The Sports Examiner

TSX REPORT: IOC says no change in Russia and Belarus bans; Winter Games 2030 selection and future rotation related; big U.S. World Cup ratings!

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (GER) at Wednesday's news conference (Photo: IOC video screen grab)

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1. IOC’s Bach says Russia situation discussed, but no changes
2. IOC is upset with boxing’s federation, not the boxers
3. Possible Winter Games rotation and double-allocation are related
4. U.S. World Cup viewing up 19.9% for English & Spanish combined
5. Qatar excitement has FIFA considering new formats for 2026

The International Olympic Committee wrapped up three days of Executive Board meetings with President Thomas Bach of Germany explaining that during a four-hour discussion of the situation involving Russia and Belarus, no changes have been made to the IOC’s position on sanctions. Bach also made it clear that boxing as a sport is not the focus of the IOC’s concerns, but the International Boxing Association is, a good sign for the sport’s continuation in the Olympic program for 2028. The new consideration of a possible naming of hosts for both the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games is related to the IOC’s idea that due to the need for “climate reliability” for winter sport, a rotation of permanent host cities could be considered; naming two hosts soon would give the IOC time to figure out the rotation concept in detail. The FIFA World Cup is proving popular on television in the U.S., with average audiences in English and Spanish combined up 19.9% over 2018, and the viewing of U.S. matches at a higher rate than anything on television except the NFL. FIFA is now considering three options in the format for the expanded 2026 World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the U.S., noting that the earlier-announced 16 groups of three is only one option. If splitting the tournament into two 24-team brackets or using six groups of four, the World Cup would expand from 64 matches in Qatar now to 104 in four years!

IOC’s Bach says Russia situation discussed, but no changes

“There is no change in our position, and I am afraid I have to explain it again.”

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (GER) noted during a Wednesday news conference following three days of Executive Board meetings that a four-hour discussion had been held earlier in the day concerning Russia’s continuing war against Ukraine and the IOC’s position.

He responded to questions looking for any movement toward Russian reinstatement by restating his position:

“What we said, always said, and said today again, and said all over again, the sanctions have to remain in place. And there is no change at all. And what we have always also said is, that with regard to the protective measures, with regard to the athletes, that we have to explore ways to overcome this dilemma, to live up to our mission.

“And this has been clear from 24th February. Already then, we were talking about the ‘heavy heart’ and that we have to overcome it. So there is no change at all. The breach of the Olympic Charter by the governments and states persist, and therefore the sanctions persist.”

Bach went to some length to explain that in addition to the sanctions against the Russian and Belarusian governments – requesting no hosting of events there and no use of country name, flag or anthem – that the “protective measures” asking for no Russian or Belarusian participation, or exclusively as neutrals, are not simply about athlete safety, but protecting international sport from being dictated to by national government policies:

“The other question is, what about the athletes: do we still need the protection of the integrity of the international events? These reasons always have to be analyzed , and there, you know, I can also give some examples how differently this was handled and how far political interference went, even in one sport. …

“We had this participation of Russian and Belarusian in the U.S. Open in tennis. We have Russian athletes participating in the NHL. They all have, obviously, their working permit, they are playing, they are cheered upon by the fans, you know, everybody happy.

“On the other hand, we had at Wimbledon, the British government interfering and forcing the Wimbledon organizers to exclude Russian and Belarusian players from playing. This is the situation we are in and this is the situation we have to overcome so that the international competitions can really be comparable and can be fair and just for everybody.”

He added later, answering another question:

“Governments should not decide, on political grounds, who is participating in which sport event.

“The qualification for sports events must be on sporting merits, and not on political interference. This is, by the way, you know, against all the commitments these governments – and there, the British government, unfortunately, is not the only one – that made their approval in the meantime three or four U.N. resolutions in the last couple of years and the latest one on 1st of December, where these governments voted for resolution by consensus where they say that they respect the Olympic Charter, which is the political neutrality of the IOC, where they emphasize the conciliative nature of sports events, where they support the autonomy of sport, and then to take a decision – a political decision – on a sports competition is clearly not in line with these resolutions and these commitments, and not in line with the mission of international sports, because if this would continue, then sport competitions and the international sports system would be gone.”

Bach also emphasized that athletes who misbehave and introduce politics into the competitions must themselves be subject to penalties:

“Whatever is happening with regard to athletes in their participation, the sanctions remain in place. Then, of course, if somebody would infringe on these sanctions, then, they would be sanctioned.

“Participation must happen on sporting merits, and respecting the rules of sport. And if somebody is infringing on these rules of sport, sanctions must – will – and have followed. We have seen Russian athletes displaying this infamous ‘Z’ sign and they have been sanctioned and have been excluded from competitions. This is how our system works: it means sporting merits and respect for the rules of sport. Who has no sporting merit cannot come and who is not respecting sport cannot not come.”

This was a reference to Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak, banned for a year after wearing a pro-invasion ‘Z’ on his uniform at the FIG Artistic Apparatus World Cup in Doha (QAT) last March.

IOC is upset with boxing’s federation, not the boxers

Bach also gave the clearest declaration yet that the IOC’s continuing suspension of the International Boxing Association is about the federation and not about the sport:

“What we are discussing is not so much about boxing, and the boxers, it is about the governance of this sport. It’s about the federation, as it is right now and of it would be about boxing and the boxers, there would have been no boxing in Tokyo. And there would be no boxing in Paris.

“The Executive Board is fully conscious of the social values and the globality of boxing as a sport and is taking this into account, and has been taking this into account with regard to all these decisions of having, despite the suspension of the federation (boxing) in Tokyo and despite the huge problems in the federation still ongoing, also in Paris, So this is what we are concentrating on now, but again, I think this message should go to all the boxers, but it’s not about them, but it’s about the governance of their federation, which stands in their way.”

This is good news for boxing relative to its possible inclusion on the program for Los Angeles in 2028. But Bach slammed the IBA again in a later comment, adding:

“These issues have to be addressed in a way of substance and by facts and not by some P.R. efforts, but by measures of substance, and there, we will keep monitoring, and let’s see what’s going to happen.”

Possible Winter Games rotation and double-allocation are related

The IOC Executive Board made headlines on Tuesday with the report of a discussion with the Future Host Commission about new approaches to the Olympic Winter Games, including a possible double allocation of the 2030 and 2034 editions and, given concerns about “climate reliability,” that even a possible rotation among a set of semi-permanent host cities could be considered.

It turns out the two are related. Bach explained on Wednesday:

“The way it was presented by the Commission … I perceived it in the way that the Commission is saying, by a double allocation, we would win some time to then establish a sound rotation system. So this, then, would follow the allocation for 2030.”

It’s all up in the air right now, but climate concerns may be pushing the IOC to consider a long-time recommendation to concentrate the Games in a few existing locations that could handle the repeat business. The difficulty with this idea starts with the availability of an Olympic Village, which is handled in the U.S. by the use of university student residences, an option not widely available elsewhere.

U.S. World Cup viewing up almost 20% for English and Spanish combined

With a few days since the close of the group stage of the 2022 World Cup, the viewing numbers are coming in, with very good reports for U.S. viewing in both English and Spanish:

● FOX reported that the 48-match group stage attracted an average of 2.638 million viewers on FOX and FS1, an impressive 35% increase over the 1.958 million average from Russia in 1998.

● Telemundo reported a “total audience delivery” – TV and streaming – averaging 2.07 million viewers on Telemundo and Peacock, with a few matches that took place concurrently on Universo. This is a 5% bump from 2018, which averaged 1.97 million viewers.

The combined total is a 4.708 million per-match average, up 19.86% from 2018 in Russia.

Better figures are now available for the U.S. matches, including the Round-of-16 game against the Netherlands, for the English and Spanish broadcasts combined:

21 Nov. (Mon.): 11.236 million for U.S.-Wales
25 Nov. (Fri.) : 20.146 million for U.S.-England
29 Nov. (Tue.): 15.863 million for U.S.-Iran
03 Dec. (Sat.): 16.875 million for U.S.-Netherlands

That’s an average of 16.03 million – combined – for the four matches, which compares very favorably against every other sport on U.S. television except the NFL. Sunday’s early NFL window (1 p.m. Eastern) drew a combined 37.10 million on CBS and FOX for regional coverage; the CBS second game (4 p.m. Eastern) did 23.41 million. The Sunday Night Football broadcast on NBC had 18.13 million for Indianapolis and Dallas.

The U.S. World Cup match average did surpass the college conference championship games, with the SEC drawing 10.89 million for LSU vs. Georgia on CBS, the Big 10 getting 10.70 million on FOX for Purdue-Michigan, and ABC drawing 9.41 million for the Big 12 title game with Kansas State and TCU.

Behind the U.S., Mexico drew well – especially on Telemundo – from Qatar, with an average of 9.18 million:

22 Nov. (Tue.): 8.139 million for Mexico-Poland
26 Nov. (Sat.): 13.438 million for Mexico-Argentina
30 Nov. (Wed.): 5.973 million for Mexico-Saudi Arabia

The only other match to do more than 10 million viewers combined was the Thanksgiving Day game between Brazil and Serbia, which drew 11.181 million almost evenly between English (6.187 million) and Spanish (5.694 million). Next best was the Round-of-16 game between Argentina and Australia, which had 9.927 million U.S. viewers.

The least-interesting match of the World Cup? That was 495,000 combined viewers for Canada and Morocco on 1 December.

Qatar excitement has FIFA considering new formats for 2026

Qatar’s 2022 World Cup will be the last with 32 teams, as the tournament will expand to 48 for the 2026 World Cup to be played in Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

The projected format for 2026 had been 16 groups of three – to be played in 16 different stadia – with the two top in each group to advance to a 32-team tournament. But the gripping results of the group stage in Qatar, in which all eight came down to the final day to clarify who would advance, is confirming the need for a new look at the format.

FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development, former French coach Arsene Wenger, said Sunday that new options are being considered. In addition to the 16×3 format:

● 12 groups of four teams, with the top two in each moving on (24) and the eight “best” third-place teams advancing to an expanded elimination round of 32.

● Creating essentially two tournaments of 24 teams each, with six groups of four in each advancing to an elimination round of 16 on each side, and the winners of each “half” meeting in the final.

Said Wenger, “I will not be able to decide that, it will be decided by the FIFA [Council], and I think it will be done in the next year.”

The original 16×3 scenario was going to expand the World Cup from the current 64 total matches to 80, but either the 12×4 or 24×2 formats would create 104 matches in all, a financial, tourism and publicity bonanza for FIFA, the stadiums and potentially for the local communities.


FIFA President Gianni Infantino (SUI) praised the 2022 World Cup – so far – in a video posted Wednesday:

“Record-breaking figures on TV; we already had over two billion viewers, which is really incredible. Figures published at the end of the group stage showed a cumulative attendance of 2.45 million for the first 48 games, while the first knockout round featured a total of 28 goals over the eight games played; the most there has ever been since the round of 16 was introduced in 1986.”

Cumulative attendance at the Fan Festival in Doha has surpassed one million.

Mario Ferri, 35, the Italian activist who ran onto the field wearing a Superman shirt that said “Free Ukraine” on the front, “Respect for Iranian Women” on the back and carried a rainbow flag during the group-stage game between Portugal and Uruguay, said he was released from Qatari custody after just a half-hour due to the intervention of Infantino.

Now back home, Ferri told Reuters, “Gianni Infantino is intelligent; Falco is free, no problem in Qatar.” He said the FIFA President came to where Ferri was being held and arranged for his release. Ferri claims to have created on-field protests 11 times, and this was his third at a World Cup, after 2010 and 2014.

Avaaz, a Swiss protest group, created mobile billboards that toured Infantino’s home town of Brig (SUI) on Wednesday, reading “Infantino: your family were migrants,” “Thousands like them were victims of this World Cup,” and “Compensate them now.”

For a guest comment on some of the questions raised by hosting the FIFA World Cup in Qatar by University of Lausanne Professor of Public Management at the Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration, Jean-Loup Chappelet, click here.

No matches on Wednesday or Thursday; the World Cup will resume on Friday and Saturday with the quarterfinals (records reflect penalty-kick victories as wins):

09 Dec.: Croatia (2-0-2 W-L-T: goals 5-2) vs. Brazil (3-1: goals 7-2)
09 Dec.: Netherlands (3-0-1; goals 8-2) vs. Argentina (3-1; goals 7-3)

10 Dec.: Morocco (3-0-1; goals 4-1) vs. Portugal (3-1; goals 12-5)
10 Dec.: England (3-0-1; goals 12-2) vs. France (3-1; goals 9-4)

The semifinals will be played on the 13th and 14th and the final on 18 December.


● Weightlifting ● The 2022 IWF World Championships continue in Bogota (COL), with the lighter weights, and another gold for Thailand.

In the men’s 55 kg class, Theerapong Silachai, 19, came from fourth after the Snatch to win the Clean & Jerk event and take the victory at 265 kg. He led an Asian sweep, with Ngo Son Dinh (VIE) second at 260 kg and Yon-ho King (KOR) third, also at 260. Gabe Chhum of the U.S. was 10th at 238 kg.

China’s Huihua Jiang won her third world title at 49 kg – also in 2015 and 2019 – by lifting a combined 206 kg, winning both the Snatch and Clean & Jerk golds. Tokyo silver winner Saikhom Mirabai Chanu (IND) took silver at 200 kg and Tokyo Olympic champ Zhihui Hou (CHN: 198 kg) was third.

American Hayley Reichardt scored a bronze in the Clean & Jerk lift, but finished fifrth overall (194 kg); teammate Jourdan Delacruz was seventh (191 kg).


● Doping ● Dr. Werner Franke, the German biologist who played a key role in uncovering the East German state doping scheme, passed at age 82 on 14 November in Heidelberg.

With his wife, former East German Olympic shot putter and discus thrower Brigitte Bernendonk, Franke was able to assemble documents that described the use of anabolic steroids as part of a state-sponsored plan launched in 1974, although doping in East Germany had been going on in the 1960s.

Franke and Benendonk’s 1991 book, Doping Dokumente: Von der Forschung zum Betrug, made the documentation public and exposed the now-infamous program. Franke was a long-time professor of cell and molecular biology at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg.

● Taekwondo ● The long-running appeal by U.S. star Steven Lopez – two time Olympic gold medalist in 2000 (68 kg) and 2004 (80 kg), now 44 – and brother and coach, Jean Lopez over a ban by World Taekwondo, was upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The decision restored the standing of both Lopez brothers immediately. They were declared permanently ineligible by the U.S. Center for SafeSport in September 2018 for sexual abuse, but that finding was overturned in early 2019. World Taekwondo subsequently imposed its own sanctions, and the Lopezes appealed. According to the Court:

“[I]in the absence of any relevant applicable disciplinary or ethics rules implemented or published by WT at the time of the alleged violations, the CAS Panel was not in a position to sanction the appellants, even if the Panel was to assume that they had committed an infraction.

“Indeed, the Panel observed that WT charged the appellants based on its 2011 Code of Ethics, which entered into force on 15 September 2011, but that all relevant incidents for which the appellants were charged allegedly occurred before 15 September 2011 and were therefore not sanctionable on the basis of the 2011 Code of Ethics.”

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