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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. British Minister Frazer defines “neutrality” at PACE hearing
2. Shooting federation follows IOC lead on Russian re-entry
3. Paris 2024 and Atos worry about cyberthreats to Games
4. Airbnb offers 1,000 athlete travel grants
5. Tara Davis-Woodhall loses U.S. indoor LJ title for marijuana
During a two-hour committee hearing of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, British minister Lucy Frazer defined her country’s view of Russian and Belarusian neutrality, excluding not only security-service affiliates, but all athletes receiving funding from state sources or state-controlled companies. She called on the International Olympic Committee to share this view. The International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) announced it will follow the IOC’s recommendations on Russian and Belarusian re-entry, and waiting for guidance on what “neutrality” means. At the inauguration of a new data center, the Paris 2024 head of technology and the head of the Atos team for the Paris 2024 Games detailed their shared concerns over cyber attacks against the event, expected to increase dramatically from those seen for the Tokyo Games in 2021. IOC partner Airbnb announced a new round of travel grants – 1,000 of $2,000 each – to be made available on application from Olympic and Paralympic-candidate athletes with a deadline of 25 May. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced a one-month suspension of long-jump star Tara Davis-Woodhall for the use of marijuana, which wipes out her win at the U.S. Indoor Nationals in Albuquerque earlier this year.
● Panorama: Paris 2024 (more than 200,000 volunteer apps so far) = Los Angeles 2028 (Games Energy Council motion advanced) = On Screen (reasonable cable TV audience for early-morning Boston Marathon) = Aquatics (World Aquatics scholarship program opens) = Athletics (2: Herb Douglas, ‘48 LJ bronze winner, passes at 101; Prakel and Hiltz win USATF Road Mile titles) = Football (2: Crocker new USSF Sporting Director; FOX schedule for Women’s World Cup) = Swimming (new world leaders in eight events) ●
British Minister Frazer defines “neutrality” at PACE hearing
The Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) held a high-profile, two-hour hearing in Strasbourg (FRA) on Tuesday on the topic of “Excluding the athletes and officials of the Russian Federation and Belarus from participating in the international Olympic Movement.”
Remarks were made on tape, by video and in person, with British Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Lucy Frazer directly addressing not only the issue, but the International Olympic Committee’s recommendations of 28 March to allow re-entry of individual Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals. In pertinent part:
● “Any change in our position on the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes representing their states in international sport would be incompatible with that commitment and incompatible with our values as a country. …
“Russia has shown nothing but contempt for the values of the Olympics Movement and its flouting of the rules has extended beyond the current-front conflict as we saw with its involvement in doping programs.”
● “Our common goal is for sporting bodies to minimize the ability of Russia and Belarus to use sport for political gain. We recognize and want to maintain the autonomy of sport and we support those national and international sports bodies who’ve shown moral clarity and exceptional leadership in this area.”
● “This is not about punishing individual Russian or Belarusian athletes. These individuals have dedicated their lives to sport. What we stand against is athletes competing to represent the state of Russia and Belarus. There is a fundamental difference.”
● “The UK government has, from March 2022, been clear in our guidance to our own domestic sports bodies, that individual Russian and Belarusian athletes can compete as neutrals on UK soil. As long as they are really neutral, and not representing their states in any way.
“And we have been equally clear on what that neutrality looks like. These athletes must not, under any circumstances, express support for the war or the Russian and Belarusian regimes. This extends to athlete funding, to athletes funded by their states to compete in events, or who are in receipt of funding or sponsorship directly aligned with their states, such as from state-controlled companies like Gazprom, cannot be considered to be neutral. Athletes directly funded by their states to compete in sports competitions who would not be present at those events without that support are de facto representatives of those states. They are only there by virtue of being funded by, trained by, selected by, supported by, the Russian state.”
● “And in that sense, from the UK perspective, both ourselves and the International Olympic Committee … are both seeking the same outcome, ensuring that Russian and Belarusian states cannot be represented in international sport.”
She concluded that “[T]he IOC’s recommendations do not go far enough for us, and they leave far too many unanswered questions.”
The opening remarks by Tiny Kox (NED), the President of PACE, framed the issue this way:
“The Assembly noted that the International Olympic Committee and the sports movement at large currently seems to change the position it held since the 24th of February last year and to favor the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in international competitions while other stakeholders strongly objected to this. …
“However, taking a decision to allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the 2024 Paris Games in the context of the ongoing, large-scale war of aggression of Russia against Ukraine, is considered by many as such that it would not only go strongly against the mission of Olympism to promote peace, but instead widen divisions and serve the propaganda purposes of the aggressor.
“For many, the participation of Russian athletes, a considerable number of whom are members of the Russian military of security services, is totally unthinkable and unacceptable, given the tragic loss of thousands of Ukrainian lives, serious war crimes committed by the Russian army in Ukraine and the pain and the suffering which this aggression continues to cause today.”
The IOC and the international federations were strongly represented, by Armenian wrestler (and 2012 Olympic 74 kg silver medalist in Greco-Roman) Arsen Julfalakyan, Chair of the United World Wrestling Athletes Commission, and Namibian shooter Gaby Ahrens, Chair of the Association of National Olympic Committees Athletes Commission. In addition, Francesco Ricci Bitti (ITA), Chair of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations and European Olympic Committees Athletes Commission Chair (and 2008 Olympic discus champ) Gerd Kanter (EST) also appeared.
All supported the IOC’s recommendations, using much of the same language from the 28 March news conference (and subsequent news release) announcing the Executive Board action.
Shooting federation follows IOC lead on Russian re-entry
The International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) is the latest to fall in line with the IOC’s position on the re-entry of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competition. Tuesday’s announcement followed a 24 April meeting of the ISSF Executive Committee:
“First, and foremost the ExCo members reiterated their unlimited solidarity with the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian Shooting community, whose pain and suffering are beyond imagination. The ExCo members therefore, fully support all measures and sanctions imposed by the IOC against athletes and Officials from Russia and Belarus.
“At the same time, the ExCo supports the arguments mentioned by the IOC with respect to the proposed return of athletes, who are to no extend involved in the war.
“The ExCo agreed to create an Ad Hoc Commission to explore the timeline for the return of these athletes under strict conditions of eligibility.
“The ISSF will work in close collaboration with the IOC and ASOIF on drafting respective eligibility rules, defining the independent review process necessary to also ensure that only neutral athletes, who are not contracted to the Russian or Belarusian military or national security agencies may be considered.”
The ISSF position was not completely unexpected, given its heavy reliance on IOC funding from Olympic television rights sales. Further, it has joined several other federations in lining up behind whatever “rules” the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) umbrella group comes up with. ASOIF head Ricci Bitti said at the European Parliament hearing on Tuesday, “This has nothing to do with the Olympic Games. This is a sort of trial on the field of international competitions.”
Paris 2024 and Atos worry about cyberthreats to Games
French sprinter Bruno Marie-Rose, now 57, understands speed. He won an Olympic men’s 4×100 m bronze in Seoul in 1988, a European Championships 4×100 m gold in 1990 and a World Championships 4×100 m silver in 1991.
Now, as Chief Information and Technology Officer for the Paris 2024 Olympic organizing committee, he is trying to slow down the millions of hacking attacks made against its systems:
“My counterpart at the Winter Games in PyeongChang [in 2018] saw systems turn off a few hours before the start of the opening ceremony. I especially wouldn’t want that to happen in Paris.
“The Olympics are a target for geopolitical propaganda. The war in Ukraine is accompanied by a cyberwar. We particularly fear state attacks. The worst would be attacks that cause competitions to be interrupted or disrupted.”
The organizers are working with IOC partner Atos, whose Chief Information Officer Christophe Thivet (FRA) said:
“At the Tokyo Games, we had 450 million attacks and 4.4 billion threats, or 800 per second. But there was no impact on the Games. In the event of threats, we were able to block all flows before impact. …
“Some hackers officiate for fame, others for money, but what Paris 2024 fears the most are cyberattacks given on the orders of a state. If, for example, Russian and Belarusian athletes were not reinstated.”
He added that their preparations for 2024 are already underway and include simulations of attacks to test the resiliency and redundancy of the systems. A test center in Madrid (ESP) has already been opened for this purpose.
Airbnb offers 1,000 athlete travel grants
The IOC’s partner Airbnb announced a doubling of its $2,000 travel grants introduced in 2021:
“The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) have once again partnered with Airbnb to renew the Airbnb Athlete Travel Grants programme, providing athletes with the opportunity to apply for a USD 2,000 grant to cover their travel and accommodation expenses. This year, there are 1,000 grants available – double the number offered in previous years.”
This is $2 million worth of accommodations, with applications made through the IOC’s Athlete365 portal from 25 April to 25 May 2023. According to the announcement, “Airbnb has committed USD 8 million in funding to the programme, which will run for nine years.”
Both Olympic and Paralympic athletes can apply. The 2022 program offered 500 grants of $2,000 each, with 3,226 applications made from athletes in 196 countries.
This isn’t the direct athlete prize money that the IOC’s critics continuously call for, but it is pretty close in the accommodations area for training and competition travel, which is a significant burden.
Tara Davis-Woodhall loses U.S. indoor LJ title for marijuana
“USADA announced today that Tara Davis-Woodhall, of Fayetteville, Arkansas, an athlete in the sport of track and field, has accepted a one-month period of ineligibility for an anti-doping rule violation.
“Davis-Woodhall, 23, tested positive for 11-nor-9-carboxy-tetrahydrocannabinol (Carboxy-THC), a urinary metabolite of ?9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive constituent of cannabis, marijuana, and hashish, above the urinary Decision Limit of 180 ng/mL, as the result of a sample collected in-competition at the 2023 USATF Indoor Championships on February 17, 2023. …
“Davis-Woodhall’s period of ineligibility was reduced to one month because her use of cannabis occurred out-of-competition and was unrelated to sport performance, and because she successfully completed a substance of abuse treatment program regarding her use of cannabis.”
Davis-Woodhall, 23, won the U.S. Nationals with an indoor lifetime best of 6.99 m (22-11 1/4) in Albuquerque, New Mexico and ranked third in the world indoors in 2023, but her results from 17 February through 21 April have been nullified under the sanction.
Her disqualification from the U.S. Nationals elevates Rhesa Foster to national champ, with a jump of 6.63 m (21-9, a lifetime best), followed by Tiffany Flynn (6.67 m/21-6 3/4) and Quanesha Burks (6.46 m/21-2 1/2). Davis-Woodhall’s indoor best reverts to her 6.93 m (22-9) best from 2021.
A marijuana positive at the U.S. Olympic Trials, of course, disqualified Sha’Carri Richardson from the U.S. Olympic Team in the women’s 100 m for Tokyo in 2021. The World Anti-Doping Agency continues to study the status of marijuana as a prohibited substance, but for now, it is still a cause for suspension.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● The Paris 2024 organizers announced that more than 200,000 applications for volunteer positions have been received since the 22 March opening of the staffing portal.
The application period continues through 3 May. The volunteer target is 45,000; applicants will be informed of their status in the fourth quarter of 2023.
● Olympic Games 2028: Los Angeles ● A motion to form a “Games Energy Council” was passed, 3-0, with two absences, by the Los Angeles City Council Ad Hoc Committee on the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games, including:
“An important facet of the Games Agreement is the development of the Games Energy Council, which will bring together the City, LA28, and all other parties responsible for the delivery of power infrastructure and service to Games-related projects, venues, and events to facilitate decision-making and cooperation necessary to optimize and meet required levels of services, and develop plans to support the relevant elements of the Sustainability Plan, through the completion of the Games.”
The motion now goes to the City Council for approval.
● On Screen ● The ESPN national telecast of the Boston Marathon reached an average audience of 369,000 for its early-morning start. That’s a fairly good showing for a cable telecast, especially given the early hour in all time zones.
The USA-Mexico men’s football draw (1-1) in the first Allstate Continental Clasico last Wednesday at 10 p.m. Eastern time drew 437,000 on TBS.
● Aquatics ● World Aquatics announced its 2023-24 scholarship program designed to support 150 athletes for a year.
Launched in 2014, the new program includes 100 swimmers, 20 open-water swimmers, 20 divers and 10 from artistic swimming:
“Successful candidates will be placed at one of the five World Aquatics Training Centres for one or two years. In exceptional cases, an athlete may be offered a World Aquatics scholarship with an individual training option.”
Applications are due by 25 May 2023.
● Athletics ● Herb Douglas, reportedly the oldest living U.S. Olympic medalist, passed away at 101 years of age on Saturday, 22 April.
Douglas won an Olympic bronze in the London 1948 men’s long jump at 7.54 m (24-9) after reaching a lifetime best of 7.69 m (25-2 3/4) for second at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Born in 1922, Douglas was a University of Pittsburgh grad, he was the 1947 NCAA long jump runner-up and won three U.S. nationals titles: outdoors in 1945 and indoors in 1947 and 1948. He played football at Pitt and after earning a masters in education, joined the Pabst Brewing Company in sales, then moved in 1963 to join wine and spirits giant Scheiffelin & Co. (now Moet Hennessy USA) and rose to become a Vice President over the course of 30 years with the company.
He maintained a lifelong dedication to Pitt and became an important member of its Board of Trustees. During a 100th birthday celebration, the university announced that a new indoor track & field facility will be named for him.
At the USA Track & Field Road Mile Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, double U.S. indoor champion Sam Prakel (1,500 m and 3,000 m) sprinted to victory in the men’s division in 4:02, trailed closely by Casey Comber (4:03) and defending champion Vincent Ciattei (4:03).
U.S. indoor 1,500 m champ Nikki Hiltz won the women’s mile at the tape from the 2022 U.S. national 1,500 m winner, Sinclaire Johnson, with both timed in 4:28. Addison Wiley was third in 4:31.
● Football ● U.S. Soccer announced Welshman Matt Crocker as its new Sporting Director, responsible for all of the American national teams from youth through the elite level.
Crocker is 48 and will begin at the USSF on 2 August, while the FIFA Women’s World Cup is ongoing in Australia and New Zealand. He will immediately be tasked with hiring a head coach for the men’s National Team.
He has long experience in the game and comes from his second time with the English Premier League club Southampton and previously with the England Football Association, in charge of development from 2013-20. He has extended experience in player development as academy director for multiple clubs.
Fox Sports announced its television schedule for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, starting on 20 July in Australia and New Zealand, with 29 matches on the over-the-air FOX network and the remaining 35 on cable channel FS1.
There will be pre-game, post-game, between-games and end-of-day programming as was done with the FIFA World Cup from Qatar in 2022.
● Swimming ● Strong swimming in Germany, Hungary and Russia over the last 10 days, with world-leading times in six men’s events and two for women:
● Men/800 m Free: 7:42.14, Lukas Martens (GER)
● Men/1,500 m Free: 14:34.89, Florian Wellbrock (GER)
● Men/100 m Back: 52.54, Kliment Kolesnikov (RUS)
● Men/200 m Back: 1:55.50, Evgeny Rylov (RUS)
● Men/200 m Breast: 2:07.47, Kiril Prigoda (RUS)
● Men/200 m Fly: 1:52.58, Kristof Milak (HUN)
Martens and Wellbrock swam at the Berlin Open and Wellbrock’s 1,500 m win was a German national record and moved him to no. 4 on the all-time list.
The three Russian marks all came at the national championships in Kazan, while Milak’s mark came at the Hungarian nationals., and is the no. 15 performance all-time.
In addition to her world record of 2:17.55 in the women’s 200 m Breast, Russian Evgeniia Chikunova also took the world lead in the 100 m Breast, winning in 1:04.92, moving her to no. 7 all-time.
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