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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Where did the “Olympic tickets” idea come from?
2. FIG approves 30 Belarusians as gymnastics “neutrals”
3. IIHF chief says Israel still might play in Sofia
4. Targeted 2030 and 2034 Winter Games bid teams meet in Park City
5. Messi, Bonmati honored as FIFA’s “The Best”
● The now-ubiquitous “Olympic Tickets” for athletes qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games actually started in 2020, with a promotion for the African boxing qualifier organized by the International Olympic Committee. Pretty clever.
● The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) announced the approval of 14 Belarusian gymnasts – including multiple Olympic and World medalists – and 16 coaches and officials as “neutrals” for the purpose of competing in FIG events in 2024. However, with the European federation shutting Russia and Belarus out of its 2024 events, how will they qualify for Paris?
● The head of the International Ice Hockey Federation said that it might still be possible for Israel’s team to compete in the 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey U-20 World Championship Division III Group B in Sofia, with the help of Bulgarian officials.
● The President of one of the two French Alps regions that are targeted to host the 2030 Olympic Winter Games visited Park City, Utah last week to begin a cooperation project with the Salt Lake City organizers, targeted to host the 2034 Winter Games.
● FIFA announced its “The Best” winners for 2023, with Argentine icon Lionel Messi winning his eighth trophy for the men, and Spanish midfielder Aitana Bonmati winning for the women. Brazilian women’s star Marta was honored with a special award and the anti-racism actions of the Brazilian men’s team was saluted with the Fair Play Award.
● Panorama: Paris 2024 (80% of torchbearers have been selected) = Athletics (Nilsen and Morris get world-leading vault wins in Reno) = Football (Saudis announce cliffside stadium for 2034 World Cup) = Swimming (743 U.S. Trials qualifiers so far) = Tennis (Bulgarian umpire gets 16-year ban for corruption!) ●
Where did the “Olympic tickets” idea come from?
One of the really clever promotions developed in advance of the Tokyo Olympic Games by the International Olympic Committee was the creation of an “Olympic ticket” given to athletes who secure qualification to the Games.
Now it’s everywhere, handed out at single-sport events like the Breaking World Championships in Belgium, the FIG Rhythmic World Championships in Spain, the ISA World Surfing Championships in El Salvador and so on. And also at team events like the FIBA men’s World Cup held last year in the Philippines, Indonesia and Japan and the men’s and women’s FIVB Olympic qualifiers in Brazil and China, respectively.
And of course at major multi-sport events with qualifying events like the European Games in Poland and the Pan American Games in Chile.
But it all started prior to the Tokyo Olympic Games at the African Olympic Qualifying Tournament from 20-29 February 2020 in Diamniadio, Senegal. Of course, what better way to symbolize qualifying for the Olympic Games in boxing than to “punch” your ticket to the Games!
The idea came from the IOC’s @Olympics global social-media team as a prop to use for the IOC’s social-media coverage of the boxing qualifiers for Tokyo, remembering that the IOC took over the management of the boxing qualification process in place of the now-derecognized International Boxing Association (formerly AIBA).
Now, as the IOC has adopted an aggressive promotion of the Olympic qualifying process via Recommendation 6 of Olympic Agenda 2020+5: “Enhance and promote the Road to the Olympic Games,” which specifically notes:
“Depending on the definition, there are hundreds or even thousands of events which act as Olympic qualifiers. However, today, there are very few opportunities to connect these events with the Olympic Games through branding and other initiatives. The Olympic and OCOG brands effectively have no visibility and therefore the Road to the Olympic Games is not as visible as it should be.”
It doesn’t work for every sport, since individual qualification for the Games is often not determined by a finish in a specific event, but where an athlete might stand in world rankings, or in a national event in which a quota place is obtained in a domestic tournament, such as at a U.S. Olympic Trials. Maybe, in coordination with the relevant International Federations, these will be included in the future.
The “tickets” come in varying sizes, with smaller ones for individuals and larger ones for group photos and team events. It’s a fun idea and a worthwhile promotional tool that’s a great way to actually reward an athlete with a memento of the moment when they clinched their spot as an Olympian-to-be.
FIG approves 30 Belarusians as gymnastics “neutrals”
The Federation Internationale de Gymnastique announced the approval of 30 Belarusian athletes, coaches and officials as “Authorized Neutral Athletes” who can come in FIG events in 2024.
The list included 14 athletes: seven in Trampoline, three in Rhythmic Gymnastics and three in Artistic, plus 10 coaches, four judges and two medical staff. Among the approved athletes were multiple international medal winners:
● Alina Harnasko: Tokyo 2020 All-Around bronze medalist, six-time Worlds medal winner (1-2-3)
● Anastasiia Salos: Three-time Worlds medal winner (0-0-3)
● Andrei Builou, 2021 Worlds double gold medalist
● Ivan Litvinovich, Tokyo 2020 gold medalist
● Aleh Rabtsau, 2021 Worlds three-medal winner (2-0-1)
Harnasko and Litvinovich are clear medal possibilities for Paris, but although they have been approved by the FIG, they will not be allowed to compete at the European Championships, the clearest pathway, due to the continuing ban on Russian and Belarusian competitors by the European Gymnastics Union.
Harnasko’s options in Rhythmic are extremely limited if she is not able to participate in the Europeans, perhaps only as an invited athlete usually held out for smaller countries.
In Trampoline, there is a qualifying path through the 2024 Trampoline World Cup Series for both men and women and the three Belarus stars might be able to qualify that way.
No mention of any Russian applications was made by the FIG in its announcement of the approved Belarusians.
IIHF chief says Israel still might play in Sofia
The International Ice Hockey Federation’s ban on Israel’s participation in the upcoming Division III-Group B U-20 World Championship on Sofia (BUL), might still be possible.
The IIHF issued a detailed explanation of its decision last Friday, including more specifics:
“This decision currently affects the Israeli National Team’s participation in the 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey U-20 World Championship Division III Group B scheduled to start on 22 January 2024. This event has been originally planned to be held in Israel, but due to already existing safety and security concerns being moved to Bulgaria.”
However, IIHF President Luc Tardif (FRA) reportedly told Radio-Canada in a statement:
“We have already made good progress with the Bulgarian authorities on Friday. If all goes well and they confirm certain security guarantees on Monday [15th], we should be able to integrate the Israel team for the Under-20 World Championship.”
That would be good news, but no confirmation on Monday.
The IIHF has been bitterly criticized for the Israeli ban, with an inquiry also coming from the National Hockey League, and, of course, Israeli officials. The Olympic Committee of Israel is working on an appeal of the ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Targeted 2030 and 2034 Winter Games bid teams
meet in Park City
All smiles during the Park City, Utah visit of one of the leaders of the French Alps bid for the 2030 Olympic Winter Games last week, Renaud Muselier, the President of the Provence Alpes-Cote d’Azur (PACA) region, one of the two regions working together.
The visit was part of a larger tour of Utah organized through the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity. Asked if the French bid team had enough time to prepare the necessary documentation and government guarantees, he told reporters:
“All the things cannot be perfect because we go very fast. But we will be ready.
“We have snow, we have ski resorts, we have skiers. We know how to do (it), in fact. We know how to organize international competitions in the south of France.
“Everybody knows the Riviera. Everybody knows that. But not everybody knows that we are an Alps region.”
He also noted that the relationship between his bid team and the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games was in sync:
“[Salt Lake City] will be ready in 2030 … but they are so close to Los Angeles , it’s not good for the USA. To the USA, the French, we are saying, ‘That’s OK. Go team.’”
Fraser Bullock, the head of the Salt Lake City bid and the Chief Operating Officer of the 2002 Winter Games held in Salt Lake City, said that the visit was “a first, where we have two preferred hosts for future Winter Games collaborating together in partnership. … We can learn from each other. We can support each other. And we started this great friendship today.”
Both bids are in “targeted dialogue” with the International Olympic Committee, essentially a collaboration to finalize the selection of each bid with vote of the IOC Session in Paris in July.
Messi, Bonmati honored as FIFA’s “The Best”
The annual FIFA awards for “The Best” in 2023 were announced Monday, with Argentine icon Lionel Messi for the second consecutive year for the men and Spain’s Bonmati talking the women’s honors.
Messi captained the Argentine team in its dramatic FIFA World Cup victory in Qatar in late 2022, won the Ligue 1 title in France with Paris-St. Germain and then turned the U.S. football world upside down with his transfer to Inter Miami of Major League Soccer, becoming a national sensation.
He and Norwegian (and Manchester City) star Erling Haaland actually tied with 48 points under the scoring system that included votes from coaches, national-team captains, news media and fans, but Messi won the tie-breaking captains scoring and took his ninth The Best award.
He previously won in 2009-10-11-12-15-19-22. France’s Kylian Mbappe finished third, with 35 points.
Spanish midfielder Aitana Bonmati won for “The Best” women’s player, as a star for the FIFA Women’s World Cup winner, Spain. She rolled up 52 points to be a clear winner over Colombia’s 18-year-old scoring ace Linda Caicedo (40) and Spanish forward Jenni Hermoso (36).
Brazil’s Ederson won for The Best men’s goalkeeper, notably for his play for Manchester City, with 23 points, ahead of Belgian (and Real Madrid) star Thibault Courtois (20) and Morocco and Al-Hilal’s Yassine Bounou (16). England (and Manchester United)’s Mary Earps won for The Best women’s keeper for the second straight year, with 28 points to 14 for Cata Coll (ESP) and Australian Mackenzie Arnold (12).
A special award for lifetime achievement was presented to Brazilian women’s star Marta, who won The Best women’s player award six times.
Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola (ESP) won for the top men’s coach and England coach Sarina Wiegman (ENG) took the honors as the top women’s coach for the fourth time.
Brazil won the Fair Play Award for its statement against racism – especially against national team (and Real Madrid) striker Vinicius Junior in La Liga – by wearing all-black uniforms for the first time during the first half in a friendly against Guinea in June in Barcelona, Spain.
The FIFA-FIFPRO Women’s World 11 included American striker Alex Morgan, the only U.S. player to make either the men’s or women’s all-star team.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● The Paris 2024 organizers gave an update on the preparations for the Torch Relay, to begin in Marseille in May:
“Of the 11,000 Torchbearers (10,000 for the Olympic Torch Relay and 1,000 for the Paralympic Torch Relay), 80% have today received confirmation that they will be carrying the Torch on one of the two. The final identities will be revealed between now and April. Some will be kept secret until the last moment to maintain the surprise, notably of athletes and personalities.”
The selectees were chosen from more than 100,000 nominations developed from sponsor outreach projects. The actual torchbearers were designated with a quota of 50% men and women and representing all of the departments of France.
● Athletics ● The indoor track & field season is getting underway, with quality, world-leading marks in the vault at the annual Pole Vault Summit in Reno. Olympic silver winner Chris Nilsen won the men’s event at 5.90 m (19-4 1/4), over Zach Bradford and Thibault Collet (FRA), both at 5.92 m (19-1).
Two-time World Indoor Champion and Olympic and Worlds silver winner Sandi Morris took the women’s title at 4.82 m (15-9 3/4). Olympic champ Katie Moon of the U.S. and Anicka Newall (CAN) tied for second at 4.53 m (14-10 1/4).
● Football ● The Associated Press reported on just one of the new stadiums planned by Saudi Arabia for the 2034 FIFA World Cup, for which it is the only bidder.
This one is a 45,000-seat facility designed with a retractable roof to allow year-round use, but built on a 650-foot-high cliff in the new Qiddiya City project about 30 miles outside of the national capital of Riyadh. A lake is slated to be installed beneath it to help provide cooling to the air-conditioning system.
The Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal teams are expected to play their home matches there, with a giant LED wall for entertainment and promotion. That’s one of the 14 required stadia that will be used in 2034.
● Swimming ● SwimSwam.com reported on its tally of swimmers qualified so far for the mammoth U.S. Olympic Trials in June, to be held inside of the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.
So far, some 743 swimmers have qualified for Indianapolis, with the field to be closed after 30 May 2024. The qualifiers so far include 408 men and 335 women:
● Bella Sims has qualified in the most events – 11 of the 14 to be contested – with Regan Smith and Katie Grimes at eight.
● Among the men, Kieran Smith and Carson Foster have qualified in eight each, with Shaine Casas at seven.
● The top men’s events by number qualified start with the 200 m Medley at 83, then the 200 m Medley (80), 100 m Free (67), 100 m Fly (65) and 100 m Back (63).
● The top women’s events by total qualifiers start with the 50 m Free (64), then the 100 m Breast (62), 100 m Back (56), 100 m Free (55) and 200 m Free (54).
The 2021 Trials in Omaha had a total of 1,543 qualifiers, with 892 in “Wave I,” which was a qualifier for the actual Olympic selection event known as “Wave II.” There were 651 swimmers who qualified directly for Wave II, with the numbers inflated somewhat by an extra year of swimming due to the postponement of the Tokyo Games.
● Tennis ● How about a 16-year suspension for corruption? That’s the penalty announced Monday by the International Tennis Integrity Agency for Bulgarian official Stefan Milanov “following 17 breaches of the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program (TACP).”
Milanov did not contest the charges and was also fined $75,000. The statement noted that the penalties concerned five matches he umpired in 2021:
“The charges included five breaches of Section D.1.b of the 2021 TACP – directly or indirectly facilitating any other person to wager on the outcome or any other aspect of an event; five breaches of Section D.1.m of the 2021 TACP – delaying or manipulating entry of scoring data from any Event for any reason; five breaches of Section D.1.n of the 2021 TACP – directly or indirectly attempting, agreeing or conspiring to commit any Corruption Offense; and two breaches of Section F.2.b of the 2023 TACP – failing to co-operate fully with investigations conducted by the ITIA.”
For our new, 920-event International Sports Calendar for 2024 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!