TSX REPORT: French poll shows confidence, some concerns on Paris 2024; IOC demands more women involved; Retton still recovering

A great graphic by Paris 2024 of its Olympic Phryge mascot taking a coffee break in Paris.

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1. French confident on Paris 2024, but worried on security, transport
2. IOC pushing for more women at Paris 2024
3. World Athletics chief Coe says doping will never be wiped out
4. Parsons underscores Paralympics’ role for change
5. Retton says she has a long road to recovery ahead

● The latest polling on French attitudes on the Paris 2024 Olympic Games shows some confidence that the event will be a success, including the opening on the Seine, but with significant concerns on security and transport.

● The International Olympic Committee has told the National Olympic Committees that it expects every delegation to send both men and women to the Paris Games and that both male and female flagbearers for the opening are expected.

● World Athletics President Sebastian Coe (GBR) said that doping will never be completely eradicated because of the possibilities of financial gain: “it’s human nature.”

● International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons (BRA) said that the Paris 2024 Paralympics will be spectacular, but most importantly will advance the IPC’s accessibility and inclusion agenda. That’s what is really important.

● Gymnastics icon Mary Lou Retton, 55, said that her recovery from a near-death bout of pneumonia will take time, but that she was deeply touched by the public support of her recovery and has a lot to live for.

Panorama: Los Angeles 2028 (Kolesinkov says 50 m Backstroke will be added to LA28 program!) = Athletics (2: Bates out of U.S. marathon trials; Lyles wants world records, more meets in big cities in 2024) = Bobsled & Skeleton (U.S. federation opens athlete commercial marketplace with Opendorse) = Field Hockey (FIH celebrates 100th anniversary!) = Football (German great Beckenbauer passes at 78) = Shooting (Lagan, Tucker, Roe lead five Paris qualifiers at U.S. trials) = Taekwondo (upsets at USA Taekwondo national team qualifier) ●

French confident on Paris 2024, but worried on security, transport

Confident but concerned is probably the best way to characterize the newest poll from the Odoxa public-opinion firm in France, releasing a new poll on the public’s view of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games this summer, with 200 days to go.

The survey of 992 adults aged 18 and over on 3-4 January notably showed:

● 61% are confident in the success of the Games vs. 37% who are worried; the confidence factor is down seven points from the prior poll in October 2023.

● 59% are confident in the success of the opening ceremony on the Seine River vs. 39% worried; the confidence is down 12 points from the prior poll.

● Only 39% believe the “work” will be completed on time, down five points from the previous poll, vs. 59% who believe it will not.

● Only 33% are confident in the security measures, down by four points, vs. 65% who are worried.

● Only 24% believe the transportation programs will work as designed, down nine points, vs. 74% who are worried.

This poll reflects the police plan to require Paris residents to essentially obtain a free pass (a QR code) to access specific areas of Paris during the Games which have Olympic events taking place, although the specific areas to be regulated have not been disclosed.

In terms of public interest in the events, 55% said they intended to follow the Games and 42% said they would follow the Paralympics; 58% said they would follow both. That’s a much higher rate than for the other major 2024 events, such as the Euro 2024 football tournament (42%), the Six Nations Rugby tournament (42%), the 2024 Tour de France (39%) or the 2024 French Open tennis tournament (32%).

Observed: These results track with the situation in past Games where pessimism creeps in at the start of the Olympic year, but rises quickly later in the process, especially when the Olympic Torch Relay begins. The lack of confidence in security and transportation also reflects the current situation in France, which suffered a terrorist incident in early December where a German tourist was stabbed to death near the Eiffel Tower by a French national who said he was angered by “so many Muslims dying in Afghanistan and in Palestine,” and comments from Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo that the transit system upgrades planned to be completed prior to the Games will not finish in time.

Against the public concerns are sales of more than 7.6 million tickets and more than 200,000 applications for volunteer work against 45,000 identified positions.

IOC pushing for more women at Paris 2024

Japan’s Kyodo News reported on a communication to the National Olympic Committees, asking firmly for more representation for women at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Under current president Thomas Bach (GER), the IOC has made gender equality a main focus of its reform efforts, and has trumpeted Paris for the first-ever gender-equal participation in the Games, with 5,250 men and 5,250 women (10,500 total).

But it is not stopping there, asking the NOCs to ensure that at least one female is included in all teams and that the flagbearers include a man and a woman (two are now allowed). The story noted that while 91% of the NOCs had male and female flagbearers, not all did, and that:

“[T]he delegations from Brunei, Suriname, the United Arab Emirates, and Vanuatu did not include a single female in the Tokyo Olympics due to the pandemic that forced the event to be postponed for one year until 2021.”

The IOC message also asked for more women on staff, citing statistics of only 13% of women as coaches and 19% as team leaders, and less than 30% overall.

World Athletics chief Coe says doping will never be wiped out

Speaking on the “Up Front with Simon Jordan” podcast, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe (GBR) said that despite extensive efforts, it’s impossible to completely end doping in sports. But it’s much better now than it was:

“I feel like we’re now in much safer territory when it comes to doping.

“Will we ever get to the utopia of a sport that is drug-free? No, of course not, it’s human nature, risk versus reward.

“If you’re a street kid, in some countries the risk versus reward is huge and if you get caught and are returned to the street then that’s nothing ventured nothing gained, so it is a challenge.

“I think we’re in much better territory with doping, we have the systems in place now. Ideally, we wouldn’t be having to spend £8 million a year on an integrity unit, but I would rather have the short-term embarrassment of a high-profile positive test, than have the gentle decline into the morality of a knacker’s yard. (£1 = $1.28 U.S. today)

“For me, weeding out the cheats doesn’t make me feel good for exposing them, it’s more about protecting the clean athletes.”

The Athletics Integrity Unit, founded in 2017 and funded by World Athletics, has been an energetic force against doping in the sport and the concept has been copied by an expanding number of International Federations, including aquatics, biathlon and tennis.

But it has its hands full trying to contain doping issues in Russia (90 ineligibles), and more recently in Kenya, with 71 people listed on the “ineligible” list at present.

Parsons underscores Paralympics’ role for change

The main role of the Paralympic Games and the Paralympic movement worldwide is to increase accessibility and inclusion. That was emphasized by International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons (BRA) in a Kyodo interview published Sunday:

“It’s a fundamental piece of our DNA. The Paralympic movement was created by Sir Ludwig Guttmann [GBR] 70-something years ago to include persons with disability through sport. That’s what we try to achieve.”

“We try to present the Games as an example that if you give opportunities to persons with disabilities, they can excel – and not only in sport. We believe that sport is a very visible phenomenon so people in a 10-second athletic race, people get it, because it’s sport, because it’s so powerful.

“So, we play our part in trying to make people understand that difference is a strength, that you need to respect difference, that the world is a more interesting and better place if we are able to respect each other’s differences. We know that sport cannot solve or cure all the problems in the world, but we believe it’s a very powerful way to change mentality.

“We saw it in Japan, for example, with the [2021] Games. We saw a big change in mentality, and how Japan perceives persons with disability, and now they are being more present in society.”

He was highly enthusiastic about the Paris Paralympic Games, noting:

“There are many projects in Paris and in France…to change perceptions. And of course, the games will be a catalyst for the acceleration. So, I think the combination of the two will provide a huge improvement in the quality of life of the 30 million French people with disabilities.

“In general, I believe these will be the most spectacular Games in history, due to the combination of the sport, the crowds and the venues and Paris. The high level of Paralympic sport is more evident than ever before.”

Retton says she has a long road to recovery ahead

Olympic gymnastics icon Mary Lou Retton appeared in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show and said she is making a slow recovery from the pneumonia that nearly killed her in October.

I’m not great yet. I know it’s going to be a really long road.”

She explained that she had rarely opened up about her medical conditions and explained that she had gone through more than 30 “orthopedic-type” operations over the years. Now 55, the astonishing $459,324 raised from 8,319 donors has allowed her medical insurance and give her the support needed to pursue her recovery.

But it was close:

“This is serious, and this is life. I am so grateful to be here. I am blessed to be here because there was a time when they were about to put me on life support.

“When you face death in the eyes, I have so much to look forward to. I’m a fighter and I’m not going to give it up.”

She was also struck by the outpouring of support she received:

“I just thought I was a washed up, old athlete; but the love, it touched me. Now that I’m alive and I made it through, there’s so many more positives than negatives.”

Retton was just 16 when she famously won the Olympic All-Around gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games and became the first female athlete to be pictured on the front of a Wheaties box. She was found at home alone, and ill, by a neighbor, who took her to a hospital; she was released, but back in another hospital a day later when her situation turned grave, but ultimately rebounded.


● Olympic Games 2028: Los Angeles ● Will World Aquatics be allowed to add the long-sought 50 m distances in backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly in 2028? Russia’s Kliment Kolesnikov, the world-record holder in the 50 Back (23.55), thinks so. He told the Russian news agency TASS:

“I heard that to Los Angeles, they will add the ‘fifty,’ so that’s it: I’m going to perform at 50 meters on the back.

“It turns out that I will continue my career for another five years, although, of course, now I say this not without a share of irony. But to go to the Olympic Games in the 50-meter backstroke would really be fun.

“Basically, with each year gradually the thoughts and approach to swimming will change, the goals will also change. It may be that by 2028 I will be done with swimming altogether, but to go for a fifty, as I said, would be cool.”

Kolesnikov, 23, won the 2020 Olympic silver in the 100 m Back and bronze in the 100 m Free. No decision will be announced on the actual program of events for 2028 until after the Paris Games are concluded, possibly in December of this year or early in 2025. World Aquatics has been asking to add the 50 m distances beyond Freestyle for some time, but has run into questions about its overall athlete total and what reductions it would make in other events to keep its athlete number the same (or less) at the Olympic Games..

● Athletics ● U.S. marathoner Emma Bates, the 2021 Chicago Marathon runner-up and seventh at the 2022 Worlds (2:23:18: no. 10 all-time U.S.) said in an Instagram video that she will not be running at the U.S. Olympic Trials in February as she has not had enough time to prepare after suffering a foot injury at the Chicago Marathon in October and another injury in December.

She ran 2:22:10 for fifth at Boston in 2023 and was a clear contender for the U.S. team. Now 31, she explained, “we just know that there’s not enough time to be where I need to be” and added in her post:

I don’t really know what to say. I don’t really know how to feel. … This one hurts a lot. But I’ll be ok. I’ll be ok.”

U.S. sprint superstar Noah Lyles told World Athletics in a look-ahead to 2024 that he’s looking for “three gold medals at the Olympics and a world record, and says he’s looking to run “9.4″ for the 100 m and 19.10 for the 200 m, both of which would be world records.

And he is looking to making the sport more interesting and more attractive as well:

“I’d definitely like to see more walk-ins; now that people have seen them, I feel that we can actually organize it a lot better and find the track meets that want to partner up with it. And let’s get some track meets in some major cities in the U.S.: that’s truly what I want to see.”

● Bobsled & Skeleton ● If it works for college athletes, why not for bobsledders and skeleton racers?

USA Bobsled & Skeleton announced the opening of “a dedicated bobsled and skeleton marketplace to help athletes increase and simplify their personal brand promotional efforts.”

The program is operated through Opendorse, one of the leading name-image-likeness marketers in the collegiate athletics space, with USABS athletes available for personal sponsorships, appearances, social media posts and other opportunities.

Fourteen athletes are currently listed in the marketplace, including Beijing 2022 Olympic Monobob gold medalist Kaillie Humphries. She is offering individuals opportunities for a personal video salute, appearance and social media post, starting as low as $125!

Also in the marketplace is former sprint star Manteo Mitchell, a member of the U.S. Olympic track & field team in 2012 and who completed with a broken leg (!) in the heats of the men’s 4×400 m relay, winning a silver medal as the U.S. was second in the final. He now competes in Bobsled, trying to complete a rare summer-winter medal double.

● Field Hockey ● The Federation Internationale de Hockey (FIH) marked its 100th anniversary on Sunday, having been founded in 1924, in Paris (FRA) in a meeting hosted by the French federation.

The initial members were Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Hungary, Spain and Switzerland. A separate International Federation of Women’s Hockey Associations was formed in 1927 and the two organizations finally merged in 1982. Hockey was included first at the 1908 Olympic Games in London, and in 1980 for women.

The FIH now has 140 member nations and has continued to introduce new formats, including the national-team Hockey Pro League in 2019 and the Hockey 5s World Cup that will debut later this month in Muscat (OMA).

● Football ● One of the greats of the game, German defender, coach and World Cup organizer Franz Beckenbauer, passed away at 78 on Sunday (7th) at Salzburg (AUT).

He was a superb player, nominally a defender, but always an offensive presence as well, who scored 14 goals for West Germany in his national-team career from 1965-77. He played on the 1966 FIFA World Cup runner-ups, the bronze-medal-winning 1970 team and captained the 1974 World Cup winners, playing in front of a home crowd.

Although best known as a star for Bayern Munich, he played four seasons in the North American Soccer League for the powerhouse New York Cosmos from 1977-80.

He coached the West German team from 1984-90, finishing second in 1986 and became one of only three men in history to win the FIFA World Cup as both a player and a manager, as his team defeated Argentina, 1-0, in the 1990 final. Only Brazil’s Mario Zagallo – who passed away at 92 on 5 January – and France’s Didier Deschamps have also won the World Cup as a player and manager.

“Der Kaiser” as he was known, was the head of the successful German bid group for the 2006 FIFA World Cup and was the Chair of the organizing committee of the highly successful tournament. He faced accusations of bribery and fraud connected with the event, but was never charged by Swiss prosecutors and was fined by the FIFA Ethics Committee with regard to a 2014 inquiry.

● Shooting ● The third phase of the USA Shooting Olympic Trials for Air Pistol and Air Rifle concluded in Anniston, Alabama on Sunday, with five athletes in line to be officially named as 2024 Olympians.

USA Shooting announced that athletes would be named for five quota spots already earned, in the women’s Air Pistol (2) and Air Rifle (2) and the men’s Air Rifle (1).

The women’s 10 m Air Pistol final in Anniston went to Suman Sanghera, who scored 238.3 to best Tokyo Olympian Lexi Lagan (232.2), but Lagan won the three-phase Trials with a total of 575.6 points, ahead of Katelyn Abeln (571.2), who won a tie-breaker with Sanghera (also 571.2).

The women’s 10 m Air Rifle final saw Tokyo 2020 Mixed Team silver winner Mary Tucker score 252.5 for the win over Katie Zaun (250.1) and take the overall title at 633.9. Sagen Maddalena, the 2023 Pan American Games gold winner and a Tokyo Olympian, was fifth in the final, but second overall at 632.9 to beat out Tokyo Olympian Alison Weisz (632.3) and Zaun (630.2).

The men’s 10 m Air Rifle final was won by Tokyo Mixed Team silver medalist Lucas Kozeniesky at 251.3, ahead of Peter Fiori (249.1) and Ivan Roe (228.1), but Roe earned his first Olympic berth with an overall score of 631.9. Rylan Kissell stands second overall (630.3) and Kozeniesky third (629.4), with a second Olympian to be named (eventually) in this event.

In the men’s 10 m Air Pistol final in Anniston, Jay Shi won at 233.9 against Tokyo Olympian James Hall (231.7) and Nick Mowrer (213.2), but Mowrer – also a Tokyo Olympian – topped the three-stage combine at 579.4, with Shi second at 577.6 and Sam Gens third (572.2). The U.S. has two quota spots for Paris in this event, but no team members were to be announced after this phase.

● Taekwondo ● At the USA Taekwondo U.S. Team Trials in Charlotte, North Carolina, Pan American Games gold medalist Khalfani Harris swept to victory, but there were multiple surprises of other medal winners, including a 2022 World Champion!

In the men’s 54 kg class, top-seeded Matthew Alfonso defeated no. 3 Joseph Carillo in the final, while William Cunningham won the men’s 58 kg class, defeating third-seed Melvy Alvarez.

Fourth-seeded Emilio Cendejas took out no. 1 seed Jason Lewis in the elimination round and then defeated No. 3 Luis Orozco to win at 63 kg. At 68 kg, Pan American Games champ Harris swept past no. 6 Victor Rodrigues in the final to win the division. Top seed Aiden Bevel won the 74 kg class over Daniel Alexander and no. 1 Jonathan Healy, the Pan Am Games silver winner at +80 kg, took out third-seed Zeph Putnam for the +87 kg win.

Top-seeded Ashley Choi won the women’s 46 kg final over third-seed Hazel Della, and fifth-seed Montana Miller won in a surprise at 49 kg over top-seeded Maya Mata in the semis and then no. 2 Melina Daniel – the Pan Am Games bronze medalist – in the final.

No. 1 Sophia Oceguera won the women’s 53 kg class by beating Kayla Shanahan and Logan Weber won the 57 kg final over Jessica Gniedziejko. Fourth-seed Danica Deacon won the 62 kg final over no. 2 Chloe Chua, after Chua had beaten 2022 Worlds 53 kg champ Makayla Greenwood in her semifinal!

At 67 kg, 18-year-old Kristine Teachout, the 2023 Pan Am Games bronze medalist, won her division over no. 2 Makaela Usserman, while Brianne Usserman won the 73 kg gold over Sarah Grabot. At +73 kg, Naomi Alade upset no. 1-ranked Hannah Keck.

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