The latest news, notes and quotes from the worldwide Five-Ring Circus:
● Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● The question of whether foreign spectators will be allowed at the Tokyo Games may be decided tomorrow (20th).
A meeting is to be held with the Tokyo organizers, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Japanese national government, the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee on the issue. Reports are circulating widely that the decision has been made by the Japanese government to ban foreign spectators as a precaution against further spread of the coronavirus.
Said Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto: “When we think of the need to provide arrangements to accept (overseas spectators) and also of people who have been preparing public transport and places to stay, a fast decision is expected from us.
“Immigration (policy) is up to the government, but in the end it will be set based on discussion between the five parties and their approval.”
Another foot-in-mouth embarrassment has cost the Tokyo organizers their creative director. Kyodo News Service reported on Thursday (18th):
“Hiroshi Sasaki admitted in a statement in the early hours of Thursday that he proposed last year to a group of planning team members that celebrity Naomi Watanabe come down from the sky in a pig costume to play the role of an ‘Olympig’ during the Olympic opening ceremony.”
Sasaki, 66, took over the direction of the ceremonies after the Games were postponed, replacing actor Nomura Mansai. Sasaki had been the director of the highly-regarded Rio 2016 “handover” program which saw then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dressed as ‘Super Mario” and then the somber year-to-go ceremony at the new national stadium.
Whoever is selected to replace Sasaki will inherit enormous pressure to produce a quality program – in four months, on 23 July – that will appropriately celebrate the Games and the tumultuous path that Japan has taken through the pandemic.
Watanabe, 33, is well known in Japan as a comedian and now in fashion. Her agency released a statement which included, “In fact, I am happy with my figure. So, as usual, I would like to express myself as ‘Naomi Watanabe’ without being particular about being fat.”
It’s the second month in a row for a self-inflicted injury for Tokyo 2020, after former President Yoshiro Mori resigned in February following unkind comments about women serving on the board of the Japanese Olympic Committee.
● Games of the XXXIII Olympiad: Paris 2024 ● The Paris 2024 organizers announced on Wednesday (17th):
“The Paris 2024 Board of Directors has approved a climate strategy which commits Paris 2024 to organising the world’s first Olympic and Paralympic Games with a positive contribution to the climate. The strategy is based on three pillars: reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, support for projects with a positive contribution to climate, and mobilisation of stakeholders to maximise long-term positive impact.
“Paris 2024’s primary objective is to prevent and reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to the event. This will be achieved through: a cost-effective and compact venue concept (95% of venues are existing or temporary), the inclusion of low-carbon solutions for all activities within the venues, the use of renewable energy for all venues which will all be accessible by public transport, a sustainable catering plan, a responsible digital plan, the use of low-carbon temporary equipment, and a reliance on principles of the circular economy .
“In total, Paris 2024 will reduce emissions linked to the event by 50% when compared to previous editions of the Games.”
The announcement, of course, begs the question of what the emissions of prior Games actually and who calculated them and how. But of more interest was another announcement later in the statement:
“By 2022, Paris 2024 will create a custom ‘carbon footprint calculator’ for sporting events
which will be made available to the industry.”
As the home country for the 2015 “Paris Agreement” on climate, Paris 2024 must respect this program and “is committed to offsetting all emissions that cannot be prevented by supporting CO2 avoidance and capture projects.”
Whatever the sentiment, it will be fascinating to see how the organizing committee keeps track of, and publishes, its emissions statistics as a matter of transparency. If credibly done, it could be a pivot-point in the production of mega-events in the future … or a wasted opportunity.
● Games of the XXXIV Olympiad: Los Angeles 2028 ● On Wednesday (17th), the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved the Memorandum of Understanding adding the City to the California Olympic and Paralympic Public Safety Command.
This organization, including the California Office of Emergency Services and the LA28 organizing committee, will begin the security and safety planning for the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Additional local agencies will be added in time and the overall responsibility for security will shift to the U.S. government when the 2028 Games are recognized as a National Special Security Event.
● National Olympic Committees ● More investigations into abuse allegations are springing up in Great Britain, where British Judo acknowledged that it received an allegation of bullying this week:
“We are conducting a full independent investigation, in accordance with internal procedures, into the allegations made.
“British Judo will not be making any further comment at this time due to it being an ongoing process.”
According to a BBC story, “The national governing bodies of swimming, Para-archery, canoeing, cycling, bobsleigh and most recently gymnastics have all been rocked by bullying scandals in recent years.”
In Australia, coach Paul Gaudoin of the fourth-ranked women’s hockey team resigned with just four months to go to Tokyo. Per ABC News Australia:
“Hockey Australia (HA) made the bombshell announcement on Wednesday evening, saying Gaudoin had tendered his resignation ahead of the release of findings and recommendations of an independent review.
“The review was launched after explosive allegations of bullying, body shaming and homophobic behaviour within the Hockeyroos’ set-up emerged late last year, throwing the elite women’s hockey program into chaos.”
The review came out on Thursday and found “broadly found a dysfunctional culture within the program” that was “not conducive to athlete wellbeing or sustained on-field success.”
However, retired star defender Anna Flanagan told FoxSports Australia that Gaudoin was only the fall guy:
“He’s the face of it, but it’s a bigger issue to do with the management and a lot of that was directed at the high performance manager [Toni Cumpston] who resigned as a result of all of these allegations. But they’ve had the backing of the board and CEO. I think it’s a much broader and bigger issue.
“There’s been letters sent in 2018, there’s been complaints made since 2017, 2016, all the way to 2010, when the players went to the board about the coaching.
“It’s a much bigger issue – I feel for Gaudoin because he’s definitely been the fall guy in all of this and it’s not necessarily his fault.”
The report made 29 recommendations, but the full text was not made public.
● Athletics ● The Athletics Integrity Unit announced that Dilshod Nazarov, the Rio 2016 men’s hammer gold medalist, was found to be doping at the 2011 IAAF World Championships, where he finished 10th.
In specific, the re-test from the Daegu Worlds showed DHCMT (dehydrochloromethyltestosterone, commercially known as Turinabol), and his results from 29 August 2011 to 29 August 2013 were voided. He is further ineligible for two years from 24 September 2019, which includes this summer’s Tokyo Games.
The decision is appealable, but nullifies his 2013 Asian Games gold and fifth-place finish at the 2013 World Championships. Nazarov’s last competition was in July of 2019.
Nazarov, 38, is also the President of the Tajik Athletics Federation and World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe (GBR) said at yesterday’s news conference, “There should be an expectation that this particular individual should not be involved as president of their national federation.”
There is, of course, interest in what a re-test of his 2016 doping samples may turn up in a re-testing program.
● Cycling ● British Cycling is in a tizzy over a finding by the British Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service last Friday that Dr. Richard Freeman had secured testosterone (brand name Testogel) for the purpose of doping a rider.
Freeman has been part of the medical team for British Cycling and the dominant Team Sky road cycling squad from 2009-17. He admitted to 18 of the 22 charges presented during his hearing, but claimed he had never obtained drugs for the purpose of doping:
“I have never doped a rider in my life. I’m still to see any evidence of who this rider supposedly was. I accept there are people who don’t believe me. They will say I’ve lied and changed my story and can’t trust anything I say. I’ve admitted to those lies.
“I’m still shocked at this verdict. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but I’m not a doping doctor.”
The tribunal found Freeman liable on three of the four remaining charges, and on Friday, revoked his medical license. Among the findings: “The tribunal considered that Dr Freeman’s conduct surrounding the order of the Testogel amounted to a long and considered pattern of very serious dishonesty.”
The 56th Tirreno-Adriatico race finished on Tuesday as expected, with Slovenian star Tadej Pogacar claiming the overall victory, 1:03 ahead of Belgian Wout van Aert and 3:57 up on Spain’s Mikel Landa.
Pogacar claimed the race lead after the difficult fourth stage, with its uphill finish to the Prati di Tivo and was never headed. He expanded his lead on the final three stages from 35 seconds to 1:03 with a second-place finish in Stage 5, 25th in the mass-finish sixth stage and then fourth in the final-day Individual Time Trial.
Dutch star Mathieu van der Poel claimed his second win of the race on stage five, 10 seconds up on Pogacar and Dane Mads Wurtz Schmidt won the hilly sixth stage. Van Aert won the time trial – after winning the opening stage also – by six seconds over Swiss Stefan Kung.
This weekend’s action stays in Italy with the famed Milan-Sanremo for the men on Saturday and the women’s tour back in action for the Trofeo Alfredo Binda in Cittiglio.
● Football ● The U.S. men’s U-23 team scored a tight, 1-0 win over Costa Rica in its first game in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Guadalajara, Mexico.
A Jesus Ferreira goal in the 35th minute was enough for the Americans to post the win, with Ferreira hitting the post on a try in the second minute, but making up for it later in the half. U.S. keeper David Ochoa managed to hold the Ticos at bay for the entire 90 minutes, recording eight saves as the U.S. was outshot, 19-7!
Mexico swamped the Dominican Republic by 4-1 on Thursday thanks to three second-half goals by Sebastian Cordova.
On Sunday, the U.S. will face the Dominican Republic (7 p.m. Eastern on FS1 and TUDN) and Mexico will play Costa Rica. The final game in group play comes on Wednesday with the U.S. meeting Mexico at 9:30 p.m. Eastern, also on FS1 and TUDN). The top two in the group will advance to winner-goes-to-Tokyo semifinals.
The FIFA Council took another step in matching the men’s and women’s World Cup by authorizing the FIFA Congress to make the selection of future Women’s World Cup hosts.
The Council had been making the selections, including the decision to go to Australia and New Zealand for 2023. But the future events, beginning in 2027 – if the event is to be held ever four years as opposed to every two years as some are proposing – will be awarded by FIFA’s full membership.
The FIFA financial statements for 2020 were released, showing $266.5 million in revenue for the year vs. $1.045 billion in expenses for a loss of $778.0 million before some positive investment results that brought the actual loss to $683.0 million. This is in line with the expectations, as FIFA spent $470.6 million on development activities and another $270.5 million in Covid relief to its member federations.
FIFA ended the year with $1.881 billion in reserves.
The budget for 2022 – a FIFA men’s World Cup year – shows revenue of a staggering $4.666 billion, with $3.807 billion already contracted by TV rights and sponsorships as of the end of 2020. FIFA will spend $1.696 billion on the Qatar World Cup, primarily on prize money, operations and television production. The total budgeted expenses for 2022 are $3.138 billion, forecasting a surplus of $1.528 billion.
● Skiing ● The FIS Alpine World Cup Final in Lenzerheide (SUI) has been doomed so far due to bad weather. Heavy fog and snow canceled the Downhill and Super-G events, with the Giant Slalom and Slalom hopefully to be run this weekend.
The cancellations left Swiss Beat Feuz as the men’s seasonal champ in the Downhill, 486-418 over Austrian Matthias Mayer, and Austria’s Vincent Kriechmayr took the Super-G crown over Swiss Marco Odermatt, 401-318.
The women’s Downhill title went to Sofia Goggia of Italy by 480-410 over Swiss Corinne Suter and the Super-G winner is Lara Gut-Behrami (SUI: 525) over Federica Brignone (ITA: 323).
For our 649-event International Sports Calendar for 2021 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!