her competitive career ended; she passed away on Sunday (10th), reportedly from a heart attack.
● Sailing ● Shocking report of the death of Tunisian Tokyo Olympian sailor Eya Guezguez, 17, on Sunday during a training session.
Eya and her sister Sarra were sailing on Sunday and their boat overturned; Sarra survived, but Eya did not. The pair finished 21st in Tokyo in the 49er FX event at the Games. Per SailingScuttlebutt.com:
“With their coach alongside in a [Rigid Inflatable Boat] while training, he was able help free Sarra from the tangled rigging before locating Eya on whom he attempted CPR. The young Olympian was taken to hospital where she was pronounced dead after drowning.”
● Speed Skating ● Japanese superstar Nao Kodaira announced her forthcoming retirement on Tuesday, at age 35, closing a career that included three Olympic medals and four world titles.
She said, “The last race of my athletic career will be the 500 meters at the national single-distance championships in October this year,” which will be held in her home region of Nagano from 22-24 October.
She competed in the 2010-14-18-22 Winter Games, winning a gold in the 2018 PyeongChang 500 m and a silver in the 1,000 m; she had previously won a silver in 2010 in the Team Pursuit.
Kodaira won World Championships golds at 500 m in 2017 and 2020 and the World Sprint Championships in 2017 and 2019. She won a sensational 34 World Cup races during her career.
Her announcement follows the retirement of fellow Japanese star Nana Takagi, 29, who won the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Mass Start race and a gold on the Team Pursuit squad. She was a three-time World Champion in the Team Pursuit in 2015-19-20.
Her younger sister, Miho Takagi, 27, has said she will take some time off from competition, but did not say she was retiring, The younger Takagi owns seven Olympic medals, including golds in 2018 for the Team Pursuit and from Beijing in 2022 for the 1,000 m, and was the 2018 World Allround Champion.
≡ SCOREBOARD ≡
● Swimming ● The rush of national championships over the weekend saw a few more world-leading performances not shown in Sunday’s Highlights review:
● Men/200 m Free: 1:45.44, Lukas Martens (GER)
● Men/800 m Free: 7:46.01, Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA)
● Men/200 m Medley: 1:56.08, Duncan Scott (GBR)
● Women/100 m Fly: 56.70, Sarah Sjostrom (SWE)
Checking the world lists for 2022, just seven star swimmers currently account for the world leads in 19 of the 34 standard individual events:
● 3: Ryosuke Irie (JPN): 50-100-200 m Back
● 3: Lukas Martens (GER): 200-400-1,500 m Free
● 2: Duncan Scott (GBR): 200-400 m Medley
● 3: Katie Ledecky (USA): 200-800-1,500 m Free
● 3: Kaylee McKeown (AUS): 50-100-200 m Back
● 3: Sarah Sjostrom (SWE): 50 m Free, 50-100 m Fly
● 2: Summer McIntosh (CAN): 200 m Fly, 400 m Medley
McIntosh, just 15, could be the break-out star of the FINA World Championships coming in June in Budapest (HUN). The U.S. Trials for the 2022 Worlds will be held from 26-28 April in Greensboro, North Carolina.
≡ THE LAST WORD ≡
Beyond the highlighted Olympic medals and Olympic torches in the recently-closed Ingrid O’Neil Auction 91 were sales of some seemingly trivial items which brought significant money. Some of the highest interest was shown in official’s badges from the Games of the Xth Olympiad in Los Angeles in 1932.
This was long before today’s ubiquitous accreditation badges, so they were important for identification during the Games and highly collectable now:
● Sports Technical Official badge, one of 28 made, sold for $8,000.
● A rowing team badge, expected to bring $300, sold for $6,000.
● Xth Olympiad Official’s badge, one of 41, sold for $1,800.
● A “messenger” badge for the Riviera Country Club venue, sold for $1,700.
● Team Chief de Mission badge, no. 18 of 38, sold for $1,100.
Another stunner was a Berlin 1936 management badge for the Polo competition, expected to bring $1,500, but sold for $5,000. A Tokyo 1964 badge and ribbon for special delegates sold for $3,000. A news film crew credential badge (with ribbon) for the 1972 Winter Games in Sapporo brought $1,400.
Pretty good for items that were little more than a small piece of metal and some colored ribbon.
For our updated, 620-event International Sports Calendar for 2022 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!