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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Bach rips governments, Russia and Friendship Games in one speech!
2. Federations panic over LA28 money split among new sports
3. CSUSOP poll shows support for LA28 Games, no idea about USOPC
4. Poll: Paris 2024 support in France at 65%, 56% in Paris region
5. Russian gymnasts to decide whether to apply as neutrals
● International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach of Germany urged the International Federations to stay unified behind the IOC’s recommendations for eligibility for Paris 2024 while backhanding Russian attempts to create a parallel sports structure, including multi-sport events before and after the 2024 Olympic Games.
● A meeting of the summer Olympic federations raised considerable concerns about the explosion of sports for 2028 in Los Angeles and the impact that it will have on their shares of the IOC’s television revenue.
● A national poll compiled for the Commission on the State of the U.S. Olympics and Paralympics found that sport is important to Americans, that the 2028 Olympics is a good thing and that few understand the role of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee as the coordinator of community and youth sport as well as the American Olympic and Paralympic teams.
● A poll in France showed a continuing decline in enthusiasm for the 2024 Paris Games, with national support now at 65% and at 56% in the Ile-de-France region which includes Paris. Some 56% of those polled in the Ile-de-France said they plan to leave the area during the Games and many hope to rent out their homes for high fees.
● Russian gymnastics officials said it will be up to individual athletes to decide if they want to apply to participate as neutrals in 2024, but the national coaches of the artistic and rhythmic teams are both against it.
● Panorama: SportAccord (Erdener appointed President) = Athletics (five finalists for women’s athlete of the year) = Basketball (U.S. national team creams Tennessee and Duke in exhibitions) = Modern Pentathlon (group named to figure out 2028 fencing format) = Wrestling (2024 qualifying tournaments to skip finals) ●
Bach rips governments, Russia and Friendship Games in one speech!
The three-day International Federation Forum taking place in Lausanne, Switzerland was opened by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (GER) on Monday, with a pointed address aimed mostly at Russia, but also at Western governments.
Bach’s themes were not new, but his comments were a bit more specific thanks to recent events:
● On the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee:
“[W]e have received questions from a number of you regarding the impact of the suspension of the Russian NOC on you. The Russian Olympic Committee had to be suspended by the IOC because it violated the territorial integrity of the NOC of Ukraine by including as its members sports organisations of regions of Ukraine.
“This is a blatant breach of the Olympic Charter. This decision is purely based on the actions of the ROC and does not imply that the IFs should automatically suspend their respective Russian member federation. It is up to each IF, on a case-by-case basis, to examine the situation in view of the IF statutes.”
● “The autonomy of sport – your autonomy as an International Sports Federation – is under threat. The actions of these divisive political forces would effectively mean that they take over your role as International Federations.
“Some want to decide which athletes can compete in which competitions.
“Others want to decide where your competitions can take place. Still others want to organise their own political sports events. Especially the latter would mean a government takeover of international sport. If they succeed with this, your role and the role of the Olympic Movement would become obsolete.”
● “For all these reasons, I call on all of you to stand against such politicised sport. None of us should participate in any way in such politically motivated sports events.”
The last comment was a direct swipe at Russia, where President Vladimir Putin has directed the construction of a parallel sports governing body to the IOC and the creation or expansion of multi-sport events organized along political lines. This includes the BRICS Games (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa), held in South Africa in October 2023 and to be held just prior to the 2024 Olympic Games in June next year in Kazan (RUS), and the “Friendship Games” planned in September in Russia and possibly also in Belarus.
Bach continued to trumpet his call for sport as a force for good in the world:
“The current geopolitical tensions are extremely complex. In such times, the unifying power of sport is more important than ever before. To be such a unifying power, it is essential that we all stand together.
“Today, millions of people around the globe are longing for such a unifying force that brings us all together in our so confrontational world. Our role is clear: to unite – and not to deepen divisions. Therefore, we carry an important responsibility – to stand together for the power of sport and to live up to our shared mission to make the world a better place through sport.”
Observed: Bach is quite right to be on offense here, as what he has called our “aggressively divisive” times are tearing societies apart everywhere. But it is also true that he has a tight line to walk because the athletes in every country in the world except one – the U.S. – are dependent on government support, whether direct or through their National Olympic Committee or national sports federations.
A litmus test of sorts is coming in Australia, which will host the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane, and where Australian Olympic Committee chief Matt Carroll said in March:
“Based on the federal government’s forward estimates, there is a $2 billion shortfall in direct investment in Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games sports in the 10 years leading to Brisbane 2032.” (A$2 billion = approx. $1.28 billion U.S.)
Bach’s training in the unity of the Olympic Movement came from the late Juan Antonio Samaranch (ESP), the IOC President from 1980-2001, who stressed this aspect relentlessly, both publicly and privately. Samaranch brought Bach in as a member of the first IOC Athletes Commission, in 1981 and was elected to the IOC in 1991, during Samaranch’s term.
However, the world Samaranch worked in was far different from Bach’s. The Cold War had dissolved and peace was breaking out. Now, the opposite has happened, with Russia invading Ukraine, and Hamas, the governing body in Gaza, invading Israel in October, with dangerous escalations possible all around them.
Bach, a lawyer by trade, points repeatedly to the Olympic Charter, whose second Fundamental Principle of Olympism states:
“The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”
As the National Olympic Committees in each country “have the exclusive authority for the representation of their respective countries at the Olympic Games,” the argument can be made that those countries which are not “promoting a peaceful society” should not be part of the Olympic Games.
The IOC has taken this step with the Russian Olympic Committee, but not because of its invasion of Ukraine, but the absorption of Ukrainian sports organizations in occupied territories, more or less like convicting infamous gangster Al Capone of tax evasion instead of the murders he organized. Is this why not a word has been spoken about the National Olympic Committee of Palestine?
Going one step further, because every country except the U.S. financially supports their National Olympic Committees (and the country’s athletes), should athletes who are financially supported by an aggressor country – Russia for example – be able to compete at the Paris 2024 Games?
This is the question that British Minister Lucy Frazer has asked repeatedly, but with no answer from the IOC. At least so far.
Federations panic over LA28 money split among new sports
The Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) held its final Council meeting of the year on Monday, also in Lausanne, and issued a remarkable summary which included:
“In October, the [IOC] Session approved five additional sports for the LA28 Olympic Games, which are baseball/softball, cricket, flag football, lacrosse and squash, implying record numbers of sports and athletes for this edition. The decision has raised several questions among ASOIF members, including, but not limited to the International Federation (IF) Olympic revenue share (as of LA28) and Games delivery. During its meeting, the Council agreed to raise these urgent matters with the IOC leadership.
“ASOIF President Francesco Ricci Bitti [ITA], who chaired the meeting, said: ‘Over the last years, the nature of the Olympic Programme has changed, making it more dynamic than ever. New principles, processes and frameworks are required to deal adequately with this evolution and important matters like IF revenue share, athlete quotas, Olympic qualification systems and Games optimisation. These are the issues that hugely impact IF operations and have far-reaching effects on the entire Olympic Movement.’”
The IOC provides a bulk sum to ASOIF which is distributed according to multiple criteria on the profile and impact of each sport involved. Some $520 million U.S. was split for the London 2012 Games, a huge increase from Beijing 2008 ($297 million). But the raise for Rio in 2016 was only to $540 million and remained the same for Tokyo 2020. Now, the federations are expecting another significant raise for Paris 2024 and beyond as NBC’s new television contract for 2022-32 has kicked in.
And as nearly all of the International Federation are dependent on Olympic revenue shares to stay solvent, the issue of potentially more federations to pay is a problem.
London 2012 had 26 sports participating, with 28 at Rio 2016 and 33 at Tokyo 2020; the Tokyo total included five added sports which did not receive television revenue shares. For Paris 2024, there will be 32 sports, of which four were added, and not eligible for TV shares. But for 2028, sport climbing, skateboarding and surfing were added to the permanent program, raising the total number of federations to receive TV shares to 31, with boxing still to be confirmed (so 30 right now). And will a change be made to provide some payments to the federations of the five added sports for 2028? It’s an important question for the IFs, and therefore for ASOIF.
And with the Olympic Charter target of 10,500 athletes, the potential of these added sports to reduce the number of athletes in each sport, especially the big ones such as athletics and swimming, is already causing consternation. The report given at the IOC Session indicated the additional sports would add 742 more athletes (plus coaches and support personnel).
The ASOIF Council also took note of the politically-inspired Games situation noted by Bach:
“The Council also took a clear position on the World Friendship Games and calls on ASOIF’s member federations to exercise great caution regarding their involvement with this initiative, which is not conducive to dialogue within the sports world during these challenging times.”
CSUSOP poll shows support for LA28 Games, no idea about USOPC
The Aspen Institute’s Project Play program posted a link to a detailed July poll compiled by Survey USA of 1,000 U.S. adults on behalf of the Commission on the State of the U.S. Olympics and Paralympics, asking about the state of sport in the U.S. and about the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
The overall takeaways from the 53-question survey are that sport is important in the U.S., but that Americans know very little about Olympic sports and how they are administered in the country. Some highlights:
● Asked whether sports was important in the U.S., 81% agreed vs. 6% who didn’t, with 13% not sure. However, only 34-38% reported that they or their children participated in youth or recreational sports. 43% reported not participating in any sports.
● A staggering 98% said it was important that “your child’s coaches and other sports staff are trained in safety practices and have undergone background checks.” And 87% said that athletes and staff safety was a priority.
● As to costs, 49% said they had struggled to afford their child’s participation (fees, equipment, uniforms), but 48% said they had not.
Multiple questions were asked about the Olympic and Paralympic Games in general and the Los Angeles 2028 Games in specific:
● An impressive 78% view the 2028 Games positively, with 4% against and 18% not sure. Asked for the reasons, 74% cited economic impact, but everything else drew only middling interest. Just 53% thought the Games would engender a positive view of the U.S.; 53% thought it would increase national pride and unity and only 49% said it would increase tourism.
Even those who liked the Games thought economic development projects related to the Games were hardly helpful: 59% said they were not. Almost 60% of those who were against the Games – 21 of 36 people – cited costs as a major reason for their disdain. Of that 36-person group, 75% were not concerned about “displacement of vulnerable populations,” an aspect constantly asserted by naysaying groups.
Over the preceding decade, 56% said their enthusiasm for the Olympics and Paralympics has stayed the same, with 27% saying it has increased and decreased for 14%.
The survey showed huge gaps in American understanding of how Olympic, Paralympic and youth sports are organized:
● Some 43% said they did not know what organization was charged by Congress to coordinate “amateur sports activity” in the U.S. The USOPC was named by just 21%, the President’s Council on Physical Fitness was cited by 16% and the NCAA by 9%.
Moreover, 70% said they had no idea that the USOPC and the U.S. National Governing Bodies impacted youth sports in the U.S. Only 20% said yes. But 81% said promoting and supporting youth sports in the U.S. was important.
● Accessibility to sport for underserved communities was important to 84% of those polled and the involvement of current and former athletes in decisions was supported by 78%.
And there is very little understanding of exactly what the USOPC and athletes are doing:
● The consensus of how much money the USOPC raises from corporate partners was $537 million annually; the report cited the 2021 total of $205 million. Respondents said athletes who win Olympic or Paralympic gold medals get $423,000; the USOPC’s Operation Gold pays $37,500.
There were also strong opinions on doping in sports, with 90% agreeing that doping should be prohibited and 69% supporting the work of the U.S. Center for SafeSport as at least somewhat effective. But:
● 52% thought that reforms undertaken in response to the Larry Nassar scandal need to go further, vs. 25-27% who think the reforms are good and about 25% who were not sure. And 87% want continued reforms to be implemented over time.
● There were 31% whose opinion of the USOPC has improved since the reforms, vs. 12% saying it’s worse now and 57% saying it’s the same or not sure.
Several questions asked about public funding of sport, with 52% saying that more money for youth and school sports was the best use; 14% said Olympic athletes and 7% said Paralympic athletes.
Raising money was another issue, with 17% suggesting more corporate sponsorships (the USOPC would be happy to hear any ideas), 16% for grants and subsidies and 11% for lottery funds. A tax on sports betting attracted 9% interest.
Near the end, a question on whether someone other than the USOPC should take over youth and community sports in the U.S. drew a near-majority of 49%, vs. 16% against and 35% who said it would make no difference or were not sure.
Observed: That the USOPC is a near-national secret is hardly a surprise, since it holds no national events, but there were encouraging confirmations in this poll on the importance of safety in sport and a positive view of the LA28 Games by 78-4%.
Possibly the most important finding was in question 52 on whether another organization besides the USOPC should be responsible for community and youth sport, with 49% support. The question will be who, how funded and how would such an entity govern intensely private-sector efforts such as Little League, AYSO and other youth programs.
The poll also did not touch directly on the role of schools and the existence – or lack thereof – of physical education programs which have been cut in many places for funding shortfall reasons. This is an area which the Aspen Institute has been working on and is trying to come up with policy options for future consideration by the U.S. Congress.
Good for the CSUSOP for commissioning this, providing a disciplined insight into an area which has been subject to speculation, but almost no hard data for decades.
Poll: Paris 2024 support in France at 65%, 56% in Paris region
The newest poll by the Odoxa survey group of opinions around the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris shows a dip in support, with a developing split between those interested in the Games and those who want to leave Paris during the event.
Taken over the weekend, with 1,207 polled in the Ile-de-France region – which includes Paris – and another 1,005 across the rest of France, the overarching like/dislike questions showed a continued flattening:
● 65% nationally were in favor of the Games, down from 76% in September 2021. Some 34% were against the Games and only 1% were undecided.
● Only 56% of the Ile-de-France respondents were in favor, with 44% against. This is down from 77% in favor in September 2021.
Asked about some of the main areas of organization, the national survey showed 71% in favor of the Opening Ceremonies on the Seine River, but 66% expressing concern about transportation, 62% about security and 55% worried that the organization of the Games will not be completed in time.
For those in the Ile-de-France, 81% were worried about transport, 73% about security and 71% about getting the event ready on time.
Within the Ile-de-France, a “love it or leave it” attitude was expressed: 14% expect to attend the Games, 32% wanted to enjoy the ambiance of having the Games in Paris and 52% said they wanted to leave town during the Games.
And for those leaving town, there was a great interest in renting their places out for bid returns: 15% of Ile-de-France respondents want to rent (25% of the Seine-Saint-Denis region at the center of the Games!) and preferably at 300% of the going rate today.
Russian gymnasts to decide whether to apply as neutrals
Vasily Titov, the President of the Russian Artistic Gymnastics Federation, said Monday that the decision to apply for neutral status to the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique will be up the athletes themselves. He told the Russian news agency TASS:
“I want to remind you of the history of the issue; the FIG executive committee decided to admit Russian and Belarusian athletes in a neutral status to international competitions from January 1, 2024.
“But at the same time, FIG took quite a long time to develop the criteria for determining neutrality, which we received in late last week. Now we are studying them carefully, they are very complex.
“The decision to participate in a neutral status will be made by the athletes themselves, who theoretically can meet the conditions of neutrality. At the same time, the position of each Russian federation on individual gymnastic disciplines will be important.
“Today I will not undertake to say whether we are able to fulfill the conditions that were outlined to us. They, I repeat, are very difficult. But now to say unequivocally that none of the Russian athletes will go anywhere, I think, is somewhat premature.”
Titov’s point about the Russian gymnastics system is not to be overlooked, as there are separate national federations for artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline and others. The head of the Russian rhythmic federation has been expressly against “neutral” athletes. So is the national artistic gymnastics coach, Valentina Rodionenko:
“We do not agree with any of the admission criteria that FIG has developed. Until the international federation makes changes to its document, we will not send athletes to the events. This is the decision of the national team’s coaching staff.
“We could not decide otherwise. We are offered to compete under some kind of blue flag. The International Federation in these criteria even exceeded the recommendations of the International Olympic Committee in terms of severity.”
The reported requirements for participation in gymnastics include the expected limitation to individual entries, competing without any national symbols. The key neutrality requirement, was reported as:
“Only those athletes who have not expressed support for the special operation in Ukraine (including those who have not expressed approval of Russia’s military actions on social networks through reposts or forwarded messages) and are not associated with the armed forces or national security agencies can be allowed to participate in competitions.”
Athletes will be required to apply for themselves and pay a fee, with a decision due from FIG within 30 days.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● SportAccord ● At the International Federation Forum in Lausanne, Dr. Ugur Erdener (TUR) was appointed as SportAccord President for four years, adding to his responsibilities as the President of World Archery, President of the National Olympic Committee of Turkey, IOC member and a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency Foundation Board.
He was appointed Monday, along with eight other members, which include American Beau Welling, the President of World Curling, and Russian Anna Arzhanova, head of the World Underwater Federation (CMAS), representing the Association of Recognized International Sports Federations.
SportAccord now sits in the position of the now-disbanded Global Assembly of International Sports Federations (GAISF), and will continue to administer GAISF programs, including the review and approval of new International Federations.
● Athletics ● World Athletics named its finalists for its Women’s World Athlete of the Year, with four world champs and the new marathon world-record holder:
● Tigist Assefa (ETH) ~ Marathon world-record setter in Berlin
● Femke Bol (NED) ~ Worlds 400 m hurdles gold medalist
● Shericka Jackson (JAM) ~ Worlds 200 m gold, 100 m silver
● Faith Kipyegon (KEN) ~ Worlds 1,500/5,000 m champ, three world records
● Yulimar Rojas (VEN) ~ World triple jump champion
The winner will be announced on 11 December.
● Basketball ● The U.S. women have won seven straight Olympic golds and are already qualified for Paris, and have started with exhibition games to gain cohesion, sailing past Tennessee, 95-59, on 5 November and 87-58 over Duke on Sunday.
Against the Vols in Knoxville, the U.S. team got out to a 23-15 lead at the quarter and 52-31 at halftime, with seven-of-12 from the three-point line. A 20-8 third quarter extended the lead, with six U.S. players scoring 10 or more, led by Betnijah Laney (14), Jackie Young (13) and Kahleah Copper (12).
Against Duke in Durham, Copper scored 15 points in the first half to lead the national team to a 46-27 lead at the break. The U.S. shot 50.8% from the field for the game and after a 19-18 edge in the third quarter, ran away in a 22-13 fourth for the 87-58 final.
Copper ended with 21 on 7-9 shooting, with Allisha Gray getting 16 and Dearica Hamby and Rhyne Howard getting 14 each. Center Brittney Griner, a two-time Olympic gold winner, played in both games, scoring 11 against the Vols.
A further selection of players will be made for Paris, with several stars not available for these games due to injuries. The American women will play next in February at an Olympic qualifying tournament as a further tune-up.
● Modern Pentathlon ● The sport survived and will be contested at the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. However, in addition to obstacle replacing riding, the fencing ranking round in which all competitors face each other, with significant scoring and the establishment of the order for the final-day bonus round, has been eliminated.
Now, the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) has created a 12-member panel to figure out how to create a system to replace the scoring program from the ranking round. The first meeting is scheduled for 21 November.
● Wrestling ● United World Wrestling announced that the four continental qualifiers for Paris 2024 will not have tournament winners, but will end after the semifinals, with the two finalists qualified for Paris and no further competition.
For the final, World Qualifier in May, the two semifinal winners will earn quota spots and the two bronze-medal winners will compete for the third quota spot. No gold-medal matches will be held. The five tournaments combined will confirm qualification of 198 quota positions for Paris.
For our updated, 850-event International Sports Calendar (no. 4) for 2023 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!