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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Milan Cortina ‘26 gets a bidder to build sliding track!
2. IOC confirms Russian and Belarusian double check for Paris
3. Review of the Brisbane Gabba project underway
4. Cricket South Africa rejects anti-Semitism charge
5. Kilde’s crash at 75 mph requires second surgery
● A bidder to construct a new sliding track for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy was apparently found by Thursday’s noon deadline. The International Olympic Committee will still need to approve the timetable and an evaluation process will be used to determine if the project is actually feasible. But there is a bidder now, after no one stepped forward last summer.
● The IOC confirmed that it is running its own checks on the “neutrality” of any athletes from Russia or Belarus who will qualify to compete at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. On Friday, the IV Winter Youth Olympic Games will open in Gangwon Province, Korea, with more than 1,800 athletes expected to compete.
● The Queensland government has begun a 60-day review of the controversial Gabba project for the 2023 Olympic Games in Brisbane, as the costs have ballooned to A$2.7 billion. A proposed arena, expected to cost A$2.5 billion, will also be evaluated for cost, efficiency and legacy.
● Cricket South Africa, which demoted David Teeger from the captaincy of the national men’s U-19 World Cup team because he is Jewish and supports Israel in its battle with Hamas, rejected any claims that it is anti-Semitic. The ICC men’s U-19 World Cup opens Friday in South Africa, with a Palestinian group expected to protest South Africa’s opening match over Teeger’s continuing place on the team.
● Norwegian ski star Aleksander Aamodt Kilde’s crash in Wengen requires another surgery on his shoulder and he shared an update on what happened in a post on X. The experience of multiple skiers there has caused the FIS Race Director to consider future scheduling more carefully.
● Panorama: France 2030 (Val d’Isere wants back into Winter Games program) = Athletics (European Championships prize purse revealed) = Esports (IESF Worlds qualifying includes 130 countries) = Football (2: Pulisic chosen U.S. men’s player of the year; FIFA 2026 World Cup match schedule coming on 4 February) = Hockey (Olympic qualifiers nearing conclusion) = Water Polo (USA Water Polo to train at Mt. SAC) ●
Milan Cortina ‘26 gets a bidder to build sliding track!
After getting no interest from construction companies last summer, at least one bidder came forward by Thursday’s noon deadline to build a bobsled, luge and skeleton track in Cortina d’Ampezzo (ITA) for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games.
The Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano reported that “the Pizzarotti group from Parma, one of the construction giants in Italy” submitted a bid for the €81.6 million project (about $88.65 million U.S.), which would have to be built, tested and certified by mid-October 2025, and require special permission from the International Olympic Committee. The next step:
“Societa Infrastrutture Milano Cortina (Simico), which is the [governmental] contracting authority, has not issued any statement, not even to confirm the arrival of an offer, thus respecting the silence imposed by the procedure which now provides for the appointment of a commission to evaluate the requirements of the company, as well as the technical and economic offers.”
An evaluation of the bid(s) will be made and an award expected to be offered within 15 days, and the board of the Milano Cortina 2026 Foundation is due to meet on 30 January. The story quotes Milano Cortina 2026 board Chair Giovanni Malago (ITA) that “the conclusion of the matter will be between January 30th and February 6th.”
As for the IOC, its Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi (SUI) told reporters during a Thursday news conference that the IOC Executive Board received a presentation about the progress of the Winter Games, which included a briefing on the issues related to the sliding venue. Dubi noted:
“This presentation allowed us to reiterate our position, which is unequivocal. First, we from the very beginning felt that this venue was extremely complex in terms of cost, in terms of legacy, in terms of timing, and we have promoted the use of an existing track. We know with certainty that a decision will be made soon, by the 31st of January.”
Stay tuned. Dubi also noted that the domestic sponsorship program for the 2026 Winter Games is progressing and that agreements will be signed on 26 January with the operators of existing World Cup events to manage the Winter Games competitions in Alpine Skiing (in Bormio and Cortina d’Ampezzo), in Cross Country Skiing (at Val di Fiemme) and Antholz-Anterselva (Biathlon).
IOC confirms Russian and Belarusian double check for Paris
During the International Olympic Committee’s Thursday news conference from Gangwon (KOR), site of the ready-to-open Winter Youth Olympic Games, spokesman Mark Adams (GBR) confirmed that Russian and Belarusian athletes who qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games will have their eligibility re-checked.
The initial screening, through the qualification process, is being done now by the relevant International Federations, but questions have been raised about the “neutrality” of specific qualifiers and potential qualifiers in judo, taekwondo and wrestling. Adams explained:
“When we’re responsible for our own competitions as we will be [in Paris], run by the IFs but under our auspices in Paris, then we have to be doubly sure because we have the full responsibility. So that’s why we will be taking these extra measures on top, which I think will make everyone feel confident and much more comfortable with the situation.
“In terms of the process, I can only talk broadly because I don’t have the detail, but we are in the process of identifying and appointing independent analysts with a reputation for good work, with good governance and so on, who will go through each of those athletes to make sure they don’t breach our guidelines, and I think you can have some confidence that those people who have qualified have already been through one process and then will be going through a second process, run by the IOC but using an independent organization.” (Emphasis added)
No timetable has been given on the IOC’s verification process.
Adams was asked about any activity in terms of proposed changes to the Olympic Charter that would allow current IOC President Thomas Bach (GER) to be able to run for a third term. He said that no proposed changes in the text had been submitted so far, but that there was time to do so prior to the next IOC Session in Paris this summer.
The IV Winter Youth Olympic Games will open in Gangwon Province (KOR) on Friday, with Dubi expressing great satisfaction with the preparations and that young athletes will be able to experience the competitions in many of the venues used for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang.
“For many, it’s actually a stepping stone into the future,” said Dubi, noting that 341 athletes from the Beijing 2022 Winter Games had competed in a prior Winter YOG, winning 53 medals in Beijing.
Some 1,812 athletes from 79 countries will compete in the Gangwon Province, with four host cities, in 81 events across seven sports. Teams from Algeria, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates will make their first appearance in a Winter YOG.
Tickets are free to all events outside of the Opening Ceremonies, and 350,000 tickets have been distributed so far, with some sessions expected to be full. Dubi noted, “in terms of public engagement, it’s already a success.”
The Games will close on 1 February.
Review of the Brisbane Gabba project underway
The controversial renovation plan for the famed Brisbane Cricket Ground, known as the Gabba, has been the center of attention in the Brisbane 2032 development plan and, on Thursday, a 60-day review period for the concept began.
Originally developed in 1895, it seats 36,000 today and a demolition and rebuild for the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane was included in the Queensland bid. Seating would be expanded to 50,000 and be used for athletics and ceremonies, and surrounding facilities would be added, but the cost has skyrocketed from an estimate of A$1 billion to perhaps A$2.7 billion (about $1.77 billion U.S.).
The plan was strongly backed by then-Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who retired on 15 December 2023 and was succeeded by prior deputy Steven Miles. The tumult over the rise in cost and the turbulence around the stadium – such as with a school that would have to be closed – led Miles to appoint former Brisbane Mayor Graham Quirk to lead a 60-day review team, with a report due back to the Queensland government on 18 March.
Moreover, the plan for a temporary site for the tenant cricket and Australian Rules Football teams went into disarray when the City of Brisbane refused to pay a significant share of a temporary facility for their use during the four-year project.
Said Miles in an interview with ABC Australia:
“I have always taken independent advice whenever I have asked for it, that’s precisely what I’ll do here. [Quirk] will go in to determine to recommend to me the best possible solution for Queensland and I commit to take his recommendation.”
The review will also include the plan for a new, A$2.5 billion arena in the same area. Explained Miles:
“I want to also make sure [the projects] unite Queenslanders. I’m really concerned that this issue has been becoming more political and divisive than it ever should have.
“I hope this independent review can give all Queenslanders certainty that we have the right plan for Queensland, the right plan to deliver the best Games ever.
“But more importantly … the right plan to deliver what our state needs and I think really that comes down to transport connectivity. That was the promise of the Games and I want to make sure that delivers.”
The International Olympic Committee suggested during the bid stage that a re-build of the Gabba was not necessary and that using the existing facility that hosted athletics and ceremonies for the successful 2018 Commonwealth Games – Carrara Stadium in the suburbs of Gold Coast – would be satisfactory. Its capacity was increased to 40,000 with temporary stands.
It did not object to the Gabba plan so long as it is part of a long-range upgrade for the area and not specifically related to the 2032 Games.
Cricket South Africa rejects anti-Semitism charge
The questions over the removal of David Teeger as captain of the South African U-19 team because he is Jewish continue as the ICC men’s U-19 World Cup begins Friday in South Africa.
The national federation, Cricket South Africa, rejected a charge of anti-Semitism by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies earlier in the week, telling CNN:
“Cricket South Africa finds the accusations of antisemitism levelled against it by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies as without any basis and rejects them with the contempt they deserve.”
However, Dr. Ali Bacher, 81, a former South African national team captain and who helped to unify the separate all-white and black cricket associations into the Unified Cricket Board and then helped organize the iconic 2003 ICC World Cup, is asking for more information.
Bacher, who is Jewish and related to Teeger through his wife, issued a statement that asked Cricket South Africa for “a comprehensive explanation of the decision-making process” to remove him as captain, notably since Teeger is still on the South African team.
ESPNCricInfo reported that the Palestinian Solidarity Alliance has been granted a permit to protest on Friday outside the JB Marks Oval in Potchefstroom where South Africa’s opening match will take place against West Indies. Bacher emphasized “it is the responsibility of CSA and South African law enforcement entities to ensure safety at all sporting events. The alternative is that the threat of using violence dictates policy.”
The federation agreed, and stated its agreement with the right to protest, but noted “that these cannot interfere with the matches or compromise the safety of players and fans. To this end, we are collaborating closely with the South African Police Service (SAPS) to ensure that the tournament proceeds smoothly and without any disruptions.”
Meanwhile, the Italian apparel and footwear firm Diadora told The Times of Israel that a supposed director of the company’s South African operations has no ties to it, with a spokesman saying “Mr. Azhar Salojee [sic] has no role whatsoever in Diadora’s organization” and that his comments do not reflect Diadora’s views.
Azhar Saloojee was identified as a Diadora “director” in a Cricket South Africa legal review that cleared Teeger of any wrongdoing in comments supporting Israel during an awards ceremony in October.
Kilde’s crash at 75 mph requires second surgery
Alpine skiing is not for the faint of heart as Norwegian star Aleksander Aamodt Kilde demonstrated last Saturday, when he crashed during the second Downhill in Wengen (SUI) that required a helicopter to remove him from the course, to a hospital in nearby Bern.
Now 31, he has 21 wins and 48 World Cup medals in his 12-year career on the FIS World Cup circuit, two Olympic medals and two 2023 Worlds silvers in the Downhill and Super-G. He knows what he’s doing, but skied out near the finish in Wengen, with cuts to his face and leg and substantial shoulder injuries. His season is over.
But his medical issues are not. He shared a message on X (ex-Twitter) on Thursday that included:
“Thank you to everyone for your support … just a quick update from my end. I am now back in Innsbruck [AUT] with my mom and dad, and will be undergoing surgery again this afternoon for two torn ligaments in my shoulder.
“Considering the impact of the crash and the fact that I went into the net at 120 km/hr [~75 mph], I am doing surprisingly well. Of course, I am thankful there’s no fracture – but I did sustain multiple injuries, including a pretty severe laceration in my calf with some nerve damage that required urgent surgery, and a shoulder dislocation. I’ll spare you guys the graphic photos of the laceration here, because not sure many could stomach them. …
“This is just a bump in the road … it might be one of the bigger bumps I’ve encountered, but right now it’s just about taking one step at a time, day by day. It’s tough, but these opportunities show us what we’re made of. I’m looking forward to tackling this challenge and will try to enjoy the process as much as I can.”
Kilde was also visited by partner Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) and her family in the hospital and following the surgery will begin the healing and rehab process. But it’s not all fun on the slopes, even for the top professionals like Kilde.
He crashed during a third straight day of speed racing in Wengen, following a make-up Downhill on Thursday from an earlier canceled race, a Super-G on Friday and then the second – originally-scheduled – Downhill on Saturday, followed by a Slalom on Sunday. The Saturday Downhill saw 12 of the 57 starters fail to finish, and FIS Race Director Markus Waldner (ITA) told Swiss Radio, “it should absolutely be avoided to hold three speed events in a row at the same location. Because that’s really too heavy for the majority of the starting field.”
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Winter Games 2030: France ● The storied Val d’Isere site for alpine skiing had been axed from the French Alps bid for 2030 by the IOC, asking for a more concentrated groups of sites.
Now in “Targeted Dialogue” with the IOC with the goal of completing an agreement to allow selection at this summer’s IOC Session in Paris, the bid group is being asked by Val d’Isere to reconsider.
A new proposal was provided to the French Alps bid coordinators, offering a re-use of the Albertville 1992 site for both the men’s and women’s Slalom and Giant Slalom, and close-by accommodations. Skiing legend and Albertville 1992 Co-President Jean-Claude Killy has openly endorsed the return of Val d’Isere to the venue program, but the ultimate decision is yet to be made.
● Athletics ● Details of the first-time prize money program for the European Athletics Championships in Rome (ITA) were posted Thursday, with €50,000 (~$54,383) prizes given to the top performing winner in each of five event groupings for men and women!
The groups are Sprints & Hurdles, Middle & Long Distance, Throws, Jumps and Road-Combined Events-Relays, for men and women, with the award to be determined by reference to the point value on the World Athletics Scoring Table.
So, 10 athletes will win €50,000 each and the rest will get nothing. Wow.
● Esports ● The International Esports Federation announced that qualification-event entries for its 2024 World Championships in Riyadh (KSA) continue to grow and will comprise 609 teams from a record 130 countries, out of a total of 139 in the federation.
● Football ● U.S. Soccer named dynamic midfielder Christian Pulisic as its male Player of the Year for 2023, giving him a fourth career selection for the award, tying Landon Donovan for the most ever.
Pulisic won 53% of the vote, ahead of Yunus Musah (21.5%) and Ricardo Pepi (12.9%). Pulisic was named Best Player of the 2022-23 CONCACAF Nations League as the U.S. won its second-straight title and has been an important contributor for AC Milan in Serie A in Italy. He scored six goals for the national team and had three assists, the leading goal contributor on the team.
The match schedule and locations for the 2026 FIFA World Cup in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico will be announced in a special program on Sunday, 4 February 2024 at 3 p.m. Eastern time. The show will be carried on Fox Sports and Telemundo in the U.S.
In Muscat (OMA), Great Britain (3-0) and Pakistan (1-1-1) advanced from Pool A and Germany (2-0-1) and New Zealand (2-0-1) moved on from Pool B. The British will play New Zealand on Saturday and the Germans will face Pakistan in the semis, with the final and third-place games on Sunday. The top three teams qualify for Paris.
The second men’s tournament, at Valencia (ESP) has Pool A winner Belgium (3-0) faced Pool B runner-up South Korea (1-0-2) and Pool B winner Spain (2-0-1) taking on Ireland (2-1) in the semis on Friday. The medal matches will be on Sunday.
The women’s tournament in Ranchi (IND) has Germany and Japan – both 2-0-1 – advancing to the semis, along with the U.S. (3-0) and India (2-1) from Pool B. In Thursday’s semifinals, Germany edged India, 4-3, in the penalty shoot-out after a 2-2 tied and the U.S. got by Japan by 2-1. It was the first goal conceded by the U.S. in its four matches. Germany and the U.S. will play for the tournament title, with India and Japan playing for third and a spot in Paris.
In Valencia, Belgium and Ireland (both 2-0-1) moved on from Pool A and Spain won Pool B at 3-0, with Britain at 2-1. The Belgians got a 3-2 win over the British to move on to the final in the first semifinal, then Spain moved on after a 0-0 tie, but a 3-0 shoot-out win over the Irish. Britain and Ireland will play in the third-place game.
● Water Polo ● USA Water Polo announced an agreement with Mt. San Antonio College for use of its new aquatics complex for training and competitions.
The facility, located about 70 minutes east of Los Angeles, includes two pools, has spectator seating and is an impressive addition to the college, which recently also renovated its famed Hilmer Lodge Stadium for track & field and football. With a practice football field, baseball and softball diamonds, tennis courts, soccer fields, gymnasium and beach volleyball courts, it’s going to be a coveted training site for some National Olympic Committee for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games.
For our new, 920-event International Sports Calendar for 2024 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!