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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Civil War I: New World Boxing federation breaks away from IBA
2. Civil War II: Modern pentathletes and UIPM continue tug-of-words
3. Civil War III: Ukrainian tennis players slam WTA’s Simon
4. WTA folds, will hold tournaments in China again
5. French Olympics minister says Paris 2024 budget steady
Internal dissension struck boxing on Thursday as a new International Federation – World Boxing – was formed to challenge the International Boxing Association for control of the sport within the Olympic Movement. The IBA announced a sanctions process to expel the breakaway federations, which includes USA Boxing. In modern pentathlon, UIPM President Klaus Schormann (GER) cited improved harmony within the federation, but a Pentathlon United poll continues to show wide dissatisfaction. And the re-admission of boxing, pentathlon and weightlifting to the LA28 program may also depend on what added sports the Los Angeles organizers are interested in. The Ukrainian players in the Women’s Tennis Association sent an angry message to the WTA leadership, demanding that any Russian or Belarusian athletes playing on the tour renounce the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, the WTA announced it would resume staging tournaments in China as its protests of the treatment of former Chinese doubles star Peng Shuai got nowhere. In Paris, the French Sports and Olympics minister said in a radio interview that the Paris 2024 organizing committee and public construction budgets are on track.
● World Championship: Ice hockey (Canada and U.S. win in women’s quarters) ●
● Panorama: Russia (3: Triathlon OKs Russian re-entry; Int’l Paralympic Committee will make up its own mind; elected FIE chief Usmanov sanctioned by U.S. and Britain) = Ski Mountaineering (Bonnet and Harrop win in World Cup finale) = Swimming (Armstrong and Marchand get world leads at Tyr Pro Swim) ●
Civil War I: New World Boxing federation breaks away from IBA
It’s on now. As described by GB Boxing, the national federation for the sport in Great Britain:
“GB Boxing has welcomed the creation of a new international federation, World Boxing, which aims to ensure that boxing remains at the heart of the Olympic movement.
“It has been created in response to the persistent issues surrounding Olympic-style boxing’s existing international governing body, whose failure to address the IOC’s longstanding concerns over sporting integrity, governance, transparency and financial management has placed boxing’s future as an Olympic sport in doubt.
“World Boxing will seek recognition from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and plans to work constructively and collaboratively to develop a pathway that will preserve boxing’s ongoing place on the Olympic competition programme.”
The new federation includes representatives from the same countries which have been at odds with the International Boxing Association and its Russian President, Umar Kremlev. The next steps:
“World Boxing will hold its inaugural Congress in November 2023. In the period between the launch of World Boxing and the inaugural Congress it will be led by an interim Executive Board made-up of representatives from boxing organisations in Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Sweden and the USA. It will be overseen on a day-to-day basis by Interim Secretary General, Simon Toulson [GBR], who has extensive experience in international sport having previously led the International Canoe Federation (ICF) and the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF).”
The new federation is based in Switzerland and unveiled a Web site heavy with governance documents and procedures and is inviting member federations to apply, with the first members to be announced in May.
This success or failure of this effort to displace the International Boxing Association as the international governing body of boxing with regard to the Olympic Games will, inevitably be up to the International Olympic Committee.
Withdrawal of recognition of an existing International Federation can only be done by the IOC Session, which will meet in October in Mumbai (IND).
The IBA, of course, issued a furious statement later in the day, which included the expected sanctions procedures:
“As there is no other reason of establishing a rogue organization, other than to attempt to destroy the integrity of the International Boxing Association[, the] IBA strongly condemns the efforts of individuals to damage the significant strides taken by the IBA over last years to secure boxers’ the best future possible. Ambitions of individuals will never serve as a solid foundation for a successful organisation nor the destructive motives that have led to the creation of this rogue organization.
“Consequences for the following breaches of the IBA Constitution, IBA Membership Policy, IBA Disciplinary and Ethics Code, and Technical and Competition Rules can be found below:
● “Participation in another international boxing association will lead to the exclusion of the National Federation concerned from the IBA membership.
● “Officials of the National Federation joining another international boxing association will be declared non-eligible by the IBA.
● “Officials, Confederations, or National Federations who join another international boxing association will be sanctioned by the [Boxing Independent Integrity Unit] Tribunal.
● “National Federations, their teams, individual Boxers or the Competition Officials participating in the competitions of another international boxing association will be sanctioned by the BIIU Tribunal.”
Just a few hours earlier, the IBA slapped the IOC in the face, posting a statement which demanded that the IOC revoke Paris 2024 qualifying status from the upcoming European Games in Poland in view of the refusal to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate.
The IOC chose this competition as the first European qualifier, while the IBA has adopted rules that allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete without any restrictions at all, far apart from the IOC’s new recommendations requiring neutrality.
The IOC may also announce at its Executive Board meeting in June whether boxing will be part of the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic program, along with weightlifting and modern pentathlon.
Civil War II: Modern pentathletes and UIPM continue tug-of-words
In an interview with Reuters, Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne President Klaus Schormann (GER) proclaimed that the removal of riding and replacement with obstacle-course racing will assure the sport’s future on the Olympic program for 2028:
“Thanks to the global popularity of shows like SASUKE and Ninja Warrior, we’re giving this consumer group a new reason to engage with the Games while providing networks with a broadcast-friendly format that works well for commercial partners.”
He also said that the divisions within the sport were healing nicely:
“We’re constantly in touch with the athlete community, with the UIPM Athletes Committee involved in all meetings and we talk to athletes on the ground in every competition.
“I can’t summarise the view of every athlete but I feel strongly there’s more harmony now … and that’s because our union has done so much in the past year to answer the concerns of anybody who had doubts about the path we must take.”
In response, the athlete activist group Pentathlon United conducted a poll from 5-12 April, asking whether they thought the sport would be included at LA28 and whether the current UIPM leadership “are the right people to safeguard the sport for the future.”
There were 198 replies from 18 nations, self-identified as athletes (58.1%), coaches or officials (14.1%) and parents or fans (27.8%). Of the athlete and coach respondents, 70.3% felt it was unlikely that the sport would be re-admitted for 2028 (74.2% overall), and 87.4% had little or no confidence in the current UIPM leadership (89.4% overall).
That’s not a big sample size, but it’s worth remembering that the 115 or so athletes who replied is more than the total quota for an Olympic competition of 72!
Former British pentathlete Olympic Kate Allenby, the Sydney 2000 bronze medalist, explained in an online interview that the Pentathlon United group was formed to give those athletes who were not being listened to a voice:
“Pentathlon United was born out of a lack of representation of the athletes by official athlete bodies. But we don’t have a seat at the table, and we are a vehicle to give a voice to the athletes that feel they can’t speak. …
“The athletes within pentathlon, we know, have been shut down, and so they are not allowed to use their voice. They’re sanctioned, or there’s the threat of sanction, so Pentathlon United is a really important voice because we can speak on their behalf. We have athletes contacting us all the time [about this].”
She further explained that the athlete resistance to removing riding wasn’t simply a reaction to the infamous horse-punching incident at the Tokyo Games, where the horse Saint Boy refused to jump with German pentathlete Annika Schleu aboard and was hit by Schleu’s coach. It had a much longer build-up:
“I think, if you listened to what the athletes wanted, they felt that there was – over the last 20 years – the riding event has been dumbed down and dumbed down and dumbed down, until you have the disaster that was in Tokyo. They feel that the riding hasn’t been addressed, there hasn’t been an attempt at addressing the issues that come through the riding phase – the horse welfare, the athlete safety – and they wanted an effort put in on that side.
“And the reforms that Pentathlon United pushed out are the reforms that the athletes want.”
And as for the UIPM’s insistence that horses cannot be found for the sport, she observed, “They’re not embedded in the [equestrian] community, so they can’t find the horses. … The equine welfare standards in our sport, compared to the FEI, are two different galaxies apart.”
The IOC Executive Board will likely announce in June its recommendation for whether the sport will be included in Los Angeles in 2028. Allenby considered the impact of both options:
“If pentathlon gets in, what does ‘getting in’ mean? Is it secure for LA28, is it secure for Brisbane? What is the security the IOC gives it in the first instance? So that’s a question I’m going to bat straight back.
“If it’s in, then it needs to have ticked all the IOC criteria, to show reduction in cost and complexity, to show accessibility, universality, and those numbers need to be demonstrated by UIPM, and if they’ve done that, then brilliant. … It will be a different sport, it will be different athletes coming into the sport.”
And if modern pentathlon is out of the 2028 Games?
“If the sport’s out, then the big question is – you throw the question back out there – why did you get rid of riding? And what’s happening to the sport now, what’s happening to the leadership, because that will be unsustainable to stay in that position and to have led the sport down this pathway, to a disaster.
“So the question has to be asked, what is modern pentathlon now? And who’s going to run it?”
Observed: The questions surrounding modern pentathlon and the 2028 Los Angeles Games have dimensions outside of whatever reforms the UIPM has made. The forthcoming IOC Executive Board decisions on 2028 will be made in concert with the LA28 organizers, not only on boxing, modern pentathlon and weightlifting, but also on whatever additional sports that LA28 would like to include.
Recognizing the 10,500 athlete limit now in force, by not including modern pentathlon, LA28 would get 72 places back to use – perhaps – for baseball and softball or other sports. Not re-admitting boxing would provide 248 more places. Weightlifting for Paris in 2024 was allocated 120; the three together total 440 athlete quota slots.
IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell (NZL) has been clear that the Pentathlon United voice has been heard and that the lack of unity in modern pentathlon community will be taken into account in the IOC Executive Board’s deliberation on a recommendation for the remainder of the 2028 program. Lamented Allenby:
“We tried and tried to meet with Schormann last year and it just was a sham. And it was so disappointing, because the IOC came out and said, you’ve got to involve these athletes, and they didn’t.”
A third way might be to look to the future beyond 2028. The IOC could fund the UIPM as if it were held in Los Angeles – the amount was $12.98 million for Tokyo, a rounding error for the IOC – and insist that the federation come together and unify for a 2032 slot in Brisbane with new leadership (Schormann has said he will not run for another term, having been the head of the UIPM since 1993). That’s essentially what wrestling did when it was thrown off the program, and weightlifting is undergoing a similar transformation now. It might work for pentathlon, too.
Civil War III: Ukrainian tennis players slam WTA’s Simon
The promised call between the Women’s Tennis Association leadership and Ukrainian players over Russian and Belarusian participation took place last week, with considerable consternation on the part of the players on comments made by chief executive Steve Simon (USA).
The men’s and women’s tennis tours have had the position since the Russian invasion of Ukraine started in February 2022 that Russian and Belarusian players would be allowed to compete, but as neutral athletes. This has caused well-publicized issues on the women’s tour and the Ukrainian players posted a two-slide statement about last week’s meeting on Twitter on Wednesday, which included:
● “You [WTA] must clearly and unequivocally determine whether his words – ‘players from Russia and Belarus have a right to support the war. It’s their own opinion and they shouldn’t be punished for it” is it WTA policy or is it his personal view and not in line with company policy.”
● “We need a clear and understandable public position of each player from Russia and Belarus regarding the invasion of Ukraine by the armies of Russia and Belarus, regarding the genocide of the Ukrainian people by Russia and Belarus.”
● “Every player from Russia and Belarus who supports the invasion of our country or shares the views of the leadership of his country regarding Ukraine should be suspended from all tournaments in which Ukrainians participate.”
● “Every player from Russia and Belarus who condemns the invasion of Ukraine, the actions of the Russian and Belarusian armies on the territory of Ukraine, and the policy of the state leadership in relation to Ukraine, can continue to compete in all tournaments without exception.”
● “Every player from Russia and Belarus, who for some reason cannot publicly express his attitude to the events in Ukraine or the policies of the leadership of his country, receives a protected ranking and returns to the tour only after the war is completely over.”
● “Your option.”
The statement asks for a reply in five days, which would be next Monday. A later tweet noted a report of a meeting between former Russian tennis star Shamil Tarpischev – an IOC member – and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Tarpischev said:
“Regarding the ATP and WTA tournaments, we do not see any problems.”
WTA folds, will hold tournaments in China again
On Thursday, the WTA issued a statement, capitulating to China on its demands for a direct meeting with China’s former doubles star Peng Shuai and an investigation of her allegations of sexual harassment by a former Vice Premier:
“In 2021, when Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai bravely came forward, the WTA took a stance and suspended its operation of events in China out of concern for her safety and the safety of our players and staff. When we moved forward with this decision, we were not sure if others would join us. We received much praise for our principled stand and believe we sent a powerful message to the world. But praise alone is insufficient to bring about change.
“After 16 months of suspended tennis competition in China and sustained efforts at achieving our original requests, the situation has shown no sign of changing. We have concluded we will never fully secure those goals, and it will be our players and tournaments who ultimately will be paying an extraordinary price for their sacrifices.
“For these reasons, the WTA is lifting its suspension of the operation of tournaments in the People’s Republic of China (‘PRC’) and will resume tournaments in China this September.”
The statement further explained:
“We have not been able to achieve everything we set out for, but we have been in touch with people close to Peng and are assured she is living safely with her family in Beijing. We also have received assurances that WTA players and staff operating in China will be safe and protected while in the country. The WTA takes this commitment seriously and will hold all parties responsible.”
Simon told The Associated Press:
“We’ve got players from over 80 countries, so there’s no shortage of different views of the world and positions on issues and topics we have.
“Through reach-out to us, as well as our reaching out to athletes to find out their positions, the great majority of the athletes were supportive and wanted to see a return back to the region and felt it was time to go back. … There’s certainly some that didn’t agree but the great majority did.”
Simon’s last sentence says a lot.
French Olympics minister says Paris 2024 budget steady
Amelie Oudea-Castera, France’s Minister of Sports and the Olympic Games, appeared on FranceInfo radio on Wednesday and explained that the cost of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games is on track.
“There is no slippage,” she said, noting the “Organizing Committee’s budget is 4.4 billion euros, 96% financed exclusively by private funds” and “the budget of [Olympic construction authority] Solideo is 3.8 billion euros.” That’s $4.87 billion and $4.20 billion U.S., or $9.07 billion together.
She added that the original forecasts were changed by a “cost increase of 10% on the budget of the Organizing Committee, including 5% for inflation.”
As for the question of Russian and Belarusian athletes, she re-stated her position, that “Russian athletes who have directly or indirectly supported the war, who are more or less affiliated with the Russian army, will not have their place in the 2024 Games.” She also repeated that while the International Olympic Committee has the last word in the matter, but that French President Emmanuel Macron will inject his own view “in good time, in the last part of the year.”
She explained that in the continuing planning for the Opening Ceremonies on the Seine River, the question of the total number of spectators is not yet set:
“Work is continuing with the police headquarters, the Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin, and the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, to properly fix what we are going to do on the part of the high quays, but there will in any case be several hundred thousand people who will be able to benefit from this parade of athletes along the six kilometers of the Seine.”
Oudea-Castera also touched on the complaints about the pricing of Olympic tickets, noting “The Olympic Games are every four years and ours are the standard prices. We don’t ask ourselves these questions when we pay to go see a Madonna show.”
≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP ≡
● Ice Hockey ● The favorites advanced through Thursday’s quarterfinals of the 2023 IIHF Women’s World Championship, being played in Brampton (CAN).
Top-seed Canada had a tough time with Sweden, only winning a 3-2 decision in overtime, with forward Sarah Nurse getting her second goal of the game after 4:26 of extra play, despite out-shooting the Swedes by 54-14!
The U.S. shut out Germany, 3-0, on goals by Amanda Kessel (first period), Hannah Bilka (second) and Abbey Murphy (third). Aerin Frankel got the shutout for the Americans, who piled up a 52-18 edge on shots.
The Czech Republic skated past previously undefeated Finland, 2-1, with Katerina Mrazova getting the game-winner in the second period. The Czechs scored twice in 49 seconds and won despite being out-shot, 42-22. The Swiss hammered Japan, 5-1, in the last quarterfinal, with Rahel Enzler getting two goals.
On Saturday, the U.S. will meet the Czechs in one semifinal, with Canada and Switzerland in the other. The medal matches will be on Sunday.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Russia ● No end to the news on Russian and Belarusian eligibility, with World Triathlon announcing Thursday that its Executive Board “approved its support, in principle, for the IOC’s recommendation” on a return for neutral individual athletes from those countries.
As with most of the other federations, it has no procedures in place for this, so:
“World Triathlon will in consultation with the IOC and ASOIF work towards developing the necessary independent review processes to allow and plan for the return of these individuals to our competitions and events.”
Andrew Parsons (BRA), the President of the International Paralympic Committee told Japan’s Kyodo News:
“Our position on Russia and Belarus hasn’t changed. The IOC issued a recommendation to the international sports organizations, but it doesn’t apply to the Paralympic movement.
“We always like to be aligned and have strong unity in the world of sports, but this is not something that will be more important. More important is that every single sports organization makes the right decision according to its governance structure and engaging in dialogue with its membership.”
The IPC suspended both the Russian and Belarusian national Paralympic committees and any change will require a vote of the IPC General Assembly, later this year.
Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, the long-time elected head of the International Fencing Federation (FIE) “stepped away” from that office to try to clear himself from sanctions imposed by the European Union. On Thursday, additional sanctions were added by both Great Britain and the United States.
The British Foreign Office announced sanctions on two Cypriot executives who had been helping Usmanov and others hide assets in complex corporations and trusts, and some holding companies in which Usmanov is believed to have interests.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed sanctions against 25 individuals and 29 companies across 20 countries for their roles in financial networks that support Usmanov and his interests. The nations involved include Armenia, China, Malta, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan.
● Ski Mountaineering ● The final ISMF World Cup of the season is ongoing in Tromso (NOR), with Swiss star Remi Bonnet and France’s Emily Harrop winning the Vertical races.
Bonnet, the 2023 World Champion in both the Vertical and Individual races, won in Tromso in 21:24.4 over Belgium’s 2023 Worlds silver medalist Maximilien Drion du Chapois (22:31.6) and Paul Verbnjak (AUT: 22:52.4).
Harrop, a two-time Worlds relay gold medalist, won the women’s division in 27:20.3 from Sarah Dreier (AUT: 27:42.9) and Italian Giulia Murada (27:55.6). It was Harrop’s fifth World Cup win this season; Dreier was second just as at the World Championships in this race.
The Individual and Sprint races are scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
● Swimming ● Two world-leading marks highlighted the second day of the Tyr Pro Swim Series in Westmont, Illinois.
World-record holder Hunter Armstrong of the U.S. was the convincing winner in the men’s 50 m Backstroke in 24.30, best in the world for 2023. France’s Leon Marchand, who dominated the NCAA Championships, won the men’s 400 m Medley in 4:07.80, also fastest in the world this year.
Tokyo Olympic 100 m Breast gold medalist Lydia Jacoby won a tight race with Rio 2016 Olympic champ Lilly King, 1:06.09 to 1:06.39, with Jacoby moving to no. four on the 2023 world list. Four-time Worlds Backstroke gold medalist Regan Smith took the women’s 100 m Back in 56.92, and Leah Hayes won the women’s 400 m Medley in 4:39.58.
Nic Fink, the 2022 Worlds 50 m Breast winner, took the men’s 100 m Breast (59.95) and Shaine Casas, the reigning U.S. champion, won the men’s 100 m Fly in 51.05.
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