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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. French note Azeri disinformation campaign vs. Paris 2024
2. French transport minister says Paris 2024 traffic “complicated”
3. U.S. Soccer announces Emma Hayes as women’s coach
4. USA Wrestling announces $380,000 in World Champs bonuses
5. Skating’s core audience maintained against the NFL
● The French government’s digital watchdog agency said that an Azeri disinformation campaign had been launched against Paris 2024, beginning in July. Carried primarily on X (ex-Twitter), it depicted images of riots against symbols of France and Paris 2024. The agency previously detected a Russian effort in June against the French government.
● The French transport minister told hotel and restaurant representatives that traffic in Paris during the Olympic period in 2024 will be “complicated.” The detailed plan for transportation is due to be presented at the end of November or in early December.
● U.S. Soccer formally announced the hiring of Chelsea coach Emma Hayes, born in England, but with long experience in the U.S. She has been a sensation for Chelsea, establishing it as the premier club team in England. She will start next year, following the close of the current club season.
● American wrestlers who won medals at the 2023 UWW World Championships received bonuses of $380,000 from the Living the Dream Medal Fund. The four gold winners each received $50,000, with $25,000 for the three silver medalists and $15,000 for the seven bronze medalists. For Paris, the Fund will offer prizes of $250,000, $50,000 and $25,000 for medal-winning performances!
● The core audience for U.S. figure skating appears to be about 600,000 off of the latest television viewing statistics, after the fourth ISU Grand Prix highlights broadcast pn NBC last Sunday drew 606,000 in direct competition with the NFL. The prior three Grand Prix audiences were close to that number.
● Panorama: Russia (2: Ski federation chief says feds will beg Russians to come back; Olympic Committee calls gymnastics re-entry regs “segregation”) = Alpine Skiing (Shiffrin names her seventh reindeer) = Athletics (Crouser and Lyles finalists for men’s athlete of the year) = Ice Hockey (English police arrest suspect in Johnson’s throat-slash death) = Luge (Gustafson and Farquharson win U.S. individual titles) ●
French note Azeri disinformation campaign vs. Paris 2024
“The investigations showed that at least one foreign actor close to Azerbaijan had acted, via the use of unauthentic processes, with the objective of harming at France’s reputation in its capacity to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
That’s from a report from the French state agency for Vigilance and Protection against Foreign Digital Interference (VIGINUM) made available to media on Monday.
An inquiry was opened in late July after “several visuals calling for a boycott of the 2024 Olympics” were posted on X (formerly Twitter), showing rioting, Paris and the Paris 2024 logo, accompanied by hashtags #PARIS2024 and #BOYCOTTPARIS2024. On 26 and 27 July, more than 1,600 posts using these items were seen on X, with about 90 accounts doing the posting, which the report classified as “suggesting artificial amplification.”
Of these, 40 accounts were created in July alone and carried only anti-Paris 2024 messages. Of these accounts, “a significant proportion had at least one link to Azerbaijan,” showing the Azerbaijani flag, locations in the country or quotes from Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
Agence France Presse reported:
“The account @MuxtarYev published 15 visuals calling for a boycott, which were then amplified by inauthentic accounts and picked up by X accounts linked to Azerbaijan — a pattern that ‘reinforces the hypothesis of a coordinated manoeuvre,’ Viginum said.
“Created in June 2023, the @MuxtarYev account claims to be located in Azerbaijan.
“The name Muxtar Nagiyev and the account’s profile photo coincide with the identity of the chairman of the Sabail district organisation of the New Azerbaijan party, the ex-Soviet country’s ruling party.”
Relations between Azerbaijan and France have been strained over the September Azeri takeover of the Nagorno-Karabakh area, also claimed by Armenia.
The Paris 2024 organizers stated on Tuesday, “Between now and the Games, Paris 2024 will continue to monitor, in conjunction with the relevant authorities, the veracity of information circulating about the event and its organisation.”
The disclosure of the VIGINUM report follows an International Olympic Committee statement last Thursday condemning “fake news posts targeting the IOC,” notably on the Telegram social-media service and others.
VIGINUM previously announced a Russian disinformation campaign in June, “involving Russian actors and to which government bodies or bodies affiliated with the Russian State have participated by spreading misinformation.
“This campaign consists, among other things, of creating fake web pages usurping the identity of national media outlets and government websites as well as creating fake accounts on social media. …
“VIGINUM has also observed that several government bodies or bodies affiliated with the Russian State participated in spreading certain content produced under this campaign.”
French transport minister says Paris 2024 traffic “complicated”
“By the end of November, at the very beginning of December at the latest, the long-awaited traffic plans in Paris will be presented. I will not hide from you that these traffic plans … they will be ‘hardcore.’
“On competition days, it will be complicated to get around Paris.”
That’s French Transport Minister Clement Beaune, speaking on Tuesday to the Group of Hotels and Restaurants of France, explaining what they should expect from the government in order to make their own plans for deliveries, guests and staff.
Beaune said there would be further discussions with the group and others concerning traffic flows and restrictions. Also:
“There will be an information campaign both on anticipation of the Games, how to ensure that we have a little less unnecessary travel … during the Games,” and “to explain this, what happens during the Games: the plans, the exemptions, those who have the right to travel.”
Transportation is one of the most complex and unforgiving aspects of any Olympic Games, with priority given to athletes, teams and sports officials who need to get to their venues, along with television production crews, technical and security staff and volunteers, along with media and, of course, spectators. For those simply living in the host city, daily life can get re-arranged pretty quickly.
The transportation authorities, especially in the Ile-de-France region that includes Paris, have consistently warned about preparations, even as to a limit for the Opening Ceremonies on the Seine River that would be limited to the capacity of the public transit systems close to the river.
U.S. Soccer announces Emma Hayes as women’s coach
Although already widely publicized, U.S. Soccer formally announced the hiring of Chelsea women’s coach Emma Hayes (GBR) as the new head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team.
Hayes, 47, has plenty of American experience, having worked in the U.S. since 2001 and served as the head coach of the Chicago Red Stars of Women’s Professional Soccer from 2008-10. She was hired by Chelsea in 2012 and will serve to the end of this season, having compiled a brilliant 237-58-39 record (W-L-T) so far.
She was named “Best FIFA Football Coach” in 2021 and her Chelsea squad won five Women’s F.A. Cup titles in 2015-18-21-22-23 and six F.A. Women’s Super League trophies, in 2015-18-20-21-22-23.
According to the announcement:
“Hayes will finish the 2023-24 Women’s Super League season in England and then join the U.S. team officially two months prior to the start of the 2024 Olympics. Interim head coach Twila Kilgore will continue in her role and then join Hayes’ staff full-time as an assistant coach.”
She will have four matches as the head of the USWNT prior to the start of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Hayes was asked about moving on from Chelsea, where she has had so much success:
“I’m sure everybody can understand when you’ve been associated with a club for almost 12 years, a club built from the bottom up, they’ve become my family, become so much of my own identity. Without question it pulled up my heartstrings because I care so much for the players and everybody that I’ve built relationships with.
“But I’m all about challenge. We’ve won a lot at Chelsea and I’m very proud of that, and I’m proud of the fact that I can leave that club in a better place and one that I hope continues to compete. But for me, the challenge of competing for World Cups, for Olympics, the dream of coaching a team that I’ve always wanted to get the opportunity to, I simply couldn’t turn it down.”
And Hayes has a clear concept of what she will be expected to produce:
“I understand how important the team is to people and culture of the United States.
“This is not just about the soccer community and I fully understand the prestige and place that the team has in U.S. society. I’ve lived it. I remember being a young coach working my way up through the system in the U.S. and watching all those young girls aspire to play on the U.S. Women’s National Team.
“For me, the honor of building on that legacy is part of my motivation, no question. I have watched all the teams endlessly since I was a teenager. I have coached players at different points that have been across the program. I understand what it means to the U.S. people, and I will do everything possible to make sure that we compete on the top end, because in the world game there’s no denying the gaps have closed worldwide so it’s important we work hard, but we work together because we’re not going achieve that alone. It’s the entire ecosystem and landscape that has to cooperate to make sure that the U.S. Women’s National Team is at the top of the podium. That’s our objective.”
Hayes follows Vlatko Andonovski as the head coach of the American women’s team. He had a shiny 51-5-9 (W-L-T) record from 2019-2023, but the U.S. was eliminated by Sweden in the first playoff round at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. He is now the head coach of the Kansas City Current of the NWSL.
USA Wrestling announces $380,000 in World Champs bonuses
U.S. wrestlers who won medals at the recent UWW World Championships in Serbia received a total of $380,000 in bonuses from the federation’s Living the Dream Medal Fund, with the bonus total across 14 years now totaling $5.060 million paid to 46 athletes.
There were 14 Americans who won medals in Belgrade, each receiving significant amounts:
● Gold: $50,000, awarded to Vito Arauju (men’s 61 kg Freestyle), Zain Retherford (men’s 70 kg Freestyle), David Taylor (men’s 86 kg Freestyle) and Amit Elor (women’s 72 kg Freestyle).
● Silver: $25,000, awarded to Kyle Dake (men’s 74 kg Freestyle), Jacarra Winchester (women’s 55 kg Freestyle) and Macey Kilty (women’s 65 kg Freestyle).
● Bronze: $15,000, awarded to Zahid Valencia (men’s 92 kg Freestyle), Kyle Snyder (men’s 97 kg Freestyle), Mason Parris (men’s 125 kg Freestyle), Sarah Hildebrandt (women’s 50 kg Freestyle), Helen Maroulis (women’s 57 kg Freestyle), Jennifer Page (women’s 59 kg Freestyle), and Adeline Gray (women’s 76 kg Freestyle).
The fund is supported by private donations and direct support from USA Wrestling and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee. The amounts in World Championship years exceeds the Operation Gold amounts offered by the USOPC for Olympic medals of $37,500-22,500-15,000.
For Olympic medals, the Living the Dream Medal Fund payments are sensational, with $250,000-50,000-25,000 offered for Paris in 2024.
The total payout for 2023 ($380,000) was down from 2022, when 15 wrestlers won prizes, including seven gold winners for a total of $530,000.
The 2021-24 quadrennial is shaping up to be the best yet in terms of payout, with $1,360,000 already awarded for the 2021, 2022 and 2023 Worlds. The prior quad payouts have included:
● $1,850,000 for 2017-20
● $1,075,000 for 2013-16
● $775,000 for 2009-12
The all-time Fund payments leader is 2012 Olympic winner and six-time World Champion Jordan Burroughs, with $595,000, with Snyder – the Rio 2016 gold medalist – the only other recipient over $500,000, at $530,000.
Skating’s core audience maintained against the NFL
After four stops on the ISU Grand Prix circuit for 2023, the core U.S. TV audience for figure skating in the U.S. has become clear at about 600,000.
The latest evidence came from the fourth leg of the tour, the Cup of China last weekend. Right-holder NBC keeps the live programming on its Peacock subscription streaming service, then shows a highlights package on Sunday or even a week later.
So for the Cup of China last Sunday (12th), the NBC highlights show came on at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, right up against the final hour of the 1:00 p.m. games which drew 28.8 million on Fox and CBS combined.
The average audience was 606,000, right in line with the other Grand Prix stops on NBC so far:
● Oct. 21 (Sat.): 191.000 on E! for Skate America: live
● Oct. 22 (Sun.): 699,000 on NBC for Skate America: delayed
● Nov. 04 (Sat.): 622,000 on NBC for Skate Canada International: delayed
● Nov. 05 (Sun.): 551,000 on NBC for the Grand Prix of France: delayed
The Grand Prix moves back to Europe this week, for the Grand Prix Espoo in Finland from 17-19 November and then finishes its regular season in Japan and following week for the NHK Trophy in Osaka. The Grand Prix Final will be held from 7-10 December in Beijing.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Russia ● The President of the Russian Ski Federation, Elena Vyalbe, told reporters on Tuesday that the IOC and other sports organizations will be asking for Russians to return to competition:
“What [IOC President Thomas] Bach [GER] says today does not mean that tomorrow it will be the same repeated words again; he can say something of his own, come up with something new. His last statement was that he is not very happy that we are holding tournaments, that it could affect the reputation and interest in international organizations that have been around for a long time.
“My deep conviction is that Bach and not only him, but also the top IOC staff do not have the right to say what they would like to say.
“I’m sure that he, as a former athlete, would like everyone to compete, but there are sponsors who dictate what should be done. So you have to cancel Russia: they canceled us. But from nothing, let’s wait, they themselves will come crawling on their knees, they will still beg.”
Asked about Russian participation in the 2026 Winter Games in Italy, she replied:
“Do I believe in competing at the 2026 Olympics? I’m an optimist in life, so we need to believe to the last that sooner or later, of course, we will be allowed to participate in international competitions, including the Olympics. …
“There is faith that we will take part [in the Games] in 2026, why shouldn’t there be this faith?”
As for the participation regulations issued by the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG), the Russian Olympic Committee issued another statement, that included:
“The FIG issued a list of requirements for the admission of Russians to competitions, this document reads like a real ode to segregation. It simply talks about the complete neutralization of the color scheme of competitive equipment and equipment, and the already most impersonal gymnasts and gymnasts are invited to perform in a single-color outfit. In artistic gymnastics, where leotard design is a separate art and an element of production, which is of great importance for the integrity of any image and performance, respectively, its visual perception and evaluation.
“The policy of double standards and discrimination based on nationality seems to abolish all moral and ethical norms and common sense in the Olympic movement.”
● Alpine Skiing ● American skiing superstar Mikaela Shiffrin posted on X (ex-Twitter) a note on her seventh Levi reindeer naming:
“Loved all the suggestions for reindeer names that everyone sent (head over to Insta to see all of the ideas)! Finally landed on one that I don’t think too many people would expect: Grogu!”
She included a photo of her and Grogu, with the animal distinctly nonplussed; Shiffrin commented: “Thank goodness [boyfriend] @AleksanderKilde [NOR] doesn’t look at me like this when I try to kiss him”
● Athletics ● The finalists for the World Athletics’ Men’s World Athlete of the Year were announced Tuesday, including two U.S. stars:
● Neeraj Chopra (IND) ~ Worlds javelin gold, Asian Games gold
● Ryan Crouser (USA) ~ Worlds shot gold, world shot record
● Mondo Duplantis (SWE) ~ Worlds vault gold, world record
● Kelvin Kiptum (KEN) ~ Marathon world record
● Noah Lyles (USA) ~ Worlds 100/200/4×100 m golds
The announcement noted that two million votes from the public were tallied for this award, with the winner to be revealed on 11 December.
● Ice Hockey ● The South Yorkshire Police in England arrested a man on Tuesday in connection with the death of Nottingham Panthers play Adam Johnson (USA), who died after receiving a skate cut to his throat during a 28 October game against the Sheffield Steelers in Sheffield.
Johnson, 29, died afterwards. The Associated Press reported that video of the incident showed Steelers player Matt Petgrave [CAN] falling after a collision with a Panthers player and his left skate hit Johnson in the neck.
The police did not release the name of the arrested individual taken on suspicion of manslaughter.
● Luge ● USA Luge crowned its national champions in Lake Placid, New York over the weekend, with Johnny Gustafson and Ashley Farquharson taking the individual titles.
Gustafson won his second U.S. championship on a difficult track, with hard ice and a bumpy course that changed the scoring to the best combined two runs out of three. Gustafson finished his two best runs in 1:45.811, ahead of 2018 Olympic silver winner Chris Mazdzer (1:46.169) and Hunter Harris (1:46.340).
Farquharson took her first American championship in 1:30.659, comfortable ahead of junior competitors Sophia Gordon (1:32.158) and Emma Erickson (1:32.181).
Current World U-23 champs Zach DiGregorio and Sean Hollander won the men’s Doubles in 1:29.859, ahead of Marcus Mueller and Ansel Hauhsjaa (1:30.666) and debutante pair Dana Kellogg and Frank Ike (1:31.746). The women’s Doubles crown went to 2022 Worlds bronze winners Chevonne Forgan and Sophie Kirkby in 1:32.726, the only pair to post two finishes.
For our updated, 850-event International Sports Calendar (no. 4) for 2023 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!