TSX REPORT: Paris opening plans for 326,000 spectators; IOC allowed to suspend Russia says court; Kerr rips Indoor T&F Worlds prize money

Josh Kerr (GBR), the World Athletics Indoor men's 3,000 winner, was unimpressed with the $40,000 first-place prize money (Photo by Dan Vernon for World Athletics).

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1. Paris 2024 Olympic opening expected to have 326,000 spectators
2. CAS: IOC correct in suspending Russian Olympic Committee
3. Halep doping ban ended by Court of Arbitration for Sport
4. Not much interest in World Indoor T&F on U.S. TV
5. British star Josh Kerr rips World Indoor prize money

● The French Interior Minister told a Senate hearing that the Olympic opening on the Seine on 26 July will have 104,000 ticketed spectators on the lower quays and 222,000 with free tickets on the upper quays, setting the expected attendance at 326,000, the most ever.

● The Court of Arbitration for Sport released the full decision of its holding that the International Olympic Committee was fully within its rights to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee for absorbing four regional sports organizations last October that were under the jurisdiction of Ukraine, but were “annexed” by Russia through its 2022 invasion.

● Romanian tennis star Simona Halep had her doping ban cut from four years to nine months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The panel found that her ingestion of a prohibited substance was not intentional; she is now immediately eligible to play again.

● Television viewership for the one World Athletics Indoor Championships show on NBC last Sunday was poor compared to the audiences for the three U.S. indoor meets held in February. Modest audiences were also seen on NBC for FIS Alpine World Cup events, and also for ESPN Deportes Spanish-language coverage of the CONCACAF W Gold Cup on Sunday.

● British distance star Josh Kerr, winner of the World Indoor men’s 3,000 m, called the $40,000 first prize “crazy versus other sports” and lobbied for World Athletics to do more. He said he was in favor of a “league” concept, such as the one being championed by Atlanta 1996 superstar Michael Johnson.

Panorama: Los Angeles 2028 (L.A. Mayor Bass leads delegation to meet Paris 2024) = Canadian Olympic Committee (COC and CPC ask government for another C$104 million in funding) = U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (2: Judo places new resident team at Charlotte Performance Center; four Team USA Community Champions named) = Athletics (3: 2029 Worlds sought by London; Moon to organize own vault meet in Ohio; Kenyans refused to compete in African Games trials!) = Cycling (Mountain Bike World Cup comes to Lake Placid) = Football (Saudi Arabia opens bid “campaign” for sure-to-be-awarded 2034 World Cup) = Gymnastics (Euro Gymnastics’ first “online” competition – with prize money – held successfully) ●

Paris 2024 Olympic opening expected to have 326,000 spectators

More details for spectators of the 2024 Olympic Games opening along the Seine River were disclosed on Tuesday at a French Senate hearing by French Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin, with further restrictions placed on those on the upper quays along the river.

Tickets for the ceremony with seating on the lower quays next to the water have been on sale for months and Darmanin said that 104,000 paying spectators will be admitted.

However, the free viewing places on the upper quays – originally estimated to be as high as 500,000 – are currently planned at 222,000. Everyone will be required to have a ticket, and Tuesday’s announcement explained that owing to security considerations, these passes will be distributed by the French government to residents of towns or districts where other Olympic events will be held, to French sports federations and other groups.

“To manage crowd movement, we can’t tell everyone to come,” Darmanin said. “For security reasons that everyone understands, notably the terrorist threat of recent weeks, we are obliged to make it free but contained.”

Those invited to use the free tickets for the upper quays will be required to undergo a security check and receive QR codes to be able to access their area for the ceremony on 26 July. The number of free tickets for the upper quays could be reduced at a later date.

Darmanin told reporters that security checks are being made of about 1,000,000 people related to the Games in some way, and that 89,000 checks had been completed so far. Of those, 280 were rejected for security reasons.

Even so, the now-projected total of 326,000 spectators would be – by far – the most to ever see an Olympic opening ceremony live, and another 50,000 are expected to watch from giant screens at fan sites elsewhere in Paris. The French government plans to close off all air traffic within a 90-mile radius of the ceremony.

CAS: IOC correct in suspending Russian Olympic Committee

The written decision from the Court of Arbitration for Sport denying the appeal of the Russian Olympic Committee to its suspension by the International Olympic Committee pointed to the rogue nature of the Russian invasion of Ukraine as the primary reason.

The Russian Olympic Committee’s explanation is that its 5 October 2023 absorption of what had been Ukrainian sports organizations in Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson came only after the Russian government declared them as part of the Russian Federation, and therefore under the jurisdiction of the ROC.

However, the Court of Arbitration’s 24-page decision was posted Wednesday and pointedly noted how the IOC has tied itself to international law and the international community:

● “The IOC, however, is an autonomous private association which under Swiss law can regulate and determine its own affairs. The ROC rightly accepts that, based on the autonomy of association under Swiss civil law, the IOC is free to adopt rules defining the territorial jurisdiction of an NOC that it recognises.”

● “An NOC can only exercise territorial jurisdiction within the limits of the boundary of an independent State recognised by the international community.

“It follows that, if the international community recognises the Regions as part of Ukraine, then the ROC’s decision to admit sports organisations from those regions as members violated the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian NOC, as protected by [Olympic Charter] Rule 28.5 and Rule 30.1.”

“The Panel considers that [United Nations] Resolution ES-11/4 is overwhelming evidence that the international community did not recognise the boundaries that Russia sought to achieve by its annexation of the Regions, and that accordingly the international community recognised as an independent State a Ukraine which included Regions.”

(U.N. General Assembly Resolution ES-11/4 held that the recognized boundary between Russia and Ukraine was as before the Russian invasion of February 2022, adopted by 143-5, with 35 abstentions.)

The decision interestingly dealt at length with the ROC claim that because the IOC did not suspend it after Russia invaded and took control of the Crimea in 2014, it should not suspend it now. The Panel replied that, in that case and others – such as the Israeli-Hamas conflict going on now – there was no reported absorption of Ukrainian sports organizations by Russia in the Crimea and no protest by Ukraine about it.

The Panel also, importantly, recounted its limits and those of the IOC:

“The Panel wishes to repeat with emphasis that the issues in the present case are not whether, as a matter of international law, Russia’s annexation of part of the Ukraine was lawful or where the lawful boundary lies between the two countries. These issues raise questions of sovereignty and politics and cannot and should not be resolved by IOC or CAS or national courts.”

Observed: This loss by the Russian Olympic Committee and the language of the decision by the CAS panel that the IOC can “determine its own affairs” likely foreshadows a loss for the International Boxing Association in its appeal against its expulsion from the Olympic Movement by the IOC last June. The IOC is now running the boxing qualifications for the 2024 Paris Games itself.

Halep doping ban ended by Court of Arbitration for Sport

Star Romanian tennis player Simona Halep had her doping suspension ended by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Tuesday, which announced that her four-year ban had been cut to nine months, which had already been served.

A former no. 1-ranked player during parts of 2017, 2018 and 2019, she is the 2018 French Open champion and 2019 Wimbledon winner. Now 32, she was suspended by the International Tennis Integrity Agency for the presence of the banned, red blood cell production accelerator Roxadustat, found during a test at the 2022 U.S. Open. The ITIA also charged that Halep’s Athlete Biological Passport indicated doping from a blood sample about a month later, in September 2022.

She was suspended as of 7 October 2022. The finding was:

“The CAS Panel has unanimously determined that the four-year period of ineligibility imposed by the ITF Independent Tribunal is to be reduced to a period of ineligibility of nine (9) months starting on 7 October 2022, which period expired on 6 July 2023.”

The announcement characterized the decision this way:

“Having carefully considered all the evidence put before it, the CAS Panel determined that Ms. Halep had established, on the balance of probabilities, that the Roxadustat entered her body through the consumption of a contaminated supplement which she had used in the days shortly before 29 August 2022 and that the Roxadustat, as detected in her sample, came from that contaminated product. As a result, the CAS Panel determined that Ms. Halep had also established, on the balance of probabilities, that her anti-doping rule violations were not intentional.

“Although the CAS Panel found that Ms. Halep did bear some level of fault or negligence for her violations, as she did not exercise sufficient care when using the Keto MCT supplement, it concluded that she bore no significant fault or negligence.”

In addition to the end of her suspension, the Panel also directed the ITIA to pay Halep – who has won more than $40 million in prize money during her career – CHF 20,000 for legal fees. The Women’s Tennis Association confirmed that she is immediately eligible to resume play; her last tournament was the 2022 U.S. Open.

Not much interest in World Indoor T&F on U.S. TV

After three straight indoor meets in February that drew more than a million viewers each on U.S. television, the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow (GBR) drew poorly in its only NBC time slot.

The meet was held from Friday through Sunday and streamed live in the U.S. on NBC’s subscription Peacock service, with delayed broadcasts on CNBC: Friday’s evening session on Saturday morning and Saturday’s evening session on Sunday morning. Sunday’s evening session was shown live on CNBC from 2-5 p.m.

But the only the one-hour highlights show of the first two days, from 12:30-1:30 p.m. on Sunday on NBC was reported by Nielsen as drawing more than 100,000 viewers, at 539,000. That’s way below the February numbers, all on NBC:

04 Feb.: 1.197 million for the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix
11 Feb.: 1.087 million for the Millrose Games
17 Feb.: 1.051 million for the USATF Indoor Nationals
03 Mar.: 539,000 for the World Indoor Championships

The taped track & field show was actually outdrawn by live coverage of the FIS Alpine World Cup skiing from Aspen, Colorado on NBC, that followed at 1:30 p.m. and had an average of 615,000 viewers for the second run of the men’s Slalom.

Taped coverage of the men’s Slalom the week prior at Palisades Tahoe, California that was shown at 2 p.m. Eastern on Saturday (2nd) had 403,000 viewers on NBC.

Both of Sunday’s shows – track and skiing – had dismal viewership among the 18-34 age group, with only 18,000 for each. The winner in that time period was the Iowa-Ohio State women’s basketball game with Caitlin Clark on Fox that drew 3.39 million and had 235,000 in the 18-34 demo.

Also on Sunday, there was some interest in the CONCACAF W Gold Cup matches shown live on ESPN Deportes in Spanish. With the English-language coverage only available the Paramount+ streaming service, the ESPND showing of Mexico-Paraguay at 5 p.m. Eastern averaged 205,000 viewers, and the U.S.-Colombia match at 8 p.m. averaged 257,000.

They both drew more 18-34 viewers, with 33,000 for Mexico-Paraguay and 62,000 for USA-Colombia.

British star Josh Kerr rips World Indoor prize money

The top six place winner at last weekend’s World Athletics Indoor Championships received prize money of $40,000-20,000-10,000-8,000-4,000, plus a $50,000 bonus for a world record, collected by Femke Bol (NED: women’s 400 m) and Devynne Charlton (BAH: women’s 60 m hurdles).

But that’s hardly enough according to men’s 3,000 m winner Josh Kerr (GBR), who won the 2023 Worlds 1,500 m in Budapest last summer (worth $70,000). He told reporters that more money is deserved:

“It was $40,000 to win on Saturday. That seems crazy versus other sports. Think about winning a World Championship. We need to bring some validity to these championships.

“We are very lucky to have the likes of Noah Lyles, Grant Holloway, Femke Bol; having amazing athletes come here and do their job. But those numbers are lower than appearance fees now for athletes of that calibre. We’ve got to find ways to attract athletes to race more and to race head-to-heads more. We need to race and we need to have head-to-heads and the way to do that is pay athletes good money to race a series of events.”

World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe (GBR) confirmed that World Athletics has had discussions about possible investments from national funds, and Kerr was asked about possible involvement by the controversial Saudi Public Investment Fund:

“We are walking a fine line with some of the LIV Golf stuff. But if people want to come and invest money in the sport then I think it is needed.

“I do think World Athletics are doing what they can to interest investors and try and bring some more eyeballs But that’s what 2024 is about. We have another Olympic Games to try and bring the viewership up, bring the sponsorships in and I think it’s definitely needed.”

He also said he’s interested to know more about the new “league” being organized by 1996 Atlanta Olympic icon Michael Johnson – a BBC commentator – in coordination with Winners Alliance:

“There is not a lot of detail but he has a large voice on the scene and wants to make a bit of a ruckus, and that sounds great to me.

“From an athletes’ point of view, it’s going to give us options and options is what we are looking for to make a living and also show off our performances. As long as it’s clean athletics, then I am good with it.

“I’ve always gone with the idea that it would be cool to sign athletes to a league. If you could sign someone to a Diamond League, and have 12 guys race each other three times, I think that would be a situation where guys would start to think that financially it would make a lot more sense for them to worry more about the league than they would about a World Championship.”


● Olympic Games 2028: Los Angeles ● L.A. Mayor Karen Bass announced late Tuesday that a high-level delegation will leave Wednesday for Paris to meet with the 2024 Olympic organizers, learn about the 2024 Games plan and seek business development and coordination opportunities:

“The delegation includes Council President Paul Krekorian, Councilmember Traci Park, Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky, LA Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins, LA84 Foundation President and CEO Renata Simril and Priscilla Cheng, Senior Vice President for Government Relations at LA28. All three Councilmembers sit on the Ad Hoc Committee for the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Councilmembers Park and Yaroslavsky serve as Chair and Vice-Chair, respectively and President Krekorian was a member of the Ad Hoc Committee when the host city contract was signed.”

Said Bass in a statement:

“The City of Los Angeles must be prepared to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games. This trip is vital to that preparation while generating business development and learning from innovative housing, green transportation and infrastructure projects.

“If we wait until the Opening Ceremonies to be on the ground in Paris, we miss a crucial opportunity to learn from the City of Paris during their preparations to welcome the world this summer and this trip will allow us to fully immerse ourselves in the Olympic and Paralympic planning process in order to generate growth for Los Angeles.”

The L.A. delegation will visit Paris’ homeless response agencies to understand its program for the Olympic period and the redevelopment effort on Saint-Denis, headlined by the new Olympic Village development. The L.A. delegation will return on Sunday, 10 March.

As the Mayor of Los Angeles, Bass will be part of the Closing Ceremony of the Paris 2024 Games in the traditional “handover” ceremony in which the Olympic flag is passed from the host city to the next host.

● Canadian Olympic Committee ● More money. That’s what the Canadian Olympic and Canadian Paralympic committees are asking for from the national government. Their joint statement on Monday requests “$104M in additional annual federal sport funding” to be provided to the National Sports Organisations (Canada’s national governing bodies). (C$1 = $0.74 U.S.)

An increase to Canadian sport system funding is urgently needed for NSOs to continue their core work of supporting athletes, provincial federations and clubs across the country. The significant gap in funding of $104 million is caused by 19 years of inflation since the last increase to sport funding in 2005 ($20 Million), the sunsetting of issue-specific funding ($57 Million), and the cost of increased demands on NSOs from stakeholders ($27 Million).

“Now, NSOs are being asked to do even more, with fewer resources, and the important progress that has been made in safe sport, gender equity, community access and mental-health support, amongst others, is in jeopardy.”

The COC and CPC noted in their request that 90% of the NSOs rely on federal funding, that sport tourism was worth C$7.4 billion as recently as 2019 and that a “1% increase in physical activity can save a $1B a year.”

The request also pointed to continuing expansions in sports betting, with the possibility to use government revenues from that area to further support sport.

● U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee ● A fourth U.S. National Governing Body has established a resident team at the United States Performance Center in Charlotte, North Carolina: USA Judo. From the announcement:

“The full-time program based out of the United States Performance Center at the University of North Carolina will launch on March 25 under the direction of Head Coach Robert Eriksson – the four-time Olympic Coach for Sweden who was tapped to lead the new program last year.

“The program offers athletes access to in-state tuition and scholarships at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte as well as access to judo training and a wide breadth of sports performance assistance, including sports medicine, sports psychology, nutrition, strength and conditioning and rehabilitation support. Team members also will receive support for housing, training and competition expenses.”

USA Judo joins USA Field Hockey, USA Rugby and USA Taekwondo with resident teams in Charlotte, with other sports including archery, artistic swimming, football and bobsled and skeleton also in residence.

The USOPC Foundation named four current or former athletes as honorees for the Team USA Community Champions Award:

Jamal Hill (Swim Up Hill Foundation), Staci Mannella (Sisters in Sports Foundation), Kait Miller (New England Nordic Ski Association) and Peter Westbrook (Peter Westbrook Foundation) were selected based on their nonprofit work that benefits their communities. Each athlete will receive $25,000, of which half will be directed to the athlete’s nonprofit of choice and the other half awarded to the athlete.”

Hill and Mannella are Paralympians in swimming and skiing, while Miller was named to the 2018 Winter Olympic team in cross-country skiing. Westbrook was a five-time Olympian in fencing and the men’s Olympic Sabre bronze winner in 1984, the first U.S. men’s fencing podium in 36 years. His foundation has worked to give children in the New York City area access to fencing.

● Athletics ● UK Athletics chief executive Jack Buckner said Tuesday that it was exploring a bid for the World Athletics Championships in 2029, probably for London’s Olympic Stadium:

“We’d love to have another crack at 2029. We just do a great job. Everyone talks about the atmosphere at every event we’ve done.

“We have to do a feasibility study and look at the various options. We can’t definitely say it’ll be London, but it would be in our mind given the success before.”

London last hosted the Worlds in 2017 and had sell-out crowds and one of the most respected Worlds ever held. The 2025 Worlds will be in Tokyo and 2027 has been awarded to Beijing.

Olympic and World Champion Katie Moon of the U.S. is getting into meet management, announcing on Instagram her own vault meet:

“It’s officially happening! The Katie Moon Pole Vault Classic! I am so unbelievably excited to announce that, with the help of Nike and my agent Karen Locke, I am hosting my very own professional pole vault meet in Olmsted Falls, Ohio! On Saturday June 8th, the track where I fell in love with this sport will host some of the best women in the world in their lead up to the US Olympic Trials and Paris Olympic Games! Clear your schedules, and come out to cheer us on!”

The meet will be held at Olmsted Falls High School at 3 p.m. local time. No word on further details, fields or prize money yet.

Kenyan athletes refused to compete in last week’s national trials for the African Games in Ghana – which start on Friday (8th) – due to a 50%-plus cut in team size from the 2019 African Games in Rabat (MAR).

The Nation reported that the Kenya National Sports Council approved a squad of 16 men and 14 women (30 total), plus five coaches to go to Accra (GHA) for the African Games; the 2019 track & field team in Rabat was reported as 69 in total, and won 20 of Kenya’s 31 total medals at the Games.

Athletes at the trials in Nairobi were directed to the call room, but marched to the start line and simply sat down in protest. The announcement of the team size was apparently made only a week before the trials. Wow.

● Cycling ● New York’s state government invested more than $550 million in the Olympic Regional Development Authority to maintain and upgrade the famed venues in the Lake Placid area, used for the 1932 and 1980 Olympic Winter Games.

It made sense, therefore, for the 2023 Winter World University Games to be held there, but New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced that a significant summer-sport event would be coming to Mt. Van Hoevenberg: the UCI Mountain Bike World Series from 27-29 September.

A UCI Mountain Bike World Cup is a first for Lake Placid and an expansion of its traditional winter-sport orientation. Said Hochul, “New York State is building a year-round destination in the North Country, and I encourage New Yorkers and visitors to buy their tickets and be a part of this year’s festivities.”

This is not a one-off, either; the release explained that the ORDA “and Warner Bros. Discovery Sports, global promoter managing the broadcast, promotion, and organization of the WHOOP UCI Mountain Bike World Series, will enter into a three-year agreement to host the races and help grow the discipline worldwide.”

The U.S. leg of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup series had been held in 2019-21-22-23 at Snowshoe, West Virginia, and before that at Windham, New York in Greene County in 2010-11-12-14-15.

● Football ● Saudi Arabia, already conceded as the site of the FIFA World Cup in 2034 – it was the only bidder at last October’s deadline – began its “bid campaign” with the launch of its Web site and campaign logo last Friday.

The oil-rich nation of 32.2 million has been on a highly-publicized spending spree in sports, buying into football clubs, developing the LIV Golf project and attracting major events like the 2027 AFC Asian Cup football championship, 2029 Asian Winter Games in a new winter development in Trojena and the 2034 Asian Games in Riyadh, scheduled from 29 November to 14 December.

No dates have yet been announced for the 2034 World Cup; the 2022 edition in Doha (QAT) was held from 20 November to 18 December to avoid the summer heat in the Middle East.

Its candidature will be heavily criticized, as noted last year by BBC Sports Editor Dan Roan:

“Many critics will see this as the ultimate expression of ‘sportswashing’ – a form of soft power – by the biggest exporter of oil in the world – a country where there are grave concerns over women’s rights abuses, the criminalisation of homosexuality, the restriction of free speech, the continued use of the death penalty, the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and scrutiny over the country’s involvement in the conflict in Yemen.

“The Saudi authorities deny this, insisting their bid is designed to help modernise the country, to grow the game, inspire a youthful population, boost tourism, diversify the economy before the arrival of a post-oil world, and be a unifying force.”

● Gymnastics ● In a trailblazing, new competition format for European Gymnastics, the registered athletes get a timeframe to perform, record and upload their routine. Their work is then judged by a panel of Europe’s best judges, also from the comfort of their own home. And, fans could watch the action unfold on the Elevien app. What’s not to like?”

Sponsored by Newton, Massachusetts-based pharmaceutical company Elevien, the “European Gymnastics Online Series” debuted last weekend, with 45 male gymnasts in 14 countries performing, including some well-known stars. The competition on each apparatus was designed to be completed in 20 minutes.

Former American performer Eddie Penev (BUL) won on Floor (14.266), Croatia’s Filip Ude took the Pommel Horse title (14.300), Armenia’s three-time Euro medal winner Vahagn Davtyan won on Rings (14.800), Aurel Benovic (CRO: 14.333) took the Vault, Yordan Aleksandrov (BUL) won on Parallel Bars (14.300) and the Horizontal Bar went to Timo Eder (GER: 13.500).

Prize money of €400-200-100 (€1 = $1.09 U.S.) was available to the top three finishers, with two more rounds scheduled for 23 March and 13 April. It’s shown on the Elevien app only.

The instructions to the judges were straightforward:

“Elevien judging saves you time and lets you focus on what really matters: accurate evaluation. Play and pause the routines, type in the scores, and give them a final edit once you’re done – without any pen and paper.

“D [difficulty] judges can replay, slow down, zoom, and score routines with ease from their phone or desktop. And for E [execution] judges, marking deductions is as simple as tapping a button. Elevien handles all the calculations, so all you have to do is click ‘Save.’”

Is this the future? No more meets in person? It would certainly save on travel costs. But any cheering would have been provided by sound effects only.

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