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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Russian diving chief: we’ll be “outcasts” in Paris
2. City of Los Angeles asked for Olympic arts funding
3. Future Commonwealth Games to be studied in New Zealand
4. Spanish judge recommends trial of ex-RFEF chief Rubiales
5. IBU to ban and fine ex-chief Besseberg
● The head of the Russian Diving Federation said that 99% of the top divers in Russia can’t compete at Paris because they are affiliated with the military-related sports clubs, and believes that Russian athletes at the Games would be treated as outcasts.
● The City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs asked for $237,808 in annual funding for two staff members and support costs to begin planning the City’s own cultural programs for the 2028 Olympic Games.
● There are still no bidders for the 2026 or 2030 Commonwealth Games, but New Zealand is interested in exploring a possible 2034 bid. But will there even be a Commonwealth Games by then? The event may have to be disassembled until then.
● A Spanish judge approved moving ahead with the criminal case against former Royal Spanish Football Federation chief Luis Rubiales over the unwanted kiss to gave to midfielder Jenni Hermoso at the medal ceremony of last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup. Charges against three others can also be explored.
● The International Biathlon Union plans to sanction former President Anders Besseberg with a life ban and a hefty fine. This came out during testimony in Besseberg’s criminal trial in Norway for corruption, which is continuing.
● Panorama: Deaflympics (four nations, including U.S., to skip 2024 Winter Deaflympics) = Figure Skating (ISU to propose less-demanding skating?) = Football (UEFA’s head of football resigns over Ceferin bid for a fourth term) = Snowboard (Olympic champ Miki takes first World Cup win of the season at Rogla) ●
Russian diving chief: we’ll be “outcasts” in Paris
The stream of reasons why Russian athletes will not – or should not – go to Paris for this summer’s Olympic Games continues, with the latest explanation from Russian Diving Federation chief Stanislav Druzhinen.
He told the Russian news agency TASS (edited computer translation from the original Russian):
“The athletes who took first place at the Russian Championship last year were selected for the World Aquatics Championships. At the same time, the eligibility criteria proposed by the International Olympic Committee and the International Federation say that only athletes who are not members of the Dynamo and CSKA societies and other organizations affiliated with security agencies can go to the competition.
“We have 99% of the athletes who could go to the World Championships in a neutral status who are members of those societies. And it makes no sense to send there people who took fifth or sixth place, because in this way we would violate the sports principle, and such a decision will not be understand by the guys who [should be] selected by right.”
Druzhinen also expressed concern over the way Russian athletes would be treated if they did quality and go to Paris, notably since the Russian Diving Federation would not be there to support them:
“In addition, we do not fully know the conditions of admission, because athletes have to go there individually. Will they need to sign any papers, how to send doctors, masseurs with them?
“The question is how they will be treated there: will they feel like outcasts, sitting apart from everyone and not communicating with anyone? In my understanding, they will.
“International competitions have turned into politics, unfriendly countries are trying to prove something, infringing on the rights of our athletes, who just want to perform on equal terms with others.”
A very small number of Russian athletes have qualified for Paris through various world championships, but even these will be re-checked for “neutrality” credentials by the International Olympic Committee. It is also possible that the Russian government will simply ban all Russian athletes from attending the Games; as the Russian Olympic Committee has been suspended for its takeover of Ukrainian sports organizations in the area invaded since February 2022, invitations would come from the International Federations directly to the athlete.
City of Los Angeles asked for Olympic arts funding
“DCA is committed to executing a program which builds upon the City’s Olympic and Paralympic Games planning to support creative-sector jobs, free community programs, and youth arts and education opportunities that advance equity, inclusion, and readiness through the development of local artists, cultural producers, and vendors.”
That’s from a six-page memorandum filed by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), asking for annual funding of $237,808 to begin the planning and execution of the City’s participation in the cultural program of the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Los Angeles.
This is not a request by the LA28 organizing committee, which has the responsibility to mount a cultural program during the Olympic Games, but from the City’s Cultural Affairs Department to begin organizing the City’s own programs:
● “DCA’s efforts for the 2028 Olympics and Paralympic Games are an opportunity to support the arts and cultural sector during three time periods: during the four year time period leading up to the Games from the torch handoff; during the Games; and the development of a long-standing legacy for the sector subsequent to the completion of the Games.”
● “As the City looks ahead over the next four years, leading up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, there will be many options and models to consider with regard to the provision of the Cultural Olympiad.
“A thematic Cultural Olympiad or Olympic Arts Festival is a community expectation, and DCA looks forward to exploring options of festivals and planning under a selected theme with the possibility of 28, 56, or 84 signature-activities which will meet popular enthusiasm to showcase LA as a highly talented, innovative, and multi-cultural arts community.
“Additionally, this will be an opportunity to explore numerous initiatives spanning the four years, including partnerships with City Departments and government agencies, opportunities for artists with disabilities, increased youth arts education, and collaboration with other local municipalities.”
The request noted that the DCA’s efforts on the cultural aspects of the 2028 Games have been in motion since 2020, in talks with past Olympic cities on their cultural programs, a visit to Paris to see the preparations for 2024 and 10 round-table discussions with local artists and organizations about 2028 programming. The goal:
“We all look to the Cultural Olympiad and related arts festivals and activities as opportunities to uplift the diversity of the region, build greater cultural equity and inclusion, stimulate cultural exchange, grow opportunities for youth arts education, and support capacity and legacy building in the arts that will last post-Olympic Games.”
And direct cooperation with the City of Paris is already underway:
“DCA is currently partnering with Paris on several arts projects, including the design and installation of a joint mural, a poetry relay, an Olympic poster contest between Los Angeles and Paris graphic design students, and participation in one of Paris’ largest festivals: Nuit Blanche.”
The memo further contends that the City is essentially obligated to cultural programming related to the Games:
“A thematic Cultural Olympiad or Olympic Arts Festival is a community expectation, and DCA looks forward to exploring options of festivals and planning under a selected theme with the possibility of 28, 56, or 84 signature-activities which will meet popular enthusiasm to showcase LA as a highly talented, innovative, and multi-cultural arts community.”
The LA28 organizing committee will be invited to attend the development sessions “to provide an overview of the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
To get going, the DCA is requesting the hiring of two staff managers directly related to the City’s own 2028 programming ($137,808) and support funding of another $100,000.
The first step will be an as-yet unscheduled discussion with the City’s Ad Hoc Committee on the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Future Commonwealth Games to be studied in New Zealand
With the withdrawal of Australia’s Victoria state from the hosting of the 2026 Commonwealth Games last July, no new host has come forward, leaving the event in limbo. No bidders have come up for 2030, either, which would be the centennial of the event that began as the British Empire Games in 1930.
New Zealand looked like a possibility this week, with the 50th anniversary of the highly-successful Christchurch Games in 1974 being remembered, and current Christchurch Mayor Phil Mauger asking for a review as to whether a 2030 bid might be worthwhile:
“I’m just floating it out there … what I’m asking for is a report from our guys to say ‘Phil, you’re dreaming’ or ‘no, you’re not’.”
At a meeting of the Christchurch City Council on Wednesday, Mauger underlined that he was interested in a study of the concept, not a bid:
“This could be a great opportunity for our city, so we need independent advice to consider it properly. That advice might say it’s a fizzer, but at least we’ve looked at it, and have the information in front of us. If we don’t ask, we don’t know.”
The motion passed by 10-7, but for a “future Games,” and not necessarily for 2030. There was a heavy debate on the idea, including heckling from the audience, with about 20 protestors objecting to the possible costs, environmental impact and the need for attention to other issues.
New Zealand Olympic Committee chief executive Nicki Nicols said it had “entered a formal dialogue with the Commonwealth Games Federation regarding a 2034 nationwide bid.
“This timeframe provides sufficient runway to engage government and other relevant agencies to develop an innovative and bold proposal for a potential 2034 bid, including undertaking a formal feasibility study.”
But that doesn’t help the Commonwealth Games for 2026 or 2030, and in December, The Times (London) reported that the Games could be disassembled into single-sport championships until a bidder for a comprehensive, multi-sport Games could be found, or the 2026 edition could be delayed until 2027 if a bidder is available.
In Christchurch, the City Council staff will undertake the feasibility study and report back.
Observed: The Commonwealth Games is in deep trouble, and it is worthwhile to ask if a bid for 2034 might be irrelevant if the event is not held in 2026 or 2030. Like so many regional events, the question is why is it important and/or relevant? That’s an increasingly difficult question to answer, especially if public funding is required, as it seems to be for almost everything outside of the Olympic Games or FIFA World Cup.
Spanish judge recommends trial of ex-RFEF chief Rubiales
The fallout from former Royal Spanish Football Federation President Luis Rubiales and his forcible kiss of midfield star Jenni Hermoso during the medal presentations following last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup reached a critical stage on Thursday.
A lengthy statement from the Audencia Nacional (National Court) included (computer translation from the original Spanish):
“The judge of the National Court Francisco de Jorge has proposed judging the former president of the Spanish Football Federation Luis [Rubiales] for the non-consensual kiss of the Spanish national team player Jennifer [Hermoso] after the final of the last World Cup, held on August 20 in Sydney (Australia).
“The magistrate also proposes trying the sports director of the men’s team, Albert [Luque], the former coach of the women’s team Jorge [Vilda] and the former marketing manager of the Federation Rubén [Rivera] for the subsequent pressure to which the player was subjected to to agree to hold a public demonstration stating that the kiss had been consensual.”
The facts of the incident are by now well known. Rubiales forcibly kissed Hermoso on the lips during the awards presentation, then apologized in a video, then said he did nothing wrong. Hermoso said she was pressured to support Rubiales, but did not, and under growing pressure from Spain’s national women’s team, other women’s football players and administrators worldwide, player’s unions and significant public comment, finally resigned. The situation has been in the hands of the Spanish prosecutors, who are now in a position to proceed.
The statement added considerable detail to the impact of the ruling:
● “In the order to move to an abbreviated procedure, in which the investigation is concluded considering that all the pertinent procedures have been carried out, the judge concludes that the kiss on the player ‘was not consensual and was a unilateral and surprising initiative’ of the investigated.
● “The magistrate adds that the erotic purpose or not, or the state of euphoria and agitation experienced as a consequence of the extraordinary sporting triumph are elements whose consequence and legal consequences must be assessed in the oral trial before the body in charge of the prosecution.”
● “The judge explains that at this procedural moment his function is limited to appreciating that there is sufficient evidence of the commission of the events narrated in his record and that these events are criminally relevant, making an accusation perfectly sustainable.”
The efforts by Vilda, Luque and Rivera to get Hermoso to exonerate Rubiales in a video “could constitute a criminal offense.”
The next step:
“The resolution agrees to notify the Prosecutor’s Office and the accused persons so that they may request, within a period of ten days, the opening of an oral trial, formulating a document of accusation or, where appropriate, the dismissal of the case.”
CNN reported that “Defense lawyers for Rubiales and the other three men under investigation now have three days to try to halt an eventual trial by appealing to a different section of the court.”
If the criminal trial proceeds, Rubiales could be liable for a fine, or could be imprisoned for as many as four years.
IBU to ban and fine ex-chief Besseberg
The Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang reported Wednesday that the International Biathlon Union will seek to ban former President Anders Besseberg (NOR) for life and fine him NOK 1.1 million (about $108,415 U.S. today).
Biathlon Integrity Unit head Greg McKenna (GBR) stated in court testimony Wednesday:
“We have concluded that he should be banned for life from office and activities and receive a fine of up to 100,000 euros. We have also filed a motion for reprimand.”
Besseberg, now 77 and the President of the IBU from 1992 to 2018, resigned under pressure, with accusations of favoritism toward Russia and acceptance of favors, including gifts, travel and prostitutes. He is now on trial, facing Norwegian state charges of gross corruption.
An early witness was the now-Secretary General of the IBU, American Max Cobb. According to the Verdens Gang story, he was asked if he saw prostitutes at IBU events, and replied:
“It is very difficult to say whether those you see are prostitutes or not, since we never saw them in action, but I can say as much as that over several decades there were rumors about the behavior of Besseberg at the international competitions. This included prostitutes who he is said to have been offered by various event committees. This is information that persisted and came from many sources. …
“This was in the early 2000s. I was not a leader in the USA and I was not on the IBU board either. The entire biathlon community was familiar with the rumors surrounding hunting trips and prostitutes. So it wasn’t something that needed to be brought up.”
Asked about Besseberg’s leadership, Cobb explained, “He ruled in a strong way. It was almost dictatorial.”
Earlier in the trial, a police wiretap of a phone call by then-IBU Secretary-General Nicole Resch (GER) included her comments:
“He’s so crazy pro-Russia that I’m a little scared now. He no longer communicates neutrally at all. … Really a shame. He doesn’t want sanctions against Russia, he doesn’t want to do anything in principle.”
Besseberg said he did not agree with Resch’s characterization. The trial is continuing.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Deaflympics ● The 20th Winter Deaflympics is coming in March (2-12) in the eastern Turkish city of Erzurum, with about 1,000 athletes from 40 countries expected to participate. However, it was reported Thursday that the U.S., Canada, Sweden and Finland will not come, citing security concerns in the region.
Erzurum Governor Mustafa Ciftci said Wednesday that the USA Deaf Sports Federation referred to security issues – notably the Israel-Hamas war – but believes the decision is political. That’s unlikely, given that the USADSF is not affiliated with the U.S. government.
In fact, the USADSF stated back in November that it would not attend, noting in part:
“The persistent lack of timely and reliable information in accordance with the Deaflympics Regulations have created significant financial, logistical, and security challenges that could no longer be tolerated. These factors have led USADSF and our National Sport Organizations to make difficult decisions about how much risk we are willing to carry and how much security – financial and otherwise – we are willing to compromise. Thus, based on the information available to us, the USADSF has determined that the United States will not participate in the 20th Winter Deaflympics.”
● Figure Skating ● A Thursday post by the Russian news agency TASS has the figure skating community talking (computer translation from the original Russian):
“The Technical Committee of the International Skating Union (ISU) is discussing proposals to simplify the rules in single and pair skating for the next congress of the organization, a source told TASS.
“In particular, there were proposals to reduce the number of mandatory jumps in the free skating program from seven to six, to allow the repetition of one jump three times – previously it was possible no more than twice, the number of cascades and combinations is proposed to be reduced from three to two, one rotation is replaced by a choreographic rotation. In pairs, it is proposed to reduce the number of supports with levels from three to two, and remove the solo jump.”
The matter is to be discussed at the 59th ISU Congress from 10-14 June in Las Vegas (USA).
This provoked a heated reaction from famed Russian coach Tatyana Tarasova:
“I’m surprised, of course, because in any kind of activity now the bar is only rising, and suddenly in a sport like figure skating it is lowered; utter stupidity.
“With such proposals, the ISU is trying to preserve the appearance, give the weak an opportunity to participate and win. They don’t care what it turns into, and what to do next, they will think later.
“More or less capable skaters will compete with those who can do everything. But perfection cannot be undone, no matter how much they love us. I think it’s a temporary measure of the stupidity they’re doing. Stupidity and unprofessionalism.”
And Tarasova, now 76, whose athletes have won 41 European and World Championships golds, said Russian skaters will continue to pursue the highest standards, alone if necessary:
“We will still learn something new, we will not stop. But within the limits of these rules. But we can host competitions according to our own [ideas]; this is our business, our question.”
No formal agenda for the June Congress has been posted as yet.
● Football ● More politics within the European Football Union (UEFA), as the organization’s Chief of Football, Zvonmir Boban (CRO) departed “by mutual agreement.”
Boban, 55, resigned in protest against a procedural move supported by UEFA’s Slovenian President, Aleksander Ceferin, which would allow Ceferin to run for a fourth term in 2027, after elections in 2016-19-23, holding that Ceferin’s first election, to a partial term, does not count against the term limits he introduced in 2017!
In an open letter, Boban wrote: “After expressing my deepest concern and complete disagreement with the proposal itself, the president answered that he sees no legal or moral-ethical problem in it – and that he will, without any doubt, proceed with this idea that I find fatal.”
The proposal to allow Ceferin to run again will be considered by the UEFA Congress in February.
● Snowboard ● Women’s Parallel Giant Slalom World Champion Tsubaki Miki of Japan was in a slump, heading into Thursday’s one-day competition in Rogla (SLO). She’d won medals in four of the seven races held so far this season … all bronzes.
But she rebounded on Thursday and won the second World Cup gold of her career, taking down Dutch rider Michelle Dekker in the final by just 0.03, as Dekker won her fifth career World cup medal. Austria’s Sabine Schoeffmann won the bronze – her fifth medal of the season – over seasonal leader Ramona Theresia Hofmeister (GER) by 0.05.
The men’s PGS winner was seasonal leader – and Beijing 2022 gold medalist – Benjamin Karl (AUT), who won by just 0.02 against Italy’s 2023 Worlds Mixed Team champ Aaron March, with countryman Mirko Felicetti taking the bronze. It’s Karl’s third win of the season in eight races, heading home for Saturday’s Parallel Giant Slalom in Simonhohe (AUT).
For our new, 920-event International Sports Calendar for 2024 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!