The Sports Examiner

TSX REPORT: Fourth arrest of Takahashi in Tokyo 2020 bribe probe; Griner on way to Russian penal colony; Blatter says France caused Qatar ‘22 selection

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1. Takahashi arrested for fourth time in Tokyo sponsorship scandal
2. Brittney Griner transferred to Russian penal colony
3. Ex-FIFA chief Blatter says France wanted Qatar to get World Cup
4. FIFA announces Israel and Palestinian fan flights from Tel Aviv
5. U.S. women tie it late, but Germany wins, 2-1, in the 89th minute

Former Tokyo 2020 board member Haruyuki Takahashi was arrested for a fourth time on Wednesday as part of the sponsorship bribery scandal at the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee. Prosecutors believe the combined bribes uncovered so far totaled more than $1.3 million. In Russia, two-time Olympic basketball gold medalist Brittney Griner was moved – more quickly than expected – to a penal colony and is continuing to serve a nine-year sentence for “drug smuggling” while U.S. diplomats try to negotiate her release. Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter said in an interview that French government influence ended up giving the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar instead of the U.S. He also called the selection of Qatar a “mistake.” FIFA announced an agreement to allow several thousand Israeli and Palestinian World Cup ticket holders to fly on special flights from Tel Aviv into Qatar, which has no diplomatic relations with Israel. In Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, the no. 3-ranked German women defeated the no. 1-ranked U.S., 2-1, the third straight loss for the Americans, something which had not happened in 29 years.

This weekend, the 2027 World University Games will be awarded to the U.S. (North Carolina) or to Korea, and the modern pentathlon federation will decide whether to replace riding with obstacle course at the UIPM Congress.

Takahashi arrested for fourth time in Tokyo sponsorship scandal

No let-up in indictments and arrests in the Tokyo 2020 sponsorship and marketing influence scandal as former organizing committee board member Haruyuki Takahashi was arrested for a fourth time.

Kyodo News reported that Takahashi, a former senior director of Japanese ad giant Dentsu, Inc., was arrested for a fourth time for bribes paid by advertising agency ADK Holdings and toy maker Sun Arrow, Inc.

The bribe line-up reported so far includes:

● ¥51 million from suit retailer Aoki Holdings (~$360,699 U.S.)
● ¥76 million from publisher Kadokawa Corp. (~$537,377)
● ¥15 million from ad agency Daiko Advertising (~$106,061)
● ¥7 million from plush-toy maker Sun Arrow Inc. (~$49,495)
● ¥47 million from ad agency ADK Holdings (~$332,325)

The Tokyo prosecutors have now alleged bribes totaling ¥196 million, or about $1,385,867, most of which went to Takahashi, but some to consulting firms that were aligned with Takahashi.

In the case of Aoki Holdings and Kadokawa Corporation, the allegation is that the companies became sponsors at a discounted rate thanks to Takahashi; Sun Arrow received a license to make toys with Tokyo 2020 marks and of the mascots; the advertising agencies wanted help to be named as agents for other companies who were sponsors or suppliers.

Prosecutors also indicted two Sun Arrow executives, three from ADK Holdings and Joji Matsui, the owner of a consulting firm who assisted with the flow-through of funds to Takahashi.

No indication yet of the timing of possible trials on the charges filed.

Brittney Griner transferred to Russian penal colony

“We do not have any information on her exact current location or her final destination.”

Two-time Olympic basketball gold medalist Brittney Griner’s Russian attorneys, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, told CNN that she has been transferred to a Russian penal colony, following the denial of her appeal in October from a “drug smuggling” conviction and nine-year sentence.

“In accordance with the standard Russian procedure, the attorneys, as well as the U.S. Embassy, should be notified upon her arrival at her destination. Notification is given via official mail and normally takes up to two weeks to be received.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a statement:

“Following a sham trial and the unjust sentencing of Brittney Griner, Moscow is transferring her from a prison in Moscow to a remote penal colony. It is another injustice layered on her ongoing unjust and wrongful detention.

“As we work to secure Brittney Griner’s release, we expect Russian authorities to provide our Embassy officials with regular access to all U.S. citizens detained in Russia, including Brittney, as is their obligation. Ensuring the health and welfare of U.S. citizen detainees in Russia is a priority, and we will continue to press for fair and transparent treatment for them all.

“Our hearts are with Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, as well as their family, friends, and supporters, who all continue to suffer from Russia’s decision to wrongfully detain U.S. citizens. We continue to work relentlessly to bring them home. I am focused on doing so, as are so many others in the Department. We will not relent until they are reunited with their loved ones.”

Griner is coming up on nine months since she was detained upon entry into Russia in February.

Ex-FIFA chief Blatter says France wanted Qatar to get World Cup

Former FIFA President Joseph “Sepp” Blatter (SUI), now 86, told the Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger in a lengthy interview that French influence swung the 2022 World Cup host selection from the U.S. to Qatar.

Blatter was the federation’s leader from 1998 to 2015, when he was removed from office by the FIFA Ethics Committee over extravagant bonus payments made by FIFA. He was prosecuted by Switzerland for criminal misappropriation of funds and mismanagement, but was acquitted earlier this year. Blatter had plenty to say about the 2022 World Cup and Qatar (computer translation from the original German):

“The choice of Qatar was a mistake. At the time, we actually agreed in the Executive Committee that Russia should get the 2018 World Cup and the USA that of 2022. It would have been a gesture of peace if the two long-standing political opponents had hosted the World Cup one after the other.”

● On Qatar: “It’s too small a country. Football and the World Cup are too big for [them].”

● On the selection of Qatar:

“A week before the 2010 FIFA Congress, Michel Platini [FRA] called me and said: ‘Sepp, ça ne va plus jouer.’ [Sepp, it won’t play anymore.]. What he meant by that was that our plan would no longer work. …

“[French] President [Nicolas] Sarkozy had just had lunch with the Crown Prince of Qatar. Sarkozy said to Platini: ‘See what you and your colleagues from UEFA can do for Qatar when the World Cup is awarded.’ …

“Yes. It came out exactly like this: Thanks to Platini’s four votes and his people, the World Cup went to Qatar instead of the USA. That’s the truth. …

“Again: this is the truth. But of course it was also about money. Six months later, Qatar bought fighter jets from the French for $14.6 billion.”

Blatter noted that once Qatar was selected and the stadium construction projects began – along with criticisms of the conditions – “we in FIFA supplemented the rules in 2012. Since then, social criteria and human rights have been taken into account in the award process.”

But he was also blunt about the bottom line:

“I can only repeat: the award to Qatar was a mistake. And I was responsible for that as President at the time. Now that the World Cup is imminent, I’m glad that, with a few exceptions, no footballers are boycotting the World Cup.”

FIFA announces Israel and Palestinian fan flights from Tel Aviv

It’s hardly a breakthrough toward Middle East peace, but it’s a positive, as FIFA announced that Israelis and Palestinians will be able to fly on shared flights to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar:

“Direct charter flights will be temporarily operated between Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and Hamad International Airport in Doha by an airline with existing landing rights in Qatar for the duration of the FIFA World Cup, subject to Israel’s security requirements and operational capabilities.”

Further details on the airline and the schedule are to come. Qatar has no diplomatic relations with Israel, so detailed negotiations were required to allow air travel out of Israel. FIFA initiated the process, which was described as:

“FIFA has met with representatives from FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 LLC (Q22), the operational arm for tournament delivery, and from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Culture and Sport to finalise plans that will enable Israelis and Palestinians to attend matches at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, which gets under way on 20 November. The meeting was conducted in accordance with Qatar’s commitment to FIFA’s hosting requirements.”

CNN reported that “More than the 8,000 Palestinians and 3,800 Israelis have bought tickets for the tournament.”

A Qatar 2022 spokesperson told CNN in a statement, “[W]e have always said that all ticket holders will be able to attend matches in Qatar. The announcement today illustrates our commitment to respecting FIFA’s policies and hosting requirements including the right of everyone to attend matches.”

U.S. women tie it late, but Germany wins, 2-1, in the 89th minute

An entertaining match between the no. 1-ranked U.S. women and no. 3 Germany in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida offered a lot of thrills, but ended with the third straight loss for the Americans, 2-1.

The last the U.S. women lost three in a row was back in 1993 and the loss ended a 71-match unbeaten streak (64-0-7) in home games that dated back to 2017. The U.S. lost both games on its recent European trip, to no. 4 England (2-1) and no. 6 Spain (2-0), and continued facing tough competition with the European runners-up from Germany.

The first half was scoreless, but with the Germans on offense in the first 15 minutes, with midfielder Lina Magull sending a shot just wide in the sixth minute. But the U.S. got busy, getting repeated chances, but Sophia Smith sent a shot over the goal in the 29th minute, Lindsey Horan’s header went wide off a brilliant cross from Sofia Huerta in the 35th, Horan hit the post off a stunning fake-and-feed close to the endline from Rose Lavelle in the 36th and Mallory Pugh’s hard shot from the left side was saved by German keeper Merle Frohms in the 37th.

And there were more shots that went wide or over the top of the goal, all the way to the halftime whistle. The sides shared possession equally in the half, but the U.S. quite rightly had a 9-5 lead on shots.

The U.S. kept up the heat in the second half, repeatedly attacking, with Horan sending a spectacular bicycle kick toward the German goal in the 51st minute, but it hit the post.

Worse for the Americans, the long rebound started a counterattack. Substitute striker Paulina Krumbiegel sent a hard shot from the left side of the box that was saved by U.S. keeper Casey Murphy, but the rebound found striker Klara Buhl, who shot from the left side of the box to the right corner, bounding off of Murphy for an own goal and a 1-0 German lead in the 52nd minute.

The teams made a host of substitutions after the 63rd minute, but the action continued. The Germans had excellent chances in the 73rd and 77th minutes, but sent their shots over the crossbar. In the 85th, a poor German clearance was recovered by U.S. star Alex Morgan, who gained control near the endline to the left of the German goal and sent a perfect cross to the onrushing (and unmarked) Megan Rapinoe, whose shot from the right side blew past Frohms for the 1-1 tie.

The Germans were undaunted and kept up the pressure, with substitute forward Jule Brand outrunning U.S. defender Alana Cook to a long ball in the U.S. zone, when sending a left-to-right cross beyond the American defense to Krumbiegel, who sent a rocket past Murphy from the right side for a 2-1 lead in the 89th that proved to be the winner.

Germany ended with a 56-44% edge in possession, but the shots were almost equal at 18-17 for the U.S. The two teams will play again on the 13th, in Harrison, New Jersey at 5 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. 


● World University Games ● The International University Sports Federation (FISU) is expected to select Saturday (12th) between North Carolina’s U.S. bid and the Korean Chungcheong Megacity bid to host the 2027 World University Games.

The summer Universiade has only been held in the U.S. once, in Buffalo, New York, in 1993. Korea has hosted twice, as recently as 2015. The North Carolina bid has $25 million in start-up funding available from the state and has no need to build any venues or housing. The Koreans want to use the WUG as a development tool to build 10 new sites and has allocated about €440 million to fund the event.

● Figure Skating ● The Russian news agency TASS quoted the International Olympic Committee on the Kamila Valieva doping appeal filed by the World Anti-Doping Agency:

“The IOC expects the procedure to be carried out in strict accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code and hopes that it will be carried out quickly in order to allow the International Skating Union to determine the specific results of the figure skating team competition at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, and the IOC to make a decision on the distribution of medals.”

● Football ● The Minister of Justice and Security of the city of Buenos Aires, Marcelo D’Alessandro, said in a local radio interview that about 6,000 Argentinian fans will not be allowed to go to the World Cup in Qatar.

This follows a ban by British authorities of 1,300 known hooligans. Argentinian intelligence forces developed the list, and according to D’Alessandro:

“They were included for belonging to the barras [violent fan groups], for participating in violent acts, for illicit associations such as ‘trapitos’ [banned street businesses] and for owing child maintenance payments.”

Argentinian police will be present in Qatar to be on the lookout for any banned fans who might have been able to make it to the World Cup.

● Modern Pentathlon ● The Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne Congress will take place online on Saturday and Sunday, with a heavy agenda that includes a request for a vote of no confidence against longtime President Klaus Schormann (GER) and the approval (or not) of obstacle-course racing to replace riding in the event.

The federation leadership has supported obstacle course, but has been bitterly opposed by a loose confederation of athletes known as Pentathlon United, which wants to retain riding, but with significant changes in safety and procedures.

At present, modern pentathlon is not on the program for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, with the UIPM to present its proposal for a revised event to the International Olympic Committee for readmittance in 2023, when the LA28 program is finalized.

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