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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Paris Mayor Hidalgo now says no Russian athletes in 2024
2. Nordic countries and Austria against Russian and Belarusian re-entry
3. France’s Pinturault wins Worlds Combined in Courchevel
4. Bettman non-committal on NHL players in 2026 Games
5. Solid TV audiences for figure skating and track & field
Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, changed her stance on whether Russian or Belarusian athletes can compete at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Acknowledging that the decision is really for the International Olympic Committee, she told FranceInfo radio that it is “not conceivable” to have these teams in Paris while the war continues in Ukraine. She did suggest that dissident Russian or Belarusian athletes might be admitted to the Games on the IOC’s Refugee Team. The National Olympic Committees of five Nordic countries issued a statement against any changes in the current ban on Russian and Belarusian participation in international sport, and the Sports Minister of Austria took issue with his own National Olympic Committee, stating that Russian and Belarusian athletes cannot compete at Paris with the war continuing, and noting that many of the Russian and Belarusian athletes are actually army members! At the FIS Alpine World Championships in France, home favorite Alexis Pinturault won his second Worlds gold in the Alpine Combined, ahead of defending champ Marco Schwarz of Austria. National Hockey League Commission Gary Bettman said player participation in the 2026 Olympic Winter Games will depend on the conditions provided by the organizer, the International Ice Hockey Federation and IOC, similar to the issues raised in the past. NHL players have not been part of the Winter Games since 2014. NBC garnered good television audiences for figure skating and track and field broadcast last weekend, with highlights of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships averaging 1.223 million viewers!
● Panorama: Errata = Figure Skating (Kostomarov’s feet amputated) = Football (Bolivia added to 2030 World Cup bid) = Gymnastics (abuse in Canada) = Shooting (ISSF World Cup in Jakarta) = Triathlon (leading 2022 money winners) ●
Paris Mayor Hidalgo now says no Russian athletes in 2024
Back on 26 January, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo (Socialist Party) told France2 television, “I think that it’s a sporting moment and we shouldn’t deprive athletes of the competition. But I think and what I’m arguing for, as is a large part of the sporting world, is that there isn’t a delegation under the Russian banner.”
On Tuesday, she changed her tune during an interview with FranceInfo public radio:
● “As long as there is this war, this Russian aggression on Ukraine, it is not conceivable to parade as if nothing had happened, to have a delegation that comes to Paris, while the bombs continue to rain on Ukraine.”
● “In fact, [a neutral status] does not really exist, because there are sometimes athletes who are dissidents. They march and compete under the refugee banner. The neutral banner was a [Russian] doping issue and that was the choice they [the International Olympic Committee] made. I am not in favor of this [neutral] option. I would find it totally indecent.”
● “In any case, we are not going to parade a country that is attacking another one and pretend that it does not exist. So I am not in favor of there being a Russian delegation to the Paris Olympics, especially if the war is still going on, which I do not want.”
Hidalgo did note that “It’s up to the IOC to decide. My wish is that there is none. I am not in favor,” and added, “I will express myself before, because we still have a little time before deciding.”
Hidalgo’s suggestion of assigning on-the-record, dissident Russian – and Belarusian – athletes to the IOC’s Refugee Team was also raised two weeks ago by The Sports Examiner, but has not been specifically mentioned by the IOC as a possible vehicle for their participation.
She was also asked about the complaints of a lack of air conditioning in the under-construction Olympic Village for the 2024 Games. “They will come, and they will see that they will be very well, … I have a lot of respect for the comfort of athletes, but I think a lot more about the survival of humanity.”
Hidalgo explained the Village “is entirely made with wooden buildings, with natural air conditioning” and that the “natural air conditioning works very well.
“Everyone will benefit, not only from these ideal conditions, but also from these first green Games that we wear and of which we will be very proud.”
Nordic countries and Austria against
Russian and Belarusian re-entry
The National Olympic Committees of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway, plus the Danish-affiliated territories of the Faroe Islands and Greenland and Finnish-affiliated Aland Islands, issued a Tuesday statement confirmed their formal opposition to Russian or Belarusian participation at Paris 2024, including:
● “The situation with the war in Ukraine has not changed.
● “Therefore, we stand firm in our position, not to open for Russian and Belarusian Athletes and officials in international sports participation.
● “Now is not the right time to consider their return; that is our position.
● “We, the Nordic Olympic and Paralympic Committees and Confederations of sports, take this opportunity to reaffirm our steadfast support once again with the Ukrainian people and the demand for peace.
● “The Nordic Olympic and Paralympic Committees and Confederations of sports will work together and in close dialogue with relevant stakeholders to evaluate and continuously monitor the situation closely.”
In Austria, Minister of Sport Werner Kogler told Der Standard that the government is against the IOC’s position and that Russian and Belarusian athletes cannot be included in the Paris Games (translated from German):
“It is simply unreasonable for Ukrainian athletes to compete against Russian and Belarusian athletes in the fight for medals.
“Such a blatant breach of international law must result in consequences and sanctions in all areas. With all due understanding for the situation of one or the other Russian or Belarusian athlete – my sympathy. This applies first and foremost to the families of those Ukrainian athletes – there are said to be around 220 to date – who lost their lives on the battlefield or as a result of Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure.
“The IOC’s criticism of Ukraine’s boycott considerations must be rejected.”
Kogler explained that significant numbers of the Russian and Belarusian Olympic teams are, in fact, members of the military:
“In Tokyo, 45 out of 71 [Russian] medals were won by army personnel. At the Beijing Winter Games, a third of the participants of the Russian Olympic Committee team served in the army.”
France’s Pinturault wins Worlds Combined in Courchevel
Alexis Pinturault is now 31 and has won a grand total of one medal – a bronze – in this season’s FIS Alpine World Cup. But he is a terror in the Combined.
On Tuesday, France’s Pinturault won his third consecutive FIS Alpine World Championships medal in the event, and won for the second time in front of a home crowd at Courchevel (FRA), winning by 0.10 seconds over Marco Schwarz of Austria.
Pinturault led from the start, with the fastest Super-G in the field at 1:08.25, but just 0.06 up on Schwarz, the defending champ in the Combined from the 2021 Worlds (where Pinturault was second).
Those two led off the Slalom racing, and they were close again, with Pinturault finishing in 45.06 for a 1:53.31 total and Schwarz just behind in 45.10 (1:53.41). Those turned out to be the nos. 3-4 fastest Slalom times, with Austria’s Raphael Haaser finishing third in the Super-G and third overall in 1:53.75.
American River Radamus stood fifth after the Super-G, then had the fifth-fastest Slalom, but moved up only to fourth in 1:54.00, missing a medal by 0.25. The U.S. also finished 9-10 with Erik Arvidsson (1:57.74) and Ryan Cochran-Siegle (1:58.56).
It’s Pinturault’s seventh Worlds medal (3-1-3) to go along with 34 World Cup wins, three Olympic medals (0-1-2) and four seasonal World Cup titles in the rarely-contested Combined. Schwarz, 27, won his sixth Worlds medal (1-2-3) and third in the Combined (1-1-1), while Haaser, 25, won his first career Worlds medal.
The FIS Worlds continue with the women’s Super-G at Meribel on Wednesday.
Bettman non-committal on NHL players in 2026 Games
Although Paris is next up on the Olympic calendar, the question of National Hockey League players participating in the 2026 Milano Cortina Olympic Winter Games is still percolating.
Commission Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly talked with International Ice Hockey Federation President Luc Tardif (FRA) during the All-Star Weekend in Florida and told reporters that nothing has been settled:
“We each re-expressed our desires to work together on a variety of fronts.
“I know it’s important to the players and they’d like to play in the Olympics, but certain things are going to have to be done by some combination of the International Olympic Committee, the International Ice Hockey Federation, and the local organizing committee in order for that to be reality.
“If they do those things, which is not a whole lot dissimilar to what’s been done in the past, then we’ll be happy to go.”
“I think most importantly we were aligned with the IIHF in our conversation as to what the issues are and what needs to be done. We’re in lockstep on that.”
NHL players first participated in the Winter Games in 1998 and continued through 2014, with the NHL skipping the 2018 PyeongChang Games and then the 2022 Beijing Games due to worries over the coronavirus pandemic.
The historical issues for the NHL have been on scheduling – how long will the players be away – on who pays for travel and support costs for the players and on insurance coverage for injuries. An agreement will involve at least the NHL, NHL Players Association, the IIHF and the IOC, with the latter having picked up a significant part of the costs in the past.
Solid TV audiences for figure skating and track & field
With no (tackle) football on television for the first time since August, auto racing, basketball and golf were the most-watched sports in the U.S., but three Olympic-sport events also did well:
● U.S. Figure Skating Championships highlights on NBC on Sunday (5th) drew 1.223 million viewers, consistent with its audience in non-Olympic years.
● NBC’s highlights package of the European Figure Skating Championships on Sunday at 2 p.m. – prior to the U.S. Champs show – drew a respectable 742,000.
● NBC’s two-hour live broadcast of the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix from Boston on Saturday (4th) averaged 866,000, not at all bad for a non-championship event.
For comparison, NBC showed only one indoor track & field meet in 2021 and 2022; the USATF Indoor Nationals in 2021 averaged 990,000 viewers and the Millrose Games in 2022 averaged 929,000. NBC will have this week’s Millrose Games on Saturday at 4 p.m. Eastern and the USATF indoors from Albuquerque, New Mexico on 18 February, also at 4 p.m.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Errata ● In Tuesday’s post, some readers saw an incorrect reference to American rower Jan Palchikoff as a 1976 Olympic rowing bronze medalist in the women’s Eights. In fact, Palchikoff was fifth in the Double Sculls; this has been corrected on the site.
● Figure Skating ● Turin 2006 Olympic Ice Dance champion Roman Kostomarov was reported to be fighting for his life in a Moscow hospital after a severe case of pneumonia that caused his feet to be amputated.
Kostomarov, now 45, partnered with Tatiana Navka to win two Worlds golds in Ice Dance in 2004 and 2005, was admitted on 10 January in critical condition and placed on life support. TASS reported that he continues to be in intensive care.
● Football ● The race for the FIFA World Cup in 2030 continues, with the South American bid from Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay now adding Bolivia as a fifth host country.
A presentation in Buenos Aires (ARG) was held on Tuesday, with plans for Argentina to host the opening match and the final in Uruguay, which was the host for the first FIFA World Cup in 1930.
Other announced bids include Spain, Portugal and Ukraine together, and Morocco – bidding for the sixth time – and a possible a cross-confederation bid from Egypt, Greece and Saudi Arabia.
● Gymnastics ● A 19-tweet thread posted Monday by Gymnasts for Change Canada details public accusations of misconduct against 15 individuals and additional cases of sexual abuse, child pornography, psychological abuse and more and asked:
“What has not reached the surface yet? How many survivors are still being silenced?
“Judicial. Inquiry. Now.”
● Shooting ● The ISSF World Cup in Rifle and Pistol in Jakarata (INA) concluded a little early on Saturday with the cancellation of the last events, but with Kazakhstan leading the medal table with 11 (3-5-3), followed by Korea (8) and Austria and Switzerland (7).
Three shooters won multiple golds: Jan Lochbihler (SUI) in the men’s 50 m Rifle/Prone final and in the Mixed Team event; Hungary’s Eszter Meszaros in the women’s 10 m Air Rifle and the Mixed Team final, and Korean Ye Jin Oh in the women’s 10 m Air Pistol and the women’s Team final.
Kazakhstan’s two individual golds were in the men’s 25 m Rapid-Fire Pistol by Nikita Chiryukin, and the women’s 50 m Rifle/3 Positions by Arina Altukhova.
● Triathlon ● Triathlete.com dug into the top money winners in the sport during 2022, including not only World Triathlon events, but also the Ironman series, Professional Triathlon Organization races and others. The money leaders:
Long Course (Half Ironman and up):
● Men: $480,000 for Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR)
● Women: $351,368 for Ashleigh Gentle (AUS)
Short Course (Olympic distance and Sprints):
● Men: $235,000 for Hayden Wilde (NZL)
● Women: $273,000 for Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR)
The study showed 62 money winners in Short Course men’s racing and 52 women in 2022.
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