The Sports Examiner

TSX REPORT: The top stories of 2024? Here they are, from no. 10 to no. 6, starting with a world-record watch in April!

A world record 2:00:35 for Kenya's Kelvin Kiptum in Chicago in October! (Photo: Bank of America Chicago Marathon-Kevin Morris)

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What will be the top stories in international sport in 2024? Some of the same from 2023, but also new drama in multiple sports, plus the forthcoming Paris 2024 Olympic Games. The first half of our top 10 stories to watch:

10. Kiptum after the 2:00 marathon barrier in Rotterdam
9. Winter Games drama in Milan, Cortina, France and Salt Lake City
8. World’s biggest-ever swim meet on tap at U.S. Trials?
7. Is the Commonwealth Games at an end?
6. FIFA will confirm its future path in 2024

Panorama: Olympic Games ( site updates ended) = Paris 2024 (Ukraine participation decision still to come) = Olympic Esports Games (Japan reported to be site of inaugural event) = France (law to offer tax-free status to IFs held unconstitutional) = Alpine Skiing (2: Shiffrin wins 93rd in Lienz; Odermatt takes Bormio Super-G) = Athletics (Chebet gets 5 km world record in Barcelona) = Boxing (new USA Boxing transgender policy takes effect) = Cross Country Skiing (Ogden and Diggins get bronzes for U.S.) = Ice Hockey (U.S. undefeated in men’s World Juniors) = Ski Jumping (2: Wellinger takes Four Hills opener; Prevc wins second straight) = Swimming (McKeever suspended by SafeSport) ●

Errata: Some readers of Friday’s post saw Ethiopian star Tigist Assefa’s world women’s marathon record shown as 2:37:44; it’s 2:11:53. Sorry about that; quickly corrected! ●

Projecting the top stories of 2024, from no. 10 to no. 6

A lot of the stories that dominated 2023 are going strong into 2024, notably the build-up to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. But there are other stories which will be important, so let’s count down the TSX top-10 projected stories of the new year, starting with nos. 10 to 6:

Kiptum after the 2:00 marathon barrier in Rotterdam

Kenya’s two-time Olympic champ Eliud Kipchoge showed that a sub-2:00 marathon is real with his 1:59:40.2 time trial in Vienna (AUT) in 2019, but his best in a competitive marathon was his world-record 2:01:09 in Berlin (GER) in 2022.

Then came countryman Kelvin Kiptum in 2023, who smashed the world record with a brilliant 2:00:35 world-record win in Chicago in October. This was no fluke, following up his 2:01:25 win in London (GBR) in April, and his 2:01:53 debut in Valencia (ESP) in December of 2022.

And now he is taking direct aim at the first sub-2:00 marathon in competition, at the NN Marathon Rotterdam in the Netherlands on 12 April, as he told the all-sports daily, La Gazzetta dello Sport (ITA). Asked about his plans, he was clear:

“It’s already known, the Rotterdam Marathon on April 14. I would like to grow further, and so, inevitably, break the barrier.”

The Rotterdam course is notoriously fast and flat, and Kiptum’s agent, Marc Corstjens (BEL), is the elite-athlete coordinator for the race, as Kiptum explained why he is targeting a non-World Marathon Majors race:

“The organization is linked to my management. In 2022 I was supposed to run it, to make my debut but a slight injury stopped me. This will be the right time. …

“I’ll go there to run fast, the course is ideal and the crowds in the streets push you to give your best. I would love to be a part of the rich history of this marathon.

“If the preparation goes in the right direction, with peaks of 270 kilometres [168 miles] per week, and the weather conditions permit, I will go for it.”

Although Kiptum, 24, is looking for a world record in Rotterdam, he also is looking to compete in the Paris Olympic marathon, where he could race head-to-head with Kipchoge, 39. Both are on the Kenyan list of 10 potential selectees for Paris:

“As a team we will collaborate, but then everyone looks out for themselves. I could also aim for the Tokyo 2025 World Championships, I saw the race in Budapest which fascinated me.”

Winter Games drama in Milan, Cortina, France and Salt Lake City

True, Paris 2024 is next up, but the International Olympic Committee has been busy with the Olympic Winter Games, both with the 2026 edition in Milan and Cortina in Italy, and with the next three host selections.

The chaos over the venue for bobsled, luge and skeleton in Cortina d’Ampezzo has reached a fever pitch. A request for proposal from construction firms in Italy to build a replacement track for the historic Eugenio Monti track from the 1956 Winter Games in Cortina drew no bidders last summer. The head of the 2026 organizing committee, Italian IOC member Giovanni Malago, told the IOC Session in October that a facility outside the country would be found by the end of the year.

But Italian politicians, notably Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, have insisted that an Italian venue be used, whether the now-abandoned Turin 2006 track or a scaled-down, quick-build version of some kind of track in Cortina. In the meantime, proposals from existing, operating facilities in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Lake Placid in the U.S. are on the table.

The decision is supposed to be made by the end of January, with the IOC clearly favoring an out-of-Italy solution and Italian politicians digging themselves into a hole by demanding an “Italian solution” to the problem. How long can this go on? (In case you were wondering, the next national election in Italy need not be called until 2027, although it could be held earlier.)

Meanwhile, the race for the 2030 and 2034 Winter Games hosting sites are scheduled to end just prior to the opening of the Paris 2024 Games in July, with the French Alps bid targeted for 2030 and the essentially-complete Salt Lake City bid ready to receive the 2034 Games.

There is a small chance that something could go wrong with the French bid, which was developed quickly after Japan’s bid for Sapporo collapsed from public distrust and the Salt Lake City effort was focused on 2034. But the IOC really does not have another choice, and wants to use some of the Paris 2024 team to continue on to the 2030 Winter Games, as well as continue the engagement of some of the 2024 sponsors.

Switzerland was chosen for “preferred dialogue” for the 2038 Winter Games, but the target to revamp its bid into a smaller number of clustered venue groups is no later than 2027.

World’s biggest-ever swim meet on tap at U.S. Trials?

USA Swimming held its Olympic Trials at the CHI Health Center Omaha, bringing in temporary pools and selecting its team in front of capacity crowds of 14,000 or more in 2008, 2012, 2016 and less due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021.

But the opportunity to create a mega-meet opened up for 2024 and in 2022, the federation announced that the 2024 Olympic Swimming Trials would be held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, home of the NFL’s Colts.

That plan, using essentially one end of the stadium and temporary pools for competition and warm-up, could seat as many as 35,000 people for each session from 15-23 June.

A wide range of ticket options are available, from $55.99 (including fees) and up, including deckside seating at $393.40 (including fees). There are still lots of tickets available, naturally leading to worries that the event will not live up to its billing.

More likely is that sales will come later rather than sooner as the 2024 Games gets closer and the awareness spreads. According to the International Swimming Hall of Fame, the largest-ever crowd for an indoor swimming competition was 25,000 in Berlin (GER) in 1936, a mark which could be overtaken by the 2023 Trials.

And the swimming extravaganza in Indianapolis will part of the usual “Trials Week” program which highlights swimming, track and field and gymnastics as a major promotion for NBC of its upcoming Olympic coverage:

15-23 June: U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Swimming, in Indianapolis
21-30 June: U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field, in Eugene
27-30 June: U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Gymnastics, in Minneapolis

All three will be widely showcased, as NBC and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee work to promote viewing of the Paris 2024 Games, after three straight Olympics in Asia (2018-21-22) have cratered U.S. interest to its lowest level ever.

Is the Commonwealth Games at an end?

The first British Empire Games was held in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1930 and save for a hiatus due to World War II, has been a popular event, with some of the most memorable performances in sports history.

But after a calamitous 2023, the future of this event is very much in doubt. The 2022 edition was highly successful in Birmingham (ENG), which stepped in for original host Durban (RSA), which abandoned the event due to cost concerns in 2017.

Birmingham had planned to host the 2026 Games, but when it moved up, the Commonwealth Games Federation needed to find a new host. Finally, the Australian state of Victoria stepped up and agreed to stage the 2026 Games and signed a host agreement in April 2022. But 16 months later, Victoria pulled out, again over cost concerns and paid A$380 million (about $259 million U.S. today) to break its contract.

So now the CGF is again trying to find a host. Many Commonwealth countries think that since Australia was going to host in 2026, it should find a new host somewhere else in the country. But a proposal from Gold Coast – which hosted in 2018 – went nowhere, as the state government of Queensland is much more interested in working on the 2032 Olympic Games to be held in Brisbane.

No one else has come forward, and the Games could slide to 2027 if a host can be found. Moreover, there are no bidders lining up for the centennial Games in 2030, and a bid from Hamilton to stage the Games again fell through, again over costs.

The CGF issued a strategy document in October 2021, creating a flexible approach, with only athletics and swimming as required sports and suggesting a limit of 15 sports total. But no one seems interested.

Will anyone step forward? Is the Commonwealth Games – after almost a century – dead?

The coming year might well tell the tale, not only for the Commonwealth Games, but raising continuing questions about other regional, multi-sport continental games, all of which appear to be less and less appealing in the age of Olympics or bust.

FIFA will confirm its future path in 2024

Following on from the enormous success of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, the world’s richest International Federation will try to cement its long-term legacy with a series of event awards in 2024.

First will be the 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup, with bids from Brazil – whose member federation may be suspended for governmental interference – as well as a three-nation European bid from Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands and a joint U.S.-Mexico bid.

That decision is expected at the FIFA Congress in May 2024. The U.S. and Germany have hosted this event previously, but it would be a first for Brazil, Belgium, the Netherlands and Mexico.

It’s worthwhile to remember that FIFA has targeted what seemed like an outrageous target of $11 billion U.S. in revenue for its 2023-26 quadrennial, and President Gianni Infantino (SUI) publicly announced a goal of making football (soccer) the no. 1 sport in the U.S. (or maybe no. 2 to American Football, at least in the near term).

How FIFA will achieve these aspirations is becoming clear: hold as many of its major trophy events in the U.S. as possible, and depend on U.S. fans and sponsors to push the federation to new financial heights. With a seemingly endless number of stadiums available thanks to the National Football League and college football, not to mention a sports-hungry population, the U.S. capacity for handling expanded tournaments that can generate new, unimagined levels of revenue for FIFA:

● The smallish Club World Cup, first held in 2000, and in 2023 in Saudi Arabia with seven teams, will expand to a startling 32 teams for 2025 and be held in the U.S.

● The 2026 FIFA World Cup will return to the U.S. for the first time since the record-setting 1994 tournament, with some games in Canada and Mexico, and the event will not just expand, but explode to 48 teams and 104 matches, from 32 teams and 64 games in 2022! The windfall will be FIFA’s.

And for Infantino to complete a three-year program to skyrocket U.S. support of soccer, look for the 2027 Women’s World Cup to also be given to the U.S. and Mexico, which can easily handle a 32-team, 64-match event.

Keep in mind that for the first time, there is no national organizing committee for the FIFA World Cup. FIFA is doing it itself, with offices in Coral Gables, Florida. And that organizing office can easily keep going for 2027 and handle the Women’s World Cup as well (and will likely lead the effort for the 2025 Club World Cup, with all three tournaments using several of the same venues).

And FIFA could decide to expand the 2027 tournament even after the selection, as the U.S. has the capacity and FIFA’s own organizing team will have just completed a 48-team event in 2026.

That’s a roadmap to meet FIFA’s goals for the U.S. and for its 2023-26 revenue goals. Next up will be the confirmation of the 2030 FIFA World Cup for Spain, Portugal and Morocco, with opening matches in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, and the 2034 World Cup, for which Saudi Arabia is the only bidder.

Coming so quickly – 12 years – after the World Cup in Qatar in 2022, FIFA is being criticized for its pursuit of Gulf State hosts, run by monarchies with controversial human-rights records. Infantino is unmoved; remember his victory lap during a news conference in Doha near the end of the 2022 World Cup over the event’s impacts on Qatari law and customs:

“Without the pressure of the World Cup, I believe, that the changes that would have happened in Qatar maybe not have happened, or not at least at that speed.”

Coming up Tuesday, a look at the projected top five stories ahead for 2024 in international sport, including – at last – an official end to the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.


● Olympic Games ● A sad announcement on X (ex-Twitter) from super-statistician and Olympic historian Dr. Bill Mallon (USA) on the authoritative site:

“For about 20 years now, my group, which we call the OlyMADMen (now 28 strong), has created and updated a website, Olympedia, with complete information about the results of the Olympic Games – Summer, Winter, Youth, Intercalated, Ancient, and more. 1/n

“Olympedia contains almost anything you need on the Olympics, including complete results of all events in all sports, and bios of every Olympian, and much more. In 2016 Olympedia was purchased by the IOC but we have had a contract with them to update it since that time. 2/n

“As of 1 Jan 2024 our contract with the IOC is not being renewed. The OlyMADMen will no longer update Olympedia after today, 29 Dec. We do not know if the IOC will continue to keep Olympedia online, but we do not expect them to update it. 3/n

“It’s been a fun run, but all good things come to an end. Thank you for your support of Olympedia over the years. 4/n”

Mallon wrote in an e-mail that he does expect the site to continue to operate in the near future, but has no idea beyond that.

● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● Ukraine’s decision on participation at the 2024 Paris Games is still up in the air, according to acting Youth and Sports Minister Matviy Bidnyi. He told the BBC last week:

“First of all, we do not use the word boycott as such. We say that this is our position: we will not participate in the competition if athletes who support Russian aggression, who support this bloody regime, are allowed to participate. This is a matter of principle for us.

“We will analyze what will happen, how the IOC will react to the arguments we are now presenting, to our appeals, petitions, speeches, etc.

“But again, we understand that [a boycott] will be, in principle, a blow to our athletes. We are also aware that we are taking a risk.”

“The Olympic Charter provides for sanctions for such actions and it is possible that we will be offered to participate in the next Olympic Games [2028] as neutrals. So this is quite a radical step.”

● Olympic Esports Games ● Kyodo News reported that Japan is the preferred site for the inaugural Olympic Esports Games in 2026.

The International Olympic Committee wants to hold an Olympic Esports Games to further engage with youth, but on its own terms and rejecting electronic games which promote violence. For Japan, the event is a way to stay close to the IOC while its issues with the imploded Sapporo Winter Games bid are resolved and the legal proceedings involving the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are concluded.

● France ● A French government initiative to provide a major tax break for international federations and their employees who relocate to France was removed from a finance bill last week by the French Constitutional Council. The proposal was:

“These provisions amend the general tax code in order to provide, on the one hand, that international sports federations recognized by the International Olympic Committee are exempt from business property taxes, value added contributions and corporate taxes. for certain activities and, on the other hand, that the employees of these federations, tax domiciled in France, are exempt from income tax on the salaries and wages paid to them in respect of these same activities for five years from the time they take office.”

The article was held as unconstitutional as the tax exemptions – designed to attract federations to the country – were held “as violating the principle of equality before public offices.”

● Alpine Skiing ● American superstar Mikaela Shiffrin closed out a historic 2023, in which she became the biggest winner ever on the FIS World Cup circuit, with her 93rd career win in Friday’s Slalom in Lienz (AUT).

She roared to a big lead in the first run in 52.81, with U.S. teammate Paula Moltzan second at 53.95. Moltzan hit a groove in the snow and did not finish the second run, but Shiffrin was just as good, winning the second run at 55.94 for a 1:48.75 total. German Lena Duerr was fifth-fastest on both runs, good enough for second (1:51.09), with Michelle Gisin (SUI: 1:51.20) in third.

In 2023, Shiffrin recorded 13 wins and now has record totals for World Cup wins (93) and Slalom wins (56). She ends the year with a 900-637 lead in the overall World Cup standings over Italy’s Federica Brignone.

Friday’s men’s Super-G in Bormio (ITA) was the fourth win of the season – in just 10 races – for reigning World Cup champ Marco Odermatt (SUI), who won by almost a second in 1:27.72, beating Austria’s Raphael Haaser (1:28.70) and Norwegian star Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (1:29.03).

Odermatt now leads the overall World Cup standings with 636 points to 464 for the now-injured Marco Schwarz (AUT) and 240 for Kilde, after 10 of 41 races.

● Athletics ● A world record in the women’s 5 km for Kenyan star Beatrice Chebet at the Cursa dels Nassos race in Barcelona (ESP) on Sunday.

The race was set up to be fast and Chebet, the 2023 World Road champ, finally ran away from Ethiopia’s Ejegayehu Taye in the final 500 m to win in 14:13, breaking the 14:19 best by Taye from this race in 2021. Taye finished second in 14:21, equaling the no. 3 performance ever, with Lilian Rengeruk (KEN) third in 14:26, moving her to no. 3 on the all-time performers list.

Said the winner: “I came to Barcelona determined to better the world record as I felt capable of that. This world record means a lot for me, I can’t believe it.”

● Boxing ● “Since boxing’s IF has not determined transgender eligibility and boxing is considered a combat sport, USA Boxing’s overriding objective is the safety of all boxers and fair competition between all boxers.”

That’s from the USA Boxing transgender policy which took effect on Monday and interestingly has elements not usually seen in such protocols.

For most sports, the opportunity for at-birth females to compete in the men’s division is open, without qualifications. In view of the nature of boxing, that’s not good enough for the federation, which requires:

“● The athlete has declared that his gender identity is male and has had gender reassignment surgery.

“● The athlete for a minimum of four years after surgery has had quarterly hormone testing and presents USA Boxing documentation of hormone levels.

“● The athlete must demonstrate that his total testosterone level in serum has been above 10 nmol/L for at least 48 months prior to his first competition (with the requirement for any longer period to be based on a confidential case-by-case evaluation, considering whether or not 48 months is a sufficient length of time to minimize any advantage in men’s competition).”

Continued testing is also called for. As far as the more controversial male-to-female eligibility standards:

“● The athlete has declared that her gender identity is female and has completed gender reassignment surgery.

“● The athlete for a minimum of four years after surgery has had quarterly hormone testing and presents USA Boxing documentation of hormone levels.

“●The athlete must demonstrate that her total testosterone level in serum has been below 5 nmol/L for at least 48 months prior to her first competition …

“● The athlete’s total testosterone level in serum must remain below 5 nmol/L throughout the period of desired eligibility to compete in the female category.”

All boxers under age 18 must compete in the birth gender. Although there are sports with lower testosterone requirements than the 5 nmol/L level required by USA Boxing, the requirements for gender reassignment surgery and four-year waiting period are uniquely strict.

● Cross Country Skiing ● The FIS World Cup tour was in Tolbach (ITA) for the beginning of the 18th Tour de Ski, a highly-prized, seven-stage in-season tournament with Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (NOR) and Frida Karlsson (SWE) the defending champions.

Neither figured in the medal ceremonies, as France’s Lucas Chanavat got his first World Cup victory since January of 2020, winning the Freestyle Sprint in 2:35.75, ahead of teammate Jules Chappaz (2:35.97) and American Ben Ogden (2:36.24).

The American Ogden, 23, finally broke into medal contention earlier this season, with a Sprint fourth on 9 December and now has his first World Cup medal.

In the men’s 10 km Classical Interval Start, Finn Perttu Hyvarinen got the win in 23:08.6, trailed by Norway’s Erik Valnes (23:24.8) and Harald Amundsen (23:25.8). Ogden finished ninth in 23:54.8. For the 32-year-old Hyvarinen, it was his first career individual World Cup medal!

The women’s Freestyle Sprint was a 1-2 for Sweden, with Linn Svahn (3:01.22) and Jonna Sundling (3:01.29), and Kristine Skistad (NOR: 3:01.51) in third. It’s the 10th career World Cup gold for Svahn, all but two in Sprint races.

The 10 km Classical Interval Start gold was won by Kerttu Niskanen (FIN: 25:48.0) – the Beijing 2022 Olympic 10 km runner-up – comfortably in front of Victoria Carl (GER: 25:54.7) and American Jessie Diggins (25:58.7), the overall World Cup leader.

Diggins has five medals this season (2-2-1) in 11 races and ends the year with 893 points, ahead of Emma Ribom (SWE: 800) and U.S. teammate Rosie Brennan (771) in the World Cup standings.

The Tolbach racing concluded with a 20 km Freestyle Pursuit on Monday.

● Ice Hockey ● At the men’s World Junior Championships in Gothenburg (SWE), the U.S. concluded pool play with a 4-0 record, outscoring its opponents by 29-9.

Sweden defeated two-time defending champs Canada, 2-0, in their pool game, but lost to Finland in a shoot-out to finish at 3-1 and win Group A. The Canadians were also 3-1, but finished with nine points, in second place.

The quarterfinals will begin on Tuesday with the U.S. facing Latvia and Sweden taking on Switzerland.

● Ski Jumping ● The 72nd Four Hills Tournament has started, with the first stop at the 137 m hill in Obertsdorf (GER). German Andreas Wellinger, the 2018 Olympic Normal Hill champ, took the opener with the biggest first jump in the field and scoring 309.3 points to 306.3 for Japanese star Ryoyu Kobayashi and 298.9 for seasonal leader Stefan Kraft (AUT).

Stage two is in Garmisch-Partenkirchen on Tuesday.

The women were in action in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GER) on Saturday, with Nika Prevc (SLO) taking her second straight win this season, scoring 267.4 to 254.5 for Eirin Kvandal (NOR) and 247.4 for Abigail Strate (CAN). It’s the third medal of the season for Kvandal and second career medal for Strate.

● Swimming ● Former U.S. Olympic women’s coach and long-time University of California women’s coach Teri McKeever was suspended by the U.S. Center for SafeSport last Thursday, for “emotional misconduct.”

According to Swimming World Magazine:

“As part of the SafeSport notice, McKeever admitted fault in emotionally and physically abusing swimmers, including pressuring them to train or compete while injured. She also admitted to using racist and demeaning language.”

Her suspension is for three months, and probation for another 12 months, and not allowed to contact any of the athletes who made allegations against her. She said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times:

“I acknowledge that my expectations were exceedingly high, and that at times, my frustration with swimmers who weren’t coachable or did not believe in themselves or the team was not productive for the team.”

McKeever’s teams at Cal won four NCAA team titles during her term as head coach from 1992 to 2022, when she was dismissed after an investigation into her conduct. She was the head coach of the U.S. women’s team at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Russian Evgeny Rylov, the Tokyo Olympic 100-200 m Backstroke gold medalist, told the Russian news agency TASS he is more interested in supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s re-election campaign than in the Paris Olympic Games:

“First of all, this is a new experience for me, communication with many new people, new information, it helps me develop. I have never denied that I support the president and his work, so I am very glad that I was invited. I believe that the president pays great attention to sports, and it pays off, since every year more and more people go in for sports. If you take my area, then with the number of children who now go swimming, the pool is only freed up on New Year’s Eve, and before that everything is packed.

“If we talk about the Olympic Games in Paris, then at the moment the support of the president is more important for me, but I also cannot deny the importance of sport, because sport helped me reach certain heights and position in society. I am not going to participate in the next Olympics, but We will have our own competitions next year, and I really want to perform well there.”

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