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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Japan wins gymnastics men’s team title, U.S. gets bronze!
2. Decision time at hand for Cortina sliding track for 2026
3. No “Open” class entries for Berlin Swimming World Cup
4. Kuwaiti Sheikhs Ahmad and Talal file against IOC
5. More contradictory Russian signals on Paris 2024
● Japan won the men’s Artistic Gymnastics World Championship Team event for the first time since 2015, edging China, with the U.S. taking the bronze. It’s the first U.S. men’s Team medal since a bronze in 2014.
● The ongoing fight over the construction of a new sliding track for the Milan Cortina Olympic Winter Games in 2026 is coming to a head, with no bidders for the project, time running out, and the possibility that the event could be re-located to Austria or Switzerland.
● World Aquatics created an “Open” category for the first time for the upcoming Swimming World Cup in Berlin, Germany, which would allow transgender women to compete, but the federation reported that there were no entries in any of the “Open” races.
● As the International Olympic Committee decided to formally ignore the results of the Olympic Council of Asia elections in July and refuses to recognize Kuwait’s Sheikh Talal as the organization’s President, Sheikh Talal filed an action against the IOC in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. His brother, Sheikh Ahmad, who was already-self-suspended as an IOC member due to a criminal prosecution against him in Switzerland, was suspended by the IOC for three years for interference in the OCA elections and also filed an action.
● Senior Russian sports officials and athletes continue to offer contradictory statements about what conditions it will tolerate to participate in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games if invited (and qualified). A rhythmic gymnastics star who appeared at a pro-war rally in Moscow in 2022 said she would not compete as a neutral, but the Russian Paralympic Committee head said the allowance of Russians as neutrals in the Paralympics was a victory.
● World Championships: Rugby (England still only confirmed quarterfinalist) ●
● Panorama: Asian Games (China rolling up big medal numbers) = Athletics (check out the choreographed Asian Games hurdle placements!) = Football (FIFA’s August suspension decision on Rubiales published) ●
Japan wins gymnastics men’s team title, U.S. gets bronze!
It had been a while since Japan was the men’s World Team Champion and even longer since the U.S. men won a men’s Team medal, but both happened on Tuesday at the FIG Artistic World Championships in Antwerp (BEL).
The Japanese team of defending All-Around champ Daiki Hashimoto, Kenta Chiba, Kazuma Kaya, Kazuki Minami and Kaito Sugimoto won its seventh Worlds men’s Team gold, and first since 2015, mounting a charge on the last three rotations and scoring 255.594 points to 253.794 for defending champion China.
Japan was only fourth on its first event, Floor Exercise, but posted the best score in the field on the Pommel Horse and was third-best on Rings. But in its final three events – Vault, Parallel Bars and Horizontal Bar – Japan ranked second, first and first and took the gold with a nearly two-point margin.
China won on Rings and was steady on the Pommel Horse (second) and Parallel Bars (second) to win a men’s Worlds Team medal for the 11th straight time (8-2-1). All-time, Japan now has 22 men’s Worlds Team medals to 21 for China.
The U.S. squad of Fred Richard, Yul Moldauer, Asher Hong, Paul Juda and Khoi Young was in a fight with 2022 bronze medalists Great Britain for the final medal. The British were fourth on Pommel Horse, second on Rings and first on Vault through their first three rotations and were a solid third, while the U.S. won the Floor Exercise, but was sixth on Pommel Horse and fourth on Rings. But the U.S. closed with third-place finishes on Vault, Parallel Bars and Horizontal Bar to finish at 252.428. Britain closed with a fourth on Parallel Bars, seventh on Horizontal Bar and sixth on Floor to score 249.461, nearly three points short of the Americans.
The individual apparatus high scorers:
● Floor: 14.533, Jake Jarman (GBR)
● Pommel Horse: 15.266, Max Whitlock (GBR)
● Rings: 15.000, Yang Liu (CHN)
● Vault: 15.400, Jarman (GBR)
● Parallel Bars: 14.966, Hao You (CHN)
● Horizontal Bar: 14.533, Fred Richard (USA)
Moldauer and Richard third for third on Floor (14.366); Young was fifth on Pommel Horse (13.600); Hong was sixth on Rings (14.000); Hong was second on Vault (15.100); Moldauer was the Parallel Bars runner-up (14.933) and Richard was the leader on the Horizontal Bar.
It’s the first medal for the U.S. at the Worlds since 2014 and the sixth all-time (0-2-4), with five of the six in this century.
The Worlds roll on tomorrow with the women’s Team final, with the Americans looking for a seventh straight gold, and a fifth for superstar Simone Biles.
Decision time at hand for Cortina sliding track for 2026
The long-running drama over the construction of a new sliding track for bobsled, luge and skeleton in time for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games in Milan-Cortina is coming to a head with time running out.
The proposed plan was to demolish the already-closed Eugenio Monti track in Cortina d’Ampezzo that was used for the 1956 Winter Games and build a new one. But the request for proposals turned up no bidders, leaving the project in severe doubt.
Then there is the cost, which has been estimated at up to €46.5 million in 2019, then €60.7 million in September 2021, then €82.6 million in 2022 and now, perhaps up to €124.77 million! (€1 = $1.05 U.S. today)
The Italian Minister of Sport, Andrea Abodi, said this week: “There are also offers from foreign locations. We will evaluate all options, with the necessary clarity and coldness. Foreign ones are not the first choices. …
“Our job as a country is obviously to respect the commitment to the IOC and we will do so. Among the options in the field, it is true, there are also foreign hypotheses, we will evaluate clearly and coldly, obviously taking into account all availabilities.”
Of the complex building project required to get a new track completed on time:
“There are very few companies available to build the bob, because it is a very high-tech work, so the government will evaluate whether to go ahead with this private negotiation or not.”
The head of the Italian National Olympic Committee and Chair of the Milan Cortina 2026 organizing committee, Giovanni Milago, told Il Fatto Quotidiano:
“We don’t build the works, we await with great urgency a response, within a few days at most, from those who have the burdens or honors of taking care of the construction of the venue.
“We won the competition by submitting an application with a dossier for bobsleigh, skeleton and luge in Cortina. We are evaluating any other alternative because our job is to understand the best solution. Perhaps I have an alternative in my head, but we are still confident that within a few days the commitments made will be respected.”
The Italian lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, passed a motion this week to consider alternatives to building a new track, which could include moving the events to Innsbruck (AUT) or St. Moritz (SUI).
Innsbruck Mayor Georg Willi wrote to the Milan Cortina organizers again last week, saying that the city and the Tyrol region, “as owners of the Olympic ice rink in Innsbruck, can guarantee the approval of the ice rink both from a financial point of view and from that of carrying out the necessary works.”
The Innsbruck facility needs upgrading, but at a fraction of the cost of what a new facility in Cortina would cost. The current estimate is €27 million, with the Innsbruck and Tyrol governments already pledging one-third each, meaning only about €9 million would remain.
No “Open” class entries for Berlin Swimming World Cup
World Aquatics announced back in August that it would accept entries in an “Open” category for the first leg of its Swimming World Cup in Berlin (GER), “welcoming swimmers of all sex and gender identities. …
“The open category will spotlight races in the 50m and 100m distances across all strokes, with the possibility of introducing additional events.”
The category was created with the idea to offer a competition opportunity for transgender women swimmers and those with hyperandrogenism that would not allow them in the women’s division. However, on Tuesday, World Aquatics posted a statement that included:
“Following the close of registration for the Open Category competitions at the World Aquatics Swimming World Cup – Berlin 2023 meet scheduled for 6-8 October, World Aquatics can confirm that no entries have been received for the Open Category events. …
“The World Aquatics Open Category Working Group will continue its work and engagement with the aquatics community on Open Category events. Even if there is no current demand at the elite level, the working group is planning to look at the possibility of including Open Category races at Masters events in the future.”
The federation’s policy on transgender women, passed in 2022, does not allow entry into the women’s division unless the athlete transitioned before age 12 or did not experience male puberty beyond the second stage.
The Berlin World Cup will be held from Friday through Sunday, with 335 athletes from 50 countries registered, including 14 American swimmers.
Kuwaiti Sheikhs Ahmad and Talal file against IOC
The International Olympic Committee’s intervention in the Olympic Council of Asia elections that took place on 8 July has resulted in two actions filed at the Court of Arbitration for Sport by the Kuwaiti brothers Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sabah and Sheikh Talal Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.
The IOC did not recognize the 8 July election of Sheikh Talal as President of the OCA, in a close, 24-20 vote over World Aquatics President Husain Al-Musallam (also KUW), citing interference – against instructions – by Sheikh Ahmad. The IOC Ethics Commission recommenced to the IOC Executive Board:
“To consider the undeniable impact on the OCA’s elections of Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sabah’s behaviour, and consequently not to recognise these elections until a full review of the OCA’s elections process is carried out at a later stage.”
A sanction against Sheikh Ahmad was imposed, with a suspension of his IOC membership for three years.
On Tuesday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport stated to the Russian news agency TASS:
“We confirm that the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has registered the following procedures: CAS 2023/A/9904 Sheikh Talal Fahad Al Sabah v. International Olympic Committee CAS 2023/A/9931 Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah v. International Olympic Committee.”
No further information was available, including the grounds for the filings.
Sheikh Ahmad, now the defender minister of Kuwait, was found guilty of fraud in the Swiss Criminal Court on 10 September 2021, and is appealing. He self-suspended himself as an IOC member in September 2018 when the Swiss criminal charges were filed.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport case regarding the IOC’s intervention in the Olympic Council of Asia elections will be interesting to follow. The IOC Ethics Commission declared that “The Olympic Council of Asia is a continental association of NOCs recognised by the IOC; thus, the elections have to be recognised by the IOC,” but the declarations of sport autonomy consistently promoted by the IOC could come back to play a role in a decision on this question.
More contradictory Russian signals on Paris 2024
Senior Russian Olympic and Paralympic officials continue to signal turmoil ahead, regardless of whatever participation invitations are made available to them, including the International Olympic Committee’s preference for individual, “neutral” status.
The President of the All-Russian Federation of Rhythmic Gymnastics, Irina Viner said on Tuesday that she rejects any idea of Russian stars competing as neutrals:
“The program is always made in opposition to Russian athletes in order to neutralize Russia, and this is how it turned out at the Tokyo Olympics.
“The sanctions that have been imposed on us from all sides are unacceptable to intelligent and cultured people who talk about democracy. I don’t think any of my children would say they could compete in this format at the Olympics.”
She then ripped the partial suspension placed on Russian Paralympic athletes, who were approved to compete as neutrals:
“What did they do with the Paralympic athletes? First, they were removed from the Paralympics: just ordinary fascism. And now they removed the Russian Paralympic Committee and allowed individual athletes. It’s like refugees who do not represent anyone.”
Viner’s comments on Russia’s rhythmic gymnasts – who were dominant players in the sport until banned after the Russian invasion of Ukraine – were backed up by 18-time World Champion Dina Averina, still just 25, and who was on-stage at a pro-invasion rally in March of 2022:
“We were already at the Tokyo Games in neutral status. Now I would probably choose to go with the flag and the anthem. Because in Tokyo we lacked this support, although everyone knew what country we were from. Irina Alexandrovna Viner discussed all this with us, of course, we have the same thoughts.”
In the meantime, the head of the Russian Paralympic Committee, Pavel Rozhkov, said plans are underway to move the country from the European Paralympic Committee to Asia, after winning the right to participate in Paris in 2024 as “neutrals” in last week’s vote of the International Paralympic Committee’s General Assembly:
“Neutral status is also, frankly speaking, a victory for us. Whether we will challenge it or not is another question, but it is important that we were allowed.
“Now performance at the Paralympic Games is a separate issue. We are having serious work on transferring to the Asian Paralympic Committee. They sent me accreditation and an invitation, they are ready to see us there, we are moving in this direction with pleasure.”
Rozhkov said earlier that if Russian Paralympians are required to sign a “neutrality” declaration, they will not go to the Paris Games.
No public comments have been made from the Russian Olympic Committee about a possible disassociation with the European Olympic Committees and membership in the Olympic Council of Asia.
≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ≡
● Rugby ● The tenth Rugby World Cup will resume across France on Thursday with the final round of pool-play matches underway and still only England confirmed into the quarterfinals. The top two from each of the four groups will advance; the contenders:
● Pool A: France (3-0: 13 points); New Zealand (2-1: 10), Italy (2-1: 10).
● Pool B: South Africa (3-1: 15), Ireland (3-0; 14); Scotland (2-1: 10).
● Pool C: Wales (3-0: 14); Australia (2-2: 11); Fiji (2-1: 10).
● Pool D: England (3-0: 14); Argentina (2-1: 9); Japan (2-1: 9).
The quarters will be played on 14-15 October, the semis on 20-21 October and the championship match on 28 October.
Interest continues high, with attendance now at 1,426,328 or 45,698 per match!
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Asian Games ● The 19th Asian Games, in Hangzhou (CHN), will conclude this weekend, with China on the way to another impressive medal total.
With 333 events out of 481 completed, the Chinese have 297 total medals (161-90-46), followed by South Korea (139: 32-42-65) and Japan (130: 33-47-50).
North Korea has showed up in force for this event, with 185 entries, and has won 23 medals so far (7-10-6), including eight in weightlifting (4-3-1).
● Athletics ● Ever heard of choreographed high-hurdle placement?
You have now, thanks to this video from the 19th Asian Games organizing committee in Hangzhou.
Now that’s style!
● Football ● FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee decision to suspend former Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) chief Luis Rubiales for 90 days on 26 August 2023 was posted on Tuesday, showing considerable concern for the validity of any investigation amidst the chaos of the post-FIFA Women’s World Cup post-championship match celebration.
The opinion, signed by Disciplinary Committee Chair Jorge Palacio (COL), noted that as Rubiales was – at that time – still head of the RFEF:
“[T]he imposition of provisional measures on the Respondent [Rubiales] will ensure that the ongoing disciplinary proceedings against him are conducted without any interference, particularly so that potential testimonies could be given freely and without any type of pressure, fear or reprisals from the Respondent, particularly given his predominant position towards Ms [Jenni] Hermoso, other players or RFEF officials as President of the RFEF.”
The decision also explained:
“[I]t seemed clear to the Chairperson that a decision on the merits could not be taken early enough given the sensitivity and particularly serious nature of the allegations levelled against the Respondent in this case, so that provisional measures had to be imposed on the Respondent for the aforementioned reasons, which, given all the circumstances taken into account, clearly outweigh the potential adverse effects that such a measure could cause to the Respondent.”
FIFA suspended Rubiales for 90 days and ordered him and the RFEF not to contact Hermoso; Rubiales resigned as the head of the federation on 10 September.
For our updated, 787-event International Sports Calendar (no. 3) for 2023 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!