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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. IIHF removes restrictions, Israel in for U-20s in Sofia
2. Teeger’s removal as South Africa U-19 captain fully politicized
3. French military presence for Paris ‘24 to approach 20,000
4. Mexico ends 2036 Olympic bid, targets YOG
5. USA Badminton Chair and CEO suspended by SafeSport
● The International Ice Hockey Federation removed its restriction on Israel’s entry for the upcoming men’s World U-20 Championship in Bulgaria, citing security assures from Bulgarian authorities. But the IIHF will review future tournaments one-by-one.
● A provincial office of South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, congratulated Cricket South Africa for removing teen David Teeger as the captain of the country’s men’s U-19 World Cup team and calling him a “genocide supporter.” This is fully political, as South Africa has sued Israel for “genocide” in the International Court of Justice. Cricket was recently admitted as a sport on the 2028 Olympic program for Los Angeles.
● French officials said that about 20,000 soldiers would be involved in security efforts for the Paris 2024 Games, especially for the Torch Relay and for the opening on the Seine. A report on construction for the Games indicates everything will be delivered on time, with just three venues reported behind schedule.
● Mexico will end its bid efforts for the 2036 Olympic Games and concentrate instead on getting a future edition of the Youth Olympic Games, possibly in 2030 or 2034.
● The U.S. Center for SafeSport has suspended both the former Chair and the chief executive of USA Badminton for retaliation against a staff member who reported abuse in 2021. It’s reported to be the first time that SafeSport has suspended a national federation head.
● Panorama: Paris 2024 (French team uniforms unveiled) = Milan Cortina 2026 (Thursday deadline for sliding track bids) = Russia (no Paris entries for diving or open-water swimming) = Boxing (World Boxing stages first tournament) = Figure Skating (ISU awards finalists named) = Volleyball (Taiwan says Asian U-20 men’s champs removed under Chinese pressure) ●
IIHF removes restrictions, Israel in for U-20s in Sofia
“Following recent exchanges and extensive discussions with all involved stakeholders, the IIHF has received from the Ministry of Youth and Sport in Bulgaria and the related Organizing Committee the required confirmation for the safety and security support needed to allow the Israeli National Team to take part in the 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division III, Group A (WM20IIIA), which will take place in Sofia in the period of 22-29 January 2024.
“Namely, the IIHF has received confirmation and details from the relevant authorities regarding all security measures that will be implemented to address the identified risks associated with allowing the Israeli national team to participate in this Championship.”
Wednesday’s announcement from the International Ice Hockey Federation came just a week after the federation’s removal of the Israeli team from the tournament for what it called “concerns over the safety and security of all participants in the Championships,” declaring that “Israel will not participate in IIHF Competitions for the time being.”
A firestorm of protests from Israel, an inquiry by the National Hockey League and others led to a second statement last Friday, in which the IIHF clarified that only the 2024 men’s World U-20 Championship in Division III, Group A would be affected. The action ended an emergency appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport by the Israeli Ice Hockey Association eight hours before a hearing was to be convened.
However, the IIHF made clear in its Wednesday update that only the men’s U-20 Worlds (Division III-A) has been settled:
“A one-week tournament with the participation of the Israeli National Team without any guarantee about safety and security of all people involved is irresponsible. Therefore, the IIHF will keep monitoring the situation and reviewing its upcoming Championships on a case-by-case basis. In close collaboration with our stakeholders and local authorities, we will strive to find the necessary conditions and support to allow the Israeli teams to participate. Further decisions will be taken and notified in February 2024.”
Still at issue, then, is the Israeli participation in the men’s Division II Worlds (Group A) in Belgrade (SRB) from 21-27 April. and the Division III women’s Worlds (Group B) from 24-29 March in Kohtia-Jarve, Estonia.
But for now, Israel is back in. Olympic Committee of Israel Chair Yael Arad, also a new member of the International Olympic Committee, told the Jerusalem Post:
“We are very excited by the international association’s announcement that it retracts its decision and invites the Israeli national team to participate in the tournament in Bulgaria. …
“This is not only a victory for Israeli sports but also for the people of Israel.”
Teeger’s removal as South Africa U-19 captain fully politicized
On Monday, Neville Delport, the African National Congress Western Cape Provincial Secretary, issued a lengthy statement that fully politicized the ongoing controversy over the removal of 19-year-old David Teeger – because he is Jewish – as captain of the South African men’s U-19 cricket team for the upcoming International Cricket Council World U-19 Championship, which will be hosted in South Africa. It was headlined:
“ANC congratulates new Proteas U19 captain Juan James and Primrose Cricket Club and condemns DA’s defence of Israeli genocide supporter, David Teeger”
Western Cape is a South African province located in the southwest section of the country, and the statement was issued from there. Beyond congratulating James, it ended with:
“The ANC also condemns the Democratic Alliance (DA) for coming to the defence of the fired captain, David Teeger. Teeger was removed as the captain after having expressed his public support for the genocidal Israeli Defense Force.
“By threatening to take the matter to the South African Human Rights Commission if Teeger is not reinstated as captain, the DA have yet again proven to the public that they are on the wrong side of history as far as the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people is concerned.”
In South Africa, the African National Congress holds control of the 400-seat Parliament with 230 seats to 84 for the Democratic Alliance and 86 seats scattered among other parties. However, in the Western Cape, the DA has 24 seats out of 42, to 12 for the ANC. So, the issue is fully political now and tied to the South African government’s criticism of Israel and its filing at the International Court of Justice, accusing Israel of genocide in its response to the murderous 7 October 2023 attack by Hamas, the governing authority in Gaza.
Zev Krengel, the Vice President of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, said that at a meeting with Cricket South Africa – which removed Teeger as captain – the excuses melted away:
“They started the meeting by saying it was a report from the State Security Agency. When we challenged them on who wrote it they stepped down from saying it was a report to saying it was a briefing. When asked who gave the briefing they refused to tell us. They admit there’s no security report. So there’s only two options, anti-Semitism at CSA or massive political interference from the ANC.
“The last point I tried to make [at the meeting] is, can we agree that this is a sad day for Cricket South Africa, that the only way they felt they could run the tournament is to strip a Jew of his captaincy? None of them could agree. I feel it’s a sad day for CSA, a sad day for South Africa, and if the ICC does nothing about it it will be a black mark on the ICC’s name.”
The International Cricket Council (ICC) will not intervene, telling The Guardian (GBR): “Team selection including captaincy is an issue for members and not the ICC. An international federation is not constituted to intervene in team selections.”
The Times of Israel reported that during an inquiry into Teeger’s comments supporting Israel during an awards ceremony last October, attorney Wim Trengrove – who found Teeger had done nothing wrong – also found:
“In his ruling, Trengove noted that a director of Diadora South Africa, whom Trengove identified as Azhar Saloojee, had said that the firm ‘will not tolerate Mr. Teeger playing in any competition sponsored by Diadora.’ Diadora is a sponsor of the Jozi Cup, a community-based winter cricket club in South Africa.”
The newspaper’s inquiry about this to Diadora, an Italian apparel firm, went unanswered.
The U-19 World Cup begins on Friday (19th) and continues to 11 February, in five South African cities, with 16 teams and South Africa playing the West Indies in Potchefstroom. Teeger remains on the squad, but is no longer the captain.
Cricket (T20) was added to the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games program last October.
French military presence for Paris ‘24 to approach 20,000
The French Army will provide about 20,000 soldiers to support the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, according to Gen. Pierre Schill, the Chief of the General Staff of the French Ground Forces.
Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, he explained:
“The Olympic Games will be an extremely important event for our country. The armed forces will be there at this important moment, and we will deploy almost 20,000 men and women from the armed forces and ground forces.”
Military support will accompany the Olympic Torch Relay that begins in France on 8 May, and during the Games period, “a part will be mobilized for the protection, in the broad sense, of the Olympic Games, in support of the internal security forces.”
There will also be a significant assignment of forces to secure the Olympic Opening Ceremony on the Seine River.
Nicolas Ferrand, the head of Solideo, the French government agency responsible for the construction of Olympic sites for the 2024 Games, told a French Senate commission on Wednesday:
“There are three sites out of 70 that are being monitored, without the schedule being at risk.
“Overall, the works are totally on time and they are within the budget given to us, and with the levels of ambition that were set.”
He noted that the sites concerned were a section of the Olympic Village, the renovation of the Grand Palais monument in Paris (site of fencing) and a training site for swimming in Colombes, now set to be finished in June.
Agence France Presse reported that the total attendance limit for the 26 July opening of the Olympic Games on the Seine is likely to be limited to 500,000 vs. the 600,000 limit suggested earlier.
Mexico ends 2036 Olympic bid, targets YOG
“We had a talk with the International Olympic Committee and we saw that the competition is very tough.
“We are turning around to see if we can have the bid for the Youth Olympic Games, which is where we would have a great chance.”
“It would be before the 2036 Games … We are in talks with the IOC.”
That’s from Comite Olimpico Mexicano President Maria Jose Alcala, speaking at a Tuesday reception for sponsors, explaining that the country’s target of hosting the 2036 Olympic Games is, at present, judged to be unrealistic.
So the Youth Olympic Games, held so far in Singapore (2010), Nanjing (CHN: 2014), Buenos Aires (ARG: 2018) and coming to Dakar (SEN) in 2026, are now the target. The scale is far smaller, with about 4,000 athletes in 35 sports vs. 10,500 or more for an Olympic Games. No host has been named for the 2030 or 2034 Youth Olympic Games.
Mexico hosted the Pan American Games as recently as 2011 in Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco. Alcala said Tuesday that there is interest from the state of Nuevo Leon, in the northeastern part of the country to explore bidding to replace Barranquilla (COL) as host of the 2027 Pan American Games:
“There is an approach from Nuevo Leon, they are the only ones who have approached us. That is still under discussion.”
Mexico announced an intention to explore an Olympic bid for 2036 last October.
USA Badminton Chair and CEO suspended by SafeSport
The entries on the U.S. Center for SafeSport disciplinary database is typically cryptic, but clear:
● Kenneth ‘Ken’ Wong of USA Badminton was suspended as of 5 January for “retaliation” with probation and education required.
● Linda French of USA badminton was suspended as of 5 January for “Failure to report,” “Abuse of Process” and “retaliation” with probation and education required.
Wong is the former Chair of the USAB Board of Directors (2019-23), and has continued as an Independent Director; French – a two-time Olympian in the sport – was named USAB chief executive in April 2021. The suspensions were noted as “Subject to appeal/not yet final.”
USA Badminton issued a statement on 11 January, including:
“The USCSS Notices of Decision stipulate that Linda French and Ken Wong are prohibited from ‘… participating, in any capacity, in any event, program, activity, or competition authorized by, organized by, or under the auspices of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), the National Governing Bodies recognized by the USOPC, a Local Affiliated Organization as defined by the Code, or at a facility under the jurisdiction of the same.’ The USAB board requested written clarification from the USCSS and received it on January 11, 2024.
“Effective January 11, 2024, Linda French, CEO of USA Badminton, is suspended without pay, and Ken Wong is suspended from the USAB board. Both Linda French and Ken Wong are suspended from USA Badminton.”
An Orange County Register story from investigative reporter Scott Reid noted that Wong’s sanction was for two years and French’s for five years, based on an incident with USAB chief of staff Alistair Casey, who wanted to report to SafeSport an abuse case in 2021. He did and was fired, later obtaining a $1 million wrongful-termination settlement from USAB. The retaliation counts against Wong and French were for the firing of Casey.
Reid wrote that the suspension of French was believed to be the first of a National Governing Body by SafeSport since its formation in 2018.
A suit for defamation was filed in Indiana last September by the USA Badminton general counsel, and is continuing.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● The uniforms for the French team for this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris were revealed on Tuesday, with vibrant looks from designer Stephane Ashpool (FRA) that will be provided by Le Coq Sportif.
The uniforms package, highlighted by the French flag colors of blue, white and red, will include competition uniforms, training apparel, ceremonies and casual wear, with an estimate of 162,000 total pieces. Four French federations – athletics, basketball, football and handball – will retain their current suppliers for the Paris Games, at a cost of €400,000 (about $435,356 U.S.) that will be paid to the CNOSF, the French National Olympic Committee.
Le Coq Sportif will also outfit Olympic competition officials and some Paris 2024 organizing committee staff.
● Olympic Winter Games 2026: Milan Cortina ● The Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano noted Wednesday that the deadline for construction companies to submit a bid for the construction of a sliding track in Cortina for the 2026 Winter Games was due by Thursday (18th) at noon.
Last summer, no bids were received to build a new Cortina track, leading to questions about using the now-abandoned Cesana Pariol (Turin 2006) track or holding the events on an existing track in Austria, Germany, Switzerland or Lake Placid in the U.S. According to the story (computer translation from the original Italian):
“The cost of the contract remained at 81 million and 610 thousand euros, of which 76.7 million were for works and 4.9 million for safety costs. The overall cost is however 118.4 million euros, because another 36.8 million expenses must be added. The main items are: administrative expenses 3.9 million, planning 8.9 million, VAT 12 million, laboratory tests 1.2 million.” (€1 = $1.09 U.S.)
The timetable is tight: construction to start in February, certification tests beginning by 15 March 2025, test events beginning 1 October 2025 and completion by 15 October. The 2026 Winter Games will begin on 6 February 2026.
The Milan Cortina organizing committee has said it will have a solution to the venue issue by the end of this month.
● Russia ● No Russian entries were received for February’s World Aquatics Championships in Doha (QAT), meaning that there will be no Russians in open-water swimming or diving at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
The Doha Worlds were the last opportunity for qualification in those disciplines. World Aquatics told the Russian news agency TASS:
“After consultation with the Aquatics Integrity Unit, we can confirm that there are currently no Russian athletes registered to participate in the World Aquatics Championships in Doha.”
● Boxing ● The first tournament organized under the auspices of World Boxing since its November Congress began in Sheffield (GBR) on Wednesday, the World Boxing Cup: GB Open – Sheffield 2024.
Ninety fighters from 16 countries were registered; the federation has 14 members, but boxers from Antigua and Barbuda and Gambia were allowed to enter with permission of the World Boxing Executive Board.
● Figure Skating ● The finalists for the International Skating Union’s Skating Awards on 11 February were announced on Wednesday. Six categories will be awarded.
The nominees for “Most Valuable Skater,” defined as “the Single Skater or Pair or Ice Dance Couple who promoted Figure Skating – due to a successful competition season, creating (social) media attention and engagement in 2023,” included:
● Ilia Malinin (USA) ~ men’s 2023 Worlds bronze medalist
● Kaori Sakamoto (JPN) ~ women’s 2023 World Champion
● Shoma Uno (JPN) ~ men’s 2023 World Champion
Awards will also be made for Best Newcomer, Most Entertaining Program, Best Costume, Best Choreographer and Best Coach. The winners will be decided by a six-person jury of former champions, including American Brian Boitano.
● Volleyball ● More politics in sports, as Kyodo News reported a statement on Wednesday that Taipei City (TPE) was being replaced as the site of the 20-27 July men’s Asian U-20 Volleyball Championship at the request of China.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Taipei City was still shown as the event host, but the Taiwan volleyball federation said that the event was being moved to Indonesia. The Asian Volleyball Confederation was reported to have agreed on Monday to change the site at China’s request, with the Chinese federation saying it could not send a team to Taiwan due to “complexities in cross-Taiwan Strait political relations.”
For our new, 920-event International Sports Calendar for 2024 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!