TSX REPORT: Politico says L.A. delegation got a “wake-up call” in Paris; Russian sports minister says yes to Olympics; another Tokyo suspended sentence

Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin (Photo: FISU)

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1. Politico: L.A. Mayor Bass got wake-up call in Paris
2. Russian sports minister in favor of Paris participation
3. New priestess and costumes for Olympic Flame lighting
4. Equestrian: “the Olympic Games is seriously important”
5. Daiko’s Taniguchi gets suspended sentence in Tokyo 2020 case

● A Politico story on last week’s visit by Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and a delegation of officials said that Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo delivered a worrying message about the Olympic Games. What’s true is that civic issues and the Olympic and Paralympic Games are quite different things.

● Russian sports minister Oleg Matytsin said a formal policy on Russian athletes and participation at the 2024 Olympic Games is still to come, but that he is in favor of Russian athletes being allowed to compete in Paris.

● The Hellenic Olympic Committee unveiled new costumes, a new priestess and a new staff for the lighting of the Olympic Flame on 16 April 2024.

● As discussion within the equestrian world continues on the changes to Eventing for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, U.S. Equestrian Federation sports director David O’Connor explained that the new format is a positive for the sport because being in the Olympic Games is good for the sport.

● Another suspended sentence in the Tokyo 2020 sponsorship pay-for-play scandal as an executive from Daiko Advertising was the 12th to be convicted and the 12th to get a suspended sentence.

Panorama: Paris 2024 (2: Clarkson, Manning, Guthrie and Kotb to join Tirico for opening; L.A. artist Saar chosen to create IOC-commission sculpture for Paris) = World Anti-Doping Agency (first Play True Awards presented in Lausanne) = Cross Country Skiing (Norway’s Klaebo and Skistad sweep Drammen Sprint) = Ski Jumping (Kraft and Prevc score wins at Raw Air in Trondheim) ●

Politico: L.A. Mayor Bass got wake-up call in Paris

“Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass got a bracing reality check about preparing for the Olympics from her Parisian counterpart, who warned her that 2028 is sooner than it appears.”

That’s the start of a Politico story on Tuesday, which characterizes a “Gloomy outlook in Paris” for the 2024 Games and cites low poll numbers for support of the Games, principally on security concerns and transportation restrictions that will be imposed by authorities for both security and to allow Olympic traffic to access the venues and training sites.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo met with Bass and others in the delegation and told the Los Angeles team that time, even now, is of the essence. According to City Council member Paul Krekorian:

“One message that has resonated through all our meetings: ‘Start early, start early, start early.’”

The Los Angeles delegation spent considerable time checking on the Paris response to homelessness, which Hidalgo has said her administration has not gotten under control. But in Los Angeles, this is one of the highest-profile issues confronting the City of Los Angeles, County of Los Angeles and State of California. Said Bass during the visit:

“The biggest thing that’s different is that they have a much stronger social safety net, so they have more resources to provide to people. The numbers are nowhere near where our numbers are.

“For us, just moving people around is not going to be the solution. We know that very well. We need to continue to get people housed. Fortunately, we have four years, so we really need to address our population because we could never just have our Games with the numbers of people that we have on our streets.”

A June 2023 survey for the City of Los Angeles listed 32,680 “unsheltered,” and 55,155 in the County of Los Angeles. The total for Paris, according to the story, is about 3,500.

Hidalgo, a Socialist, has been in a war of words with public officials of other parties which are in charge of the regional (Ile-de-France) transportation systems, who do not share her dim view of the situation.

But Krekorian “said there will be no parking places at any of the Games venues” and added:

“We’re going to have to acquire buses, rent buses and drivers and everything from probably all over the country to be able to do that. We hope to get the federal government to pay for this.”

Council member Katy Yaroslavsky noted Hidalgo’s determination to impose more sustainability elements in Paris, including more bike lanes:

“What excites me most about these Games and the opportunities they present for Los Angeles is really how they’ve served as a catalyst for Paris to implement sustainability goals in a really big, bold way.”

Observed: Hidalgo’s message of worry to the Los Angeles delegation underscores one of the little-appreciated divides between the reality of the Olympic Games and that of the city or region that it is held in.

The Los Angeles bid for the 2024 Games, later for 2028, was not conditioned on new transit lines or U.S. federal grants. It presented the Southern California region as it is, with more than a dozen professional sports teams, more than a hundred collegiate teams at various levels, hundreds of high schools – all with their own facilities – and an infrastructure that services 9.83 million people in Los Angeles County alone.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2028 will take advantage of that infrastructure and use the facilities that today support teams like the Dodgers, Angels, Rams and Chargers, Clippers, Lakers, Ducks, King, Galaxy, LAFC and Angel City FC, UCLA, USC and many more. All the issues that Hidalgo warned about are issues today and somehow thousands of events take place in Los Angeles every year.

But homelessness, traffic, air quality and safety are permanent questions, that Hidalgo, Bass and their fellow elected officials struggle with on a daily basis. They will be present during the 2024 and 2028 Games as well and what is done about it is up to those officials and the governments they run. For Los Angeles, the solutions should be determined, funded and implemented now, not because the Games are coming, but because these are problems that need to be solved.

Veteran organizers of events like Olympic Games, Pan American Games, Universiades and so on know this and the LA28 organizers and the City of Los Angeles are engaged in a unique, long-term working relationship that really got going in 2021 with an extensive Games Agreement that commits the City and the organizing committee into a close relationship for the duration.

And in Games after Games, the public support assassins are in high dudgeon for years ahead of time over civic problems that they desperately try to tie to the Games, of which few or none are remembered after – somehow – the Games come off successfully.

In Los Angeles, this was true in 1932 and in 1984. And it will be true in 2028, but as before, there will be thousands – in fact, tens of thousands – who will be working to prepare, present and stage the Olympic and Paralympic Games to a world-class standard.

Russian sports minister in favor of Paris participation

Although the final recommendations on whether Russian athletes can or will be allowed to participate at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris are yet to come from the Russian Sports Ministry and the Russian Olympic Committee, sports minister Oleg Matytsin came out with his strongest stance on participation on Wednesday:

“Everyone is talking these days about the issue of Russia’s potential participation in the upcoming Olympics, and my stance is that we must not be turning our backs, isolating ourselves and boycotting the [Olympic] movement.

“We must preserve the opportunity for dialogue as much as we can and compete in this tournament.

“This concerns those athletes who have already secured the right [to compete] through qualifying competitions: wrestlers, judokas, taekwondo fighters, tennis players, and there will be more to come in other sports disciplines.

“We will see what the final decision of the International Olympic Committee Executive Board will be about, when it convenes for its session on March 18-19, but as of today their position is that there would be no additional recommendations and regulations.

“We are unable to work out general recommendations for all federations, because each international athletic federation exploits its own approach with some of them prohibiting our participation, while some others allow it but under a neutral status.

“As soon as the IOC Executive Board meeting is over, we will come up with the final decision jointly with international sports federations. It is extremely important for athletes and our society to maintain a dialogue and provide our athletes with the opportunity to prove in an honest competition that we represent a great sports power.

“I am not in favor of rushing things up. I hope that the IOC will have enough time to express its stance regarding the regulations and the prospects for the participation of athletes from Russia and Belarus at the 2024 Olympics.

“Only after that, with all the legal information at hand, we should decide jointly with the [international sports] federations and athletes about the Olympics’ participation.

Matytsin said that while the Russian Olympic Committee’s input is crucial, he believes the decision is ultimately for his ministry:

“We are in a constructive dialogue. The Olympic Committee is a public organization that plays a significant role in organizing the sports movement in the Russian Federation. Therefore, we will carefully consider the proposals that will be made at the ROC executive committee.

“But the state policy in the field of sports is determined by the government. The government has approved a development strategy until 2030, a concept for the development of children’s and youth sports, a concept and standards for training a sports reserve. We focus primarily on the goals outlined by the President of the Russian Federation. The main task is to ensure the maximum involvement of our citizens in sports and physical education, to provide them with infrastructure, to guarantee a high standard and quality of training of sports personnel, to conduct scientific research, to create a highly competitive sports environment in elite sports.”

The ROC Executive Committee is scheduled to meet on Thursday, 14 March.

New priestess and costumes for Olympic Flame lighting

The Olympic Flame will be lit by the sun’s rays on 16 April and begin the journey that will end in Paris on 26 July at the opening ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

The traditional ceremony in Olympia will have a new look for 2024, as the Hellenic Olympic Committee announced on Tuesday a new cast and a new look:

“The Chairman of the Olympic Torch Relay Commission of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, Thanasis Vasileiadis, introduced the new priestess, award-winning actress Mary Mina, and the new composer, internationally recognized Dimitris Papadimitriou.

“He also announced that ‘our Nana Mouskouri, the internationally renowned presenter Nikos Aliagas, the internationally acclaimed soprano Joyce DiDonato, the choreographer Artemis Ignatiou as well as the soprano Myrsini Margariti and the tenor Babis Velissarios will be present at the Olympic Lighting ceremony. Also, the artistic director Fokas Evangelinos, Musical Ensembles, and the choir of ERT, Children Choirs, the female choir CHORES, and the Wolves Team.’”

Special honors were made to former priestess Xanthi Georgiou, composer Giannis Pseimadas and costume designer Eleni Kyriakou.

The new outfits for the lighting ceremony, created by designer Mary Katrantzou, were also introduced, with references to ancient Greek artistic themes. Uniforms and parade wear for the Greek team for Paris was also introduced, to be provided by HOC sponsor 4F.

Following the lighting ceremony on 16 April, the Olympic Flame will circulate within Greece on an 11-day route before being transferred to French control on 26 April. It will be transported on the French sailing ship Belem to Marseille, where it will begin its 68-day journey through France on 8 May.

Equestrian: “the Olympic Games is seriously important”

Discussion within the sport of equestrian and at the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) over changes to the format of the Eventing competition in Los Angeles for 2028 continues to boil, with purists angered by the “watering down” of the format and the shorter cross-country component.

All of this came from a request from the International Olympic Committee and its Olympic Broadcasting Services subsidiary to showcase Eventing (formerly known as the “Three-Day Event’) in a more digestible and dramatic format. Beyond the standard Dressage on day 1 and Jumping on day 2, the team medals would be determined after a short-course Cross Country stage on day 3. The individual medals would then be determined on a fourth day with a final Jumping event.

FEI Eventing Committee Chair and U.S. Equestrian Federation Director of Sport David O’Connor was asked by The Chronicle of the Horse about the changes, and he underscored the differences between FEI league events and world championships, and the Olympic Games:

Here, is this going to change the sport? No, because I don’t think there’s any desire or thought process of changing the other championships, the championships that are run by the FEI. So the world championships are going to stay exactly the same because they are the FEI’s competition.

“This is not the FEI’s competition. This is the IOC’s competition, of which we are invited guests. So, I think, stay in the Olympic Movement for its exposure, stay in the Olympic Movement because it gives goals for athletes and horses. As long as the core concepts of Eventing are the same, which is, no. 1, riding the same horse in three different disciplines, and also having an element of galloping, which is so different from the other two disciplines.”

O’Connor, a two-time U.S. Olympian, a three-time medal winner in Eventing and the 2000 Olympic Eventing gold medalist, also emphasized the value of what the requested changes bring to the worldwide Olympic audience:

“Obviously, I’m an Olympian, right? So I’m a big [proponent] of promoting the Olympic Games and what it does for people in the industry, and the fan base, and all that kind of stuff. These are the TV people that want to promote the sport better, you know, in a bigger way. Because [the short format] is a sport that we already practice, they said, ‘We think that this is way more exciting.’ I think you have to listen to that.

“If we’re going to be judged by media, right, which is what the Olympic Games is – you’re always judged by how many people are watching, what the interest is – and the TV people are saying, ‘We think that format is really much more celebratory of your sport,’ I think you have to listen to it, and that’s what happened.”

The specifics of the format and how it will work exactly is still being developed, with FEI regulations due in 2025 to help riders prepare for the 2028 Olympic format. He noted the wide use of the short format for Eventing, with just the cross-country element, instead of roads and tracks, steeplechase, another road and tracks segment and then cross-country:

“I would disagree that it’d be watered down, and how different it is. We actually do this sport already, right? This is something that we do every single weekend all around the world [with short-format events], including in some big competitions, like Aachen [CHIO in Germany] or in Nations Cups, things like that. So there are some pretty big competitions that are run in this format, and obviously Aachen is one of the tougher competitions in the world. So that’s no. 1. …

“No. 2 would be that there’s no question that being on that stage at the Olympic Games is seriously important for the exposure of the sport. No matter what everybody says, everybody wants to go. There’s not a competitor that actually doesn’t want to go, right? The Olympic Games has always produced a person that has the quality of an Olympic champion, no matter what the format is.”

Daiko’s Taniguchi gets suspended sentence in Tokyo 2020 case

Another bribery conviction related to the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee’s sponsorship pay-for-play scandal on Tuesday, and another suspended sentence.

Former Daiko Advertising executive Yoshikazu Taniguchi was convicted of bribing Tokyo 2020 Executive Committee member Haruyuki Takahashi, paying ¥6 million (about $40,605 today) to obtain assistance in getting Olympic work from Tokyo 2020 sponsors.

Japanese prosecutors identified three companies who became Tokyo 2020 supporters (third tier) or licensees, and two ad agencies who paid bribes to Takahashi for either sponsorship designations, or access to organizing committee sponsors for ad work. Daiko was alleged to have paid a total of ¥26 million to Takahashi.

A total of 15 people were indicted, and the 12 who have been found or pled guilty have all received suspended sentences. Taniguchi, 59, received a sentenced of two years in prison, suspended for four years.

Takahashi’s trial has begun; he pled not guilty and the next hearing is expected in April.

The court sentenced 59-year-old Taniguchi to two years in prison, suspended for four years, which was in line with the prosecution’s request for a two-year prison term.


● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● NBC’s primary Olympic Games host Mike Tirico announced on Tuesday’s “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” that former football star and celebrity endorser Peyton Manning and award-winning singer and television host Kelly Clarkson will join him for coverage of the Olympic opening in Paris on 26 July.

“TODAY Show” hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb will also be part of the opening coverage, from a bridge along the 6 km route along the Seine River. Clarkson, Manning, and Tirico will be located at the Trocadero, near where the protocol elements of the show will take place. According to the announcement:

“NBC and Peacock will present live coverage of the Opening Ceremony on Friday, July 26, beginning at Noon ET. Telemundo will provide Spanish-language coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET. Primetime coverage will begin at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT on NBC and Peacock.”

The International Olympic Committee announced a commission for “an artwork that will be installed in the French capital to honour the legacy of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Paris 2024″ by Los Angeles-based sculpture Alison Saar:

“Saar succeeds French artist Xavier Veilhan, who created The Audience (2021) for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

“The sculpture is an initiative of Olympic Art Visions, through which the IOC invites a renowned visual artist to create an original artwork inspired by sport and the Olympic values, to be presented in a publicly accessible space in the city hosting the Games.”

She was selected from a panel of invited artists by an advisory panel that included the IOC, the Paris 2024 organizing committee and the City of Paris. Saar’s work will be produced in France and will be unveiled on Olympic Day, 23 June.

● World Anti-Doping Agency ● WADA celebrated its first 25 years with a special ceremony at its 18th Annual Symposium in Lausanne and presented its first-ever “Play True Awards,” recognizing the organization’s first three leaders, and awardees from each of the main stakeholder groups:

Athletes: Ben Sandford (NZL bobsledder), former Chair of WADA’s Athlete Committee.

International Sport: Thomas Bach (GER), President of the International Olympic Committee, which provides approximately 50 % of WADA’s funding.

Public Authorities: Dr. Rahul Gupta (USA), Director of the White House National Drug Control Policy; governments provide approximately 50% of WADA’s funding.

Richard Pound (CAN), WADA Founding President (1999-2007).
John Fahey (NZL), WADA President (2008-2013; now deceased).
Craig Reedie (GBR), WADA President (2014-2019).

WADA plans to continue this recognition program at future editions of the Symposium.

● Cross Country Skiing ● When you’re hot, you’re hot. Even if it’s on snow.

Norway’s four-time World Cup seasonal winner Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo won his fourth World Cup event in a row on Tuesday, taking the men’s Classical Sprint in front of home fans in Drammen (NOR) in 2:35.89. He led a Norwegian sweep, trailed by Haavard Taugboel (2:36.98) and Even Northug (2:37.21). American James Schoonmaker was sixth in 2:40.34.

Norway’s Kristine Skistad won her third World Cup race of the season – all Sprints – in 3:01.25, ahead of Sweden’s Linn Svahn (3:01.88) and American Rosie Brennan (3:03.07), who won her fifth medal of the season. Seasonal leader Jessie Diggins of the U.S. was eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Diggins has a 2,490 to 2,388 lead over Svahn with three events left at Falun (SWE) next week: a Classical Sprint, Classical 10 km and Freestyle 20 km Mass Start.

● Ski Jumping ● The seasonal leaders had a big day in Trondheim (NOR) as the second of three stages of the annual Raw Air competition in Norway finished on Wednesday.

Tuesday’s first competition off the 105 m hill saw Japan’s Beijing 2022 Normal Hill gold medalist Ryoyu Kobayashi get his third win of the season, scoring 280.9 points to 280.0 for Slovenia’s four-time Olympic medal winner Peter Prevc, with Jan Hoerl (AUT: 279.0) third.

On Wednesday, jumping was off the 1348 m hill and it was all Austria, starting with three-time World Champion and season’s leader Stefan Kraft, who took his 12th victory of the season at 291.8, followed by teammates Daniel Tschofenig (290.0), then Hoerl (288.8) in third and Daniel Huber in fourth (277.8). It’s Austria first all-four finish in a World Cup since 1980 (!), and the 42nd career World Cup gold for Kraft.

Tuesday’s women’s jumping had Norway’s home favorite Eirin Kvandal winning at 256.0, her second straight World Cup victory. Austria’s Eva Pinkelnig, the 2023 Worlds runner-up, was second (255.4) and Slovenia’s Nika Kriznar got third (255.2).

Seasonal leader Nika Prevc (SLO: 18) – the younger sister of brothers Peter, Cene and Domen – won for the seventh time on Wednesday, scoring 260.2 to 258.6 for Kvandal and 256.8 for Pinkelnig.

Action moves to the giant, 240 m ski-flying hill in Vikersund for the final two competitions of the Raw Air tournament on Saturday and Sunday.

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