★ The Sports Examiner: Surveying, monitoring and explaining the key competitive, economic and political forces shaping elite sport and the Olympic Movement. ★
★ Want TheSportsExaminer.com insights for your team? Yes! Click here for information on speaking, research and consulting from editor Rich Perelman. ★
★ To get The Sports Examiner by e-mail: sign up here! ★
≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. IOC wants to move closer to Esports
2. Takahashi arrested for third time in Tokyo 2020 bribery case
3. RUSADA’s Valieva hearing tentatively set for October
4. Atos to handle “sensitive data” instead of Alibaba at Paris 2024
5. Are you scared about being removed from the Olympics?
“We need to connect with the youths” is how the IOC director for electronic gaming explained the closer and closer ties being forged with the Esports community, although there is no timetable for inclusion as a medal sport in the Olympic Games. Tokyo 2020 Executive Committee member Haruyuki Takahashi was arrested for a third time in connection with the inquiry into bribery for sponsorship designations, with the total known payments now more than $1 million. The head of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency said the Kamila Valieva doping hearings will likely be in October and will be closed. A significant security issue for the French government regarding the Paris 2024 Games was resolved with Chinese cloud-computing company – and IOC sponsor – Alibaba agreeing to pay French technology company Atos – also an IOC sponsor – to handle “sensitive data.” Austria’s Johannes Lamparter, a two-time World Champion in Nordic Combined at age 20, was asked if he is worried about the IOC’s view that the sport could be cut from the Olympic program after Milan Cortina 2026: “I am a bit scared.”
IOC wants to move closer to Esports
“We’re creating a new product, we’re creating new experiences and we’re trying to create a new space for the Olympic Movement to demonstrate how it can attract the youths and connect with people and engage with people.
“We need to create opportunities to connect with people and keep contact with them. It is also about moving with society and following the trends and listening to people.”
The obsession with youth and digital continues to expand at the International Olympic Committee, with the organization’s head of virtual sports and gaming, Vincent Pereira (FRA) underscoring this at the Sports Matters Conference in Singapore on Tuesday.
“The most important thing is to bring together the Olympic Movement and the esports communities to collaborate on the future of these competitions.
“Competition is at the heart of the Olympic Games and, at the IOC, we are hoping to introduce new competition programs and new disciplines as we will see with breaking coming for Paris 2024 and skateboarding in Tokyo. And so what we’re trying to do is find a way of integrating these new ways of competing.”
Singapore will be at the center of the IOC’s next experiment, in 2023, with the first Olympic Esports Week, to be held over 3-4 days with about 10 virtual sports and simulation games, along additional exhibition games. This is an expansion of the IOC’s successful Olympic Virtual Series from May and June 2021, in which games simulating auto racing, baseball, cycling, rowing and sailing were involved with a total participation of nearly 250,000 people from 100 countries.
“The Olympic Esports Week will be about entertainment and how we can encourage people to virtual sports and new disciplines. We can do it by creating a huge free-to-play zone where the idea for us is to create a journey for the people where they will enter into the Olympics through technology and innovation. [People] will come and experience [sports] by doing a golf simulator, enjoying some races and doing other activities.
“And why are we doing this? Because we need to connect with the youths. We need to keep this contact with the generation that is playing games…We shouldn’t miss this opportunity to connect with the youths.”
While there is no immediate expectation of gaming to appear as a demonstration or medal sport at the Olympic Games, eight medal events will be included in the 2023 Asian Games in Hangzhou (CHN) and the “Commonwealth Esports Championships” – as a demonstration – was held alongside the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham (ENG).
Takahashi arrested for third time in Tokyo 2020 bribery case
Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office arrested former Dentsu senior managing director and Tokyo 2020 Executive Board member Haruyuki Takahashi for the third time in connection with bribery charges relating to sponsorship selections.
Takahashi was arrested again on Tuesday, this time for a scheme involving Osaka-based Daiko Advertising, Inc., to use the agency as an agent for a sponsorship designation for “a major English conversation school operator,” which became affiliated with the Tokyo Games in October 2018.
(A search of Tokyo 2020 sponsorship releases found that ECC Japanese Language Institute was announced as an “Official Supporter” in October 2018).
The allegation is that Daiko Advertising paid a consulting firm owned by Kazumasa Fukami, a former Dentsu associate of Takahashi, some ¥15 million (~$104,058 U.S.) in bribes, and that the money was shared with Takahashi’s own consulting company.
Takahashi was previously arrested for receiving suspected bribes of ¥51 million (~$353,881 U.S.) to help business-suit retailer Aoki Holdings obtain an “Official Supporter” designation and ¥76 million (~$527,353 U.S.) to aid Kadokawa Corporation in the publishing services category.
Another company, Sun Arrow, Inc., a maker of plush toys, is suspected of paying Takahashi ¥8 million (~$55,507 U.S.) for assistance with a Tokyo 2020 license. That would bring the bribery total disclosed so far to ¥150 million, or about $1.04 million U.S.
Takahashi has denied any criminal activity and while acknowledging receipts of some of the money, said it was for legitimate services.
RUSADA’s Valieva hearing tentatively set for October
Veronika Loginova, the Director General of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) commented on the upcoming hearings of its disciplinary commission in the Kamila Valieva doping case at the “Russia Is A Sports Power” conference on Wednesday:
“We can’t name the date. The investigation was in relation to the personnel – the coaching staff, doctors, so far I can’t name the date. Tentatively, in October.”
“In the code, we can see what sanctions are provided, the standard term is four years. But in different situations, different decisions can [be taken] depending on the circumstances. What sanction the disciplinary commission will issue, we do not know.”
Loginova also said that the decision of the Disciplinary Anti-Doping Committee may not be made public because Valieva – now 16 – is still a minor:
“There are special rules for public disclosure regarding a protected person. I can’t say yet whether it will be published or not.”
The hearing itself will be closed.
On the broader anti-doping front, Loginova said she was hopeful that RUSADA could once again be considered compliant by the World Anti-Doping Agency by the end of 2022:
“We are waiting for the restoration. We have passed the audit, we are waiting for its result. We are implementing all the decisions of December 17. We are fulfilling everything and counting on a positive decision.”
An online audit of RUSADA was done by a WADA team from 6-9 September; the two-year sanction on RUSADA will end in December.
Atos to handle “sensitive data” instead of Alibaba at Paris 2024
A major concern of the French government, especially its intelligence and security forces, has been the role of Chinese cloud-computing giant Alibaba – an International Olympic Committee TOP sponsor – to handle personal data of individuals involved with the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Agence France Presse reported that an agreement has been made for Alibaba to pay the French-based digital-tech concern Atos – also an IOC TOP sponsor – to handle “sensitive data” involved with the 2024 Games.
Atos already handles the IOC’s results system processing at the Games and has been involved with the IOC as a worldwide information-technology provider since 2001. The French Government’s Court of Auditors noted last December that the management of the Games will capture “a large volume of personal data and government data. This data is particularly sensitive and incompatible with Alibaba hosting.”
The report was clear on the dangers: “Risks of exploitation of Olympic information systems databases for strategic purposes or economic espionage, Olympic information systems and inter-connections of government services, even for the purpose of taking or terminating further actions.”
Said Alain Bouille of the cyber-security cooperative CESIN last December:
“With the Americans and GAFAM [Google-Apple-Facebook-Amazon-Microsoft], we manage to do things but with the Chinese, there is no agreement. If we give data to Alibaba, we know that the Chinese government can have access to it.” The idea of using Atos was floated as a possible solution, which appears to now be in hand.
Atos will reportedly handle the Games data on a cloud system used for its French military clients.
Are you scared about being removed from the Olympics?
The International Ski & Snowboard Federation (FIS) featured a fascinating interview with Austrian Nordic Combined star Johannes Lamparter, 20, who won 2021 World Championships golds in the Normal Hill and Team Sprint and was fifth in the Normal Hill and eighth in the Large Hill events at the Beijing 2022 Winter Games.
In an English edition of a story originally appearing on the Italian online site FondoItalia, Lamparter talked about the coming season, but also about Nordic Combined’s future. The sport is clearly on the IOC’s chopping block and Lamparter was asked, “do you feel like a species in extinction?” His reply:
“We are definitely not happy about the decision they made for the girls regarding the Games in 2026. But most of them are still young and have time to develop, so I hope [the IOC] will make the right decision for all of us in future.
“We, as athletes, and everyone who’s involved in Nordic Combined, have to work harder and put all our effort into getting more attention on Nordic Combined, to make it more interesting for media and sponsors.
“It is not easy, but I hope that 2026 will not be the last Olympic Winter Games for our discipline. I am a bit scared, but I want to stay positive.
“Of course, it is sad that the women are not included yet and 2030 is far away, but we have a lot of World Cups, World Championships and Junior World Championships scheduled and all that will improve our sport even more.”
≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ≡
● Basketball ● The FIBA Women’s World Cup is into the elimination stage in Australia, with the U.S. marching into the semifinals by beating 2021 European Champion Serbia, 88-55, at the Sydney Superdome on Thursday afternoon.
The three-time defending champion American women – winners of 27 straight World Cup matches going in – blew open a tight game in the second quarter with a 15-2 run to end the half up, 50-33. The U.S. then scored the first eight points of the second half and with Serbia scoreless for 8:26 at the end of the second and start of the third quarters, the American lead ballooned to 58-33, and 66-40 at the end of three.
The U.S. shot 56% in the first half to 38% for Serbia, but ended at only 42% from the floor, with Serbia falling to 30% for the game. The Americans were led in scoring by substitute guard Kelsey Plum with 17, with starting forwards A’ja Wilson scoring 15 and Alyssa Thomas with 13.
This was the second straight year that the American women eliminated Serbia; the U.S. won the Tokyo Olympic semi match-up in 2021 by 79-59.
In the other quarterfinals, Canada stomped Puerto Rico, 79-60, and will play the U.S.; China sailed past France, 85-71, and will meet Australia, which beat Belgium, 86-69. The semis are on 30 September and the medal matches on 1 October.
● Shooting ● The ISSF World Championships in Shotgun are on in Osijek (CRO) through the 12th of October, with the first senior-level medals handed out on Wednesday, in men’s and women’s Trap.
American Scott Mein was second in his semi-final, advancing on a shoot-off, but was near-perfect in the final to win his first Worlds gold. He hit his first 11 targets, missed one, the finished with 22 in a row for a 33 total. That was two better than Britain’s Nathan Hales.
Mein, 37, was 24th at the Tokyo Games in 2021 and had won one individual medal in ISSF World Cup events, a bronze in Lima (PER) in 2022. But he’s World Champion now and won a quota place for the U.S. for Paris 2024.
The women’s Trap title went to Carole Cormenier (FRA), who out-shot Spain’s 2015 World Champion Fatima Galvez, 31-29, in the final, with Tokyo Olympic champ Zuzana Rehak Stefecekova (SVK) third at 20.
Like Mein, Cormenier, 32, is a first-time Worlds gold medalist, after finishing 12th in Tokyo last year, an seventh at the 2019 Worlds.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Winter Games 2034 ● Thomas Weikert, the head of the German National Olympic Committee (DOSB) told the national ARD network’s “Sportschau” that plans are being advanced to bid for the 2034 Olympic Winter Games and if unsuccessful, for the 2036 Olympic Games.
“We are aiming for an application as soon as possible, should we be re-elected, and that would be for the 2034 or 2036 Games. … 2040 would also be a possibility, of course.
“The dialogue process mentioned will take a year and a half, two years, in any case until after the 2024 Games in Paris. Then we will sum up and see whether we apply and with whom we apply if the whole thing turns out positive from our point of view.
“We won’t commit to anything beforehand. The new guidelines of the IOC give us more flexibility. For example, it doesn’t have to be just one location where the Olympic and Paralympic Games are held, according to modern interpretation there can also be two.”
He has no illusions about the process, explaining:
“We want to ask everyone, especially the critics. People have to be taken along and heard. The debate culture in the DOSB is different now. It’s about education, information and participation in all parts of society.”
Germany has hosted only one Winter Games, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in 1936. Its last Olympic Games was in Munich in 1972 and prior to that, the infamous Nazi Games in Berlin in 1936.
● International Olympic Committee ● An updated brand identity and look was formally unveiled on Wednesday, developed by Canadian agency Hulse & Durrell in coordination with a team of international artists and designers.
The famous Olympic colors of blue, black, red, yellow and green have been specified with a brightened look and three custom typefaces – headline, serif and san-serif – have been created. These are already in use in IOC presentations.
● Court of Arbitration for Sport ● The first issue of the CAS Bulletin for 2022 was released, with interesting statistics on how large this little-known branch of the Olympic Movement has become.
The introductory report of Secretary General Mathieu Reeb (FRA) noted that CAS has 45 staff, with headquarters in Lausanne (SUI) and “registers about 900 arbitration procedures and organises more than 250 hearings each year.”
The CAS list of arbitrators is now at 425, including the anti-doping division. Compare this with 2012 figures of 373 annual cases and about 300 arbitrators (from 87 countries) and the CAS has grown considerably. That will continue.
● Athletics ● David Monti of the excellent Race Results Weekly notes that with her Berlin Marathon finish, American star Deena Kastor has joined a really exclusive club:
“Deena Kastor is just the fourth woman (and fifth athlete) to achieve [World Marathon Majors] 8-star status, the most elite club in all of marathoning.
“She has not only finished all six of the WMM commercial races, but also the World Athletics Championships and Olympic Marathons, the two other point-scoring competitions in the WMM series. The other 8-star finishers are Edna Kiplagat (KEN), Nuta Olaru (ROU), Aly Dixon (GBR), and Emmanuel Mutai (KEN).”
● Cycling ● The UCI BMX SuperCross World Cup is continuing with four sets of races in Bogota (COL) last weekend and this, comprising the final four races for men and women of the 2022 season.
In Round 5 (24 September), it was two-time World Champion and Tokyo gold medalist Niek Kimmann (NED) with a tight win over Cameron Wood (USA), 32.250 to 33.063 with France’s Sylvan Andre third (33.298). But Wood came back to win Round 6 in 32.275, ahead of 2021 Worlds bronze medalist Joris Daudet (FRA: 33.147) and Izaac Kennedy (AUS: 33.186).
Tokyo Olympic champ Beth Shriever (GBR) took Round 5 for the women, edging four-time World Champion Laura Smulders, 35.592 to 35.744. American Anne Willoughby – the 2020 World Champion – was third in 36.100. Smulders and Willoughby moved up to 1-2 in Round 6, timing 35.384 and 35.66, respectively, with Lauren Reynolds (AUS: 36.412) grabbing third.
● Football ● In case you missed it, the official attendance for the U.S. men vs. Saudi Arabia match is Murcia, Spain on Tuesday was … 364. Yep.
The Danish team at the 2022 FIFA World Cup will have three uniform designs available for its matches, with the national colors of red and white … and black. The latter is a message, per the manufacturer Hummel:
“The colour of mourning. While we support the Danish national team all the way, this shouldn’t be confused with support for a tournament that has cost thousands of people their lives.”
This is the first protest uniform to be unveiled and follows a commitment of the Danish Football Federation (DBU) to criticize Qatar as the host nation. In order to comply with FIFA regulations, there are no direct or visible messages or symbols on the jerseys and even the Danish crest is the same color as the shirts; the Danes (world rank: 10) will play reigning champ France, Australia and Tunisia in the group stage.
Seven European World Cup teams plan to have their captains wear armbands with a multi-colored heart on them as a protest.
Qatar’s Supreme Committee for the Delivery and Legacy did not agree with Denmark’s criticisms:
“We wholeheartedly reject the trivialising our genuine commitment to protect the health and safety of the 30,000 workers who built FIFA World Cup stadiums and other tournament projects. That same commitment now extends to 150,000 workers across various tournament services and 40,000 workers in the hospitality sector.”
For our updated, 620-event International Sports Calendar for 2022 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!