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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
+ Shiffrin gets no. 84 with Giant Slalom win in Kronplatz!
1. Russian sport re-entry through Asia in active discussion
2. UEFA and Russian Football Union to continue reintegration talks
3. New issues on Russian compliance with World Anti-Doping Code
4. FIFA leads Olympic sports in BCW’s 2022 social-media rankings
5. Ukraine wins Winter WUG Fair Play Award
Russia, Russia, Russia. Following up on December’s Olympic Summit in Switzerland, discussions are now underway with the International Olympic Committee, summer-sport International Federations and National Olympic Committees about a “pathway” to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in Paris 2024 qualifying events in Asia, rather than Europe, despite the fact that such a process will displace Asian athletes from the Games! A meeting between the Russian Football Union and UEFA in Switzerland on Tuesday about a Russian return to European competition produced no breakthroughs, but the sides agreed to meet again in February. Even though the sanctions against the Russian Anti-Doping Agency imposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency have been concluded, RUSADA has not been reinstated yet and is again threatened with non-compliance over a Russian law which does not line up with the World Anti-Doping Code. It’s a problem. The newest edition of the BCW sports social-media rankings for 2022 show FIFA continuing as the leader among Olympic sports at 51.4 million combined across six popular platforms, but the International Cricket Council is no. 1 overall at 92.2 million! The International Committee for Fair Play, in concert with the International University Sports Federation (FISU) selected the 58-athlete Ukraine delegation as the winner of the Fair Play Award at the Winter World University Games in Lake Placid (USA) for its perseverance in even getting to the event, and then winning six medals.
Shiffrin gets no. 84 with second Kronplatz win!
There’s no stopping American skiing superstar Mikaela Shiffrin, who won again in Kronplatz (ITA) with her 19th career Giant Slalom victory (and 84th career World Cup gold) on Wednesday.
Shiffrin stormed to the lead in the first run, finishing in 1:00.56, 0.51 up on Sara Hector (SWE), then came back in 1:02.72, third-fastest on the second run for a total of 2:03.28, a hefty 0.82 margin over Ragnhild Mowinckel (NOR: 2:04.10), with Hector third (2:04.47). It was a good day for the U.S., with Paula Moltzan seventh (2:05.25) and Nina O’Brien in 10th (2:05.48).
Shiffrin’s quest to tie Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark for the most World Cup wins in history this weekend – 86 – continues on 28-29 January with Slaloms – her best event – at Spindleruv Mlyn (CZE). Wow.
Russian sport re-entry through Asia in active discussion
At the 11th Olympic Summit, held in Lausanne, Switzerland on 9 December, the published declaration noted a startling option for the re-entry of Russian and Belarusian athletes to competition in Asia, to allow qualification for the Paris 2024 Games:
“In the course of the debate, [Randhir Singh of India] the Acting President of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) stated that, on the Asian continent, the reasons for the protective measures no longer exist. The OCA offered to facilitate the participation of athletes from Russia and Belarus in competitions in Asia under its authority, while respecting the sanctions in place.”
This led to the following action item:
“The IOC to lead the further exploration of the OCA initiative concerning the participation of athletes who are in full respect of the Olympic Charter and the sanctions. This initiative to be discussed in the next round of IOC consultation calls with the IOC Members, the athletes’ representatives, the International Federations and the National Olympic Committees.”
Those discussions are underway. Last week, a series of online meetings were held, led by the International Olympic Committee, including President Thomas Bach (GER), and groups that included the International Federations for summer Olympic sports, and National Olympic Committees. The IOC Athletes’ Commission was also heard on the question of a pathway toward allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in Paris 2024 qualifying events in Asia, which will ramp up in the spring.
This is only about Paris 2024, and while there was what was characterized as “overwhelming support” on the calls last week, they were not unanimous.
Not only were there objections from organizations which have their own ideas about Russian and Belarusian participation – whether in Asian qualifiers or elsewhere – but observers are questioning whether these discussions are being appropriately shared with athletes from Olympic Council of Asia member federations who would potentially be displaced by Russians and Belarusians from participating at Paris in 2024.
It is not hard to see how Russian athletes, especially, would keep dozens of Asian athletes home in individual sports such as aquatics, fencing, gymnastics, wrestling and others, where Russians are strong medal contenders at the Olympic level.
Having Russia participate in Asian qualifiers would solve the problem of having to potentially face Ukrainians, or other European countries which are aiding it – such as Poland – against the Russian invasion now coming up to a one-year anniversary.
But what about those Asian athletes and teams – in basketball, football, handball, volleyball, and water polo, for example – who will have to stay home in 2024 instead of qualifying to go to Paris, and see their spots taken by Russia or Belarus?
The body which should be the most concerned about this is the Olympic Council of Asia, the regional confederation which volunteered to look into hosting Russian and Belarusian athletes in the first place!
It is currently led by Singh, who took over as Acting President after the resignation of Kuwait’s Sheikh Ahmed Al-Sabah in 2021, following his conviction for fraud in Switzerland, which is currently on appeal. Sheikh Ahmed’s 2019 term will expire this year and a new President will be elected.
Further, the first OCA Athletes Forum since 2018 will be held from 18-19 March in Bangkok (THA), against a possible backdrop of Russian and Belarusian athletes coming to compete against them in Paris 2024 qualifying events later in the year.
It will be fascinating to see what their opinion of Russian and Belarusian participation will be.
UEFA and Russian Football Union to continue reintegration talks
One Russian national federation which has considered participation in Asia and rejected it is the Russian Football Union. Its governing board voted to seek reintegration into European (UEFA) soccer, where it has played for decades.
A meeting between UEFA and the RFU was held on Tuesday at the UEFA office in Nyon (SUI), with the RFU posting a statement that included:
“The key issue on the meeting’s agenda was the return of the Russian national teams and clubs to international tournaments.”
“Both sides have come to the terms of their further interaction and agreed to maintain contact. The next face-to-face meeting between the RFU and UEFA is scheduled for February.”
Both UEFA and FIFA barred Russian participation in international competitions on 28 February, four days after the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The UEFA Executive Committee will meet on Wednesday (25th), although the Russian situation is not specifically listed for discussion.
New issues on Russian compliance with World Anti-Doping Code
The sanctions imposed on the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), as modified by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, ended with the close of the calendar year 2022.
But RUSADA has not been reinstated. And now there is a new issue.
Near the end of 2022, World Anti-Doping Agency President Witold Banka (POL) made it clear that while the sanctions on RUSADA would end with the start of 2023, the Russian agency still needed to be compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code in order to be in reinstated.
That hasn’t happened, as WADA informed RUSADA in September that – according to a report from the Russian news agency TASS – “the Russian federal law ‘On Physical Culture and Sport’ had not been amended to comply with the new WADA Code.”
The RUSADA Director General, Veronika Loginova, told the State Duma:
“It’s very important for us, the sanctions that were in effect are gone. But since there is a discrepancy, unfortunately, it can lead to new consequences. We haven’t been reinstated yet, and RUSADA doesn’t agree with the WADA position; we told them about it. There was a deadline of January 7; this comment [about the law] prevented us from meeting all the requirements for the audit.”
“We sent a letter of disagreement, and WADA considered our complaint. WADA supported the audit, which is a critical requirement. The new dispute with the compliance committee will not take place until March. And the Court of Arbitration for Sport is the last instance. The CAS issue will take about a year. The question of our reinstatement, I think, can be considered [to take] at least half a year.”
Deputy Sports Minister Andrey Fyodorov told the Duma:
“The Russian Sports Ministry views Banka’s statements regarding RUSADA as discriminatory. RUSADA has no influence whatsoever over the national legislation’s amendments.”
Nevertheless, RUSADA remains suspended.
FIFA leads Olympic sports in BCW’s 2022 social-media rankings
The annual social-media rankings compiled by the worldwide communications agency Burson Cohn & Wolfe (BCW) showed FIFA once again leading all Olympic-sport federations by an enormous margin.
The rankings measured followers across six major platforms – lnstagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok and YouTube – with FIFA seeing a 25% increase to 51,433,519. The top 10:
1. 51,433,519: FIFA (up 25% over 2021)
2. 15,545,303: International Basketball Federation (+12%)
3. 12,459,334: Volleyball World (+35%)
4. 9,975,413: World Athletics (+23%)
5. 7,726,078: World Rugby (+17%)
6. 6,186,323: Badminton World Federation (+20%)
7. 4,321,373: Union Cycliste Internationale (+14%)
8. 2,834,401: World Table Tennis (+18%)
9. 2,735,097: International Judo Federation (+31%)
10. 2,697,755: United World Wrestling (+27%)
Among the non-Olympic sports, the International Cricket Council saw its followings grow to 92,211,411, way ahead of everyone else. Next was the FIS (automobile) at 3,714,819.
What’s the ICC’s secret? In part, it’s frequency, as the federation was the most active on several platforms:
● 30.57 posts per day on Facebook (no. 1)
● 28.00 posts per day on Twitter (no. 1)
● 10.04 posts per day on Instagram (no. 1)
Cricket was the audience leader on Facebook (37.04 million) and Instagram (25.64 million); FIFA led on Twitter (26.67 million) and YouTube (18.50 million).
Ukraine wins Winter WUG Fair Play Award
The remarkable odyssey of the 58-athlete Ukrainian delegation to Lake Placid, New York for the 2023 Winter World University Games was acknowledged by the International University Sports Federation (FISU) and the International Fair Play Committee with the Fair Play Award:
“The award was given to Ukraine for the courageous participation of its team of athletes and officials in the Lake Placid 2023 FISU Games Winter, under the difficult current circumstances. With the war raging in their country, most of Ukrainian athletes have faced enormous difficulties to train, compete, prepare and travel.
“Still, Ukraine has managed to come in Lake Placid with a strong delegation, which won six medals (gold in snowboard men’s Parallel Giant Slalom with Mykhailo Kharuk, who also won bronze in Parallel slalom, silver in biathlon single mixed relay and bronze in Nordic Combined men’s team Sprint, biathlon men’s 12.5 km Pursuit with Dmytrii Hruschak and Snowboard women’s parallel slalom with Nadiia Hapatyn).”
Vadym Stetsenko, the head of the Ukrainian Delegation and the country’s Students Sport Federation, received the Fair Play Award from International Fair Play Committee Secretary General Sunil Sabharwal (USA) and Executive Director Gabor Deregan (HUN)
A special Fair Play Award was presented to Lake Placid 2023 Executive Director Ashley Walden (USA) on behalf of the 1,600 volunteers who helped to make the Games a success.
≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP ≡
● Hockey ● The semifinals are coming into focus in the 15th FIH men’s World Cup, being held in Bhubaneswar (IND), with Australia and Belgium through and the last two quarterfinals coming on Wednesday.
After Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands and England won the four groups and advanced to the quarterfinals, the eight second-and-third place teams played for entry into the quarters, with one rout and three thrillers.
Germany stomped France, 5-1, but the other three went to shoot-outs, with Spain eliminating Malaysia, 4-3, after a 2-2 tie; South Korea edging Argentina, 3-2, after a 5-5 tie, and New Zealand defeating host India, 5-4, after a 3-3 tie in regulation time.
On Tuesday, the first quarterfinals saw Australia get past Spain, 4-3, and defending champion Belgium dismiss New Zealand, 2-0. It’s the 11th straight World Cup for the Aussies to make it at least to the semifinals.
England and two-time winner Germany will face off on Wednesday, with the victor playing 2010-14 champs Australia in the semis, while the three-time champ Dutch will play South Korea for the opportunity to face Belgium.
With two goals in the quarterfinal win over Spain, Australia’s Jeremy Hayward is now the top scorer in the tournament with seven goals, ahead of Tom Boon (BEL) and France’s Victor Charlet, with six each.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Winter Games 2022: Beijing ● Veronika Loginova, the head of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, told reporters on Tuesday that the agency expects to receive the written decision of the independent Disciplinary Anti-Doping Committee on the Kamila Valieva case this week:
“In the coming days, this week, we are waiting for the full text of the decision of the Disciplinary Anti-Doping Committee. We will then make a decision. We must familiarize ourselves with the conclusions and arguments.”
The Disciplinary Anti-Doping Committee reinstated Valieva in February 2022, a day after she had been suspended for a positive test for the banned substance Trimetazidine, allowing her to compete in the women’s figure skating competition at the Beijing Olympic Winter Games, where she placed fourth. More recently, the same appeals board sanctioned Valieva for her positive test for only one day – the day she took the test – finding that she was not at fault, or negligent.
The World Anti-Doping Agency is also waiting for the full opinion and expects to appeal the sanction decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Loginova has said that RUSADA may also appeal it.
● Alpine Skiing ● While Mikaela Shiffrin was making history on the women’s circuit, the men’s World Cup was also holding a mid-week competition in Schladming (AUT), with France’s Clement Noel taking Tuesday’s Slalom in 1:48.97, over Ramon Zenhaeusern (SUI: 1:49.04) and Norway’s Lucas Braathen (1:49.35).
It’s Noel’s first win of the season and second medal; he now has nine career World Cup golds. It was the second straight bronze for Braathen, who has three wins and three bronzes this season, eclipsing his career total of five coming into 2022-23!
A Giant Slalom comes on Wednesday, with the tour moving to Cortina d’Ampezzo for the weekend, with two Super-G races scheduled.
For our updated, 929-event International Sports Calendar for 2023 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!