TSX REPORT: LA28 reports $1.6 billion in sponsor sales; Paris 2024 judging tower to be built in Tahiti; European Super League wins a round in court

The LA28 emblem designed by Olympic gold medalist swimmer Simone Manuel (USA)

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1. Wasserman: LA28 now has 63.5% of sponsorships committed
2. Surfing judging tower construction going ahead in Tahiti
3. Baltic states asking for IOC “clarifications” on Russia
4. USA Boxing slams IBA’s new “U.S. federation”
5. European “Super League” given new life by Court of Justice

● LA28 Chair Casey Wasserman said that $1.6 billion in sponsorship commitments have been contracted so far, nearly two-thirds of the budget target, with five years to go. It was reported that the top two executives of the organizing committee have moved on.

● Although the International Surfing Association suggested a remote judging and production scheme that would not require the building of a new judging tower in Tahiti for the Paris 2024 Olympic competition, the Paris ‘24 organizers said a new tower will be built.

● The Baltic States issued a letter to the International Olympic Committee, asking for Russian and Belarusian entries not to be allowed to participate at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. The International Equestrian Federation specified the rules under which Russian and Belarusian entries may participate in 2024 competitions, but noted that since qualifying has been completed, neither will be in Paris. And Russian swim stars Kolesnikov and Rylov said they will not participate as neutrals.

● A very direct letter from USA Boxing blasted the International Boxing Association and its new “member federation” in the U.S., founded by Olympic silver medalist and pro boxing star Roy Jones Jr. and emphasized that it is the only federation that governs Olympic boxing in the U.S.

● A European Court of Justice decision breathed new life into the proposed European Super League for football. The holding did not settle the case brought by the Super League promoter, but clarified a legal question about federation rules; the proceedings will now return to a Madrid court room for further litigation.

Panorama: Paris 2024 (3: Estanguet says sponsorship, ticket sales on track; SOLIDEO says 89% of construction will be done by year-end; Macron says security issues could cause OpCer changes) = Milan Cortina 2026 (still no resolution to the sliding track issue, now wholly political) = Winter Games (Sapporo suspends bid activity for a while) = Alpine Skiing (Vlhova beats Shiffrin in Courchevel Slalom) = Athletics (three more doping positives reported) = Freestyle Skiing (Schmidt and Naeslund take Innichen Ski Cross opener) = Gymnastics (2: USA Gymnastics names athletes of the year, and new Hall of Fame class) = Shooting (ISSF dismisses SecGen Grill!) = Taekwondo (China wins World Cup Team Championships in Wuxi) = Water Polo (USAWP chief Ramsey to retire after Pairs) ●

Wasserman: LA28 now has 63.5% of sponsorships committed

In the wake of Monday’s Los Angeles Times story that chief executive Kathy Carter is transitioning to a senior advisor role, two more important revelations in The Times in a follow-up story:

● “On Wednesday, LA28 chairman Casey Wasserman announced that sponsorships have now exceeded 65%, or about $1.6 billion, and promised additional deals will be announced in the new year.”

● “LA28 saw its chief executive Kathy Carter and chief business officer Brian Lafemina step down in recent days. The committee characterized both moves as part of a planned transition into a new phase of preparations.”

On sponsorship, the LA28 budget forecast $2.517.7 billion in domestic partnership programs, sold primarily through a joint venture with the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee called U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Properties (USOPP). Carter headed that organization from 15 October 2018 and then became LA28 chief executive on 14 September 2021.

As Carter transitions to an advisory role, the senior executive at the USOPP is Chris Pepe, its Chief Commercial Officer, on board since February 2019.

Lafemina had a crucial role as the Chief Business Officer, essentially in command of all operations. A Senior Vice President of the National Football League from 2010-18, he spent a year with the Washington Redskins (now Commanders) as the President of Business Operations, then came to LA28 in April 2019.

In an LA28 presentation to the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF), Lafemina was shown as the head of the Games Planning and Delivery division, which includes Revenue and Commercial operations, Venue Infrastructure, Venue Management and 14 departments overseen by long-time LA28 Chief Operating Officer John Harper, who has been with the LA28 project since the bid stage.

Carter and Lafemina were the two highest-paid executives at LA28, with Carter receiving compensation for both her LA28 and USOPP roles of $2.02 million in 2021, and Lafemina receiving $1.48 million from LA28. They were the only staff reported to receive more than $1 million in 2021, the last year for which tax returns have been posted.

In terms of the LA28 revenue target of $6.884 billion, Wasserman’s comment tracks with Carter’s testimony to the Los Angeles City Council ad hoc committee on the Olympic Games in June, where she said that 64-65% of revenues had been “contracted.”

LA28’s budget shows $1.535 billion coming from the International Olympic Committee through the Host City Contract signed in 2017. With $1.6 billion already committed in sponsorships according to Wasserman, that’s more than $3.1 billion total, with significant guarantees on hospitality sales and merchandise that could drive the total to the $4.4 billion amount that would be 64% of the total revenue target. That’s with five years to go on the sponsorship side and without the sales of any tickets yet.

At the 19 December meeting of the Long Beach City Council, a contract proposal was approved to assist with the preparations and opportunities for the 2028 Olympic Games. Per the Council agenda:

“Recommendation to adopt Specifications No. RFQ CM23-261 and award a contract to KPMG LLP, of Los Angeles, CA, to establish a strategic plan and provide preparation tools and resources necessary to guide the City of Long Beach with the planning and implementation of the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games, in an amount of $497,600 with a fifteen percent contingency of $74,640, for a total amount not to exceed $572,240 for a period of two years with the option to renew for three additional one-year periods.”

The project includes four primary responsibilities, starting with the formulation of a strategic plan, development of a communications plan, cost estimates and ongoing reporting and project oversight.

At the Council meeting, Assistant to the City Manager Jorge Godinez explained, “While the city has a rich history with the Olympics, we acknowledge that the landscape has evolved significantly since the last Olympics here in 1984. Our current staff does not have first-hand experience from that era.”

Surfing judging tower construction going ahead in Tahiti

It appeared that the controversy over the construction of a new judging tower at the 2024 Olympic surfing site at Teahupo’o in Tahiti had been solved with an agreement to build essentially a replacement of the current wooden structure.

But on Tuesday, the International Surfing Association revealed that it had offered its own proposal that would eliminate the building of a new tower:

“On December 9th, the ISA sent a proposal to the French Polynesian Government and Paris 2024 organizers to run the Olympic Surfing competition in Teahupoo, without building a new aluminum tower on the reef.

“The ISA proposal included judging the competition remotely, with live images shot from land, water and drones.”

The judges would be located in a land-based tower, with access to all of the camera angles provided by the Olympic Broadcasting Services production team.

But on Thursday, Paris 2024 chief executive Tony Estanguet said the tower construction project is going ahead:

“We respect the almost unanimous decision taken locally to continue with the launch of the construction work.”

Moetai Brotherson, the French Polynesia President, said that the scaled-down project had been approved and should be completed in 13 May 2024, in time for a World Surf League competition that could serve as an Olympic rehearsal as well. Added Estanguet on the ISA proposal:

“This is an option that had been looked into but it had been discarded because it would mean the events being judged from a 900-meter distance.

“We can’t broadcast like this in good conditions and in terms of sporting fairness, it would be a problem. Events have always been judged from a tower.

“Tahiti asked to host the surfing events and we will continue to work with all stakeholders to make it happen.”

Baltic states asking for IOC “clarifications” on Russia

“The Baltic Olympic Committees have sent a letter to the IOC. It emphasizes that allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in the Paris Olympic Games is an unacceptable step, and demands immediate explanations to the Olympic Committees and the wider public about the aspects mentioned in the decision. We believe that such a decision is unacceptable while hostilities are going on in Ukraine and the civilian population is suffering from Russian war crimes, but they are supported by Belarus,’ said the letter prepared by LOK.”

That’s from the Latvian Olympic Committee last Friday, speaking for itself and the National Olympic Committees of Estonia and Lithuania, and its announcement further noted:

“Eight countries (Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway) coordinate their views and maintain close communication on this issue. LOK believes that the opinion of Ukraine and their further actions are particularly important. …

“In supporting Ukraine, the main goals are the participation of the Ukrainian team in the Paris Olympic Games with the full support currently available to it, as well as to ensure that athletes with neither Russian nor Belarusian passports do not participate in the Paris Olympic Games.”

The Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) announced familiar, specific criteria for the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals, including “the absence of active support for the war in Ukraine, no contract with the Russian or Belarusian military or with any other national security agency, and compliance with all FEI Rules and Regulations.”

However, the announcement also clarified their status for Paris 2024:

“According to the Olympic Qualification Systems for Equestrian, individual qualification is secured through the FEI Olympic Rankings for Jumping, Dressage, and Eventing, which cover the period from 1 January 2023 to 31 December 2023. Since Russian and Belarusian athletes have not competed in FEI Events since 2 March 2022, no representatives of these nations will take part in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.”

Russian swim star Kliment Kolesnikov, 23, told the Russian news agency TASS that he does not see himself competing in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games as a “neutral” athlete:

“The conditions haven’t changed. What’s the point of participating then? We were just given an official document. I realized for myself that I wouldn’t go to the Olympics under such conditions.

“I have studied the proposed conditions well, and I can say that I was one hundred percent right in my previous assessments. These conditions are a joke, ridiculous, because even if you look at them, putting aside personal assessments, it turns out that they give an advantage over us to guys from other countries during the Olympics. We will perform in unequal conditions, and I think it is wrong to go to perform in unequal conditions.”

Kolesnikov won the Tokyo Olympic silver in the 100 m Backstroke and the bronze in the 100 m Freestyle.

Teammate Evgeny Rylov, the Tokyo Olympic 100-200 m Backstroke gold medalist, said he would not compete as a neutral. Vladimir Salnikov, the head of the Russian Swimming Federation and himself a four-time Olympic gold winner, told TASS:

“This is natural, because the conditions that are offered to people who stood at the highest level at the Olympic Games are unacceptable in their content. I regard them as humiliation. If they want to see us, then we must go without any restrictions and discrimination. If neutral status in the world is considered a certain necessity, then we will invite everyone to act in a neutral status.

“In the current conditions, I don’t consider the refusal of the Olympics a step back, we should feel a sense of self-worth, so his statements did not surprise me.

“If you want to see someone, you open doors, and when the restrictions are through the eye of a needle, it means that there is no such desire. And trying to impose yourself and crawl in on your knees, it’s not about sport.”

USA Boxing slams IBA’s new “U.S. federation”

“At the IBA Ordinary Congress held earlier this month in Dubai, the IBA Congress voted to accept membership from ‘U.S. Boxing Federation,’ a new organization led by Roy Jones Jr., a Russian citizen since 2015 and paid ambassador of IBA. … the statement that anyone has ‘replaced’ USA Boxing in a governing role of the federation is not true. Whatever entity Roy Jones, Jr. is associated with is not recognized as a representative of the United States of America in international sports competition under American law.

USA Boxing has not decided to ‘return’ to IBA, and the presidency of the National Federation for Olympic-style boxing in the United States of America has not in fact been ‘replaced.’ The United States of America does not recognize Roy Jones, Jr. as having authority to represent the United States of America in any function related to Olympic-style boxing, and he is not involved whatsoever with the governance of amateur or Olympic boxing in the United States of America.

“USA Boxing membership deserves to know the truth behind what appears to be [a] fraudulent organization.” (Underlines in original)

That’s from a tense, four-page letter distributed to the U.S. boxing community by USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee on 18 December, blasting the International Boxing Association announcement of a “new” U.S. boxing organization as a member federation. McAtee continued:

“U.S. Boxing Federation is not recognized or certified by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), the National Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC), or any State Boxing Commission. USA Boxing is the only National Governing Body (NGB) relating to Olympic-style boxing that is certified/recognized and supported by the USOPC, ABC, and every State Boxing Commission.”

McAtee also noted the unprecedented withdrawal of recognition of the IBA by the IOC in June and the importance of the newly-formed World Boxing group:

“Given the landslide vote at the June 22 Extraordinary IOC Session to withdraw IBA’s recognition, World Boxing’s journey towards IOC recognition is the only legitimate pathway to preserving boxing’s place in the Olympic Movement.“

USA Boxing also announced a significant partnership with professional boxer and promoter Jake Paul to assist and promote U.S. boxers on the road to Paris 2024.

Part mentor and part promoter, Paul’s project with USA Boxing was described:

“Accompanying the team on their journey to gold, Paul will work side-by-side with Team USA boxers while they train at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training facility in early 2024 with famed coach Billy Walsh, before joining the team at their matches in Paris. Throughout this time, Paul will provide fans a rare inside look into what it’s like for athletes to train and compete for their countries at the Olympics.”

Said McAtee:

“We want to make sure our athletes are recognized for this rare and outstanding accomplishment and are able to carry some of that well-deserved brand value with them to the next phases of their personal journeys. There is no one more suited to partner with USA Boxing in this capacity than Jake Paul, the awareness he brings to the sport for the youth is unparalleled and we could not be more thrilled to welcome him and his audience to Team USA.”

European “Super League” given new life by Court of Justice

The European Court of Justice ruled Thursday, in a narrow decision, that FIFA and the European Football Union (UEFA) hold a dominant position in regard to the organization of football matches and as such, abused their position via their rules on the approval, control and sanctions vs. potentially competing competitions, such as the European Super League proposal of 2021.

The Court’s announcement was very careful to state what it had actually decided and what it actually meant:

● “The FIFA and UEFA rules making any new interclub football project subject to their prior approval, such as the Super League, and prohibiting clubs and players from playing in those competitions, are unlawful. There is no framework for the FIFA and UEFA rules ensuring that they are transparent, objective, non-discriminatory and proportionate.”

● “Similarly, the rules giving FIFA and UEFA exclusive control over the commercial exploitation of the rights related to those competitions are such as to restrict competition, given their importance for the media, consumers and television viewers in the European Union.”

● “[T]he Court holds that, where an undertaking in a dominant position has the power to determine the conditions in which potentially competing undertakings may access the market, that power must, given the risk of conflict of interest to which it gives rise, be subject to criteria which are suitable for ensuring that they are transparent, objective, non discriminatory and proportionate. However, the powers of FIFA and UEFA are not subject to any such criteria. FIFA and UEFA are, therefore, abusing a dominant position.”

● “That does not mean that a competition such as the Super League project must necessarily be approved. The Court, having been asked generally about the FIFA and UEFA rules, does not rule on that specific project in its judgment.”

The case was a referral from the Commercial Court in Madrid (ESP) concerning the question of a FIFA and UEFA monopoly under European law, and the case will now revert back to the Madrid court.

However, the A22 Sports Management firm, which backed the Super League proposal in 2021, hailed the ruling and immediately proposed a much larger project that the original Super League concept. It now suggests a 64-club, three-tier men’s concept and a two-tier, 32-club women’s competition to try and replace the existing UEFA Champions League and Women’s Champions League. A22 Sports also promised free television viewing of all matches.

Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, the only clubs still supporting the Super League proposal, endorsed the Court’s holding, but almost every other organization – FIFA, UEFA, the European Club Association, the FIFPro players association and others – came out against the new league concepts.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin (SLO) told reporters,We will not try to stop them. They can create whatever they want. I hope they start their fantastic competition as soon as possible, with two clubs.” Leagues across Europe came out against the Super League proposal. In Britain, legislation could be proposed to keep clubs there from participating in a Super League.

Which means that this story is hardly ending, but perhaps is just beginning.


● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● At his year-end news conference in Paris, organizing committee chief Tony Estanguet was enthusiastic about the progress made and cited some powerful indicators of success next summer.

The domestic sponsorship program expanded by 36 companies in 2023 and stands at 58 overall and at €1.2 billion (€1 = $1.10 U.S.), or 97% of the budgeted goal. Some 7.6 million tickets have been sold so far, with another 1.0 million still to be offered. The number of tickets reserved for hospitality sales by OnLocation was given as 750,000.

The organizing committee has 2,100 staff members and will reach 4,200 or so prior to the Games. The volunteer program, which was set at 45,000 total, received 313,000 applications from 150 countries. So far, so good.

Nicolas Ferrand, the head of the French government agency responsible for Olympic construction projects, known as SOLIDEO, said that the program is on schedule, with 84% completion as of 19 December and a year-end target of 89% completion.

“In 12 days, we will finish the work [for the year], and on March 1, we will hand over the works to Paris 2024. When SOLIDEO was created in January 2018, general opinion said that we would not succeed, that France would finish the works in pain in the last days. But we are on schedule.”

Ferrand noted that the SOLIDEO budget of €1.721 billion was also on track, although half of the contingency had been eaten by inflation.

On Wednesday’s edition of the France 5 television talk show “C a vous,” French President Emmanuel Macron noted that if circumstances demand it, there could be options for changes to the Paris 2024 Opening Ceremony that will take place on the Seine River:

You’re 15 days from the Olympic Games. You have a series of terrorist attacks. What do you do? Well you don’t organize on the Seine.

“As we are professionals, there are obviously plans B, plans C, etc. It’s the difference between organizing, planning and immediately, perhaps in a catastrophe, no longer having any ambition and saying we’re repatriating. No, we organize ourselves.

“If we consider that there is a level of risk, imbalances, a level of insecurity, of potential threats, [then it] would be likely to revise the initial plan. This is what we do every time for these events. You organize them consciously, but you have to plan everything.”

Paris 2024 head Estanguet has said that the Seine project is the only being focused on.

● Olympic Winter Games 2026: Milan Cortina ● The latest meeting of the Milan Cortina 2026 Winter Games organizing committee on Tuesday brought no closure to the question of the sliding track. Instead, Sports Minister Andrea Abodi said afterwards:

“We need a few more days for technical investigations. I believe that in the next few days there will be a way to arrive at a technical determination and allow the Foundation to decide by the end of the year, at the first few days of 2024 at the latest, with the confirmed priority of choosing an Italian option.”

In the background of the political battle over the sliding sports venue is that no company bid for the project when it was offered during the summer. Despite viable proposals to use existing tracks in Austria, Germany, Switzerland or the U.S., the focus of the politicians is for an “Italian solution.”

● Olympic Winter Games: Future ● After a Tuesday meeting with the Japanese Olympic Committee, Sapporo (JPN) Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto said that his city’s bid efforts are being suspended.

We have decided to suspend, rather than withdraw or scrap, in order to maintain our opportunities for future bids.”

Sapporo was considered a front-runner for 2030, but the high cost of the Tokyo Olympic Games, rising cost projections for a second Sapporo Winter Games and the Tokyo organizing committee scandals all took a toll. The International Olympic Committee has targeted the French Alps proposal for 2030, Salt Lake City for 2034 and possibly the Swiss bid for 2038, making 2042 the next Winter Games likely to be available.

● Alpine Skiing ● At the FIS Alpine World Cup women’s Slalom at Courchevel (FRA), the event’s stars – American Mikaela Shiffrin and Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova – went head to head again, with Vlhova taking this showdown.

Shiffrin had the fastest first run at 55.24, with Vlhova right behind at 55.41. But Vlhova, the Olympic gold winner in 2022, was sensational on the second run, posting the fastest time of 52.73, with Shiffrin second in the field, but in 53.14 and that was enough to give Vlhova a 1:48.14 to 1:48.38 victory. It’s her 30th career World Cup victory.

Austria’s Katharina Truppe moved from fifth to third on the second run (1:50.20) for the bronze; American Paula Moltzan was fifth in 1:50.78.

● Athletics ● More doping announcements from the Athletics Integrity Unit, with marathoner Thomas Kibet (KEN) suspended for three years from 3 November 2023 for the use of the steroid Norandsterone. Kibet has a best of 2:10:59 from December of 2022.

Fellow Kenyan Maurine Chepkemoi, 25, was also banned for three years, for Erythropoietin (EPO), from 4 December 2023. He has a marathon best of 2:20:18 from 2021.

/Updated/Italian shot put star Nick Ponzio, who threw collegiately at USC, was suspended for 18 months by the Italian anti-doping agency for “whereabouts” violations. His ban will end on 27 August 2024, after the Paris Olympic Games. Ponzio, who began throwing for Italy in 2021, held the national indoor record at 21.61 m (70-10 3/4) for a while in 2022 (since surpassed).

● Freestyle Skiing ● Canada’s Jared Schmidt won his third straight FIS World Cup Ski Cross title, this time in Innichen (ITA), beating France’s Nicolas Raffort and Youri Duplessis Kergomard to the line.

These are the first three World Cup wins of Schmidt’s career; he had previously won two World Cup bronzes in 2021.

In the women’s final, Sweden’s Olympic champ Sandra Naeslund took her second win of the season and 39th of her career, ahead of 2013 World Champion Fanny Smith (SUI) and Hannah Schmidt (CAN).

A second competition at Innichen is slated for Friday.

● Gymnastics ● USA Gymnastics announced its annual award winners on Thursday in all of its disciplines:

Artistic/Men: Fred Richard, the three-time NCAA winner for Michigan and the Worlds All-Around bronze medalist.

Artistic/Women: Joscelyn Roberson, a Worlds Team gold winner, U.S. Nationals Vault winner and 10-time international medalist.

Rhythmic: Evita Griskenas, four-time World Cup medal winner and a Paris Olympic qualifier after winning five Pan American Games medals.

Trampoline & Tumbling: Three-way tie with Ruben Padilla, Kaden Brown and Jessica Stevens, all members of the U.S. gold-medal team performance at the World Championships.

Acrobatic: Men’s pair Angel Felix and Braiden McDougall, national champions and World Cup Series winners.

USA Gymnastics also revealed its Class of 2023 Hall of Fame selections, including:

Sasha Artemev, a member of the 2008 Olympic Team bronze winners and a Worlds Pommel Horse bronze medalist in 2006

Jana Bieger, who won three 2006 Worlds silvers in Team, All-Around and Floor, and was a national team member from 2003-09.

Ivana Hong, a Worlds Team gold medalist in 200 and took the Worlds Beam bronze in 2009.

Savannah Vinsant, a two-time U.S. champ in Trampoline and the first American to reach an Olympic Trampoline final when she finished sixth at London 2012.

Off-the-mat selections included Youri Vorobyev, who has helped multiple Worlds medalists and was honored an Acrobatic Gymnastics coach, and Dr. Rich Sands, an Artistic Gymnastics coach who also served as the federation’s Director of Research and Development from 1987-95, who was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

● Shooting ● A fairly ominous Wednesday announcement from the International Shooting Sport Federation:

“On 19 December 2023, the ISSF Executive Committee in an extraordinary meeting has decided to dismiss Mr Willi Grill [GER] as ISSF Secretary General with immediate effect and to terminate his employment contract effective on 31 March 2024.

“Until 31 March 2024 Mr Grill is released from all his duties.

“This decision was made after careful consideration of results of an independent internal investigation.”

Grill came in on 1 December 2022 with the election of Italian President Luciano Rossi, who will take on his duties in additional to his own until a new Secretary General is hired in the first quarter of 2023. The statement noted that the federation’s Executive Committee will meet in February “to discuss candidates to fill the vacant ISSF Secretary General position and improvements for the office structure within the ISSF Headquarters in Munich to ensure the highest professional standards.”

● Taekwondo ● China won the 2023 World Taekwondo World Cup Team Championships on home soil in Wuxi on Tuesday, taking down Uzbekistan in the three-round final by 36:30.

It was the only close for the six-member, mixed-gender team, which defeated India in the quarterfinals by 90:21, then downed Brazil by 88:43 to advance to the final. Uzbekistan advanced by beating Morocco (78:58) and the Daejon Metro City team from Korea, 48:32.

China, Uzbekistan, and third-place Brazil all qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

● Water Polo ● Chris Ramsey, the 17-year chief executive of USA Water Polo, will retire following the 2024 Paris Games, and the organization is beginning a search for his replacement.

The high-profile national teams did well, especially the women, who won three Olympic golds and five World Championship titles, with the men winning a 2008 Olympic silver. During Ramsey’s tenure, the organization’s budget increased from $4 million to $16 million annually, membership has doubled over the past decade and the USAWP development program – which began with 300 players in 2009 – is now over 6,000.

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