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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. OnLocation’s Paris 2024 hospitality packages announced
2. IOC picks joint EBU-WBD bid for 2026-2032 Games
3. WADA report shows 2021 testing levels heading back up
4. More than 500,000 tickets sold for ‘23 FIFA Women’s World Cup
5. Track & field’s Bob Hersh – “The Commissioner” – passes at 82
The Paris 2024 hospitality packages by OnLocation are now on sale, with a variety of programs available. They aren’t cheap, but the project will bring millions to the International Olympic Committee that might have gone to high-end tour operators previously. The IOC agreed to a joint proposal from the European Broadcasting Union and Warner Bros. Discovery that allows both to have rights to the Olympic and Winter Games from 2026-32. The World Anti-Doping Agency released its testing report for 2021, showing that testing volumes have not quite returned to pre-pandemic levels, but pretty close. FIFA announced that it has sold more than 500,000 tickets so far for July’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, and expectations are high to surpass the all-time attendance record set in France for the 2019 edition. Bob Hersh, an American lawyer who made enormous contributions to the sport of track & field and rose to Senior Vice President of the IAAF (now World Athletics), sadly passed away on Wednesday at age 82.
OnLocation’s Paris 2024 hospitality packages announced
“Guests will have a chance to select from up to three different levels of service; availability will depend on the sport session and/or venue.
“● Gold (€€€): A prime location within the venue featuring a gourmet tasting menu and exclusive sports moments, with the opportunity to upgrade to a seated dinner in certain venues
“● Silver (€€): First-class hospitality with a gourmet buffet
“● Bronze (€): Informal and relaxed hospitality experience”
That’s some of the detail now available from the International Olympic Committee’s new hospitality program for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, being run by OnLocation, a veteran, New York-based company owned by the entertainment conglomerate Endeavor. OnLocation has been involved with the National Football League and other high-profile events for years and now has the Olympic project for Paris and beyond.
The initial offer site is now up and has event hospitality as well as accommodations-and-tickets programs available on a dedicated site. What does it cost? It costs quite a bit; some examples (€1 = $1.08 today):
● Athletics/03 August: This session includes the final of the women’s 100 m, with costs of €6,500 per person (plus tax) for Gold Level hospitality and a Category A ticket, €3,750 per person (plus tax) for Silver Level (and a Category A ticket) and €1,500 (plus tax) for Bronze Level and a Category B ticket, or €995 (plus tax) for Bronze and a Category C ticket.
For the men’s 100 m final on 4 August, the prices go up to €8,500 (A ticket), €4,900 (B ticket), €1,850 (B ticket) and €1,350 (C ticket).
The final two days with the 4×100 m and 4×400 m relays are less: €3,500-1,350-900-575 for 9 August and €4,900-1,850-1,350-750 for 10 August.
● Basketball/11 August: The women’s final has on-site options of €880 or €600 for Bronze hospitality and Category B or C tickets. No offer yet on the men’s final on the 10th.
● Football/09 August: This is the men’s final, with €950 for Bronze level hospitality and a Category “1st” ticket; no offer on the women’s final yet.
● Gymnastics/30 July: For the women’s Team final, the offers are €3,995 for Gold and a Category A ticket and €1,550 for Bronze and a Category B ticket at the Bercy Arena.
No on-site package is yet available for the women’s All-Around final, but for the three days of men’s and women’s apparatus finals, on-site programs go for €3,400 for Gold hospitality and a Category A ticket on 3 August, but €1,400 for 4 August (only Bronze-Category B offered) and back to €3,400 for 5 August.
● Swimming/28 July: The second day of swimming has a €2,950 package with Silver hospitality and a Category A ticket. Same for the 30th and 1-3-4 August, but the 31st is up to €4,250 for Silver and a Category A ticket! No on-site packages are shown for the 27th, 29th and 2nd.
● Closing Ceremony/11 August: This is at the Stade de France, with options of €4,750-2,150-1,500 for Gold (A)-Silver (B)-Bronze (C).
No offers are available – so far – for sailing or shooting, or surfing, which will take place in Tahiti.
Interestingly, none of these high-profile sports had a “season ticket” available for someone to take in all of the days of a single sport. Perhaps that will come later. No option for the Opening Ceremony has been posted yet.
The program is reportedly offering about 5,000 packages in total, incorporating about 750,000 tickets or only 7.5% of the total of 10 million Olympic tickets available. A less expensive off-site hospitality program is also available, centered at the Club House 24, at the Palais de Tokyo, in the middle of Paris, not far from the Eiffel Tower.
A separate group of accommodations-and-tickets packages are also available in 3-star and 4-star levels, mostly for three nights.
Observed: These are expensive packages and, of course, do not include airfare or – for the most part – accommodations. The IOC’s goal is to try and remove – as much as possible – independent tour packagers from the Olympic business and it will succeed to a large extent, but not completely. What this program will do is collect for the IOC and the Paris 2024 organizers millions of euros that previously went to high-end tour operators; more popularly-priced tours will continue on without much change.
As this is a first-time venture, how well these programs are managed will have a major impact on their future success.
IOC picks joint EBU-WBD bid for 2026-2032 Games
After working with the European Broadcasting Union of public entities to air the Olympic Games in Europe beginning in 1956 and then moving to the completely private Discovery for 2018-24, the IOC chose a middle path by accepting a joint proposal of EBU and Warner Bros. Discovery for the Olympic and Winter Games from 2026-32.
The agreement gives both groups wide access to the Games. The EBU public broadcasters will be back in the Olympic business for “free-to-air rights on television and digital platforms.” As for Warner Bros. Discovery, “it will continue to be the only place to present ‘every moment’ of the Games on its streaming and digital platforms, such as its leading sports and entertainment streaming service discovery+, and hold full pay-TV rights, including for its owned and operated Eurosport channels.”
The announcement noted that EBU’s rights were for 39 territories in Europe, while Warner Bros. Discovery has exclusive rights in 43 territories and non-exclusive rights in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Norway and Sweden.
No terms were disclosed; the contract for 2018-24 was for €1.3 billion (about $1.4 billion U.S.).
WADA report shows 2021 testing levels heading back up
After the pandemic wiped out most of the worldwide competition schedule – and the accompanying drug testing – in many sports, the World Anti-Doping Agency saw testing levels in 2021 that approached pre-pandemic levels.
The new report showed testing numbers returning, but not at 2019 levels in 2021, but pretty close:
● 2019: 227,032
● 2020: 127,483
● 2021: 207,008
● 2019: 278,047
● 2020: 149,758
● 2021: 241,430
Olympic-sport Adverse Findings:
● 2019: 0.67%
● 2020: 0.48%
● 2021: 0.49% (222)
Despite the advances in other forms of testing, urine specimens constituted 80.5% of all samples collected.
The largest sports by number of tests:
● 31.671 ~ Football (68 or 0.2% adverse findings)
● 31,178 ~ Athletics (184 or 0.6%)
● 20,617 ~ Cycling (146 or 0.7%)
● 16,263 ~ Aquatics (88 or 0.5%)
● 10,002 ~ Weightlifting (100 or 0.9%)
All of the summer Olympic sports had at least one adverse finding in 2021; the winter sports of bobsleigh & skeleton, curling and luge all had zero!
The worst sports for adverse findings were, not surprisingly, bodybuilding at 14.0% (97 out of 676) and arm wrestling: 9.0%, with 16 out of 177.
More than 500,000 tickets sold for ‘23 FIFA Women’s World Cup
FIFA announced that ticket sales for the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand surpassed the 500,000 mark, with the 64-match tournament to start on 20 July.
This will be the first Women’s World Cup with 32 teams and the record attendance of 1.131 million from the 2019 tournament in France – in 52 matches – is expected to be passed.
Fans from 120 countries have purchased tickets, led by Australia and New Zealand – of course – but then also the U.S., England, Qatar, Germany, China, Canada, Ireland and France among the top 10.
The tournament will get a dress rehearsal in New Zealand from 17-23 February as FIFA stages a play-in tournament for 10 teams with three spots available in the Women’s World Cup to come from: Portugal, Cameroon, Thailand, Chile, Haiti, Senegal, Chinese Taipei, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay or Panama.
Track & field’s Bob Hersh – “The Commissioner” – passes at 82
One of the most influential individuals in track & field in the 20th century and into the 21st, Bob Hersh, passed away on Wednesday at age 82 after a lengthy battle with cancer at Long Island, New York.
Starting as a team manager in high school and then at Columbia University, Hersh went on to become a prolific writer, announcer, statistician and critic of the sport and eventually part of its power structure, rising to Senior Vice President of the IAAF.
Among the U.S. track & field cognoscenti, he was universally known as “The Commissioner.” Why? He explained it in a 2018 interview with USA Track & Field on his induction into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame:
“[I]n the 1980s I developed the USA/Mobil Indoor Grand Prix. That was a program that brought together the meets on the North American indoor circuit, and there were more than a dozen of them at that time. I designed the Grand Prix, I wrote the rules, and I was the scorer and administrator; they actually at one point gave me the title of Commissioner.”
Hersh was a lawyer by trade, graduating from Harvard Law School and was a long-time counsel for the Equitable Life Assurance Society in New York. But he found plenty of time to immerse himself in his favorite sport.
He served the U.S. federation – as The Athletics Congress, then USA Track & Field – as Records Committee Chair (1981-88), Rules Committee Chair (1989-2001) and General Counsel (1989-97); he was an indispensable board member from 1981-2015.
Hersh served as the U.S. representative on the IAAF Council from 1999-2015, and was elected as Senior Vice President in 2011, the highest position in the federation ever held by an American. He was awarded the IAAF Silver Order of Merit in 2015 and until fairly recently was the head of the World Athletics Doping Review Board, which reviewed the eligibility of Russian athletes asking to compete as neutrals.
He was also the public address announcer for six Olympic Games – beginning in 1984 – and nine World Championships, but he was much more fun to talk to when he could express his opinions on many subjects, not just track & field.
Hersh was serious about the sport, but was a wonderful friend to so many who were involved in any capacity: athlete, coach, journalist, commentator, statisticians and fans. His staggering contribution to the sport, at times boisterous but over time more subtle and targeted, demonstrates the importance for every sport to attract people of integrity, talent and devotion to help make it better. Sometimes, it’s not all about the athletes.
He is survived by his wife Louise, who was with him for so many great moments they shared together at meets, and with friends from around the world.
≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ≡
● Handball ● The IHF men’s World Championship in Poland and Sweden has moved into the second round, with 24 of the 32 teams advanced to more round-robin play.
Spain (Group A), France (B), Sweden (C), Germany (E), Norway (F), Egypt (G) and defending champ Denmark (H) all went 3-0 in their matches. The U.S. lost its last group-play game to Egypt, 35-16, but advanced to the second round-robin in Group IV.
The second group matches will conclude on the 23rd and the quarterfinals will start on the 25th; the medal matches will be on the 29th.
● Hockey ● The 2023 FIH Men’s World Cup continues in Bhubaneswar (IND), with only the Netherlands still undefeated at 2-0 among the four groups and one more match to go. The top 12 teams will advance to knock-out rounds that begin on the 22nd.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Winter Games 2026: Milan Cortina ● The Lombardy Region President, Attilio Fontana, had reassuring comments on the organization of the 2026 Winter Games after a Monday meeting on the progress of the project:
“I feel like I can say that even those concerns that had been highlighted for some works will definitely be overcome.
“We certainly do not fear the Cassandras who, even in these hours, inexplicably, seem to hope that ‘everything will go wrong’: sportingly speaking, given that the theme is the Olympics, I can only confirm how our team is close-knit and compact and that, through a team game, it will get to the finish line by centering the goal of making itself ready for the 2026 Games.”
● World University Games ● The Winter World University Games in Lake Placid is heading toward the close on Sunday, with Japan the big winner through the first seven days.
The Japanese squad has won 31 total medals, way out in front, with France second at 11, Poland with 10 and the U.S. with eight. In fact, Japan has more golds – 15 – then France had total medals! Japan dominated the Nordic Combined, with eight total medals (4-3-1) and has won eight in Speed Skating (3-2-3): that’s more than half of their total.
The host U.S. (1-5-2) has won one gold, with Evan Nichols and Niklas Malacinski taking the Nordic Combined Team Sprint (Normal Hill).
● Athletics ● The University of Southern California announced Wednesday that it has renamed its track and field facility as Allyson Felix Field, replacing the long-time name of Cromwell Field.
The seating facility surrounding the track remains Loker Stadium, named after donor Katherine Loker, which opened in 2001. The field had long been named for legendary USC coach Dean Cromwell, who won 12 NCAA Track & Field Championships at USC during his tenure from 1909-13 and 1916-48. He was an assistant coach of the U.S. Olympic team in 1936 and has been identified as responsible for removing Jewish sprinters Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman from the U.S. 4×100 m relay team, possibly on anti-Semitic grounds; he never apologized for the incident. He was also the head coach for the 1948 U.S. Olympic track & field team.
USC announced in 2019 that it was reviewing the naming of the field for Cromwell in 1984 in view of his racial views. The news release of the field being named for Felix does not mention Cromwell. Felix graduated from USC, but never ran for the track team as she turned professional out of high school. Now retired, she won 11 Olympic medals (7-3-1) and 20 World Championships medals (14-3-3) in the 200 m, 400 m and relays.
● Cycling ● The road cyclists are back, with the finish of the UCI Women’s World Tour Santos Tour Down Under in Australia on 15-16-17 January.
Only the second of the three stages was even moderately hilly and the top eight riders were within 15 seconds of each other going into the final ride from Adelaide to Campbelltown. Australian Grace Brown – the 2022 Worlds Time trial runner-up – outleaned countrywoman (and three-time winner) Amanda Spratt at the tape and took the overall title at 8:03:29 to 8:03:39, with fellow Australian Georgia Williams third (+0:19). American Krista Doebel-Hickok was fifth (+0:29).
It’s Brown’s first win – and first medal – in this race!
● Football ● The U.S. women will play this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup group-stage matches in Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand and so they are on tour there now, playing friendlies against the Football Ferns.
On Wednesday in Wellington, the U.S. claimed a 4-0 win, with all of its goals coming in the second half. Mallory Swanson (nee Pugh) got the first goal of the match in the 52nd minute on a header, followed quickly by an Alex Morgan goal in the 60th, Swanson again in the 62nd and finally a Lynn Williams score in the 72nd.
The American women controlled the match with 74% of possession and a 15-2 shots advantage. U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher recorded her 51st career shutout.
The U.S. now holds an 18-1-1 record all-time vs. New Zealand and they will play again on Saturday (21st) in Auckland.
● Swimming ● A modest audience for NBC’s delayed highlights package of the Tyr Pro Swim Series aired on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time, up against live NFL playoff action, with an average of 345,000 viewers.
The Miami at Buffalo game against it drew 30.87 million viewers for CBS.
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