★ The Sports Examiner: Chronicling the key competitive, economic and political forces shaping elite sport and the Olympic Movement.★
★ To get The Sports Examiner by e-mail: sign up here! ★
≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Russia, Belarus confirmed for Paris by Olympic Summit
2. Russian pols offer muted response to Summit declaration
3. Archery savior, LA84 star Jim Easton passes at 88
4. NCAA chief proposes schools to pay athletes directly
5. LetsRun: No $20 million deal for Richardson!
● The International Olympic Committee’s report on Tuesday’s “Olympic Summit” in Lausanne produced a “request” by the International Federations to allow qualified Russian and Belarusian individuals to compete in Paris in 2024. But there are still details to be worked out and the final decision will not come until 2024.
● Russian reaction to the Summit was muted, although cautiously optimistic. Given the restrictions, the Russian team will be far smaller than in recent Games.
● Jim Easton, a brilliant engineer who built a sporting goods empire on new technologies and was the crucial change agent for archery that kept the sport in the Olympic Games, passed away at age 88. He was also a key player in the success of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
● NCAA President Charlie Baker sent a historic letter to schools that recommends a new subdivision of the richest football schools, with new regulations to allow direct-to-athlete payments of $30,000 or more per year.
● LetsRun.com co-founder Weldon Johnson wrote Tuesday that U.S. sprint star Sha’Carri Richardson did not get a $20 million sponsorship deal from Nike, dismissing the credibility of the site reporting it.
● World Championship: Handball (eight undefeateds left at IHF women’s Worlds after prelim round) ●
● Panorama: Paris 2024 (ISA supports continued discussions on Tahiti tower) = Archery (World Archery engages firm to enable betting) = Athletics (3: AIU will appeal Jeruto loss; Blanks and Valby get collegiate records at 5,000 m!; global relays returning to Penn) = Boxing (IBA confirms Gazprom as “General Partner”) = Football (2: U.S. squeezes by China, 2-1, to finish 14-1-3 in 2023; modest TV audience for first USA-China friendly) ●
Russia, Belarus confirmed for Paris by Olympic Summit
To the surprise of almost no one, the International Olympic Committee’s “Olympic Summit” in Lausanne confirmed, in the usual sober language, that select Russian and Belarusian athletes will be permitted to participate in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, subject to an expected rubber-stamped approval by the IOC Executive Board next March.
The Summit “Communique” ran to 40 paragraphs and was mostly a recital of the major talking points about the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement that IOC President Thomas Bach (GER) has highlighted in his speeches over the past two years.
The action came in paragraphs eight, 11 and 14:
“8. The Summit was informed by representatives of the International Summer Sports Federations that, following the very strict recommendations of the IOC, Individual Neutral Athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport have participated in a large number of events respecting these strict conditions, and these events have largely been without incident, with only one notable exception [at the World Fencing Championships]. …
“11. The representatives of the International Summer Sports Federations asked the IOC to declare eligible for participation in the Olympic Games Paris 2024 those AINs who have qualified or will qualify on the field of play. They further asked for a decision as soon as possible to bring clarity to their entire Olympic qualification procedures and for all athletes concerned. …
“14. Following the above-mentioned requests, the IOC confirmed that the participation of such AINs in the Olympic Games could happen only under the existing strict conditions. Neither the qualification system developed by the respective International Federations nor the number of allocated quota places to a sport will be changed for AINs with a Russian or Belarusian passport. They will have to be in compliance with all the eligibility criteria applicable to any Olympic athlete.”
This carries forward the IOC’s recommendations from March, following what has essentially been a trial of those regulations by many federations during the summer: no identification of Russian or Belarusian teams by flags, anthems or uniform markings, no teams, added anti-doping requirements, and a verification of athlete “neutrality” carried on by the International Federations themselves, some of which have been vigilant and some not as much.
Further, the wording – on face value – allows the federations to admit Russians and Belarusians for Paris based on their own qualifying regulations and systems. As paragraph 11 notes, this has to be confirmed by the IOC itself, expected to formally come at the next Executive Board meeting, scheduled for March 2024, but which could come sooner.
There was also harsh language following up the IOC’s concerns about the organization of Russia’s “BRICS Games” next June in Kazan and the “World Friendship Games” in Moscow, Ekaterinburg and possibly Minsk in Belarus, scheduled for 15-29 December. Paragraphs 23 and 24 rejected these events:
“[T]he Summit was informed that athletes would be very concerned about being forced into participation in such politically motivated sports events, thereby becoming part of a political propaganda campaign.
“The Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) and the Winter Olympic Federations (WOF) reaffirmed their recommendations to IFs not to be involved in any way in such politically motivated sports events. They confirmed that every IF should refuse to consider the inclusion of such events in its international sports calendar and should not acknowledge the results achieved by athletes at these events.”
Observed: There is a lot of fine detail that remains to be added to the Russian and Belarusian participation process, but the outcome – and this is almost certainly the outcome, barring some horrific new developments in the continuing Russian invasion of Ukraine – appears set. At least some Russian and Belarusian athletes will be allowed to compete in Paris in 2024 … if they want to.
That, too, is an open question. The Summit Communique, in discussing the development of ”clearly politically motivated sports events in Russia,” recognized the issue of athletes “being forced into participation in such politically motivated sports events, thereby becoming part of a political propaganda campaign.”
So the entire Olympic Movement – represented in the room on Tuesday – acknowledged the political propaganda aspects of athlete participation in events, and still welcomed Russians and Belarusians for Paris in 2024.
Bach has insisted on this formulation since the 2022 Olympic Summit, when out of nowhere came an offer from the Olympic Council of Asia to host Russian and Belarusian athletes in their events. That did not happen – the IOC decided not to allow Russians and Belarusians into this year’s Asian Games – but set the stage for March’s invitation to compete as neutrals.
And this is another win for Bach. One only need check the IOC’s photograph of the Olympic Summit meeting above to see who is running the show: attendees packed in together on two sides of the room and Bach all alone at the front of the room. This is his show, have no doubt, fulfilling his repeated view that in order to be valid, representatives of every country must attend the Olympic Games, even those that ignore the Olympic Truce with an attempted takeover of another country.
It appears he will get his wish. Maybe.
There are many questions to be answered:
● Will the IOC simply accept whomever the federations say are qualified, or will there be a further review by the IOC itself?
● Will the IOC force federations which have said they will not admit Russians or Belarusians, such as World Athletics and the International Surfing Association, to allow at least a token presence in Paris?
● Bach personally intervened on behalf of four-time women’s World Sabre Champion Olha Kharlan of Ukraine following her 27 July disqualification at the 2023 FIE Worlds for not shaking hands with Russian Anna Smirnova after their round-of-64 match, and guaranteed her a place in Paris if she did not otherwise qualify. Any more of those coming? Perhaps on behalf of a Russian athlete this time?
● Will these athletes be allowed to participate in the Opening or Closing Ceremonies, which present the teams competing in the Games? If so, under what flag?
If the federations are given a free hand, then Bach will have essentially replayed the IOC’s policy for Rio 2016, when he gave the IFs a free hand to decide on Russian participation themselves after the Russian state-sponsored program from 2011-15 had been exposed and was under active investigation. Russian participation has been impacted by their scandals:
● 2012: 436 athletes in London as “Russia”
● 2016: 282 athletes in Rio as “Russia”
● 2021: 333 athletes in Tokyo as “Russian Olympic Committee”
Lurking in the background of this now fully-politicized issue is the question of whether Russian or Belarusian athletes will even come to Paris, now that some will be allowed. That decision is possibly not in their hands, but could be made by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russian pols offer muted response to Summit declaration
Early responses to the Olympic Summit from Russia have been calm, waiting for the added specifics to come next year.
The Chair of the State Duma Committee on Physical Culture and Sports, Dmitry Svishchev, offered cautious approval of the decision, recognizing more details are coming:
“This is the right decision, to allow Russian athletes to participate in international competitions, but this decision is somewhat belated.
“If the IOC supports this decision, it will allow our athletes to participate in competitions. The IOC wants to minimize the participation of Russian athletes in the Olympic Games and is delaying the process in every possible way; they are afraid that suddenly there will be provocations and all sorts of problems with shaking hands. They need to make a decision and voice the conditions under which they will be allowed.”
State Duma deputy Svetlana Zhurova and Turin 2006 Olympic speed skating gold medalist told the Russian news agency TASS:
“There are federations that do not pay attention at all and have long allowed Russians and Belarusians. But the final decision will be made in March. From March to July, there will still be some opportunity to qualify if the international federations allow some of our athletes. Everyone thinks that maybe something will change in March, world politicians are changing their harsh rhetoric and softening it.”
Archery savior, LA84 star Jim Easton passes at 88
A brilliant engineer, marketer and sports administrator who secured the future of archery in the Olympic Games, Jim Easton, passed away on Sunday (3rd) at age 88.
Easton became a force in the Olympic Movement in the 1980s, as the Commissioner of Archery for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, staging the 1983 FITA World Championships in Long Beach before the successful archery competition in 1984. He was so highly regarded at the LAOOC that he was – simultaneously – in charge of archery, was a Vice President of Technology and the Mayor of the Olympic Village at UCLA during the Games.
Already a long-time member of the FITA (now World Archery) Council, Easton was elected as President of the Federation de la Tir a l’Arc as it was then known, in 1989, as the sport was under pressure to modernize … or face removal from the Olympic program. Under his leadership, the championship format was changed from a competition with dozens of archers shooting 144 arrows to having medals decided in direct-elimination contests, perfect for television. The new presentation, inaugurated in the Olympic Games in 1992 in Barcelona (ESP), raised interest in the sport significantly and assured its future on the program.
In 1994, he became the first-ever FITA officer to be elected to the International Olympic Committee and served with distinction, including as an IOC Vice President from 2002-06. He was the FITA President until 2005.
All of this was in addition to his enormously-successful career as an engineer, first at Douglas Aircraft, then at his father’s arrow shaft company, Jas. D. Easton, Inc., which Jim turned into a multi-faceted sports manufacturer of the highest quality, producing world-class equipment for baseball, softball, cycling, golf, ice hockey, tennis, and, of course, archery.
Easton Sports was eventually broken up and sold in pieces, but Easton retained control of the Hoyt Archery company and the high-tech materials designer and fabricator Easton Technical Products, with facilities in Indiana and Utah.
Easton and his wife Phyllis used some of the proceeds from the business sales to fund numerous charitable programs, including archery development centers in the U.S. and Switzerland and gifts to his beloved UCLA and to other medical and research facilities, continued today by the Easton Foundations.
He was slowed by a stoke in 2010, but remained as active as possible in his businesses and philanthropic efforts. Easton is survived by his wife Phyllis, son Greg, daughter Lynn, and three grandchildren. Memorial services will be private. An elegant and understated video tribute from Easton Bowhunting is here.
Observed: To those who knew him and worked with him, Easton was a role model. He was sharp, inquisitive, demanding, understanding, tight-fisted, generous, terribly serious and sometimes incredibly funny. And always disciplined and in balance.
He seemed to have an almost unending capacity for work, always highlighted by a breakthrough idea or a new process to make things better, very much a continuation of his lifelong ability to see the future through the prism of better engineering.
His vision for archery literally saved its position on the Olympic program and has created some of the truly gripping moments in Olympic history. But he shunned publicity, downplaying his own role even when he was literally the reason for success, and giving credit to his team whenever possible.
Easton’s approach will ensure he is under-appreciated in the future, but his impact on many successes, in his businesses, on the 1984 Olympic Games and on archery, is unmistakable and incomparable. Rest in peace.
NCAA chief proposes schools to pay athletes directly
“We need to make several fundamental changes. First, we should make it possible for all Division I colleges and universities to offer student-athlete any level of enhanced educational benefits they deem appropriate. Second, rules should change for any Division I school, at their choice, to enter into name, image and likeness licensing opportunities with their student-athletes.
‘These two changes will enhance financial opportunities available to all Division I student-athletes. They will also help level what is fast becoming a very unlevel playing field between men and women student-athletes because schools will be required to abide by existing gender equity regulations as they make investments in their athletics programs.
“Third, a subdivision comprised of institutions with the highest revenues to invest in their student-athletes should be required to do two things.
“● Within the framework of Title IX, invest at least $30,000 per year into an enhanced educational trust fund for at least half of the institution’s eligible student-athletes.
“● Commit to work with the NCAA staff and their peer institutions in this subdivision to create rules that may differ from the rules in place for the rest of Division I. Those rules could include a wide range of policies, such as scholarship commitment and roster size, recruitment, transfers or NIL.”
That’s from a stunning letter sent to the more than 350 Division I colleges and universities on Monday by NCAA President Charlie Baker, the former governor of Massachusetts. His three-page letter noted the enormous gap among Division I schools that budget as little as $5 million for athletics, and as much as $250 million. He stated that 59 schools spend more than $100 million each, with another 32 at $50 million or more and 259 at less than that.
This is a major departure for the NCAA, recognizing the enormous wealth generated most by football for the so-called “Power 5″ conferences: Atlantic Coast (14 schools, not including Notre Dame), Big 10 (14), Big XII (14), Southeastern (14) and whatever becomes of the Pacific-12 (12) in the future.
Those five groups include 69 schools (including Notre Dame) may not all be able to participate in the proposed new subdivision. But the concept – still a long way from reality – would continue the split that big-time football has created within Division I.
Baker’s recommendations accompany a significant lobbying effort by college officials to have the U.S. Congress pass national NIL legislation.
Observed: This is a very carefully conceived, very clever proposal which could help thread the Title IX needle, in view of enormous NIL payments being made to football players and very little to any women athletes outside of basketball.
Baker’s letter does not specify a male/female split of the half of a school’s athletes who would get the $30,000 or more annually in trust fund payments. So, with many football players getting significant NIL money directly (from donor collectives), the split of the $30,000+ payees could skew female and protect schools from Title IX “discrimination” claims.
This has a long way to go and there will be some Power-5 schools which will question their place in the new subdivision after another $7 million or so in athletics costs to support $30,000 a year for 250 athletes.
As has been the case for some time now, college athletics is all about football. If enacted in some fashion, Baker’s framework could keep schools out of court.
LetsRun: No $20 million deal for Richardson!
So not everything you read on the Internet is true?
LetsRun.com co-founder Weldon Johnson posted a Monday story headlined, “Sha’Carri Richardson DID NOT Sign a $20 Million Endorsement Deal with Nike”.
He noted that “there’s no evidence to support the claim that she signed a five-year, $20 million deal with Nike, despite its circulation on the internet and social media” citing the original report from a site called EquityAtlas.org, which he identified as “a content farm, or a website designed to get search engine traffic.”
Johnson is quite right that no announcement came from Nike, nothing was posted by the often-loquacious Richardson and no trumpet sounds from HSI Sports, Richardson’s new management firm.
Nike has supported Richardson through her difficult seasons following her marijuana suspension at the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2021, and her triumphs in 2023.
Richardson won the USA Track & Field Jackie Joyner-Kersee Award as the top female athlete of 2023 at last week’s USATF Annual Meeting.
≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP ≡
● Handball ● The 26th IHF Women’s World Championship, in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, concluded preliminary pool play with 24 teams moving on to the main round, and eight undefeateds left:
● A: Sweden (3-0), Croatia (1-1-1)
● B: Montenegro (3-0), Hungary (2-1)
● C: Norway (3-0; defending champion), Austria (2-1)
● D: France (3-0; 2017 champion), Slovenia (2-1)
● E: Denmark (3-0; 2021 bronze medalist), Romania (2-1)
● F: Germany (3-0), Poland (2-1)
● G: Spain (3-0; 2019 runner-up), Brazil (2-1)
● H: Netherlands (3-0; 2019 champion), Czechia (2-1)
The main round action begins on the 6th and continues to the 11th; the quarterfinals, semis and finals are on 12-13 December, 15 December and 17 December.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● The International Surfing Association commented on the newest developments in Tahiti over the construction of a new judging tower for the 2024 Olympic Games, including:
“The ISA was saddened and surprised to see that a test undertaken by the French Polynesian government resulted in the coral reef at Teahupo’o being damaged by a barge.
“As an International Olympic Federation, the ISA is responsible for the Olympic surfing competitions. Venue facilities and infrastructure are the responsibility of Paris 2024 Organizing Committee in coordination with the French Polynesian government.
“The determination that the old judging tower was not legally compliant was taken by the government of French Polynesia. As a result, the French Polynesian government and Paris 2024 decided to build a new tower.
“From the beginning of the proposal to host Olympic surfing in French Polynesia, the ISA has always insisted that the protection of the natural environment in Teahupo’o is a priority. This vision was agreed and is shared by all parties.
“The French Polynesian government has taken the decision to pause all further testing and preparations to draw lessons following the incident on the reef. The ISA welcomes this decision, and has urged intensified consultations to consider all available options.
“As life-long surfers, we are passionate about the need to protect the oceans, for us and for future generations. We are therefore committed to working with all parties in order to find a common agreement on running the competition while protecting the local, natural environment.”
● Archery ● World Archery announced a partnership with the FeedConstruct multi-national sports data company that will allow for betting to be integrated with World Archery events.
Said FeedConstruct head of content acquisition Narek Harutyunyan (ARM):
“Through this collaboration, we aim to elevate the popularity of archery as a betting market, providing accurate data insights for an enhanced fan experience. This partnership marks a significant milestone for both FeedConstruct and World Archery.”
● Athletics ● The Athletics Integrity Unit announced that it has filed an appeal to the finding of no violation by Kazakhstan star Norah Jeruto, the 2022 World Champion in the women’s Steeplechase.
Jeruto was charged with a provisional suspension in April for irregularities vs. her Athlete Biological Passport profile, but the case was thrown out and she was reinstated in November.
Harvard junior Graham Blanks followed up his win at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships with a collegiate record in the men’s 5,000 m, winning at the Colyear-Danville Opener in Boston last Saturday (2nd), unleashing a finishing kick to win in 13:03.78. He covered the last 400 m in 57.04, pulling away from Stanford’s Ky Robinson (AUS: 13:06.42) and Sam Atkin (GBR: 13:06.66).
The women’s NCAA X-C winner, Florida’s Parker Valby, got the women’s collegiate record at 5,000 m as well, winning in 14:56.11 – the first collegian under 15 minutes – with fellow American Annie Rodenfels (15:03.97) a distant second.
Valby’s time is the fastest collegiate women’s 5,000 ever, breaking Colorado star Jenny Simpson’s 15:01.70 indoors from 2009.
The Penn Relays announced that, in conjunction with World Athletics, international relays will be held during the 25-27 April program in the men’s and women’s 4×100 and 4×400 m.
The events are a week ahead of the World Athletics Relays in Nassau (BAH) – a crucial Olympic qualifier – and offer a tune-up opportunity.
● Boxing ● After months of saying nothing, the International Boxing Association finally displayed the logo of Russian energy giant Gazprom once again on its web site as the “General Partner” of the federation.
IBA head Umar Kremlev (RUS) obtained a two-year agreement for $50 million to get the IBA out of debt and fund its prize money and development programs that it hopes will keep national federations affiliated to it. In the run-up to the withdrawal of recognition by the IOC in June, the IBA refused to confirm the source of its funding after that deal expired, but with the IOC’s dismissal now concluded, the IBA is showcasing Gazprom once again.
Now everyone knows.
● Football ● The U.S. women faced China again in their final match of 2023, this time in Frisco, Texas, with a much different line-up – seven changes – and overcame a slow start to manufacture a 2-1 win.
The first half started slowly, with the U.S. looking confused on offense with so many line-up changes, but maintaining about 70% of possession and taking five shots at goal to one over the first 20 minutes.
Defender Jenna Nighswonger blasted a good-looking shot from just beyond the box in the 30th minute that was saved. The U.S. attack continued, but didn’t really pose a threat.
In stoppage time, China got a shock goal off a free kick, with midfielder Jinjin Yan sending a pass across the front of the U.S. goal that found defender Siqian Wang on the far side, who headed it across for a right-footed finish by defender Mengyu Shen past U.S. keeper Aubrey Kingsbury and a 1-0 lead at the half.
It was only the third goal scored against the U.S. in the run of play this year, ending a half in which the Americans had 65% of possession and an 8-3 edge on shots.
The offensive intensity increased for the U.S. in the second half, but without impact until the 62nd. Off a corner, the ball bounced around inside the box, finally coming out to midfielder Emily Sonnett, who then passed to her left to midfielder Sam Coffey, who left-footed a rainbow over China keeper Huan Xu for the 1-1 tie. It was Coffey’s first international goal.
Attacking midfielder Lindsey Horan scored on a header off a Jaedyn Shaw pass in the 67th, but was correctly called offsides. But the continuing pressure paid off in the 79th, when off a free kick that popped up off the defensive wall, forward Sophia Smith headed a pass to the top of the box for Shaw, who sent a hard liner through a lot of traffic and into the net for the 2-1 winner.
There were more U.S. chances, by Trinity Rodman and Sophia Smith, but without success. The U.S. finished with 64% possession and a 23-4 shots edge.
The match closed the book on 2023 for the U.S. women, who did not achieve their goals at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, but finished with 14 wins, one loss (on penalties) and three draws. The team will welcome new coach Emma Hayes (GBR) in 2024 in advance of their appearance at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
The first friendly against the Chinese on Saturday, a 3-0 U.S. win, drew a modest audience of 276,000 on TNT at 3 p.m., going up against the college football championship weekend games. The ABC telecast of the Big XII game between Oklahoma State and Texas drew 7.89 million and the monster SEC Championship between Georgia and Alabama had a staggering 17.52 million viewers on CBS.
The TNT pre-game show at 2:30 p.m. Eastern drew 149,000.
For our updated, 850-event International Sports Calendar (no. 4) for 2023 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!