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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Int’l Boxing Assn. re-admits Russian and Belarusian athletes
2. Bach says Milan Cortina 2026 is “according to plan”
3. Paris 2024’s landmark-filled marathon route announced
4. NWSL Portland and Chicago owners “step back” from control
5. French cities to protest Qatar 2024 with no fan zones
The already-suspended International Boxing Association decided to re-admit all Russian and Belarusian boxers and officials with immediate effect, brushing aside the International Olympic Committee’s February request to remove them from competitions. The move could result in the expulsion of the IBA from the Olympic Movement, with the IOC Executive Board’s next meeting in December. IOC President Thomas Bach (GER) told an Italian newspaper last week that planning for Milan Cortina 2026 is on track, and explained the IOC’s thinking on the Russian and Belarusian athlete ban edict. The Paris 2024 organizers revealed the Olympic marathon course, and the program for mass-participation races, including both a marathon and a 10 km event. In the aftermath of the deeply troubling Yates report on player abuse, the owners of the Portland and Chicago NWSL teams announced they were removing themselves from daily operations while a league inquiry continues. Multiple French cities said they would not be offering fan zones with big video screens during the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar, partly due to the late date on the calendar as well as in protest of the conditions for workers who built the new stadia.
Int’l Boxing Assn. re-admits Russian and Belarusian athletes
At the end of the International Boxing Association’s Extraordinary Congress held in Armenia on 25 September, Russian Umar Kremlev was re-confirmed as the organization’s President and told the assembly, in pertinent part:
“We are saying today that we are an independent organization, that we are here to protect our IBA that we all love. And we shouldn’t say ‘Olympic boxing,’ we should say ‘IBA boxing.’ We have to get to the point where boxing will be part of the Olympic Games in 2024 as well as 2028. We’ll do our best, with the team and with you, and no one can exclude us from anywhere. …
“Today, I have heard in this hall, a couple of expressions, ‘what will happen with boxing when it comes to Olympic Games’? We will join our forces, we will do a great job and we will defend the name of boxing to be part of the Olympic program, but this will not be the only thing we will do. Most importantly, we have to protect the interests of the IBA, our own organization. … Our World Series must become the important competitions.”
On Wednesday, Kremlev and the IBA followed the promised independent course and broke with all other Olympic-sport International Federations by re-admitting Russian and Belarusian boxers to all IBA competitions:
“IBA Board of Directors voted in favor to cancel its previous decision and allow boxers of Russia and Belarus to compete at the IBA events with immediate effect. The IBA strongly believes that politics shouldn’t have any influence on sports. Hence, all athletes should be given equal conditions.
“Respecting its own autonomy as the international sports federation, the IBA shall remain politically neutral and independent. IBA calls for peace and remains a peacemaker in any conflicts. Moreover, the IBA has obligation to ensure equal treatment towards the athletes and competition officials, regardless of their nationality and residence.
“Both Russian and Belarus teams will be able to perform under their flags, and the national anthems will be played in case they win a gold medal.
“According to the decision, the technical officials of Russia and Belarus will also be back in the competitions.”
The action reverses the ban on Russian and Belarusian participation in place since February, when the International Olympic Committee asked all of the International Federations to remove Russia and Belarus in view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Dutch Boxing Federation chief Boris van der Vorst, who challenged Kremlev for the IBA presidency but was never allowed to be in an actual vote against him, posted an angry letter on Twitter which included:
“Contrary to IBA messages, this decision is an enforcement of the Russian government’s geopolitical agenda on the sport of boxing. It is clear that IBA is held hostage by its Russian leadership and they are determined to keep the governing body under their control at any cost.
“This is totally unacceptable. Together with many representatives of National Federations, we will be looking for ways to ensure boxing competition integrity and will continue our fight to secure an Olympic future for our sport, with or without the IBA.”
Van der Vorst’s Dutch federation is part of the “Common Cause Alliance” of 15 national federations which have been railing against Kremlev – Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.S. – which may now be ready to try and form an alternative International Federation to the IBA.
Further, with future IBA tournaments to include Russians and Belarusians, will boxers from those countries (and others) refuse to compete?
The International Olympic Committee’s Executive Board will meet next from 5-7 December in Lausanne and could recommend expulsion of the IBA from the Olympic Movement. Already, the IOC has taken control of the qualification process for the Paris 2024 Games and boxing is not on the initial sports program for Los Angeles 2028.
Before Wednesday’s announcement, IOC President Thomas Bach (GER) told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera last week:
“If we had to evaluate what is going on in the international federation, boxing should have left as early as Tokyo: scandalous refereeing, elections of officials by acclamation, the arbitrary exclusion of Ukraine. Boxing has a formidable history, is wildly popular, and has the enormous virtue of taking so many at-risk youth off the street. It needs to change course, and right now boxing is excluded from the 2028 Games.”
There are two other Olympic-sport International Federations with Russian presidents. Alisher Usmanov is the head of the International Fencing Federation (FIE), but stepped down to deal with personal sanctions levied by multiple bodies, including the European Union. Vladimir Lisin is head of the International Sport Shooting Federation, which has so far maintained the IOC-requested ban on Russian and Belarusian participation.
Bach says Milan Cortina 2026 is “according to plan”
More from the Corriere della Sera interview with IOC chief Bach (computerized translation from the original Italian):
● On the much-criticized progress of the Milan Cortina 2026 organizing committee:
“Everything is going according to plan. We can count on the excellent work of Giovanni Malago both as president of CONI [Italian National Olympic Committee] and of the organizing committee. It will be a great edition. We understand well how difficult the economic context is with skyrocketing inflation: we will give all our support.”
● On the controversial and costly renovation of the sliding track in Cortina:
“The directives of the IOC are clear. Whoever organizes the Games must use existing facilities and, failing that, build temporary facilities with a low ecological impact. The local Italian authorities have assured us that the bobsled facility will be part of a sports and tourism project that will be developed even after the Games. We are only interested in one thing: that the construction costs will not be part of the Olympics budget.”
● Bach’s comment on the Russian situation noted the IOC’s immediate condemnation of the Ukraine invasion and included:
“Russian athletes certainly did not start the war. Those who have distanced themselves from the regime should be able to compete under a neutral flag. Our goal is to get athletes with Russian passports who do not support the war to compete again. But it is not easy.”
He also clarified that the IOC’s requested ban took the opportunity to create a relatively consistent approach to Russian and Belarusian participation, instead of having a checkerboard of different governmental responses on a country-by-country basis. Prior to the IBA’s action on Wednesday, tennis has allowed Russian and Belarusian players to compete as neutrals; judo did so for a while, but has banned them for the remainder of 2022.
Bach was also asked about the unsettled situation with modern pentathlon and with weightlifting for the 2028 Games:
“Historicity and tradition cannot be exclusive criteria for the survival of a discipline at the Games. Pentathlon has few practitioners and few national federations, significant costs for facilities. Equestrianism poses problems with the balance of competition, not only that, animal abuse has been highlighted. The international federation is trying to change the format: in Paris the discipline will remain and in traditional form, its future will also depend on how the federation replaces the equestrian test. …
“Weightlifting, on the other hand, will have to erase a widespread doping culture.”
Paris 2024’s landmark-filled marathon route announced
The Louvre, Place de la Concorde, Grand Palais, Chateau de Versailles and the Eiffel Tower will all be along the route of the Paris 2024 Olympic marathon loop course revealed on Wednesday.
The 26.2 mile (42.2 km) route will start in the middle of Paris at the Hotel de Ville – the city hall – then go west all the way to Versailles before turning and returning to the middle of the city, with the finish at the Esplanade des Invalides along the Seine River.
The circuit passes through nine communities and will challenge the runners with a rise from 27 m elevation (88 feet) at 14.2 km to 183 m (600 feet) at 20.2 m with an upward slope of as much as 13.5% and then the corresponding downhill return into Paris.
The great innovation of the Paris 2024 marathon isn’t the Olympic race, however. It’s the opportunity for 20,024 (get it?) people to run on the Olympic marathon course, and another 20,024 to run on a 10 km course that will use the Olympic start and finish, but stay within central Paris.
There are age minimums of 20 for the marathon and 16 for the 10 km race, per the regulations of the French Athletics Federation. About 3,000 places in the races have already been “won” and while participation in the races is free, places in each will be distributed by lottery, through various running events and from Paris 2024 sponsors. Naturally, you have to sign up online through one of three programs to register.
NWSL Portland and Chicago owners “step back” from control
Monday’s powerful report detailing abuse of players in the National Women’s Soccer League clubs led to the owners of the Portland Thorns and Chicago Red Stars to remove themselves from direct control of those franchises.
Portland owner Merritt Paulson announced on Tuesday:
“I have told the NWSL that I will be removing myself effective today from all Thorns-related decision making until the NWSL/NWSLPA Joint Investigation, which we are fully cooperating with, is released. Gavin Wilkinson and Mike Golub will also step aside. All Thorns-related decisions will now be handled by Heather Davis, Thorns General Counsel.”
The club posted a notice on Wednesday that “president of soccer Gavin Wilkinson and president of business Mike Golub have been relieved of their duties with both clubs [Thorns and MLS Timbers], effective today.”
Chicago Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler similarly announced:
“[I]n the interest of the club and the players, and fans we serve, effective immediately, I will remove myself from my governance role within the NWSL board of governors and will hand over operational control of the club to our executive team in Chicago.”
Neither indicated that they would be selling their teams.
NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman’s statement was in favor of the actions:
“The NWSL is supportive of the important steps taken by the Portland Thorns and Chicago Red Stars today. As the League continues to evaluate the Yates report, I want to assure you that we remain committed to implementing reform and disciplinary action, both as a result of the Yates Report and the NWSL/NWSLPA’s Joint Investigative Team’s findings. The Joint Investigative Team is working towards concluding their report by the end of the year, and we will not interfere with that process, as the findings of that investigation will offer important input from our players.”
The Yates report for the U.S. Soccer Federation noted:
“Over the nearly ten-year history of the [NWSL], numerous coaches have verbally or emotionally abused players. Several are also alleged to have committed serious sexual misconduct during and/or before their time in the League. Our report details the reports of three coaches – Paul Riley [Portland and North Carolina], Rory Dames [Chicago], and Christy Holly [Louisville] – to illustrate the gravity of the misconduct at issue and the institutional failures that contributed to it. But Riley, Dames, and Holly are not the only coaches who mistreated players. By the end of the 2021 season, five of the League’s ten teams had separated from their head coaches in the wake of player complaints.”
French cities to protest Qatar 2022 with no fan zones
“For us, there was no question of setting up big screen areas for several reasons: the first is the conditions in which this World Cup has been organized, both in terms of the environment and the social aspect. The second is the fact that it takes place in December.”
That’s Pierre Rabadan, the Deputy Mayor for Sports for the City of Paris, explaining that giant screens and fan-gathering places will not be set up in the city during the FIFA World Cup, which will start on 20 November.
FrancsJeux.com reported other cities are also skipping fan zones, including Lille, Strasbourg, Marseille, Bordeaux, Nancy and Reims. Strasbourg Mayor Jeanne Barseghian explained: “While climate change is a palpable reality, with fires and droughts and other disaster, organizing a soccer tournament in the desert defies common sense and amounts to an ecological disaster.”
Toulouse, Rennes, Caen, Tours, Nancy, La Rochelle, Angoulwme, Bayonne and Limoges also announced that no fan zones will be created. In the southern cities of Nice and Cannes, no screens will be mounted early in the tournament, but this could change if the defending champion French team advances to the semis or the finals.
The French Football Federation said it was working with “a dozen” other national federations to provide support for migrant workers in Qatar during the tournament. Plans include a migrant worker welcome center, a compensation fund for the victims of accidents on the stadium construction sites and the wearing of special armbands by the captains of their teams.
FFF Deputy Vice President Philippe Diallo told a Tuesday conference on soccer in Paris that FIFA and the organizing committee were informed of the concepts: “We try to be pragmatic, to be efficient. Our choice is to accompany the evolutions, not to boycott, to ensure without arrogance in relation to the organizing country that the evolutions that we are beginning to observe can be prolonged.”
Rights organizations have been pressuring FIFA for a compensation fund for workers equal to the $400 million prize money for the World Cup, but so far without success.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Asian Games ● This might sound a little unbelievable, but Saudi Arabia was awarded the 2029 Asian Winter Games. That’s right, winter.
The Olympic Council of Asia General Assembly, meeting in Phnom Penh (CAM), confirmed the selection on Tuesday (4th) for the under-development ski resort of Trojena in the Sarawat Mountains of northwest Saudi Arabia. It’s part of the $500 billion Neom City project; the resort is projected for completion in 2026.
The Saudis will host the GAISF World Combat Games in Riyadh in 2023, Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in 2025 and the Asian Games in 2034 (both also in Riyadh). The Olympic Council of Asia jumped on the chance to re-start the Asian Winter Games, held eight times between 1986 and 2017, but not since.
This continues to Saudi plan to diversify its economy beyond energy, but has drawn criticism as a “whitewash” of the Kingdom’s human rights abuses.
● Commonwealth Games ● The Commonwealth Games Foundation announced the full list of sports to be included in the 2026 Commonwealth Games in Victoria (AUS), with BMX cycling, coastal rowing and golf to be included for the first time.
The CGF now only requires that athletics and swimming must be included in a Commonwealth Games. The 2026 Games will include a mix of able-bodied and Para sports in the program, including:
Aquatics (swimming, para-swimming & diving), athletics & para-athletics, badminton, basketball (3×3 and 3×3 wheelchair), beach volleyball, boxing, cricket (women’s T20), cycling (track, para-track, road, BMX, mountain bike), golf, gymnastics (artistic), hockey, lawn bowls & para-lawn bowls, netball, rowing (coastal), rugby sevens, shooting & para-shooting, squash, table tennis & para-table tennis, triathlon & para-triathlon and weightlifting and para-powerlifting.
The inclusion of coastal rowing is a potential boost for the discipline’s inclusion in the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, as the IOC is trying to remove lightweight rowing events from the program and World Rowing is pushing for coastal events instead.
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