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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. IPC votes to suspend Russia and Belarus as members
2. Russia fully in support of Bach’s remarks to G-20 Summit
3. Denmark broadcaster accosted while on-air in Qatar
4. Paris 2024’s “Les Phryges” mascots already a hot topic
5. USATF names Lyles and McLaughlin-Levrone as Athletes of the Year
The International Paralympic Committee General Assembly voted in special session on Wednesday to suspend the Russian and Belarusian National Paralympic Committees over the war against Ukraine. This is a step further than the International Olympic Committee has taken, which has asked for an athlete ban, but not on their National Olympic Committees. While furious over the Paralympic ban, Russian officials were mostly happy with IOC President Thomas Bach’s comments to the G20 Summit that sport should be free of politics, with athletes allowed to compete “even and especially if their countries are in confrontation or at war.” But the Russian Deputy Prime Minister dismissed the remarks as part of a “game.” A Danish television correspondent was asked to stop broadcasting during the middle of a live shot by security officials from Doha, Qatar, just days before the FIFA World Cup starts on Sunday. The crew was later allowed to continue, but the incident resulted in the tournament organizing committee issuing a directive “to respect the filming permits in place for the tournament.” The Paris 2024 “Les Phryges” mascots are getting plenty of attention, with the French ecology minister upset that most of the mascot toys will be made in China. USA Track & Field announced its annual award winners, with World Champions Noah Lyles (200 m) and Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone (400 m hurdles) taking athlete of the year honors.
IPC votes to suspend Russia and Belarus as members
The International Paralympic Committee voted Wednesday during an Extraordinary General Assembly to suspend the National Paralympic Committees in Russia and Belarus in view of the continuing war in Ukraine.
The vote on the Russian suspension was 64 in favor, 39 against, and 16 abstentions; the IPC statement included:
“The decision by IPC members to suspend NPC Russia and NPC Belarus stems from their inability to comply with their membership obligations under the IPC Constitution. This includes the obligations to ‘ensure that, in Para sport within the Paralympic Movement, the spirit of fair play prevails, the safety and health of the athletes are protected, and fundamental ethical principles are upheld’ and ‘not to do anything (by act or omission) that is contrary to the purpose or objects of the IPC and/or that risks bringing the IPC, the Paralympic Movement, or Para sport into disrepute’. …
“Due to their suspension, NPC Russia and NPC Belarus lose all rights and privileges of IPC membership, in accordance with the IPC Constitution.
“Both NPC Russia and NPC Belarus now have the right to appeal the decision. Should any appeal not be upheld then only the General Assembly can revoke the suspension. The next IPC General Assembly is due to take place in the final quarter of 2023 at a venue yet to be confirmed.”
The vote on the suspension of Belarus was 54-45, with 18 abstentions.
The IPC’s vote is significant because it differs from the position of the International Olympic Committee, which has asked that Russian and Belarusian athletes not be allowed to compete, but has not suspended the National Olympic Committees of either Russia or Belarus.
The President of the Russian Paralympic Committee, Pavel Rozkhov, decried the decision (DeepL.com translation):
“The Russian Paralympic Committee believes that the decision to suspend all membership rights of the RPC is illegal, unreasonable, lacks any legal basis and grossly violates the entire IPC regulatory framework.
“As the grounds for its decision the IPC referred to the violation by the RPC of the obligations on membership established by the IPC Charter, as well as violation by the RPC of the Olympic Truce. Meanwhile, the IPC has not provided any evidence that the RPC has violated even one of its membership obligations in accordance with the provisions of the IPC Charter. All the IPC allegations in this regard are absolutely unfounded.”
“The RPC intends to appeal to a wide international public and organizations, including with an open letter to the U.N., the IOC and international non-governmental human rights organizations for the disabled to call on the IPC to prevent discrimination of Russian athletes with disabilities on national grounds and infringement of their right to participate in international sports competitions and Paralympic Games through suspension of all membership rights of the RPC in the IPC.”
Dmitry Svishchev, Chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee on Physical Culture and Sports, told the TASS news agency:
“This is an inhumane and criminal decision. Monuments should be placed to these people [Paralympic athletes], they should be helped in everything. Such decisions simply deprive our athletes of their right to life, forbidding them to do what they love. Of course, this decision should be challenged in court.”
Russia fully in support of Bach’s remarks to G20 summit
Russian officials cheered the remarks by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (GER) to the G20 Summit in Indonesia on Tuesday, as he again asked for governments to stay out of sport:
“[I]n contrast to the far too many other wars and conflicts in our world, regarding this war some governments started to decide which athletes would be allowed to participate in international sports competitions – and which not.
“They did and they do so purely on political grounds, They want to decide which athletes can now qualify and finally compete at the Olympic Games Paris 2024. If sport becomes – in this way – just another tool to achieve political goals, international sport will fall apart …
“Olympic sport needs the participation of all athletes who accept the rules, even and especially if their countries are in confrontation or at war. A competition between athletes from only like-minded states is not a credible symbol of peace.”
Russian sports minister Oleg Matytsin told TASS:
“The President is setting an example for us. This is a time of opportunity, a time of overcoming, a time of strengthening our national system and a time to show once again that world sport cannot exist without Russia. Bach’s speech confirms this once again.
“Let’s hope that world leaders and international federations will listen to Bach’s speech.”
Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov told TASS:
“For the first time since the end of February this year, the statement of the head of the International Olympic Committee was strictly in accordance with the Olympic Charter. Now it is very important that the verbal appeal of the head of the IOC to certain political circles of certain countries has practical meaning in the form of removing unfair recommendations that were imposed on Russian sports.
“I cannot give an assessment, but I reiterate the fact that in reality we are seeing for the first time since the end of February the speech of the head of the IOC with strict compliance with the Olympic Charter.”
Vitaly Smirnov, a Soviet and then Russian member of the IOC from 1971-2015 and now an honorary member, said:
“If we understood all the messages of Bach’s speech correctly, then we should treat it with great interest, let’s see how it will be treated in the world. But this is a real, correct approach, indeed, athletes should be able to participate in competitions, regardless of any political views and the current situation.
“I don’t like to guess what will happen next, life sometimes unfolds in such a way that it is very difficult to correctly predict the outcome. I think that everything is interconnected, and people are well aware of the fact that sport suffers without full-fledged competition: what is sport without our synchronized swimmers, figure skaters and rhythmic gymnasts?”
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko, however, was not impressed:
“Russian rhetoric from Bach’s mouth is not an epiphany; by his behind-the-scenes instructions, international federations are amending their charters, setting precedents for the subsequent exclusion of Russian sports federations.
“Bach’s speeches at the G20 are a double game and a banal attempt to put a good face on a bad game. As proof: the absence of the IOC proposals in the declaration of the G20 group.”
Denmark broadcaster accosted while on-air in Qatar
Sometimes, not everyone gets the message. Danish reporter Rasmus Tantholdt was reporting live on TV2 from a ring road in Doha (QAT) on Tuesday in advance of the opening of the FIFA World Cup this weekend, when he was interfered with by security personnel.
Three men drove up to Tantholdt and cameraman Anders Bach during the on-air session back to Denmark. Said Tantholdt during the incident:
“[In Danish] Well, we can show the conditions right here if we turn the camera.
“[In English] We are live on Danish television; [in Danish] and as you can see they are trying to stop us from filming, and these are the conditions here.”
As a Qatar official put his hand over the camera lens, Tantholdt said in English, “Mister, you invited the whole world to come here. Why can’t we film? It’s a public place.”
“[Showing his accreditation] We can film with this permit, this is the upgrade pass and this is the accreditation. We can film anywhere we want.”
He was told he could not film by the security officers – whose comments were not intelligible on the video – and then reacted to instructions from a third official by saying to him, in English: “You can break the camera. You want to break it? You are threatening us by smashing the camera?”
The pair did finally complete their report after a half-hour wait, when a security supervisor confirmed that they could film as they wished. TV2 Denmark said on its Web site: “The team was bluntly told that if they didn’t stop filming, their cameras would be destroyed. This is despite the fact that TV2’s team has acquired the correct accreditations and reported from a public place.”
TV2 also reported that other media outlets have suffered interference, but Tantholdt said later, “I have received an apology from two organizations: Qatar International Media Office gave a written apology and Qatar’s Supreme Committee called.”
The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy – the organizing committee for the tournament – said in a statement: “Upon inspection of the crew’s valid tournament accreditation and filming permit, an apology was made to the broadcaster by on-site security before the crew resumed their activity” and said that it “issued an advisory to all entities to respect the filming permits in place for the tournament.”
Tantholdt said in a FootballTube interview afterwards, “Maybe it’s a kind of misunderstanding, but to me, also shows how Qatar is when there’s not a World Cup going on. Because, obviously, that is what those security guards has been told to do under normal circumstances. Now we have a World Cup going on, and maybe they have been told to behave in another way, and maybe not.”
Paris 2024’s “Les Phryges” mascots already a hot topic
The iconic Irish poet and novelist Oscar Wilde wrote in 1910, “there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” It looks like the Paris 2024 mascots – Les Phryges, based on a cap that symbolizes freedom in France – won’t have that problem.
The Paris 2024 organizers posted the results of an instant online survey taken on Monday and Tuesday after the mascot announcement, 75% of respondents 18 and over liking the designs and 83% of children from 6-17 approving. Among the comments:
“[T]he French adults and children aged six to 17 surveyed suggested the Paris 2024 mascots are associated with positive values. They thought that they go well together (86% of French people, 92% among children), that they are easily recognisable (85% of French people and 86% of children), original (84% of French people and 88% of children) and that they look cute (80% of French people and 86% of children).”
That’s a good start on the path to sell a hoped-for two million Phryges toys, priced at €15 (~$15.59 U.S.) or more for the plush version.
But there are issues. Christophe Bechu, the French Minister for Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion, told the FranceInfo radio program on Tuesday, “There is a problem,” with the manufacture of the plush Phryges toys being made in China.
“I want to believe that we still have a few months before the Olympics are held to be able to correct the subject. When we explain that we need short [production] circuits and to re-localize, we cannot end up with a production of mascots that is being made at the end of the world. When we defend the perspective of fighting against global warming, this means favoring what is made nearby.”
“[T]he market for plush mascots has been awarded to two French companies, Gipsy and Doudou et Compagnie. They plan to manufacture around 8% of the Phrygian caps stamped Paris 2024 in France. The rest will come from China, where 75 to 80% of the toys sold in the world are produced today. Faced with such a virtual monopoly, it is difficult to ‘break the codes’.”
USATF names Lyles and McLaughlin-Levrone
as Athletes of the Year
USA Track & Field announced its annual award winners with sprinter Noah Lyles taking the Jesse Owens Award and Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone winning the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Award.
Both are world champions from the Oregon22 extravaganza, with Lyles winning the men’s 200 m in 19.31, the fourth-fastest time in history, and a silver medal in the men’s 4×100 m relay.
McLaughlin-Levrone won the women’s 400 m hurdles in a stunning world-record time of 50.68 – the first ever under 51 seconds – and anchored the winning women’s 4×400 m relay in a sensational 47.9.
Brad Walker, the 2007 men’s World Champion in the vault, was named the national Coach of the Year, helping American women’s stars Sandi Morris and Katie Nageotte to a 1-2 finish at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade and then Nagetotte and Morris to gold and silver at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene.
Prep and World Junior sensation Roison Willis from Stevens Points (Wisconsin) High School won the Youth Athlete of the Year award. She won the World Junior 800 m gold at 1:59.13 and anchored the winning women’s 4×400 m relay. She also set a U.S. high school indoor record at 2:00.06 in February.
The Masters Long Distance Athlete of the Year was Jenny Hitchings, 59, who won the USATF masters 10-mile title by more than three minutes in 1:01:40. Flo Meiler was named the USATF Masters Track & Field Athlete of the Year – at age 87 – for eight national indoor title wins in the 80-89 age group and 10 outdoors.
The awards will be presented during the USATF Annual Meeting in Orlando in early December.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● International Olympic Committee ● The IOC confirmed Singapore as the site of its first “Olympic Esports Week” to take place from 22-25 June in 2023. Live, in-person championship matches will be held in addition to technology exhibits, panel discussions and education programs. The specifics, including the games to be contested, will be announced in 2023.
● Athletics ● The American Medical Association announced Tuesday that is opposes “eligibility criteria that force transgender athletes and athletes with differences in sexual development (DSD) to medically alter natural occurring hormones.”
AMA Board member Dr. David H. Aizuss said, “Unnecessary medical interventions to change natural hormone variations as a prerequisite for athletic competition must not be forced on physicians to artificially alter the natural ability of transgender athletes and athletes with differences in sexual development.”
The policy statement was specifically in response to the World Athletics guidelines on testosterone levels in women with differences in sex development. No comment concerning competitive balance was included.
The Athletics Integrity Unit announced a five-year ban on Kenyan distance runner Keneth Renju for the use of the steroid Methasterone, found on three consecutive tests on 20 March, 2 April and 8 May 2022. A six-year suspension was requested, but Renju – for whom this was his first doping violation – admitted doping and had the ban shorted to five years, from 13 May 2022.
Renju, now 26, has a half-marathon best of 58:35 and won all three of the races for which he was caught: a 10 km race in Lille (FRA) in March, the Prague Half Marathon in April and the Lisbon Half in May.
After a 22-year career with USA Track & Field as a communications staffer and later as head of the communications team, Susan Hazzard has left the organization. She posted on LinkedIn:
“Nearly 8,200 days have passed since I walked into (what was then) the RCA Dome to start the next two decades of my life working for USATF and its athletes. Big life events happened during those 22 years, five-and-a-half months – celebrations, victories, losses; and this year, cancer and its cure.
“I am grateful for the experiences, the laughter, the joy. I’m grateful for all I’ve learned. I’m grateful for friends and colleagues. And so grateful for the athletes – incredible humans – who mean more to me than I can ever express.”
● Boxing ● Speaking to boxers and coaches gathered for the International Boxing Association Youth World Championships in La Nucia (ESP), IBA President Umar Kremlev (RUS) asked for their help to return boxing to the Olympic program in 2028:
“I am here to help all of you. We cleaned our sport and saved the organization from bankruptcy. Now, we shouldn’t be silent, we should fight for our rights. If we don’t speak up, there will be no boxing at the Olympics. We shouldn’t be afraid to prevent this crime.”
A total of 596 athletes from 73 countries are expected to compete.
● Football ● The ball that was used for the infamous “Hand of God” match between Argentina and England in the 1986 FIFA World Cup was auctioned in London on Wednesday for £2 million (~$2.37 million U.S.).
The ball – used for the entire game – had been in the possession of Tunisian referee Ali Bin Nasser, who was head official for the quarter-final match between Argentina and England in Mexico, won by Argentina, 2-1. In the 51st minute, Argentine star Diego Maradona appeared to head the ball past English keeper Peter Shilton, but had actually punched it into the net. Maradona famously said afterwards that the goal was “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.”
Maradona scored again on one of the most famous goals in history, a 68 m dash through the English defense for a legitimate strike in the 55th minute and a 2-0 lead, with the final at 2-1. Bin Nasser said before the auction, “I couldn’t see the incident clearly. The two players, Shilton and Maradona, were facing me from behind.
“As per FIFA’s instructions issued before the tournament, I looked to my linesman for confirmation of the validity of the goal; he made his way back to the halfway line indicating he was satisfied that the goal should stand.”
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