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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Paris 2024 sells 3.25 million tickets in first phase!
2. Papa Massata Diack’s French conviction confirmed
3. Russia’s Olympic gym star Melnikova “marking time”
4. Tokyo wrestling star Steveson aiming for WWE and Paris 2024
5. Wimbledon to allow Russians, Belarusians under conditions
The first phase of ticket sales for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games went well, with 3.25 million tickets sold, or 32.5% of the total available. The second phase begins with registration and a random draw for places in line for the next sale, to begin in May. In Paris, an appeals court confirmed the conviction – and five-year prison sentence – of Papa Massata Diack, son of the former IAAF President Lamine Diack, on corruption charges. Diack is still in Senegal and has never appeared in the French courts. Tokyo women’s Olympic Team event gold medalist Angelina Melnikova of Russia says that with the ban on international competitions, she feels she is “marking time.” Wrestling star Gable Steveson of the U.S. confirmed that his pro wrestling debut for the WWE is imminent, but that he also wants to try for a repeat gold in Paris in 2024! Wimbledon will allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete in 2023, but under strict conditions now being formulated.
● Panorama: Olympic Games 2028 (World Rowing pitches beach sprint to LA28) = Commonwealth Games 2030 (Alberta study to start, with provincial funding) = Russia (2: 42 former Canadian Olympians protest neutrality option; USA Fencing dead set against Russian re-entry at FIE Congress) = Aquatics (Barelli ban extended) = Baseball (Ohtani stars in Japan’s WBC win) = Cycling (Slovenians could win at Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico!) = Diving (Pat McCormick passes at 92) = Football (2: Infantino cleared of Swiss charges; French women’s coach Diacre fired) ●
Paris 2024 sells 3.25 million tickets in first phase!
“With over 3.2 million tickets sold in less than three weeks, take-up exceeded all expectations, for which we are very grateful.”
That’s Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet in the new 2024 Olympic ticket brochure, which details the next stage in the sales program, which will now include all sports, all sessions and ceremonies.
The three-week first sales stage, of “ticket packs,” received plenty of media and public criticism, but it’s hard to argue with the results: 3.25 million tickets sold, or 32.5% of all Olympic tickets expected to be available. In fact, if the organizing committee’s calculations prove correct and the split between tickets sold individually and tickets sold as part of hospitality packages remains at 80/20, an impressive 40.6% of all available non-hospitality tickets were sold in the first phase. Some announcement highlights:
● “The French public, who made up two thirds of ticket purchasers, responded in their thousands. So did fans from abroad, with 158 different countries represented. A relatively high proportion were female and young: in this first phase, 45% were women and 44% were aged under 35.”
● “Tickets for all sports where tickets were available (there will be no tickets for surfing) were sold during this first phase of sales. Tickets for climbing and BMX freestyle sold out on the first day, while those for fencing, judo, breaking and track cycling were all snapped up in just a few days. The sports for which the most tickets were sold included football, athletics, rugby 7s, basketball and volleyball.”
● “During this initial sales phase, more than 400,000 tickets priced at €24 were sold. Around 70% of tickets sold cost less than €100 and 4.5% cost €200 or more.” (€1 = $1.06 U.S. today)
The next phase begins with registration opening 15 March, with “places in line” drawn by lot and actual sales opening 11 May. The brochure continues to promote “accessible” pricing with “All sports from 24€” and “From 50€: Numerous men’s and women’s finals sessions in individual and team sports such as Rowing, 3×3 Basketball, BMX freestyle, BMX racing, Climbing, Hockey, Skateboarding, Taekwondo, Archery and Water polo.”
Among the tickets to be available in the next phase:
● Opening Ceremony along the Seine from €90 to €2,700
● Closing Ceremony at the Stade de France from €45 to €1,600
● Athletics and Swimming finals from €85 to €980
● Basketball final from €125 to €980
● Gymnastics All-Around final from €125 to €680
If you want to take in the first appearance of break dancing in the Games, you can go for €50 to €160.
The ticket sales program is a key revenue driver for the Paris 2024 budget, which has been under pressure from inflation and supply-chain issues for more than a year. Whatever the criticisms, the first-round results were excellent, but many more sales are needed.
Papa Massata Diack’s French conviction confirmed
A Paris appeals court announced Thursday the confirmation of the conviction for corruption and five-year prison sentence for Papa Massata Diack, the Senegalese son of the late ex-IAAF President and International Olympic Committee member Lamine Diack.
The court maintain the conviction and prison sentence for Papa Massata Diack, 57, who was not present and has remained in Senegal since arrest warrants were issued in 2016. His lawyers said he was under “legal supervision” in Senegal and not allowed to leave the country.
The younger Diack had the fine of €1 million reduced to €500,000 (about $530,000 U.S.). He was convicted as part of a scheme to extort millions of dollars from 23 Russian athletes in order to delay their doping convictions until after the London 2012 Olympic Games and/or the 2013 IAAF World Championships, held in Moscow.
The Diacks were also charged with siphoning off as much as $15 million due to the IAAF (now World Athletics) from sponsorship payments, and for influence-buying in Olympic host-city selections for 2016 and 2020.
World Athletics has sued to try and recover the sponsor funds that were stolen.
Russia’s Olympic gym star Melnikova “marking time”
Further to Wednesday’s story on the motivational toll that the international competition has had on Russian men’s gymnastics stars are comments from women’s star Angelina Melnikova, 22, winner of three medals in Tokyo (Team gold, bronzes in All-Around and Floor). She told the Russian new agency TASS during the Russian nationals in Kazan:
“It has a very strong effect that there are no international starts. I feel as a professional athlete that I’m marking time, that is, I don’t have the opportunity to show my gymnastics. In order to show something more, you need somewhere then in a more serious place to implement it all. But here, at the Russian Championships, it’s hard to do it.
“I don’t count the medals of the Russian championships. The Russian championship for me, for us, for the whole team, has always been a test tournament before the main start. And now it’s all turned upside down, now this is the main start of the country, of the year. It’s hard.”
Despite an injury, she finished second in the All-Around to 17-year-old Viktoria Listunova, also a Tokyo 2020 Team gold medalist, 116.331 to 112.531:
“It worked out well today, I had a different mental attitude. I rehabilitated myself after yesterday, so to speak.
“I had a difficult preparation, so the competition is hard for me, plus I have an injury; my Achilles hurts. Every event I do, I think it might be my last, so it’s kind of tough mentally. My doctor and I decided that after the competition I should focus on treating my leg, it’s so hard to perform, of course.”
Tokyo wrestling star Steveson aiming for WWE and Paris 2024
U.S. Freestyle wrestler Gable Steveson was one of the stars of the Tokyo 2020 Games, making a miracle comeback in the final second – yes, final second – to win the Freestyle 125 kg division over reigning World Champion Geno Petriashvili of Georgia.
He left Olympic wrestling to develop a career with the WWE pro circuit and told MMAFighting.com that he is ready to debut with the show, but also has his eyes on returning to the Olympics in 2024:
“I miss being on the mats. I miss showcasing my skills every year and going out there and putting on a good show and going out there and winning the national tournament. I miss it. I still have that competitive fighter and hope to get back out there really soon.
“I know the Olympics is next year and I hope to be a part of that and keep moving forward and keep winning big titles for the USA also.
“I would love a second run. I feel I have a lot more left in the tank to showcase. I want to prove USA right and keep moving forward overall and become one of the best American amateur wrestlers ever, and I hope I can achieve the Bruce Baumgartner status of having a bunch of medals and having the accolades to show and be a part of WWE and be an entertainer, too.”
The legendary Baumgartner won two Olympic golds at 130 kg in 1984 and 1992, a silver in 1988 and a bronze in 1996.
Steveson blew through three opponents in Tokyo by 23-0 to reach the gold-medal final and had a 5-2 lead on Petriashvili until the Georgian scored six points to take an 8-5 lead with 90 seconds left. Steveson got a takedown with 10 seconds left to close to 8-7 and then took Petriashvili down again, flying over the top of him with a half-second left for a 9-8 win. The score was finalized at 10-8 after a Georgian protest was denied.
Only one wrestler has ever repeated an Olympic title in the super heavyweight division: Soviet Soslan Andiyev in 1976 and 1980.
Wimbledon to allow Russians, Belarusians under conditions
Britain’s Daily Mail reported that the All England Club, organizers of the Wimbledon championships, will allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete in 2023, after being banned under government edict in 2022.
The pro tennis tours – Association of Tennis Professionals and Women’s Tennis Association – penalized Wimbledon for not allowing Russian and Belarusian players to compete as neutrals in 2022, as they were at other tournaments, including the other Grand Slams.
The newspaper reported, however:
“It is understood that players will be kicked out of the tournament if they show any support for the invasion, and they are also set to compete under a neutral flag.”
Moreover, a code of conduct is being considered:
“The details of that code have yet to be finalised but it is likely that any explicit show of support for Russia, such as carrying a flag or talking positively about the country, could lead to sanctions including a potential expulsion from the tournament.”
The British government is said to approve of the restrictions and to allow the Russian and Belarusian players to compete, in contrast to its enforced ban in 2022 when it would not allow them to enter the country.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Games 2028: Los Angeles ● World Rowing visited the LA28 organizing committee last week to make its case for the replacement of the lightweight rowing events with the beach sprint event now accepted for the 2026 Commonwealth Games in Australia.
The federation has accepted the move of the primary rowing venue from Lake Perris in Riverside County to the Long Beach Marine Stadium, site of the 1932 Olympic rowing competitions. Because of the later installation of the Second Street Bridge, the course length will be shortened to 1,500 m instead of the normal 2,000 m.
A decision on the beach sprint event is expected this summer.
● Commonwealth Games 2030 ● A study for a possible Canadian bid for the 2030 Commonwealth Games was announced Wednesday by Alberta cities Calgary and Edmonton and the Tsuut’ina Nation.
Commonwealth Sport Canada announced the Alberta bid as “preferred” with a decision not due before August to determine the costs and feasibility of a bid. GamesBids.com reported:
“Alberta’s Minister of Culture Jason Luan said his government is behind plans and has pledged CAD $2 million (USD $1.45 million) towards the exploration process. The City of Edmonton will spend CAD $1 million (USD $725,000) on the effort.”
● Russia ● A group of 42 former Canadian Olympians presented an open letter on Wednesday, calling for the continued exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes, denouncing the Canadian Olympic Committee’s support for the IOC’s exploration of a possible path for athletes against the Russian invasion of Ukraine to be allowed to compete as neutrals:
“We condemn the recent public statements issued by the COC supporting the ‘exploration of a pathway’ for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as ‘neutrals’ in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“Opening the door to ‘neutral’ Russian and Belarusian participation … sends a message that the COC is no longer concerned with Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. No pathway should be considered for Russian or Belarusian athletes to compete in the Olympic Games until Russia fully withdraws from Ukraine. …
“Refusing their participation in international sport is not simply a matter of denying athletes a choice to compete because of their passport, it is a rejection of an unlawful and inhumane war and a recognition of the role international sports plays in geopolitics.”
Canadian Sports Minister Pascal St-Onge told The Canadian Press:
“I’ve had many conversations with the COC. Their current position – and it’s our government’s position as well – is that there’s no reason to review the ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes at this point because the war is still ongoing, and we don’t see a path forward to neutrality. So our position is clear.”
The Canadian Olympic Committee, in a statement, however, said:
“Our position, consistent over the past year, is that we support the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes from international sport while the invasion is ongoing. This is aligned with the recent statement, signed by Canada and more than 30 other Nations, that call for the continuation of the ban in the absence of clarity and concrete details on a workable neutrality model.”
As is now the norm, legendary Russian figure skating coach Tatyana Tarasova reacted to the letter thus:
“You never know who doesn’t want to see us. It always seemed to me that Canadians are a friendly, non-violent nation, they never showed themselves like that. But here they can be understood; of course, they want to win, including in figure skating, at least something in ice dancing. They don’t need extra competition. I can’t explain this statement in another way. …
“And I think that we will participate in the Games.”
On Thursday, USA Fencing posted a message from Treasurer Sam Cheris detailing the federation’s position against Russian and Belarusian reinstatement at the online FIE Extraordinary Congress on Friday. It included:
“I and USA Fencing are firmly against permitting the competitors of any country, some of whom are in or supported by its military establishment that is committing war crimes against civilians of another country, to compete.
“If these athletes wish to compete, let them resign any military ties and financing – renounce their citizenship and disavow their support for the atrocities.
“If these sound like drastic and extreme measures, they are – but invasion of a sovereign country and wanton killing of its civilians is also drastic and extreme, and extreme transgressions call for extreme responses.
“Many of these competitors are guilty, directly or indirectly, of supporting actively or passively their aggressor government. Those in Russia who passively watch give tacit approval to the current reprehensible activities. …
“Athletes from Russia and Belarus should not be permitted to compete in the individual or team events under some paper screen of fencing under the FIE flag or some other artifice creating a fiction of neutrality and individual eligibility. Everyone knows they are Russians fencing for Russia and Belorussians fencing for a country that is aiding and abetting Russia’s crimes.”
Cheris will read his statement into the record at the Congress, if allowed to do so. The FIE Congress will vote on reinstatement of Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals from “the second half of April” forward, notably after the IOC Executive Board meeting at the end of March.
● Aquatics ● The World Aquatics Ethics Panel, functioning independently from the federation itself, has added a third-year suspension of former European Swimming League (LEN) President Paolo Barelli (ITA).
Barelli, now 68, at one time a member of the FINA Council and head of both LEN and the Italian federation, was alleged to have falsified expense requests and failed to report conflicts of interest. The Panel ordered Barelli to repay the funds received under false pretenses and is now suspended through 14 August 2025.
● Baseball ● The Tokyo pool at the World Baseball Classic opened on Thursday, with superstar Shohei Ohtani pitching four innings, striking out five and giving up one hit as Japan rolled over China, 8-1, in front of 41,161 at the Tokyo Dome.
Ohtani thrilled the crowd at the plate, with two hits, a double, two walks and two runs batted in.
In the first game in Tokyo, Australia came back to beat South Korea, 9-8, with three runs in the seventh and three in the eight to overcome a 4-2 deficit. The three-run innings were keyed by two-on home runs from third baseman Robbie Glendinning (7th) and catcher Robbie Perkins (8th).
In Taichung (TPE), the Netherlands improved to 2-0 with a 3-1 win over Panama (1-1) and Italy surprised Cuba (0-2) with a 6-3 win in the 10th inning in its opener.
Play in Pools C (Phoenix) and D (Miami) will begin on Saturday. Quarterfinal matches will begin on the 15th.
● Cycling ● Two famed sprint stage races are nearly their climax in France and Italy, with Slovenian stars Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic in position to win both!
At the 81st edition of Paris-Nice, the leader after five stages is two-time Tour de France champ Pogacar, who won the critical fourth (climbing) stage to take over the top spot. He has a six-second lead on France’s David Gaudu and 46 seconds over Dane Jonas Vingegaard, the 2022 Tour de France winner.
At the 58th Tirreno-Adriatico in Italy, home favorite and time trial star Filippo Ganna led for the first three stages, but gave way after the fourth stage to German Leonard Kamna, who moved up as three-time Vuelta a Espana winner Roglic took the stage in a sprint finish against French star Julien Alaphilippe. Kamna has just a six-second lead on Roglic, eight seconds on Joao Almeida (POR) and 13 seconds on American Brandon McNulty.
Both races end Sunday.
● Diving ● Sad news that Pat McCormick (USA), one of the greatest divers in Olympic history, passed away at age 92 on Tuesday (7th).
McCormick was the first diver to win back-to-back Olympic titles in both the 3 m Springboard and the 10 m Platform, at Helsinki 1952 and Melbourne 1956. Only American star Greg Louganis has done it since, in 1984 and 1988.
The 1956 Sullivan Award winner as the premiere amateur athlete in the United States, McCormick was a 27-time national champion has been inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee Hall of Fame and many others. She remained involved with the sport for her entire public life, and participated in multiple Los Angeles Olympic bids, and served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Games.
She is survived by her daughter Kelly McCormick Robertson, who won an Olympic 1984 silver and 1988 bronze in the 3 m Springboard, son-in-law Matt Robertson, and grandson, Tim McCormick.
● Football ● FIFA announced that the Swiss Attorney General’s office has closed its investigation of federation chief Gianni Infantino (SUI) over the use of a chartered jet in 2017 to fly from Suriname to Switzerland:
“It has been confirmed that the travel arrangements, made by the President’s Office and FIFA’s travel department, were in line with FIFA’s compliance rules and regulations – a decision that is in line with the ruling of FIFA Ethics Committee in August 2020 on this case. In addition, the [Office of the Attorney General] has acknowledged that the manner of communication in relation to these travel arrangements at the time were completely justified.
“Following the OAG’s judgement, the Swiss state shall bear all costs related to the investigation, while the FIFA President has also decided to waive any claim for damages, thus foregoing any potential compensation.”
The Swiss prosecutor’s office launched an inquiry into the matter in 2020, including potential criminal proceedings, which have now been dropped.
Four months before the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and a day after French women’s national team coach Corinne Diacre (FRA) said she would stay as coach despite three stars leaving the team, she was fired by the French Football Federation on Thursday:
“The numerous hearings conducted have made it possible to establish a very important gap with some top players. This gap has reached a point of no return that damages the team’s interests.”
A star defender as a player, Diacre had been the coach of the women’s national team since 2017; the French women – a favorite going into the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, played in France – was eliminated by the U.S. in the quarterfinals. Her contract was to run past the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
But in February, center-back and captain Wendie Renard announced she would not play for France at the Women’s World Cup, quickly followed by striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto and forward Kadidiatou Diani. The search for a new coach will start immediately.
Diacre said of the complaints, “I endured, not without great suffering, the display of slander, untruths and ambitions of some and others.” But now she is out.
For our updated, 929-event International Sports Calendar for 2023 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!