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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Ohtani closes out U.S. as Japan sweeps to WBC title
2. Officials federation decries IBA blackball threats
3. Alberta’s Commonwealth Games bid “less risky” than Olympics
4. FIFA notes success of Social Media Protection Service at Qatar ‘22
5. FIFA Women’s World Cup hospitality packages on sale
Japan completed a perfect World Baseball Classic with timely hitting and excellent relief work to claim a 3-2 win over the U.S. in the championship game and win its third WBC title, with a 7-0 record. The head of the International Federation of Sports Officials decried a threat by the International Boxing Association that boxing referees and judges who participate in the International Olympic Committee’s boxing qualifier series for Paris 2024 may not be selected in future IBA events. In Canada, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said hosting a Commonwealth Games would be “less risky” than an Olympic Games, but wants to see the outcome of the bid group’s study plan in August before committing to seek the 2030 event. FIFA used the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to salute its Social Media Protection Service from the 2022 FIFA World on Qatar, which scanned more than 20 million messages and either intercepted or reported more than 300,000 tp help protect players on five major platforms. The hospitality program for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand has started, with a plethora of programs for single seats with food and drink service, group seating, seats with access to a lounge and private suites. But you have to get there on your own.
● Panorama: Paris 2024 (volunteer recruitment started) = College Sports (Study shows net gain in sports sponsored since pandemic started) = Bobsled & Skeleton (Vogt retires after U.S. Nationals win) = Cycling (Faulkner disqualified for using glucose monitor) = Fencing (Russia ready to host “returned” German World Cup) = Table Tennis (2: China sweeps Singapore Slam; U.S. star Jha suspended for a year) ●
Ohtani closes out U.S. as Japan sweeps to WBC title
Another memorable World Baseball Classic concluded before a packed house at LoanDepot Park in Miami, Florida with Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani striking out his Los Angeles Angels teammate, Mike Trout, to seal a 3-2 win that gave Japan its third Classic championship.
The game started with a 1-0 U.S. lead after shortstop Trea Turner hit his fifth home run of the tournament off of Japan’s starter Shota Imanaga, but the Japanese countered with a home run by third baseman Munetaka Murakami off starter Merrill Kelly and later a ground-out by center fielder Lars Nootbaar to go up, 2-1, at the end of two. The lead was 3-1 after first baseman Kazuma Okamoto homered off Kyle Freeland in the bottom of the fourth, while the U.S. bats were quiet.
The Americans had four hits in the first two innings off of Imanaga, but then Shosei Togo, Hiroto Takahashi, Hiromi Itoh and Taisei Ota held the U.S. scoreless on just three hits over the next five.
WBC veteran Yu Darvish came in to pitch the eighth for Japan, and designated hitter Kyle Schwarber hammered foul after foul on inside pitches, then slammed a home run to the upper deck in center field on a 2-2 splitter to close to 3-2. U.S. relievers got through their fourth straight scoreless inning in the bottom of the eighth, then Ohtani came in to pitch the ninth to try and close it out. After a walk, he got right fielder Mookie Betts to hit into a double play and struck out Trout on a 3-2 sweeping curve.
Samurai Japan – as the national team is known – was the best in the world again.
The final was set up by a spectacular semifinal between Mexico and Japan that ended with a walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth.
Neither team could score early; Patrick Sandoval shut out Japan through 4 1/3 innings, while Roki Sasaki sailed through the first 4 2/3 innings, then gave up two singles and three-run home run by second baseman Luis Urias that pegged Mexico to a 3-0 lead.
Japan got two on in the fourth, and loaded the bases in the fifth and sixth, but couldn’t score. In the seventh, a single and a walk preceded a right-field blast by left fielder Masataka Yoshida that tied the game off of reliever JoJo Romero. Mexico fought right back, with a double from right fielder Alex Verdugo and third baseman Isaac Paredes’ single for a 5-3 lead in the top of the eighth, but first baseman Joey Meneses was thrown out at the plate by Yoshida to save a run.
Japan scratched back for a run in the bottom of the eighth and came on in the bottom of the ninth down 5-4. Designated hitter Ohtani doubled off of new reliever Giovanny Gallegos, Yoshida walked and then Murakami sent a long double to the wall in center that scored two and pushed Japan into the championship game, 6-5. Wow.
Japan finished with an 7-0 record in the tournament, only the second team to win all of its games, after the Dominican Republic (7-0) dominated in 2013. The win gives Japan three of the five World Baseball Classic titles (also 2006-09); the U.S. is now 1-1 in championship games after winning in 2017.
It was a special tournament and shows the promise of international play between national teams. But you likely won’t hear much about it again until the 2026 tournament gets close.
Officials federation decries IBA blackball threats
Boxing officials are now between a rock and a hard place, as noted by Patrick Vajda (FRA), head of the International Federation of Sport Officials (IFSO). As reported by FrancsJeux.com, he defended referees and judges against a new action by the International Boxing Association, which has threatened sanctions against any officials who participate at any of the International Olympic Committee’s Olympic qualification tournaments. Wrote Vajda:
“Once again, we are attacking those who have no way to defend themselves, and who today find themselves in a very uncomfortable position, even impossible to manage …
“The World Championships of women’s boxing … will not count for the Olympic qualification, not more than the other events organized by the IBA until the Paris 2024 Games.
“But nobody cares about the judges and referees who also have to train and practice refereeing at the highest level. Today, severe threats are hanging over them. IFSO condemns this political decision of the IBA which unjustly punishes international referees and their possibility to develop in their officiating career.“
InsideTheGames.biz posted a copy of an electronic mail message from IBA Development Director Chris Roberts (GBR), which referenced an invitation from the IOC’s Paris 2024 Boxing Unit that included:
“Considering that the International Tournaments announced by the Paris 2024 Boxing Unit are not approved by IBA … participation in these tournaments is forbidden, unless otherwise approved by the IBA Board of Directors. In order to grant approval, the IOC, must, and as a matter of courtesy, request assistance and support from IBA to approach any [Technical Official] in the first instance. Disappointingly, this has not happened to date. …
“The lack of respect of the general principles in terms of loyalty towards IBA … will be taken into account when IBA enforce its right to appoint or do not appoint the Competition Officials for further IBA Competitions.”
The IOC Executive Board will meet on 28-30 March and may have more to say about this.
Alberta’s Commonwealth Games bid “less risky” than Olympics
“I felt like we needed to at least see what the pitch was and what the plan is. That’s part of the reason we’ve agreed to at least go to this next step and see what kind of package they can put together.”
That’s Province of Alberta Premier Danielle Smith telling a Saturday radio audience that a bid for the 2030 Commonwealth Games, to be spread across multiple venues is worth exploring. She added:
“The Commonwealth is a little bit different because it’s summer games and is less costly, less risky, I think. But it’s also going across more jurisdictions.”
As to a referendum on bidding, Smith said, “We’ll have a full public conversation. I don’t think the report is going to be available or the final decision needs to be made until August. So, there will still be lots of opportunity to have input.”
The initial concept is for the events to be held in Calgary (site of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games) and Edmonton (1978 Commonwealth Games host) with the Tsuut’ina Nation also hosting. Smith noted that the Enoch Cree Nation and Canmore could also be included.
The question, of course, is costs. The Commonwealth Games is an 11-day event, with the Alberta bid expecting to hold it in August, with about 4,500 athletes. The current format allows the bidder to specify which sports are included, as only athletics and swimming are required. A total of C$4 million (~$2.92 million U.S.) has been provided by the cities and the province for the study effort.
The 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham (ENG) had 20 sports and 280 events. The 2026 Commonwealth Games in Victoria (AUS) has 21 sports on the program and is expecting 75 delegations to attend.
The British government’s short-term assessment of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, made by the KPMG accounting firm, showed:
“In net terms, taking account of expenditure and resultant economic activity which would have been incurred anyway had the Games events not taken place in the West Midlands, this equates to a net [Gross Value Added] impact of:
“– at least £200.9 million of net GVA in Birmingham;
“– approximately £396.9 million of net GVA in the West Midlands (including Birmingham);
“– approximately £764.7 million of net GVA to the UK economy (including the West Midlands and Birmingham).” (£1 = $1.22 U.S.)
FIFA notes success of Social Media Protection Service at Qatar ‘22
More details are coming on the impact of the “Social Media Protection Service” (SMPS) at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, offered by FIFA in coordination with the player representative body FIFPro:
“During last year’s FIFA World Cup, the service scanned more than 20 million comments, replies and mentions across five major platforms (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube). After two stages of review – by both artificial intelligence (AI) and humans – 19,636 posts were verified as abusive and were reported direct to the operator of the platform in question together with a request for further action, with a large number removed as a direct result of being flagged by FIFA.
“Additionally, all participating teams and players were offered access to a tool which allowed them to automatically and immediately moderate abusive and offensive replies, with 286,895 comments being hidden before the recipient and their followers could see their contents.”
The same service is being offered to players and teams for the forthcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 in Australia and New Zealand beginning in June.
In a Tuesday post, FIFA shared videos urging support for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, 75 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
FIFA Women’s World Cup hospitality packages on sale
The hospitality menu is out for this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, with a variety of offers for individuals and groups:
● Match Place: a single seat at a package of matches with in-seat food and drink service; a package of one semifinal and the final starts at A$955 ($637 U.S.). A pack of four play-off round matches at Stadium Australia (including the final) is A$1,573 ($1,049 U.S.).
● Match Place Box: a block of seats – as few as six, but up to 15 – grouped together, with in-seat food and drink service, from A$1,582 ($1,049 U.S.)and up. A 12-seat block for the USA-Vietnam match on 22 July goes for A$3,861 ($2,576 U.S.).
● Match Club: a single ticket, with access to food service in a reserved lounge, with beers, wines and soft drinks before, during and after matches, plus a commemorative gift! Single match tickets start from A$327 ($218 U.S.) and you can buy tickets for all games at a specific venue, for a specific team or a final-round series – one semi and the final – starting at A$1,327 ($885 U.S.).
● Match Suite: a private suite, with dining included, for suites holding 8-20 people, offered by venue. The number of games varies; a five-match, group-stage buy at the Sydney Football Stadium costs A$61,364 ($40,941 U.S.). An eight-seat suite in Hamilton (NZL) for five group matches goes for A$20,957 ($13,982 U.S.).
A 20-seat package at Stadium Australia for a group match and each playoff round costs A$82,727 ($55,194 U.S.) , but the priciest is for a 20-seat suite at Eden Park in Auckland (NZL) goes for A$123,304 ($82,267 U.S.) or A$146,087 ($97,467 U.S.).
There are lots of other permutations, but you get the idea. It’s first-come, first-served, but no travel or accommodations are included. The program is being offered by Swiss-based MATCH Hospitality.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● The application process for volunteering at the Paris 2024 Games opens on Tuesday (22nd), in a drive to recruit and ultimately train and deliver 45,000 individuals to help stage the event. The requirements:
“The Paris 2024 volunteer programme is open to all, both in France and internationally, and there are only three conditions to apply: applicants must be over 18 years old on 1 January 2024, speak at least French or English, and be available for at least 10 days during the Olympic and/or the Paralympic Games.”
The application period will close on 3 May and the process is inclusive of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Applicants will learn whether they have been chosen by the end of the year.
● College Sports ● St. Francis College of Brooklyn, New York, announced Monday that it was ending its intercollegiate athletic program at the end of the 2023 spring season, due to “increased operating expenses, flattening revenue streams, and plateauing enrollment in part due to a shrinking pool of high school graduates in the aftermath of the pandemic.”
The Terriers’ basketball program dates back to 1896 and the teams competed in the Division I Northeast Conference, which includes Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey.
They are the exception, not the rule. A study by longtime sports management professor and now Baldwin-Wallace Dean of the College of Education and Health Sciences, Steve Dittmore, showed that coming out of the pandemic that began in 2020:
● NCAA Division I: 57 sports have been added, 71 have been dropped for a net of -14 (not counting 42 sports that were dropped and reinstated!).
● NCAA Division II: 195 sports added, 101 dropped (+94), with 53 of the drops due to closure of athletic programs (or the entire school!).
● NCAA Division III: 220 sports added, 107 dropped (+103), with 105 drops due to closure.
● NAIA: 170 sports added, 94 dropped (+76), with 61 drops due to closure.
Across all four levels, there were 259 net program adds. More sports, not less. Dittmore’s analysis indicates that while the “Power 5″ conference schools have little to no interest in new sports, there are good reasons for smaller schools to do so:
“[T]he overwhelming majority of these additions are at what could be considered enrollment-driven institutions. It should be apparent by now to all higher education administrators that many high school students want to continue their athletic identity in college. Sponsoring sports teams can be a vehicle to sustain enrollment. Administrators at enrollment-driven institutions are acutely aware of the impending ‘enrollment cliff.’ If adding sports can help keep an institution afloat, it might be worth doing.”
● Bobsled & Skeleton ● The USA Bobsled & Skeleton National Championships were held last weekend in Lake Placid, New York, with a walk-off victory for Nicole Vogt.
Now 33, Vogt teamed with Emily Renna to win the Two-Woman race in 1:56.00 (two runs), then announced she was retiring: “Wrapping up my career on home ice as National Champions with Emily was really special. It’s been an honor to represent Team USA and USABS for the past 12 years.” She competed for the U.S. in two World Championships, in 2019 and 2023, finishing fourth in the Team Relay in 2019.
Riley Compton and Macy Tarlton finished second (1:56.97) and four months after giving birth to second son Noah, four-time World Champion Elana Meyers Taylor (now 38) teamed with Amanda Fay to finish fifth (1:57.66). Lauren Brzozowski won the women’s Monobob title in 2:03.70.
The Two-Man winners were Geoffrey Gadbois and Paul Rabin (1:54.39) and Frankie Del Duca drove the winning Four-Man sled, finishing in 1:54.29.
Austin Florian won the men’s Skeleton title (3:38.47), while Sara Roderick won the women’s crown in 3:44.40 for four runs.
● Cycling ● American Kristin Faulkner was disqualified after an impressive third-place finish in the UCI Women’s World Tour race, the Strade Bianche in Italy on 3 March for wearing a continuous glucose monitor (CGM).
You see these kinds of devices advertised on television for use by diabetics, but they are now making their way into sports use as a way to monitor nutrition status. Faulkner was careful not to use any data from the device during the race, but she was disqualified anyway; she noted later:
“I have never used glucose data in competition, which I provided ample evidence of to the UCI. I complied with all the UCI requests and sent them an honest, detailed explanation with evidence that no race data was ever transmitted during or after the race.
“I was under the impression that I could race with my device if it did not record any data, because there was no performance advantage whatsoever. The UCI holds the position that wearing a non-connected patch itself – even if there is no transmission of data and no performance advantage – is enough to disqualify me.”
The maker of the device that Faulkner used, Supersapiens, does not sponsor her and offered a statement defending its use, including:
“We request that the UCI start to see CGMs and Supersapiens as a tool for athletes to protect their bodies, not as some sort of performance enhancement device. This isn’t about going faster. This is about health.”
● Fencing ● The German Fencing Federation has “returned” the FIE women’s Foil World Cup scheduled to be held 5-7 May in Tauberbischofsheim due to the FIE Congress decision to readmit Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals (subject to future decisions of the IOC).
Not surprisingly, the Russians are ready to pick up the slack, with Dmitry Svishchev, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Physical Culture and Sports, telling the Russian news agency TASS:
“We can host the World Cup stage. We have all the necessary opportunities and experience. Moreover, our athletes will be allowed to compete in international competitions. Therefore, I see no obstacles for us to host these competitions.”
Thus, a new test for the FIE leadership. The FIE’s elected President, Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, suspended himself from his office as he defends himself against sanctions from the European Union and elsewhere. Emmanuel Katsiadakis (GRE) has been serving as Interim FIE President.
● Table Tennis ● The International Table Tennis Federation has been reorganizing its commercial stance, with its Singapore Smash event one of the year’s biggest – with a $2 million prize purse – and now completed, with China winning all five events and taking the runner-up spot in three!
All four singles finalists were from China. In the men’s Singles final, 2021 World Champion Zhendong Fan defeated two-time Olympic champ, Long Ma, 4-1, and Tokyo Olympic runner-up Yingsha Sun crushed Tianyi Qian, also by 4-1.
In the men’s Doubles, China’s 2019 World Doubles Champion Chuqin Wang and Fan won over Koreans Woo-jin Jang and Jong-hoon Lim, 3-1, and the all-China women’s final saw two-time World Champions Sun and Manyu Wang edge Meng Chen and Yidi Wang, 3-2.
The Mixed Doubles was a third gold for Sun, with Chuqin Wang taking a second gold in a 3-1 victory over Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto and Hina Hayata.
Four-time U.S. national men’s champion Kanak Jha lost his arbitration case with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and was suspended for one year due to “whereabouts” failures:
“Within a 12-month period, Jha accrued three Whereabouts Failures: the first on March 18, 2022, the second on June 2, 2022, and the third on September 4, 2022.”
His sanction was deemed to start on 1 December 2022, the first day of his provisional suspension after missing three test dates.
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