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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. IOC states no decision yet on Russia or Belarus at Paris 2024
2. Russia rejects IOC’s requirement not to support Ukraine war
3. White House Press Secretary calls for suspension of Russia and Belarus
4. IOC’s Bach warns Iran NOC on athlete abuse and restrictions
5. U.S. Swimming Olympic Trials all-session tickets on sale
The firestorm created by comments from the International Olympic Committee about its desire to see Russian and Belarusian athletes return to international competition continues to burn out of control, with the IOC posting a long question-and-answer piece on its Web site Thursday. Most of it was a repeat of prior statements, but it did state with clarity that any return of Russian or Belarusian athletes was only in the discussion stage and no decision on participation in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games had been made. Russian officials, of course, rejected any suggestion that its athletes would condemn the Ukraine invasion, and some said they felt the entire IOC approach was a charade meant to embarrass Russia. The White House Press Secretary said Thursday that the U.S. government supports the suspension of Russian and Belarusian governing bodies from International Federations and removing officials from any board or committee posts. A letter to the U.S. National Governing Bodies by new U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee Chair Gene Sykes said that while further discussion was Russian or Belarusian participation was appropriate, it may be impossible to create the right conditions for that to take place. The IOC met with the Iranian National Olympic Committee, complaining about abusive practices against athletes in that country, and toward women, perhaps a prelude to sanctions as early as the March meeting of the IOC Executive Board. USA Swimming and the Indiana Sports Corporation announced the opening of all-session ticket sales for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, with 17-session tickets available from $475 to $3,273.
IOC states no decision yet on Russia or Belarus at Paris 2024
Facing increasingly shrill criticism of its continuing discussions about a possible pathway to re-admission of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competitions, the International Olympic Committee posted a 4,408-word “Q&A on solidarity with Ukraine, sanctions against Russia and Belarus, and the status of athletes from these countries” on Thursday.
The post essentially collated the IOC’s statements on the situation to date, including 21 references to resolutions and reports from the United Nations. But there was some new, definitive language on the current status:
● On whether Russian or Belarusian athletes will compete at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris:
“This is premature. No decision has been taken on the participation of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport at the Olympic Games Paris 2024. The topic under discussion is about their participation in international competitions in Asia in the forthcoming summer sport season. In none of the documents published by the IOC will you find a reference to the Olympic Games Paris 2024 for athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport. With regard to the Ukrainian athletes, however, there is the full commitment to undertake all the solidarity efforts to have a strong team from the [National Olympic Committee] of Ukraine in Paris 2024 and Milano Cortina 2026.”
“We cannot speculate about this question, not even knowing whether or how the first step will be taken. But one thing is very clear: We are not talking about Russian or Belarusian athletes, we are talking about neutral athletes respecting the strict conditions we have set, including no identification with their country and NOC whatsoever, and full compliance with the anti-doping regulations.”
● On who will make the decision on Russian or Belarusian participation:
“Currently, an exploration of a primary concept for conditions of participation is underway. No decision has been taken. What the details could look like will have to be worked out and decided on. It is premature to try to answer this question at this stage.”
● On the offer by the Olympic Council of Asia to offer competitive opportunities for Russian and/or Belarusian athletes:
“This concept is currently being explored, in particular for competitions in Asia. The Olympic Council of Asia has offered athletes with a Russian and Belarusian passport access to Asian competitions.
“However, no decision has been taken at this moment in time, and the recommendations from February 2022 remain in place.”
The post reiterated again the timeline of IOC sanctions and the support provided to Ukrainian athletes. And with regard to the mentions of a Ukrainian boycott of Paris 2024 if Russian or Belarusian athletes are allowed to compete, the statement noted:
“It is extremely regretful to escalate this discussion with a threat of a boycott at this premature stage. The participation of individual, neutral athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport at the Olympic Games Paris 2024 has not been discussed yet.”
It was underlined once more that the ultimate decision on whether any athlete will be eligible to compete at the Paris 2024 Games is primarily in the hands of the International Federations. In this regard, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Executive Committee stated on Thursday:
“FIBA has taken note of the recent announcements by the IOC and the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) and will continue participating in the consultation process, considering the Central Board decisions and the specificities applicable to basketball as a team sport.”
The International Table Tennis Federation told the Russian news service TASS that nothing has been decided:
“ITTF supports the recent statement of the International Olympic Committee and is currently considering options for the possible return of Russian and Belarusian players, but the timing has not yet been set.”
For its part, the Paris 2024 organizing committee said it would follow the IOC’s directions.
Russia rejects IOC’s requirement not to support Ukraine war
Russian Olympic Committee President (and four-time Olympic fencing gold medalist) Stanislav Pozdnyakov once again stated that Russian athletes should not be required to demonstrate any lack of support for the country’s invasion of Ukraine in order to compete in Paris. He wrote on his Telegram page:
“We remain firmly convinced that Russian athletes should be allowed to participate in international competitions on equal terms with athletes from other countries without any additional conditions and restrictions. …
“Especially important is a clear indication of the inadmissibility of requiring athletes to express their political position as one of the conditions for their admission to participation in competitions.”
State Duma deputy and 2006 Olympic speed skating 500 m champ Svetlana Zhurova told TASS that the entire IOC exercise is a charade to embarrass Russian athletes:
“It was clear that they were not going to let us go to the Olympics right away, we shouldn’t have illusions, many of us thought that there would be a flag and an anthem.
“The IOC is now making its statements under great pressure, they are luring us, they say that ready to return the Russians, but under certain conditions. I think that soon they will demand that the Russians condemn the [Ukraine invasion] in order to participate in the Asian Games. I will not be surprised if they want to do it publicly, broadcast it on all channels and make a propaganda story out of it.”
Russian Fencing Federation head Ilgar Mammadov also expressed frustration, undoubtedly not helped by the IOC’s Thursday post:
“Give at least one document so that something can be said concretely. Today the opinion is one, tomorrow another, the day after tomorrow a third. When we receive at least one official document, we will be able to talk about something concrete. We can’t shake the air because the IOC shakes it.
“I am sure that these trumpets are made to divide the society into those who can ‘eat a bone’ and those who don’t need it. If, as the head of the IOC said, we shouldn’t be discriminated against on the basis of nationality, we should be allowed in, but that was rhetoric to nowhere. And if we shouldn’t be discriminated against, allow us as full members of the Olympic family to participate in the Games. But that’s not happening, because now they’re just testing our reaction. What they wanted, that’s what happens: the division ‘into red and white, ‘into white and black’.”
However, Russian Wrestling Federation chief Mikhail Mamiashvili was more optimistic (DeepL.com translation):
“I am convinced that the IOC will find a compromise solution and prove its viability. The viability, which cannot be covered by political pressure from the outside.
“Today Asia, tomorrow where? Today Russia, tomorrow where? What are we turning into? Today there are open calls for countries to boycott, which is contrary to the constitution, the IOC charter and the spirit of Olympism.
“I would like to remind you that we have already stepped on this rake and boycotts have not led to anything good.”
White House Press Secretary calls for suspension
of Russia and Belarus
The U.S. government has not weighed in heavily on the Paris 2024 Olympic participation question … until Thursday. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during her Thursday briefing:
“We have worked to hold Russia accountable for the brutal and barbaric war their forces are waging against Ukraine. So as part of those efforts, the United States has supported suspending Russia and Belarus’s sport national governing bodies from International Sports Federations; removing individuals closely aligned to the Russian and Belarusian states, including government officials from positions of influence and international sports federations, such as boards and organizing committees; [and] encouraging national and international sports organizations to suspend broadcasting of sports competitions into Russia and Belarus.
“In cases where sports organizations and event organizers, such as the International Olympic Committee, choose to permit athletes from Russia and Belarus to participate in sports events, it must be absolutely clear that they are not representing the Russian or Belarusian state.
“And so that’s the stance that we are providing, and the use of official state Russian [or] Belarusian flags, emblems and anthems should be prohibited as well.”
Going further was a joint statement from the sports ministers from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland that included:
“Attempts to return athletes from Russia and Belarus to international tournaments under the guise of a shield of neutrality are justification for the political decisions of these countries and their widespread propaganda, when sport is used as one of the means of diverting public attention from ongoing aggression.”
The Associated Press reported on a letter sent last Thursday (26th) to the U.S. National Governing Bodies by new U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee Chair Gene Sykes, stating in part:
“After listening to many athletes and constituents from around the United States, we recognize a real desire to compete against all the world’s best athletes – but only if that can happen in a way that ensures safe and fair play. …
“As such, we encouraged the IOC to continue exploring a process that would preserve the existing sanctions, ensuring only neutral athletes who are clean are welcome to compete. This process will require careful management and will demand extra efforts to earn the confidence and trust of our community.”
The AP story also noted:
“Sykes acknowledged in his letter that the USOPC remains in solidarity with Ukraine and its athletes, and expressed ‘very real concern, even skepticism, about whether (conditions) can be met’ to allow Russians in.”
Canadian Olympic Committee chief executive David Shoemaker, speaking to Dan Barnes of the Toronto Sun in a Monday story, had perhaps the best take:
“This whole situation will look very different if the war is still going on in 18 months.
“I think everyone’s reaction to a possible proposal to include athletes from Russia and Belarus is predicated on an assumption that hostilities would have stopped.”
“As long as Russian troops continue to occupy Ukraine, kill Ukrainian soldiers and civilians and destroy Ukrainian infrastructure, there cannot reasonably be any consideration of Russian and Belarusian participation in any Olympic Games.
“Full stop. Without peace, there is no inclusion.”
IOC’s Bach warns Iran NOC on athlete abuse and restrictions
“The IOC President expressed the grave concerns of the IOC with regard to the humanitarian situation of a number of athletes, and the financial guarantees that athletes and teams have to provide to their National Federations before travelling abroad to participate in international sports competitions. The IOC President stressed the importance of non-discrimination in every aspect and insisted on the full observance of the Olympic Charter by the NOC.”
That’s from an unusually straightforward statement by the IOC on Thursday, noting a meeting held in Lausanne at the IOC’s request with members of the Iranian National Olympic Committee. Further:
“Intensive discussions took place with the IOC NOC Relations Department about the situation of the Iranian athletes and sport in Iran in general, and the role of the Iranian NOC in protecting the athletes and the members of the Olympic community within the current context of the country.”
The Iranians made the same pledge as they have to inquiries from other governing bodies, including International Federations, “to pursue and expand its efforts to safeguard the athletes’ rights.”
However, the statement also included, “The IOC President has requested a written report from the Iranian NOC on all these issues, and also asked for a further report about the status of women in sport in Iran,” in advance of a report from the IOC’s NOC Relations team to the next IOC Executive Board meeting in March.
This could be a prelude to a sanction of some kind, or simply a warning shot. Iran has been notorious for having its athletes avoid competing against Israelis, even to the point of asking its athletes to lose matches at the World Championships level. The financial guarantees required of athletes going outside the country to compete are designed to ensure they will not ask for asylum, at the risk of losing their family’s home or possessions.
And where women have occasionally be allowed to attend some sporting events, restrictions have been re-introduced to essentially eliminate the practice. In 2019, Sahar Khodayari, 29, set herself on fire after not being allowed to attend a football match in Tehran, where she dressed as a man to – unsuccessfully – fool the entry guards. She died days later, on 9 September, known as the “Blue Girl” in honor of the colors of her favorite team, Esteghlal.
U.S. Swimming Olympic Trials all-session tickets on sale
The biggest show in American swimming is the Olympic Trials, coming in 2024 to the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, with a capacity of 32,000, which would reportedly be the largest crowd to ever see a swim meet indoors.
USA Swimming and the Indiana Sports Corporation announced the opening of ticket sales as of 1 February, with only all-session passes on sale to start. Three-day ticket packs will go on sale in June.
The seating plan shows the stadium cut in half, with the competition pool more or less in one end zone. There are 17 sessions in all: eight prelims and nine finals sessions, with multiple pricing options:
● Deck level: $3,272.77 (about $364 per day)
● 100 level: $2,234.67 (~$248 per day)
● 200 level: $1,703.30 (~$189 per day)
● 300 level: $1,258.14 (~$140 per day)
● 400 level: $598.33 to $915.04 (~$66 to $102 per day)
● 500 level: $598.33 to $915.04 (~$66 to $102 per day)
● 600 level: $475.17 (~$53 per day)
The Deck Level seating really is exclusive: just two rows in each of five sections, with a total of just 208 seats available (4 sections of 44 and one of 32) and about a third already gone!
The seating plan shows about a third of the stadium sections not available for sale, likely already reserved for sponsor, athlete and media use. The USA Swimming Foundation is also selling tickets and hospitality packages on a separate site:
● Section 125 or 126 (mid-pool): $2,300.00 (~$256 per day)
● 2-person Gold package (adults): $25,000
● 4-person Gold package (adults): $45,000
● 4-person Gold package (adults and children): $30,000
The Gold packages include tickets, accommodations at the close-by Westin Indianapolis for nine nights, daily hospitality, a swim in the Olympic Trials pool (!), various social events with champion swimmers and a special “Olympic Trials gift package.”
Should be quite a party!
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Games 2028: Los Angeles ● The rumor mill is heating up on sports which might be added to the 2028 Olympic program for Los Angeles and France’s Simon Pagenaud, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner, is all for auto racing to join in:
“I think if you were to put countries behind racing, there would be more interest from people.
“A bit like we saw the World Cup of soccer was incredible, right? You saw countries just following the sport, following it because it’s their countries fighting against each other, fighting in sport.
“I watched it. I’m not someone that watches soccer, for example, every day. That final, I was on the edge having a heart attack (laughing). I think that’s sports. I think that’s what sports do. They bring emotion, passion, desire. That’s what life is about, right?
“The Olympics, I think, would do something incredible like that. I would welcome it. I don’t know in which form, but I think it would be fantastic.”
Nine sports are reported to be in consideration as added sports for 2028, including motorsport, but also baseball and softball, break dancing, cricket, flag football, karate, kickboxing, lacrosse and squash. If auto racing were to be included, the likely discipline will be karting.
● Athletics ● “We are going out of business.”
That was the opening of the final post on The Decathlon Association site, a labor of love for 79-year-old Frank Zarnowski, the long-time Mt. St. Mary’s University and Dartmouth College economics professor, who has been part of the decathlon scene as coach, announcer, statistician and promoter since 1968. He wrote, in part:
“This will be the final post on our DECA< Decathlon Association web site. As I have been saying, 2022 is my final year. The website closes at year’s end after 22 seasons and the DECA Newsletter -since its start as a print and mail service – is put to bed after @1200 issues since our start in 1976. Health issues have gotten in the way of my decathlon adventures, so I am ending it here. I look forward to not having to type track results every winter/spring/early summer weekend. Whew!”
While his site was supposed to go down at the end of 2022, it’s still there, for the time being. Zarnowski’s relentless enthusiasm for the combined events – decathlon and heptathlon – and his informative, easy-to-listen-to public address announcing style made watching these events enjoyable and even dramatic.
With so much emphasis on the importance of athletes today, it is easy to forget those who helped to promote their sport, to create stories out of a blizzard of statistics, to chronicle the rise of new stars and cogently explain to so many exactly what was going on. “Zeke” as he was known, will be sorely missed. But he’s not going to stay away entirely:
“I may show up at an occasional meet and will always be a fan. I have enjoyed the past 55 (Yikes!) years.”
● Football ● Football – soccer – is becoming a little more like football – the NFL – as FIFA referees are actually now speaking directly to spectators on decisions made on replays, just as NFL officials do for American Football games.
This was introduced on Wednesday (1st) at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco, during a match between Al Ahly (EGY) and Auckland City (NZL), with Chinese referee Ning Ma telling the crowd – in English – that he had reversed his original decision to award a penalty kick.
This is a trial; the next experiment could come at the FIFA Men’s U-20 World Cup in Indonesia in May and this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in July.
● Gymnastics ● USA Gymnastics named its 2023 Hall of Fame class, with eight members, including two Olympians.
Danell Leyra was the All-Around bronze medalist at the London 2012 Olympic Games and won silver medals at Rio 2016 on the Parallel Bars and Horizontal Bar. He competed in five FIG World Artistic Championships from 2009-15 and won five career Worlds medals. Steven Gluckstein was a Trampoline Olympian in London 2012, participated in six World Championships and was an 11-time national champion.
Also selected as Jazzy Kerber, a two-time Rhythmic Worlds All-Around finalist and five-time Pan American Games medal winner, and coaches Cecile and Laurent Landi (artistic) and Vladimir Vladev (acro).
Lifetime Achievement Awards were made to acro coach and educator Tonya Case, and to the late Rome Milan, a coach, historian and USA Gymnastics Board member who passed away in 2021.
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