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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. FIFA Women’s World Cup opens with crowds and surprises
2. Gold Cup final on Univision beats Wimbledon
3. Moon on whereabouts: more than people realize
4. Cycling finances safe: CHF 53.4M reserves, but a 2022 loss
5. Russia’s Potapkin stars at US Rowing Nationals
The FIFA Women’s World Cup opened to record crowds at Eden Park in Wellington, New Zealand and Sydney, Australia, with the home teams both winning, 1-0. Australia’s win over Ireland was expected, but New Zealand upset Norway and won its first ever Women’s World Cup game. Univision’s coverage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup final between Mexico and Panama last Sunday beat ESPN’s Wimbledon men’s final coverage and was no. 3 for the week behind the baseball All-Star Game and Home Run Derby. American Katie Moon, the Olympic and World Champion in the women’s vault, shared some insights into the rigors imposed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for whereabouts testing; it’s not easy and not fun. But Moon is all for it if it keeps the sport clean. The Union Cycliste Internationale posted its financial statements in its 2022 Annual Report, showing strong reserves and underlining its plan to essentially spend everything it takes in – including more than $24 million in Olympic TV money – to service its programs across a four-year cycle. The individual star of last week’s US Rowing national championships in Ohio was Russian Olympian Andrei Potapkin, who competed without incident as an individual member of the U.S. federation, winning the men’s Single and Double Sculls. Does Moscow know about this?
● World Championships: Aquatics (4: China now 10-for-10 in diving; Austrian triplets all won Artistic medals; Italy takes open-water relay; U.S. women win water polo group, on to playoffs) ●
● Panorama: Paris 2024 (French government ups medal bonuses for Paris) = Athletics (Diamond in Monaco Friday and London Sunday, on Peacock) = Cycling (Asgreen wins Stage 18 at Tour de France) = Football (U.S. Soccer Athletes’ Council asks for SafeSport reform) = Gymnastics (Russian federation head expects FIG re-entry regs in August) ●
FIFA Women’s World Cup opens with crowds and surprises
After all the hype, the ninth FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand finally opened on Thursday – local time – with two 1-0 games in which the home teams won in front of large crowds.
The headline was clearly the record attendance, with Australia’s 1-0 victory over Ireland drawing 75,784 to Stadium Australia in Sydney, over 25,000 more than had ever attended a women’s football match in the country.
In the tournament opener at Eden Park in Auckland, the 26th-ranked Football Ferns upset no. 12 Norway, 1-0, before 42,137. That’s also an all-time record for football in New Zealand, well above the 37,034 from the 2018 intercontinental playoff match in advance of that year’s men’s World Cup in Russia.
The combined total of 117,921 was impressive.
The start of both games was delayed with a minute of silence in honor of the victims of a mass shooting in Auckland earlier in the day. A 24-year-old man opened fire at a construction site in the downtown area, killing two and injuring six; the shooter also died at the scene.
As for the matches:
● Group A: New Zealand 1, Norway 0 ● This was a tightly-played game, with just four shots each in the first half and a scoreless time. The key moment came early in the second half, as a cross from forward Jacqui Hand found teammate Hannah Wilkinson for a right-footed strike from the center of the box and a 1-0 lead in the 48th minute.
A resilient Kiwi defense frustrated Norway, which had 15 fouls in the game to five for New Zealand. In the 87th, Norwegian defender Tuva Hansen was charged with a hand ball in the box, resulting in a penalty.
Midfielder Ria Percival smashed the penalty shot into the crossbar, giving Norway new life, but despite four shots at goal during the 11 minutes of stoppage, the game ended with a 1-0 New Zealand win. Both sides had 50% of possession and shots were 13-12 for Norway.
It’s the first-ever Women’s World Cup win for the Football Ferns, who came in 0-12-3 all-time (W-L-T).
● Group B: Australia 1, Ireland 0 ● The 10th-ranked Matildas were expected to win against Women’s World Cup debutante Ireland, ranked 22nd. But this was another struggle, with the Aussies on offense and Ireland defending and countering.
The first half saw Australia manage five shots to one for the Irish, and the second half remained scoreless until a push against midfielder Hayley Raso in the box by forward Marissa Sheva created a penalty opportunity. Defender Steph Catley made the most of it, scoring on a left-footed boot into the left side of the goal for a 1-0 lead in the 52nd.
That was enough and Australia ended with 63% of possession and a 13-9 edge on shots, clearly the aggressor, but with only the one goal. But it’s a win.
● Group B: Canada 0, Nigeria 0 ● The first half saw Canada control possession – 68% to 32% – but Nigeria’s speed caused all kinds of problems on the counter and Canadian keeper Kailen Sheridan was completely out of position in the 33rd, but defender Ashley Lawrence stepped in to block an odd-angle try. Nigeria had seven shots to Canada’s five in the half.
A turning point could have come in the 47th minute as Nigerian midfielder Francisca Ordega hooked Canadian striker Christine Sinclair at the far side of the box for a penalty. But Sinclair’s shot to the right was saved by a diving Chiamaka Nnadozie, who swatted away the rebound.
Sheridan made a sensational, left-footed save in the 80th on a cross to substitute striker Uchenna Kanu, but the play was called offsides. Play went back and forth, with constant threats at goal, and play getting progressively rougher, with a red card issued to midfielder for a Deborah Abiodun stomp on the shin of Lawrence to the right of the Nigerian goal at 90+8. No one managed a finishing play and the game ended scoreless. Canada had 68% of possession and led in shots, 16-11, but Nigeria blunted their attack with 16 fouls.
● Group A: Switzerland 2, Philippines 0 ● This was the Women’s World Cup debut for the Philippines – with none of its players born in the country – playing in Dunedin (NZL) against 20th-ranked Switzerland.
The game almost had a fairy-tale start, as Philippine striker Katrina Guillou scored a stunning goal in the 16th as Swiss keeper Gaelle Thalmann came out too far, but the score was nullified for offside. The Swiss continued to apply pressure, but could not finish, but got their opportunity when Philippine defender Jessica Cowart slid into the leg of Swiss midfielder Coumba Sow at the top of the box, resulting in a penalty in the 43rd. Midfielder Ramona Bachmann converted with authority, sending a right-footed shot right into the left corner of the goal for a 1-0 lead in the 45th. The Swiss ended the half with 76% possession and an 8-2 shots edge.
The Swiss were all on offense in the second half and finally got a second goal in the 64th with three players rushing to the front of the net, and while Philippine keeper Olivia McDaniel saved striker Ana-Maria Crnogorevic’s initial shot, and then a second try by Sow, midfielder Seraina Piubel sent a right-footer into the net on the rebound for the 2-0 lead. That’s how it finished, with the Swiss enjoying 73% possession and a 17-3 shots advantage.
The U.S. will open its title defense against Vietnam in Group E, also at Eden Park in Auckland, on Saturday local time, but shown in the U.S. Friday at 9 p.m. Eastern time.
FIFA announced that it had sold all of its sponsorship packages for the Women’s World Cup, revealing deals with Hublot as “official timekeeper” and Itau as “official bank supporter” in Brazil:
“Across the partnership programme, there will be five global FIFA Partners, two global women’s football partners, nine global FIFA Women’s World Cup sponsors and 14 FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament supporters.
“The announcement sees FIFA’s commercial partnership programme grow from 12 (six partners and six host country supporters) during the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 to 30 this year – marking an increase of over 100%.”
Gold Cup final on Univision beats Wimbledon
Univision had another good week of viewing for the conclusion of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, between Mexico and Panama a SoFi Stadium, with the no. 1 sports program of the week ending last Sunday (16th).
The Mexico-Panama game was on three channels at the same time:
● 4.321 million on Univision (Spanish)
● 1.109 million on Fox (English)
● 1.030 million on TUDN (Spanish)
That’s 6.460 million for the same game, easily the most-viewed event of the weekend, well ahead of the 3.198 million on Sunday on ESPN for the Wimbledon men’s final.
However, it was not the top event of the week, as the Major League Baseball All-Star Game on Fox drew 7.006 million viewers on Tuesday, following 5,518 on ESPN on Monday for the Home Run Derby.
Univision’s audience for Mexico-Panama was down from the U.S.-Mexico final in 2021 (about 5.7 million), and Fox was down from about 1.8 million viewers to 1.1 million, with the U.S. not playing.
Univision once again out-drew Fox for a U.S. game, the semifinal against Panama on Wednesday:
● 1.882 million on Univision
● 1.506 million on FS1
● 381,000 on TUDN
Total: 3.769 million
For the Mexico-Jamaica semi, of course, Univision was supreme:
● 2.772 million on Univision
● 627,000 on TUDN
● 458,000 on FS1
Total: 3.857 million
Last Sunday’s Tour de France highlights special on NBC drew 406,000, but the Diamond League meet from Chorzow (POL) on CNBC was not reported. The Nielsen-provided viewing numbers go down to 200,000.
Moon on whereabouts: more than people realize
In the aftermath of the stunning Athletics Integrity Unit announcement that World Champion and world-record holder Tobi Amusan (NGR) has been provisionally suspended for whereabouts failures – with a possible two-year penalty – Olympic and World Champion Katie Moon of the U.S. contributed a thread on Twitter what “whereabouts” reporting really means:
“As athletes we absolutely are responsible for our whereabouts, but something that most people don’t realize is that American athletes have it different. We have WADA where we have to be there for the hour we give. But we also have USADA…
“With USADA, we have to say where we are all hours of the day (between 5am and 11pm) and they can show up literally any time during that window. If we are not there, we get a missed test. Both WADA and USADA missed tests go towards our 3 missed test limit.
“Again, it’s absolutely our responsibility to update these whereabouts, but it is MUCH easier to miss a test when your entire day is up for grabs. As an American athlete that’s missed tests because of USADA (not WADA) I just want people to understand it’s different for us.”
Scottish distance star Eilish McColgan, the 2022 European women’s 10,000 m runner-up, asked:
“So you have to write the address of the supermarket you’re going to? The restaurant? The cinema?
“We have UKAD but they operate the same at WADA. We give a one hour slot, however they can turn up any time of the day. We have to give an overnight address & training locations too.”
“Yep we do have to put those addresses in!”
In reply, sports performance coach Elisabeth Oehler (GER) asked:
“What are the arguments of USADA for not following the WADA system where athletes only need to provide an 1 h window per day? I don’t understand the reasoning behind that…”
“My guess is trying to stay diligent about clean sport. Which, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for! But it’s just a lot more than I think people realize.”
And that’s the point. The anti-doping regimen is often harsh, inconvenient and unpleasant. But it’s part of being a professional athletes in Olympic sport in the 2020s. It’s not all free shoes, plane flights and press conferences.
Cycling finances safe: CHF 53.4M reserves, but a 2022 loss
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) is one of the more popular sports in the Olympic Games, part of the five-sport second distribution tier for Olympic television revenue, with basketball (FIBA), football (FIFA), tennis (ITA) and volleyball (FIVB).
In its 2022 Annual Report, made available prior to the mammoth inaugural World Cycling Championships in Glasgow in August, the federation details its spending process, which is directly tied to its Olympic television dividend, which was $24.34 million for Tokyo 2020:
“The UCI balances its budget on 4-year cycles. The revenues from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games expected to fund the UCI’s activities until the end of 2024. The non-Olympic years therefore show an operational loss.
“The final margin from the Tokyo Olympic Games was CHF 22 million. A linear distribution of Olympic revenues permitted the UCI a maximum loss of CHF 5.5 million per year. The first two years of the cycle were well below this limit, i.e., excluding Olympic revenues, the loss was CHF 4.6 million in 2022 and CHF 1.9 million in 2021. The UCI continues to manage these resources prudently and in line with its annual objectives.”
The UCI expects its 2021-24 budget to spend almost all of its Tokyo money and have CHF 600,000 left over. That’s tight, but based on its 2022 financials, quite doable.
Moreover, the UCI is in a healthy financial position as it receives good revenues from its major events, especially its World Road Championships and assorted small championship programs. In 2022, it took in CHF 20.65 million for its championships and CHF 6.32 million for its World Cup programs, in all CHF 29.44 million in revenue.
Of course, it spent quite a bit too (in CHF, 1 = $1.15 U.S. today):
● 16.09 million on event support
● 4.432 million net loss on governance
● 6.661 million net loss on development
● 5.718 million net loss on administration
● 947,000 net loss on its velodrome operations
In all, revenues – without any Olympic TV money – were CHF 42.77 million and expenses were CHF 46.816 million for a net operating loss of CHF 4.049 million. As the UCI noted in its narrative, that’s actually on track, so to speak.
There was, like other federations, an investment loss for the year of CHF 5.09 million, so the overall loss was CHF 9.06 million.
But the UCI can deal with this, given its prior prudence. It is sitting on CHF 56.917 million in cash and investments, has total assets of CHF 96.54 million and reserves of CHF 53.42 million.
Although it projects spending everything it takes in from 2021-24, and uses its Olympic dividend to make up for its deficit in operations over the course of four years, the UCI appears to have a carefully thought-out plan for its money, and would be able to tighten its spending if needed.
A major question for 2023 will be the success (or not) of the World Cycling Championships, at which 200 titles will be at stake. If this event creates the foundation for a once-every-four-years colossus, it could considerably expand the UCI’s finances. If not, it will have been a worthwhile try, budgeted within the federation’s existing framework.
The all-disciplines Worlds will be carefully watched by other federations; the International Ski & Snowboard Federation (FIS) is now asking for interest for a first-ever, all-discipline FIS Games in 2028.
Russia’s Potapkin stars at US Rowing Nationals
The 2023 US Rowing National Championships were held last weekend on Lake Harsha in Bethel, Ohio, with a Russian Olympian winning two men’s races.
Andrei Potapkin, 27, competed in the Double Sculls in Tokyo for Russia, finishing seventh in the final. He was listed in the U.S. nationals results – from “California” – as the winner of the men’s Single Sculls in 6:52.611 over Christopher Bak (6:57.037) and Willem Descher (7:00.424).
Potapkin then teamed with ex-Dartmouth oarsman Caleb Edmundson to win the Double Sculls in 6:23.692, well ahead of Dartmouth rowers Mark Levinson and Kane Hall (6:27.292) – and Matt Lexa and Owen Maier in third (6:34.393).
What was he doing at the American national championships? US Rowing communications chief Brett Johnson explained:
“You do not have to be from the U.S. to compete at the USRowing National Championships. In Potapkin’s case, he is a USRowing individual member affiliated with California Rowing Club.
“If a Crew entered by a foreign club or rowing federation, or a foreign unaffiliated single sculler, places first, second, or third in a national championship Event at a National Championship Regatta, it shall receive special gold, silver, or bronze medals memorializing the accomplishment, but the national championship medals, whether gold, silver, or bronze, and the designation and entitlements of National Champion, shall be given only to domestic Crews according to order of placement.
“There were a couple of boats at summer nationals that fell under this category, for instance the boats from Ridley College [Canada – Ontario] and University of Victoria [Canada – British Columbia].”
Does Moscow know about this?
Hannah Fitts won the women’s Single Sculls in 7:57.465 over Sierra Cydrus (8:01.466) and Hannah Debray (8:13.552). The Boston University pairing of Ela Ersan and Kylie Lough won the Double Sculls in 7:37.703; Ceylan Algan and Julie Ayer were second in 6:57.037.
In the men’s Pairs, Andrew Tokarski and William Stavropoulos – both Georgetown rowers – won in 6:41.109, well ahead of John O’Brien and Ethan Dooley (7:02.470) and Tristan Green and Bergen Peters (7:06.406).
The only entry in the women’s Pairs was Josephine Monroe and Zoe Vadas, who timed 8:59.936.
≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ≡
● Aquatics ● The World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka (JPN) continued with China on pace to repeat its 13-for-13 performance in 2022, as Tokyo Olympic silver winner and defending champion Zongyuan Wang took the men’s 3 m Springboard gold.
Wang scored 500.95, 546.25 and 538.10 to win the qualifying, semifinals and final and collected his sixth career World Championships gold. Mexico’s Osmar Olvera won the silver at 507.50 – more than 37 points up his semi score – for his second runner-up finish in Fukuoka after the 1 m Springboard earlier. China’s Daoyi Long took the bronze at 499.75.
American Andrew Capobianco was a distant fourth (448.00), and Tyler Downs was ninth (389.00).
In Artistic Swimming, Austria won the women’s Duet Free gold as sisters Anna-Maria and Eirini-Marina Alexandri scored 255.4583 to edge Chinaese sisters Liuyi Wang and Qianyi Wang (255.2480) by just more than 2/10ths of a point. Japan’s Moe Higa and Mashiro Yasunaga (249.5167) took third, with Megumi Field and Ruby Remati of the U.S. seventh (209.5187).
This means that all three of the Alexandri sisters – including Solo silver winner Vasiliki – won medals in Fukuoka!
In the 6 km Open Water relay, Germany had to be the favorite after Leonie Beck and Florian Wellbrock had won both the 5 km and 10 km races, but Wellbrock was off to the pool, where competition starts on Sunday.
And Beck could not win it on her own, as the Germans finished fourth. Instead, it was Italy, with 2022 Worlds 10 km gold medalist Gregorio Paltrinieri swimming to the lead in the final half-lap, that won in 1:10:31.2, ahead of Hungary (1:10:35.3) with Australia (1:11:26.7) trailing in third.
The U.S. squad of Joey Tepper, Brennan Gravley, Marian Denigan and Katie Grimes finished ninth in 1:13:58.6.
The four-time defending World Champion U.S. women’s water polo team stomped France, 16-5, in its final Group A game, finished at 3-0 (+24 goal differential) and is on to the quarterfinals. Through three games, the U.S. is being led by superstar Maddie Musselman and Tara Prentice, with seven goals each. Keepers Ashleigh Johnson and Amanda Longan have both stopped 71% of the shots against them.
The Netherlands won Group B at 3-0 (+45), Greece won Group C (3-0: +45)and Hungary swept Group D (3-0: +24).
The playoffs start with a play-in series for teams ranked second and third in their groups; the U.S. will play – next Monday – the winner of the Italy-New Zealand game on Saturday.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● The French government announced significant increases in the medal bonuses to be paid to French athletes for Paris 2024 (€1 = $1.11 U.S.):
● 2024: €80,000 – 40,000 – 20,000 for gold-silver-bronze
● 2021: €65,000 – 25,000 – 15,000
● 2016: €50,000 – 20,000 – 13,000
These payments are taxable and similar bonuses are planned for coaches. France won 33 medals – 10 gold, 12 silver, 11 bronze – at Tokyo 2020, which at the new prices would cost the government more than €1.5 million, depending on whether the medals went to individuals or teams. But it will be quite a bit more in 2024.
The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s Operation Gold bonuses to medal winners from Tokyo was $37,500 for gold, $22,500 for silver and $15,000 for bronze. Of course, the U.S. won a lot more medals: 113 in Tokyo, including 39 gold, 41 silver and 33 bronze.
● Athletics ● The Wanda Diamond League will be in Monaco on Friday and London on Sunday, with live coverage in the U.S. only on the Peacock streaming service, with a delayed replay on CNBC.
Friday’s Herculis meet from Monaco, which will include Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone in the women’s 400 m, will air live from 2-4 p.m. Eastern on Peacock, with a relay on Saturday from 1-3 p.m. Eastern on CNBC. The men’s 400 m hurdles race is expected to include Tokyo gold and silver medalists Karsten Warholm (NOR) and Rai Benjamin of the U.S., and Brazilian World Champion Alison dos Santos.
Sunday’s London meet will be shown live from 9-11 a.m. Eastern on Peacock and also on CNBC from 2-4 p.m. Eastern time.
● Cycling ● Stage 18 of the 110th Tour de France was clearly meant for the sprinters and the top 76 finishers received the same time. The 184.9 km route to Bourg-en-Bresse had some modest hills, but the race was shaped by an early attack from Kasper Asgreen (DEN), Jonas Abrahamsen (NOR) and Victor Campenaerts (BEL).
Pascal Eenkhoorn (NED) joined the party about two-thirds through and looked like a possible winner, but Asgreen got to the line first. Abrahamsen was third.
No change in the overall standings, with Jonas Vingegaard (DEN) still leading Tadej Pogacar (SLO) by 7:35, with Adam Yates (GBR: +10:45) third, with the race concluding on Sunday in Paris.
● Football ● The U.S. Soccer Athletes’ Council sent an open letter to the U.S. Congress, asking for reform of the U.S. Center for SafeSport, established by the Congress in 2017 to reduce athlete abuse. In part:
“As it stands, SafeSport is the only formal mechanism to keep bad actors out of our sport … SafeSport was created with noble and important intentions, but we believe as it stands today, SafeSport is failing in what it was meant to achieve.”
The letter complains that too many cases are “administratively closed,” with no resolution or sanction, and that current law “it cannot be re-evaluated or re-investigated by U.S. Soccer or any other outside body … leaving U.S. Soccer without an avenue to pursue its own investigations against suspected abusers or take any steps to remove them from the sport.”
Further, the letter complains that SafeSport decisions may be appealed, requiring victims to recount their stories again; it asks “appeals should rely first on the case’s original record, and an arbitration should be granted when there was clear error or another compelling reason.”
● Gymnastics ● The Russian Executive Committee member of the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique said he believes that regulations on the return of Russian and Belarusian competitors in 2024 could be announced next month. Vasily Titov, who is the President of the Russian Artistic Gymnastics Federation told the Russian news agency TASS:
“The decision made by the FIG executive committee is very responsible, it states the fact that not a single international tournament in any gymnastic discipline without the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes is complete due to the fall in the competitive level.
“Gymnasts will be allowed taking into account the criteria that the International Olympic Committee previously formulated. Admission is expected to be selective, I think the criteria will be developed by the end of August. I am sure that FIG knows about our ‘red lines,’ I mean, among other things, the impossibility of signing political declarations in exchange for obtaining a neutral status. But I propose to wait for the formulated conditions of admission.”
For our updated, 787-event International Sports Calendar (no. 3) for 2023 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!