The Sports Examiner

TSX REPORT: IOC OKs one Russian swimmer; good TV audiences for gym, track Trials, but swimming had the most spectators!

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. IOC approves one Russian swimmer for Paris 2024
2. Paris 2024 village to include 2,500 air conditioners
3. Strong NBC viewership for gymnastics, track Olympic Trials
4. U.S. Swimming Trials outdraw track & field and gymnastics
5. Russian Friendship Games moved to 2025?

● The International Olympic Committee’s Russian and Belarusian athlete review panel approved one Russian swimmer – who swam at Louisville – and three pretty strong Belarusian swimmers on Wednesday for Paris 2024. So far, 20 Russians and 13 Belarusians have accepted places at the Games.

● The Paris 2024 Olympic Village was designed to work without air conditioning, but some 2,500 portable units will be provided among the 7,000 rooms in the complex at the request and expense of various National Olympic Committees, including Australia and the U.S.

● Viewership on NBC was quite good for the Olympic Trials in diving, swimming, track and gymnastics, up from an average of 3.2 million in 2021 to 3.9 million this time. The biggest draw was the women’s final day in gymnastics, with an average of 7.6 million on Sunday night.

● The U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials drew more than 285,000 to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, and set two records for highest attendance for an indoor swim meet. That total was more than the combined ticketed attendance for track & field and gymnastics combined. However, the Target Center in Minneapolis had sell-outs for both women’s sessions, on Friday and Sunday evenings.

● A report stated that the 36-sport Friendship Games in Russia, harshly criticized as “politicized sport” by the IOC, will not be held in September and instead postponed to 2025. No official statement has been made, but if so, it’s a victory for the IOC and its President, Thomas Bach.

Panorama: Paris 2024 (Air France projects $172 million-plus revenue loss in summer due to Olympics) = Los Angeles 2032 (Emmy winner Ben Winston planning LA28 show segment for Paris closing) = Athletics (2: Netflix’s six-part “SPRINT” series now available; Coe visits Ukraine, invites Zelenskyy to Paris 2024) = Boxing (IBA appeals CAS loss to Swiss Tribunal) = Cycling (Pogacar takes Tour de France lead as Cavendish gets stage-win record) = Football (3: UEFA Euro 2024 quarters set; Turkey’s Demiral could be sanctioned for racist gesture; Copa America quarterfinals now set) = Taekwondo (Iran dominates World Team Champs) ●

1.
IOC approves one Russian swimmer for Paris 2024

Sprinting to finish its work prior to the 8 July 2024 entry deadline, the International Olympic Committee’s Individual Neutral Athlete Eligibility Review Panel issued an update on Wednesday, announcing invitations to four swimmers: one Russian and three Belarusians:

Evgenii Somov (RUS), who apparently lives in the U.S. and swam for the University of Louisville and was the Atlantic Coast Conference champ in the men’s 100-yard Breaststroke in 2022.

Ilya Shymanovich (BLR), a Tokyo Olympian, eighth in the men’s 100 m Breaststroke final. Was the 2021 World Short-Course champ in the 100 m Breast; ranks 19th on the 2024 world list in the 100 m Breast.

Anastasiya Shkurdai (BLR), Tokyo Olympian who placed eighth in the women’s 100 m Butterfly final. She was the bronze medalist in the women’s 200 m Backstroke at the 2024 World Championships; she ranks 25th on the 2024 world list for the 200 m Back.

Alina Zmushka (BLR), a Tokyo Olympian, ranks 23rd on the 2024 world list for the 100 m Breaststroke.

We’re getting pretty close to the end now, with the review committee publishing results for 12 sports:

Canoeing (28 June for 4 quota places):
● 2 for Russia (2 invited, 1 accepted)
● 2 for Belarus (2 invited, 2 accepted)

Cycling/road (15 June for 4 places):
● 3 for Russia (3 invited: 2 accepted, 1 declined, new invite accepted)
● 1 for Belarus (1 invited: accepted)

Gymnastics/trampoline (15 June for 3 places):
● 1 for Russia (1 invited: accepted)
● 2 for Belarus (2 invited: accepted)

Judo (28 June for 12 places):
● 12 for Russia (4 invited; 4 declined)

Modern Pentathlon (27 June for 2 places):
● 2 for Belarus (none invited)

Rowing (27 June for 2 places):
● 2 for Belarus (2 invited, 2 accepted)

Shooting (27 June for 3 places):
● 3 for Belarus (2 invited, 2 accepted)

Swimming (3 July per qualifying standards):
● 1 invitation for Russia
● 3 invitations for Belarus

Taekwondo (15 June for 5 places):
● 4 for Russia (none invited)
● 1 for Belarus (none invited)

Tennis (27 June for 10 places):
● 8 for Russia (8 invited: 4 accepted, 4 declined; 4 new invites, 2 accepted, 2 declined)
● 2 for Belarus (2 invited, 1 accepted, 1 declined)

Weightlifting (15 June for 4 places):
● 4 for Belarus (2 invited, 2 accepted)

Wrestling (15 June for 26 places):
● 16 for Russia (10 invited: 9 accepted, 1 declined)
● 10 for Belarus (6 invited: 1 accepted, 5 declined)

There is some confusion about judo, as the IOC reported one acceptance and the Russian federation said none would accept an invitation. Assuming that no acceptances is accurate, the totals as of Wednesday:

● 78 qualifying places total across 12 sports
● 51 invitations: 29 Russians and 22 Belarusians
● 33 acceptances so far: 20 Russians and 13 Belarusians

As noted, the entry deadline is 8 July. Russian entries are prohibited in team sports and World Athletics has said it will not accept any Russian or Belarusian entries.

2.
Paris 2024 village to include 2,500 air conditioners

A signature element of the plan for the newly-built Olympic Village for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games has been environmental sustainability, leading to the elimination of air conditioning in the units and a special under-floor cooling system to maintain moderate temperatures.

But that is not good enough for multiple countries, whose athletes will be competing for medals and want to minimize any disturbances which could impact their performances, including heat. Said Australian Olympic Committee chief Matt Carroll in December 2023:

● “We appreciate the concept of not having air conditioning due to the carbon footprint. But it is a high-performance Games. We’re not going for a picnic.”

● “We’ve appointed a heat specialist, who understands the heat, the human body and how to sleep well, and at what temperature that is best achieved.”

“As we’ve explained to the Paris Organizing Committee, athletes have got to sleep during the day, because their events are at night. Daytime will be when it’s hottest. That’s been informing our decision in putting temporary air conditioners in the athletes’ rooms and also fans.”

He said the AOC will spend A$100,000 on the environmental controls, noting, “It’s an expense, but we believe we’ll be able to manage it.”

On Tuesday, the Paris 2024 organizers confirmed to Agence France Presse that 2,500 temporary air-conditioning units would be installed, at the request – and expense – of individual National Olympic Committees, across some 7,000 total rooms in the Olympic Village.

Augustin Tran Van Chau, the deputy director of the Village, told reporters:

“The aim was to provide a very specific solution for athletes who are facing the match or competition of their lives… and who might have requirements for their comfort and recovery which are higher than in a normal summer.

“Around 2,500 A/Cs have been ordered.”

In addition to Australia, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan and the U.S. are known to be providing supplemental air conditioning for their athlete rooms in the Village.

3.
Strong NBC viewership for gymnastics, track Olympic Trials

NBC reported good viewership for the gymnastics and track & field Olympic Trials which ended last Sunday, well ahead of those for 2021.

Data for the final night of the Gymnastics Trials in Minneapolis, Minnesota showed an average of 7.6 million watched the women’s final on NBC and Peacock, with a peak of 8.2 million for the end of the final rotation.

The 7.6 million average was well ahead of the 5.9 million for the final night of the Trials in 2021, but down from the 2016 final-night average of 8.6 million.

As for track & field, the eight nights of Olympic Trials from Eugene averaged 4.5 million on NBC and Peacock, with no data available for individual days. The first three days, which featured the women’s and men’s 100 m, drew average audiences of 3.9 million, 4.1 million and 5.2 million on 21-22-23 June. That average is 4.4 million, so the last five days were in the same range.

However, a 4.5 million average for 2024 is well ahead of the 3.2 million average for 2021.

All together, NBC said its primetime Olympic Trials telecasts averaged 3.9 million viewers across diving, swimming, track and gymnastics, up from 3.2 million in 2021.

(Nielsen does not report show-by-show data publicly any more; TSX has asked for day-by-day viewership totals from NBC, which may be available later.)

4.
U.S. Swimming Trials outdraw track & field and gymnastics

There was considerable trepidation as to whether USA Swimming’s move from the sold-out CHI Health Center arena and convention facility in Omaha, Nebraska to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana for its 2024 Olympic Trials was a good idea.

At least by the ticket-sales figures, it turned out pretty well. USA Swimming Senior Director of Marketing & Communications, Jake Grosser, provided ticketing figures for all 17 sessions, recognizing that there may be some minor changes in the final numbers as the reconciliations are done. But, for eight prelim and nine final sessions at Lucas Oil Stadium:

15 June: 16,009 + 20,689 (indoor swim meet record)
16 June: 18,342 + 18,161
17 June: 13,940 + 16,571
18 June: 14,439 + 15,476
19 June: 17,414 + 22,209 (indoor swim meet record)
20 June: 15,080 + 17,742
21 June: 13,983 + 18,444
22 June: 15,119 + 18,808
23 June: 12,776

That’s 285,202 or an average of 16,777 per session, well above the 14,700 capacity in Omaha for 2021 and established two different records for the largest indoor swim meet attendance in history. These were not sell-outs; the facility could have housed up to about 30,000. Whether the federation netted more from an NFL stadium than an arena and convention center will be up to the finance staff to figure out in the coming weeks as all of the bills get paid.

At Hayward Field in Eugene, the eight days of track & field drew near-capacity ticket sales in a 12,650-seat facility, which had spotty attendance in the seats, in part due to some hot days, with five sessions at 83 F up to 90 F, and a roofline which does not cover all of the seating areas. USA Track & Field circulated the daily counts, which do NOT included any accredited persons, such as athletes, coaches and officials:

21 June: 11,227 ticketed spectators
22 June: 11,852
23 June: 12,108
24 June: 12,180

27 June: 11,851
28 June: 11,775
29 June: 12,175
30 June: 12,243

That’s 95,411 total or 11,926 per session, or 94.3% of capacity. That’s a huge improvement from the 2021 Trials, with Covid issues, where the total attendance was only 41,576 or 5,197 on average per session.

The 2024 totals, however, pale beside the 2016 Trials, held at the “old” Hayward Field – with the wooden grandstands and the temporary seating on each end – which had 176,872 across eight sessions, or an average of 22,109. Wow.

USA Gymnastics held its four-night Olympic Trials at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota with good attendance for the men, and sell-outs for the women’s sessions:

27 June: 11,258 (men’s day 1)
28 June: 16,153 (women’s day 1) ~ sellout
29 June: 14,180 (men’s day 2)
30 June: 16,300 (women’s day 2) ~ sellout

The total was 57,891, or 14,473 per session, second behind swimming and ahead of track & field.

These Olympic Trials events were well attended and, from the spectator standpoint, pretty well run, and for swimming and gymnastics, in world-class NFL and NBA facilities. There’s no doubt that Hayward Field is a world-class competition facility, but it has not caught on with fans in the way the original did.

5.
Russian Friendship Games moved to 2025?

The Inside The Games site reported Wednesday that Russia’s “Friendship Games,” planned for 15-29 September 2024 and vociferously opposed by the International Olympic Committee, is being postponed to 2025.

The report noted:

“The International Friendship Association (IFA), the rights holder of the tournament, cited serious concerns complicating the event’s organisation in Russia. Key issues include safety concerns for athletes facing opposition from international sports federations and the overburdening of athletes due to their preparation for the Paris Olympics.”

No announcement has been made on the Friendship Games Web site, the Russian Sports Ministry or by the Russian news agency TASS. According to the organizers, nearly 2,500 athletes from 127 countries have registered interest in the event, slated to host 36 sports at 21 venues, 17 in Moscow and four in Yekaterinburg.

If true, the postponement would be a significant political victory for the International Olympic Committee and President Thomas Bach (GER), who has railed against this event. The IOC issued a harsh statement on the event by name in March of this year, which included:

“[T]he first edition of the ‘Summer Friendship Games’ is planned to be held in Moscow and Ekaterinburg, Russia, in September 2024, and the ‘Winter Friendship Games’ in Sochi, Russia, in 2026.

“For this purpose, the Russian government has launched a very intensive diplomatic offensive by having government delegations and ambassadors, as well as ministerial and other governmental authorities, approaching governments around the world. To make their purely political motivation even more obvious, they are deliberately circumventing the sports organisations in their target countries. This is a blatant violation of the Olympic Charter and an infringement of the various UN resolutions at the same time.

“It is a cynical attempt by the Russian Federation to politicise sport. The IOC Athletes’ Commission, representing all the Olympic athletes of the world, clearly opposes using athletes for political propaganda. The Commission even sees the risk of athletes being forced by their governments into participating in such a fully politicised sports event, thereby being exploited as part of a political propaganda campaign.”

It ended with the IOC asking that “the Olympic Movement strongly condemns any initiative to fully politicise sport, in particular the establishment of fully politicised sports events by the Russian government.

“The IOC strongly urges all stakeholders of the Olympic Movement and all governments to reject any participation in, and support of, any initiative that intends to fully politicise international sport.”

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● The Olympic Games make an impact. Just ask Air France-KLM, which issued this on Monday:

“Air France and Transavia France are currently experiencing pressure on projected unit revenues for the summer season due to the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris, with traffic to and from the French capital lagging behind other major European cities.

“International markets show a significant avoidance of Paris. Travel between the city and other destinations is also below the usual June-August average as residents in France seem to be postponing their holidays until after the Olympic Games or considering alternative travel plans.

“As a result, Air France-KLM currently estimates a negative impact on its forthcoming unit revenues in an order of magnitude, from €160m – €180m [€1 = $1.08 U.S.] for the period June until August 2024. …

“Travel to and from France is expected to normalize after the Olympic Games, with encouraging demand levels projected for the end of August and the month of September.”

Looks like people know the Games are coming to Paris!

● Olympic Games 2028: Los Angeles ● LA28 Chair Casey Wasserman asked for political calm around the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, noting “In our country, I like to say that we’re about red, white and blue and not red and blue and not about left or right.”

He said that the closing ceremony segment that will highlight Los Angeles 2028 is being produced by Emmy-winning television veteran Ben Winston (GBR), well known for “The Late Late Show with James Corben” as well as many music special and both the Grammy Awards and Tony Awards.

● Athletics ● The six-episode Netflix documentary series “SPRINT” is now available, following the trail of U.S., British, Italian and Jamaican stars on the Diamond League in 2023 and to the World Athletics Championships in Budapest (HUN).

The series follows American stars Fred Kerley, Noah Lyles, Sha’Carri Richardson and Gabby Thomas, Britain’s Zharnel Hughes, Italian Lamont Marcell Jacobs and Jamaica’s trio of women’s stars Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Shericka Jackson and Elaine Thompson-Herah.

Observed: The series, developed with strong support from World Athletics, is hoped to provide a boost in profile for track & field, as the Netflix series “Drive to Survive” helped to do for Formula One racing when it debuted in 2019.

A major challenge for track is that Formula One has a defined schedule of 24 races with 10 contracted teams (20 cars) in 2024 that takes place every week or every other week from the beginning of March through the start of December, except for a four-week summer break. Track & field has a hodge-podge of meets and championships that appear irregularly, with each offering what appears to the uninitiated to be a random cast of characters completely unrelated to all of the other meets.

Until that structure gets resolved, where will all the new interest in at least the sprinters go?

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe (GBR) made a special visit to Ukraine and met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy last Friday (29th), confirming the federation’s support of Ukraine in its defense against the Russian invasion. And:

“President Coe committed to continue financially supporting Ukrainian athletes through the Ukraine Fund, together with the International Athletics Foundation (IAF) and Members of the Diamond League Association. The fund provides support to professional athletes affected by the conflict in their home country, ensuring they can continue to train, qualify for and participate in World Athletics Series events and the World Athletics Championships.”

Coe further invited Zelenskyy to attend the Paris 2024 athletics competition as his guest, “should the President’s schedule allow.

World Athletics has been the most resolute of all the International Federations in refusing to allow Russian or Belarusian participation at the Paris Olympic Games in view of the continuing invasion of Ukraine.

● Boxing ● To the surprise of absolutely no one, the International Boxing Association has appealed the April dismissal of its appeal from de-recognition by the International Olympic Committee at the Court of Arbitration for Sport to the Swiss Federal Tribunal.

The Swiss court has very limited jurisdiction in such cases and only very rarely returns any change from a Court of Arbitration for Sport holding. But the IBA contends that the CAS decision improperly applied the relevant statutes and is seeking relief on that basis.

There is no timetable for any hearing or decision.

● Cycling ● The racing at the 111th Tour de France is officially on after the first mountain stage of the 2024 program was held on Tuesday, a 139.6 km triple climb that began in Pinerolo (ITA) and finished in Valloire (FRA).

Two-time winner Tadej Pogacar (SLO), already the winner of the Giro d’Italia this year, attacked about 800 m from the top of the final, biggest climb up the famed Col de Galiber and could not be caught, racing the final 20 km to the finish in 3:46:38 and taking back the yellow jersey. Belgium’s Remco Evenepoel was second (+0:35), with Juan Ayuso (ESP) and fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglic (+0:35) close behind, as was two-time defending champ Jonas Vingegaard (DEN: +0:37).

Pogacar claimed a 45-second lead in the race, with Evenepoel second and Vingegaard (+0:50) third.

The largely downhill fifth stage on Wednesday was historic, with Britain’s Mark Cavendish winning the mass sprint to the line for his record-setting 35th Tour stage win, the most in history. He timed 4:08:46 for the 177.4 km route that finished in Saint Vulbas, ahead of Jasper Philipsen (BEL) and Alexander Kristoff (NOR).

Cavendish, now 39, had retired but came back to try and get the record, which he had shared with Belgian immortal Eddy Merckx, who won 34 stages between 1969 and 1975, and also won the overall race five times between 1969-74.

Pogacar retained his lead, with Thursday’s race also on a flat course and open for the sprinter. An Individual Time Trial comes Friday.

● Football ● The first elimination round at UEFA Euro 2024 concluded with the Netherlands and Turkey advancing and another disciplinary action opened.

On Tuesday in Munich, the Dutch sailed past Romania, 3-0, with forward Cody Gakpo scoring in the 20th minute and Romania managing only five shots in the match vs. 24 for the Netherlands. Two late goals came from Donyell Malen in the 83rd and at 90+3 for the final score.

In Leipzig, Turkey took a near-immediate lead as defender Merih Demiral scored in the first minute for a 1-0 lead, and he scored again in the 59th on a header to make it 2-0. Austria got one back on a Michael Gregoritsch goal in the 66th, but even with 60% possession and a 21-6 shots edge, they could not equalize.

Now, the quarterfinals are set, to begin on Friday:

Upper bracket: 5 July
● Spain (4-0) vs. Germany (3-0-1) in Stuttgart
● Portugal (3-1) vs. France (2-0-2) in Hamburg

Lower bracket: 6 July
● England (2-0-2) vs. Switzerland (2-0-2) in Dusseldorf
● Netherlands (2-1-1) vs. Turkey (3-1) in Berlin

Already plagued by racist shouts from fans, another controversy popped up in the Austria-Turkey match was star defender – and double goal scorer – Demiral celebrating with a hand signal that was reported as the symbol of the Grey Wolves, an ultra-right-wing political movement in Turkey that has violently attacked ethnic minorities and liberal groups in the past and has preached anti-Semitic hatred as well. The group is banned in Austria and France, but not in Germany.

UEFA announced the appointment of an Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector “in relation to the alleged inappropriate behaviour of the Turkish Football Federation player, Merih Demiral.”

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said on X (ex-Twitter): “The symbols of Turkish right-wing extremists have no place in our stadiums. Using the European football championships as a platform for racism is completely unacceptable.”

At the 48th Copa America, being played in the U.S., the quarterfinals are now set after the final group matches on Tuesday, with Brazil and Colombia playing to a 1-1 tie in Santa Clara, California in Group D and Costa Rica defeating Paraguay, 2-1 in Austin, Texas:

Upper bracket:
● 4 Jul.: Argentina (3-0) vs. Ecuador (1-1-1) in Houston, Texas
● 5 Jul.: Venezuela (3-0) vs. Canada (1-1-1) in Arlington, Texas

Lower bracket:
● 6 Jul.: Uruguay (3-0) vs. Brazil (1-0-2) in Paradise, Nevada
● 6 Jul.: Colombia (2-0-1) vs. Panama (2-1) in Glendale, Arizona

The semis will be played on the 9th and 10th, with the final in Miami Gardens, Florida on the 14th.

● Taekwondo ● At the 13th World Taekwondo Team Championships in Chuncheon (KOR), Iran defended its men’s title, 2-0, over Korea in the final for its fifth straight win. Morocco took the bronze.

The Iranian women followed up with their own victory, 2-1, over Morocco, and the Koreans in third. It’s the first title for any nations outside of Korea and China in the prior 12 editions; Morocco repeated as silver winners.

In the Mixed Team final, China was a 2-1 winner over Iran, with Korea third, the fourth time China has won this event.

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