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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. More confusion on “rainbow” flags, jerseys and armbands at World Cup
2. Budweiser to ship unsold World Cup beer to winning country
3. IOC preference for 2030 Winter Games not expected until 2023
4. Another Tokyo 2020 scandal, this time on test events
5. USA Swimming tabs Finke, Ledecky as Athletes of the Year
The FIFA World Cup in Qatar ramped up in intensity on Tuesday with a brilliant, shocking, 2-1 win by Saudi Arabia over tournament heavyweight Argentina and a clinical, 4-1 win by France over Australia. Off the field, confusion and protests continued over rainbow flags, including one from a Brazilian state that has nothing to do with LGBTQ rights, associations with a Belgian dance festival and more. Meanwhile, a day after Budweiser’s beer sales in the World Cup stadiums was shut down, the company tweeted that it would sent the unsold beer to the tournament’s winning country! The Salt Lake City bid committee for the 2030 Olympic Winter Games met with the International Olympic Committee’s Future Host Commission via videolink and said it was ready to host in 2030 if the IOC wished to select it. However, the IOC’s site preference will now likely not be made until early 2023. Another scandal at the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee has popped up, this time over a rigged selection process for companies to produce the 26 test events held prior to the Games, involving contracts worth about $3.54 million in all. USA Swimming held its annual Golden Goggles Awards in New York, with 2022 World Champions Bobby Finke and Katie Ledecky winning the Athlete of the Year honors.
More confusion on “rainbow” flags, jerseys and armbands at World Cup
“This guy wearing a white dress grabbed the flag, threw it on the ground and started stomping on it. I took my phone to record a video but he grabbed it from my hand and said he would only give it back if I deleted the video.
“Then an officer arrived and tried to intervene. He grabbed the phone from the other guy and ordered me to delete the video.”
That from Brazilian journalist Victor Pereira, who was leaving the Argentina-Saudi Arabia match on Tuesday with a flag of the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, which includes a three-color rainbow over a yellow sun, a red cross at the bottom and a yellow star at the top. He was accosted by a Qatari fan, who apparently mistook it for a flag supporting LGBTQ rights – homosexuality is illegal in Qatar – with a security officer coming in quickly.
Pereira deleted the video from the phone as requested, since he needed it for his work, but uploaded a video on Twitter explaining the incident and posted a couple of videos recorded by others that showed part of the situation.
FIFA directed the Belgian team to modify their white (visitor) jerseys with the word “Love” stitched into the back of the collar.
The “Love” insignia is part of a collaboration from last June with the annual Tomorrowland electronic dance music festival held in Flanders and not related to the LGBTQ issues at the World Cup. However, in the FIFA Equipment Regulations, section 10.3.5 states that a “decorative item” on a uniform:
“[m]ust not … function as a trademark or include anything that gives the visual impression of a Manufacturer Identifier or Sponsor Advertising, or that creates an association with a Manufacturer, a sponsor, or other third party, or that constitutes a promotion or other commercial message of any kind”
and section 12.1 notes that
“Sponsor Advertising is not permitted on the Playing Kit or any other playing item of a Team representing a Member Association in a Competition or an International Friendly Match.”
The Belgians, one of the tournament favorites, plan to wear their red home jerseys for their three group-stage matches, but will cover the “Love” patch on their away jerseys if worn later in the tournament. Belgium opens with Canada on Wednesday.
Also on Tuesday, the German supermarket chain Rewe ended its sponsorship of the German Football Association (DFB), in view of its decision not to have team captain Manuel Neuer wear the “OneLove” armband under the threat of an immediate yellow card from FIFA.
Rewe chief executive Lionel Souque issuing a statement including, “We stand up for diversity, and football is also diversity. We live this position and we defend it. FIFA’s scandalous attitude is absolutely unacceptable.”
DFB spokesman Steffen Simon told the German newspaper Bild: “FIFA has forbidden us to make a sign for diversity and human rights. It has combined this with massive threats of sporting sanctions without specifying them. The DFB is checking whether this action by FIFA was lawful.”
Germany opens World Cup play against Japan on Wednesday.
The World Cup opener between Ecuador and Qatar, which aired on Sunday beginning at 11 a.m. Eastern time drew 3.071 million viewers on FS1, beginning a couple of hours ahead of NFL games at 1 p.m. Eastern The early window NFL games drew 15.26 million on CBS and 15.56 million on Fox.
Budweiser to ship unsold World Cup beer to winning country
Give Budweiser credit for staying on message, after its in-stadium sales efforts for its alcoholic beers were eliminated two days prior to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. On Saturday, a day before the tournament opened, the official Budweiser account on Twitter showed a warehouse stacked with pallets of Budweiser and stated:
“New Day, New Tweet. Winning Country gets the Buds. Who will get them?”
An AB InBev statement included:
“We will host the ultimate championship celebration for the winning country. Because, for the winning fans, they’ve taken the world. More details will be shared when we get closer to the finals.”
IOC preference for 2030 Winter Games not expected until 2023
The bid process for the Olympic Winter Games in 2030 continued on Tuesday, with the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games making a presentation via videolink to the IOC Future Host Commission for the Olympic Winter Games.
Bid chief executive Fraser Bullock was positive about the discussion:
“Our exchange with the Future Host Commission was very positive and encouraging. We feel the [International Olympic Committee] sees great value in our vision for the Games and we are optimistic about the Winter Games returning to America in either 2030 or 2034.
“With the previously announced delay in the  IOC Session until fall, we anticipate that a decision to invite Preferred Hosts into a Targeted Dialogue may not be made until sometime in early 2023.”
It was all-hands-on-deck for the presentation, with Bullock, Utah Governor Spencer Cox, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, bid committee Chair Catherine Raney Norman, bid Chief of Athlete Experience Lindsey Vonn, U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee Chair Susanne Lyons and USOPC chief executive Sarah Hirshland all speaking during the program.
Vonn touched on a sensitive point from Beijing 2022 and for the upcoming Milan Cortina 2026 Winter Games, noting that all of the athletes will live in a single Olympic Village and not be separated by far-away skiing venues.
And Bullock underscored that Salt Lake City (and the U.S.) has no hesitation in taking on the next available Games:
“These interactions with the Commission have been a valuable two-way feedback tool. While this process is focused on 2030, we made it clear we are available to host in either 2030 or 2034, whenever it best meets the needs of both the Olympic and Paralympic Movements, as well as our Utah host communities.”
Another Tokyo 2020 scandal, this time on test events
“Major Japanese advertising agency ADK Holdings Inc. has reported to the fair trade watchdog that it participated in bid rigging for the rights to organize test events for the Tokyo Olympics.”
That’s from the Kyodo News Agency, reporting on a new embarrassment from the Tokyo 2020 Games:
“ADK came forward after Tokyo prosecutors recently launched an investigation into bid-rigging allegations in connection with the test events, in addition to a scandal involving the alleged receipt by a former games organizing committee executive of nearly 200 million yen ($1.41 million) in bribes from five companies, including ADK.”
The Tokyo 2020 organizers adopted an unusual approach to its pre-Games test events, contracting them out to various companies, and then watching the contractors produce the competitions, rather than doing them directly.
ADK produced three of the reported 26 test events and was paid a combined total of about ¥104 million (about $736,580 U.S.):
● ¥28.90 million for wrestling (~$204,663 U.S.)
● ¥29.16 million for equestrian (~$206,504 U.S.)
● ¥45.79 million for gymnastics (~$324,273 U.S.)
Nine other companies, including ad giant Dentsu, also won contracts to produce test events, with the cumulative contracts totaling ¥500 million (~$3.54 million), and as small as ¥4 million and as high as ¥60 million.
A source told Kyodo that the 10 companies who produced test events also received contracts to manage – without competitive bidding – many of the competition venues during the Games.
ADK Holdings is already defending allegations of bribery for paying Tokyo 2020 Executive Board member Haruyuki Takahashi ¥47 million (about $332,908) over five years to ensure it was selected as a marketing agent for Tokyo 2020 sponsors.
USA Swimming tabs Finke, Ledecky as Athletes of the Year
At USA Swimming’s annual Golden Goggles Awards in New York on Monday, World Champions Bobby Finke and Katie Ledecky were named as Athletes of the Year and also for the men’s and women’s Race of the Year, both in the 800 m Freestyle.
Finke, the Tokyo Olympic Champion at 800 m and 1,500 m, came back to win the 2022 World Championships in the 800 m and a silver in the 1,500 m. His 7:39.36 time in the Worlds 800 m final was the fastest in the world for 2022, and he ranked third in the 1,500 m at 14:36.70.
Ledecky took Worlds golds in the 400-800-1,500 m Freestyles and on the 4×200 m relay, giving her an astonishing 19 World Championships golds (and three silvers) in her career. She swam the world’s fastest times in 2022 in her Worlds wins in the 800 m and 1,500 m; she ranked second at 400 m and third at 200 m. It’s Ledecky’s eighth selection in nine years as the federation’s female Athlete of the Year, and fifth award for Race of the Year.
Nor surprisingly, the Coach of the Year went to Florida’s Anthony Nesty, who mentors both Finke and Ledecky, and was the U.S. men’s head coach at the 2022 Worlds.
The Perseverance Award went to Leah Smith, who won a Worlds bronze in the women’s 400 m Free and a 4×200 Free Relay gold a year after missing the U.S. Olympic Team for Tokyo. The Breakout Performer of the Year was Leah Hayes, who the bronze in the women’s 200 m Medley at the Worlds, setting a World Junior Record.
The Impact Awards were presented to two former presidents of USA Swimming, Carol Zaleski and Bill Maxson.
≡ FIFA WORLD CUP ≡
● Group C: Saudi Arabia 2, Argentina 1 ● The first total shock of the tournament came on day three, as Saudi Arabia came from a goal behind to defeat one of the tournament favorites in Argentina, 2-1.
The Saudis entered their sixth World Cup with a 3-11-2 record (W-L-T), and had a rough first half, as Argentina’s superstar striker Lionel Messi scored on a penalty in the 10th minute and Argentina lost three goals – from Messi and two from Lautaro Martinez – on offsides calls later in the half.
But early in the second half, striker Saleh Al-Shehri tied the match in the 48th minute and midfielder Salem Al-Dawsari gave the Saudis a lead in the 53rd with a fabulous, right-footed laser from the left side of the penalty box to the right corner of the net that glanced off the hand of keeper Emiliano Martinez.
Argentina attacked again and again and had 69% of the possession in the game and a 15-3 edge in shots. But it was not enough. Saudi Arabia had beaten Morocco and Belgium in 1994 and Egypt in 2018 for its only prior World Cup wins, while two-time World Cup champions Argentina hadn’t lost an opening World Cup match since 1990 against Cameroon. The loss ended a 36-match unbeaten streak for Argentina.
Saudi Arabia declared a public holiday on Wednesday.
● Group C: Mexico 0, Poland 0 ● Both teams had chances, but neither could score and the game turned on a sensational save by iconic Mexican keeper Memo Ochoa on a penalty shot by Polish star Robert Lewandowski in the 56th minute.
The penalty call on a shirt-pull was confirmed on video review, but super-scorer Lewandowski sent a seeing-eye shot to his right that Ochoa punched out with authority. Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny was the hero in the 64th minute, saving a header by Henry Martin that perhaps Mexico’s best chance in the game.
Mexico had 61% of possession in the game and out-shot Poland by 11-6, but both teams will settle for a point after seeing Argentina stunned earlier in the day.
● Group D: Denmark 0, Tunisia 0 ● Another scoreless draw, but with a lot of tension as highly-regarded Denmark was unable to punch in a goal against an aggressive Tunisian defense.
The Danes controlled the ball (61% possession in the game), but couldn’t find the right combination, with Andreas Cornelius’s header flying wide of the goal in the 70th minute with an open net in front of him their best chance.
Tunisia ended up with 13 shots to 11 for Denmark, but the Danes had five shots on goal to just one for the defense-minded Tunisians. The draw ended a four-game losing streak by Tunisia to European teams in World Cup matches.
● Group D: France 4, Australia 1 ● This game started with another shock, as Australian midfielder Craig Goodwin smashed in a cross from the left-hand side of goal off a brilliant pass from midfielder Mathew Leckie in the ninth minute for a 1-0 lead!
But the French were hardly fazed, coming back with two goals in five minutes. Defender Theo Hernandez sent a perfect, left-footed ball to the head of midfielder Adrien Rabiot, who knocked it in in the 27th minute for the tie. In the 32nd, it was a flick-on from star midfielder Kylian Mbappe that gave Rabiot the ball in space on the left side, and ran toward the goal, then passed to a wide-open Olivier Giroud right in front of the goal and he scored easily for the 2-1 lead.
The half ended that way, with Australia’s Jackson Irvine just missing a header in stoppage time that would have tied it, but the ball rolled off the goalpost and out of bounds. The French had 11 shots to four for Australia in the half and 61% possession.
Relentless French pressure in the second half resulted in Mbappe finally got a goal in the 68th minute on a header off a curling cross from the right side into the box from midfielder Ousmane Dembele that caromed off the goalpost and into the net. The Mbappe returned the favor from the left side, sending a ball to the head of Giroud for a 4-1 lead in the 72nd. Over. The French ended with 68% of possession and out-shot Australia, 23-4.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Sullivan Award ● The Amateur Athletic Union’s Sullivan Award for the nation’s outstanding athlete is down to five finalists:
● Jocelyn Alo (softball), two-time USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year at Oklahoma;
● Jordan Burroughs (wrestling), six-time World Champion and 2012 Olympic Champion;
● Ivan Melendez (baseball), Howser Trophy and Golden Spikes Award winner at Texas;
● Carissa Moore (surfing), five-time women’s World Champion and Tokyo Olympic gold medalist;
● Bryce Young (football), Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama.
The winner will be announced in a ceremony on 8 December in Santa Monica, California.
● Figure Skating ● The NBC highlights presentation of the ISU Grand Prix event in Sapporo (JPN) on Sunday at 4 p.m. Eastern, in direct competition with the NFL, drew a respectable 719,000 viewers with a 0.48 rating.
This is right in line with the viewership of the other Grand Prix event highlight shows on NBC this season, with 760,000 for Skate American on 22 October; 747,000 for Skate Canada on 30 October and 713,000 on 13 November for the MK John Wilson Trophy in Sheffield (GBR).
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