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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. CSUSOP asked to change Stevens Act on youth sports
2. Macron: no Russian flags at Paris 2024
3. U.S. faces Germany in FIBA Worlds semis Friday
4. Kuss maintains La Vuelta lead as Molano wins Stage 12
5. Ealey wins in Brussels; main meet on Friday
● The public hearing of the Commission on the State of the U.S. Olympics and Paralympics included a lengthy session on grass-roots sports in the U.S., with calls for more attention to this area and more support – possibly Federal, possibly local – for coaching, access and governance, in the absence of any kind of national sports policy. More support was requested for Paralympic and for deaf athletes.
● French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview he did not want to see any Russian flags waving in Paris during next year’s Olympic Games, but said that the question of Russian or Belarusian athletes was up to the International Olympic Committee.
● The FIBA World Cup will finish this weekend, with the U.S. facing Germany – as it did in a pre-World Cup exhibition – in one semifinal and Canada playing Serbia in the other.
● American Sepp Kuss continues to lead the Vuelta a Espana after a sprinter’s stage, but faces two daunting climbing stages on Friday and Saturday that will go a long way to determining whether he can be the first American winner since 2013.
● World Champion Chase Ealey won the women’s shot held in downtown Brussels at the Memorial Van Damme, with the main portion of the meet on Friday, with world-record tries expected in the men’s 2,000 m and women’s 200 m.
● World Championships: Weightlifting (fifth Worlds golds for China’s Chen) ●
● Panorama: Salt Lake City 2002 (Hoberman arch restored and stands again) = Athletics (Estes sues USATF for defamation) = Football (Spain appoints new women’s coach) = Wrestling (new UWW streaming service, but no live coverage in the U.S.) ●
CSUSOP asked to change Stevens Act on youth sports
The final panel of Wednesday’s public hearing of the Commission on the State of the U.S. Olympics and Paralympics in Washington, D.C. focused on sports at the grass-roots level, rather than Olympic-level athletes, with calls for re-writing the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act and for public funding.
Tom Farrey, the founder of the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program, told the nine Commission members present about the research he originally did for his 2008 book, Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children:
“When you peel back the layers, I found a failure of sports governance, of policy. I wrote a chapter on the 1978 Amateur Sports Act, which tasked the U.S. Olympic Committee and affiliated [National Governing Bodies] with (a) selecting and supporting teams that represent our country, and (b) coordinating and developing participation opportunities, down to the community level.
“But it was an unfunded mandate. And within a few years, the USOPC was telling Congress explicitly that it can’t both get Americans off the couch and onto the podium, that it lacked the resources and the authority to do so. And they were right. And I think it’s time we listened.”
Farrey pointed to the “Children’s Bill of Rights,” developed by the Aspen Institute’s Project Play initiative with contributions from – among others – the U.S. Center for SafeSport and the Center for Sport and the Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law, led by Commission co-Chair Prof. Dionne Koller, and endorsed by the USOPC and others. Speaking of the USOPC, the National Governing Bodies and other organizations involved in elite sport:
“What most haven’t done, and can’t do under the current Sports Act, is change their business model to prioritize mass participation and support for quality programs. They are beholden to corporate sponsors more interested in media stars, who can draw eyeballs to products.
“That’s why each NGB submits a high-performance plan to the USOPC, which then distributes more than $110 million annually to help podium-potential athletes. It’s a commitment to individual excellence, which is good. But it’s also a recipe for dysfunction without an even greater commitment to systems excellence.
“What we need is for every NGB to submit a ‘grass-roots performance plan,’ or a ‘GPP’ as I would call it. A ‘grass-roots performance plan’ would include a strategy and reporting – verified by a third party – on efforts to grow participation rates, to recruit youth from under-represented populations, to improve coach quality, to partner with schools, to prevent all forms of abuse – emotional, physical and sexual – put whatever you want in there … and raise another $110 million, or $500 million that gets distributed based on the quality of the NGB’s ‘GPP.’
“Then, re-distribute much of that money to community programs that align with best practices and deliver results.”
And Farrey noted that the USOPC does not have to be the instigator, coordinator or monitor of such an effort:
“If the USOPC does not want, or is not a good fit for the grass-roots role any more, then oversight needs to go to another entity.”
He suggested it could be part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, or a quasi-governmental entity akin to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, or something new. But:
“That body should be guided by a national sports policy, which we don’t have. … Public and private funding streams should be identified to support this essential work. …
“Re-write the Amateur Sports Act and center the needs of youth and communities, and watch everything that sits on top of that base flourish: more athletes, better athletes, and, yes, more Olympic and Paralympic inspiration.”
Asked directly about the changes needed to the Stevens Act, he explained:
“The law is not written in a manner that allows them to have a sufficient level of authority over the grass roots. It just says ‘coordinate amateur sports activity, set some national goals,’ but how? I mean, this was language that was written nearly 50 years ago. It was our first attempt at sport governance in this country. It was a start, but we can do much better.”
Farrey also noted that in the dozen other countries he has studied, the National Olympic Committees are not tasked with mass participation development; it’s handled by another entity which is focused just on that. And in response to a question, he said that a state or local organization could also be effective, instead of creating a national one.
Funding? Farrey suggested looking not just at direct public funding, but other models tied elsewhere, such as the British use of a portion of funds in the national lottery, or perhaps a portion of revenues from the rapidly-expanding sports betting programs being adopted by each state.
Jeremy Goldberg, the head of LeagueApps, agreed: “It is also clear that there is no coherent youth sports system in this country. First there is a lack of governance, with no real structure or standards that stewards youth sports experiences in this country.”
But his solution was more money from the Federal government:
“There is an important role for the private sector. The focus of any strategy should be recognizing and supporting organizations at the grass roots that are key agents of change. … For organizations to have this kind of change, there’s a level of knowledge, training and professionalism that is required, as well as the accountability that goes with it. …
“The Federal government should be allocating more resources to support the needs of the very organizations that are working directly with kids. An example of what is needed is H.R. 8552 … that bill authorizes $75 million in grant funding to go directly to youth sports non-profits.”
A related panel dealing with the Paralympics and the U.S.A. Deaf Sports Federation (USADSF) also asked for more money for their athletes and programs, possibly also from the public sector, or through a funds-sharing mechanism such as the national lottery in Great Britain.
Jeff Mansfield, the President of the USADSF pointed out that the Amateur Sports Act of 1978 did not make any allowance for special support for deaf athletes, and the current USOPC alignment with the International Paralympic Committee has left deaf athletes – who participate in a separate multi-sport event, the Deaflympics – on their own, especially compared to Paralympians supported by the USOPC. He asked for an amendment to the Act to require the USOPC to assist deaf athletes in the same way.
At the elite-sport level, within the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, even when fully-funded athlete support staff are added, it doesn’t always work.
Elizabeth Ramsey, since 2020 the first, full-time Executive Director of the Team USA Athletes’ Commission, explained that because the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act (as amended) created the Athletes Advisory Council (now the Athletes’ Commission) as a part of the USOPC, the credibility and outreach ability of her team are too limited and it cannot obtain commercial sponsors or other outside funding; moreover:
“Because Team USA AC is not a legally independent body, it has been challenging for our athlete representatives, and myself, and staff, to form trusting, quality relationships with some of the athletes it serves to represent. Many athletes still believe I work for the USOPC, and therefore, sometimes believe I do not have the athlete’s best interests in mind in making decisions. …
“We believe the Act should be amended to give Team USA AC independence from the USOPC, while still being recognized by the USOPC as the official representative body of Team USA athletes. We’re a completely independent body, disconnected from the USOPC, Team USA AC would be able to gain more athlete trust, have the autonomy to make decisions that benefit athletes without oversight from the USOPC.”
Ramsey did not indicate whether such freedom would then remove the USOPC’s requirement to provide funding as it does now.
Opening speaker Dr. Victoria Jackson, an associate professor of history at Arizona State, noted the endless road ahead of not just the USOPC, but sports as a whole in the U.S.:
“Trust, it turns out, depends upon a hard backstop of regulation, coordination, transparency and accountability through checks on power, something that the American sports ecosystem does not have.”
Macron: no Russian flags at Paris 2024
French President Emmanuel Macron told the French all-sports newspaper L’Equipe in a Thursday story that Russian flags should be banned from Paris 2024, but that the question of participation is up to the International Olympic Committee.
“Of course, there can be no Russian flag during the Paris Games, I think there is a consensus on that matter. Because Russia, as a country, is not welcome at a time where it has committed war crimes and deported children …
“The real question, that the Olympic organisation should decide upon, is what place can be given to the Russian athletes … an issue that should not be politicized.
“I want the Olympic world to make a conscious decision, and I have every confidence in [IOC president] Thomas Bach.”
He also said that Ukrainian representatives should be involved with the IOC in discussions on this question.
Macron and Bach have met on the matter; Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has been clear that she does not favor Russian or Belarusian athlete participation at the Paris 2024 Games.
U.S. faces Germany in FIBA Worlds semis Friday
Two teams that know each other will face off for the second time in 20 days in Friday’s second semifinal of the FIBA World Cup at the Mall of Asia in Pasay, Philippines.
The U.S. men’s national team staged a second-half comeback to beat Germany, 99-91, in an exhibition game in Abu Dhabi (UAE), on 20 August, with guard Anthony Edwards (Timberwolves) going wild with 34 points.
The game was tied at 26 at the quarter, then the Germans seized control, leading 54-46 at halftime. The bulge expanded to 71-55 in the third, but the Americans mounted a 16-3 charge to get within 74-71 in the fourth. Germany pushed out to a 86-77 with 6:58 left, but an 18-0 burst left the U.S. in front by 95-86 and it ended at 99-91.
The U.S. has a 13-0 record vs. Germany in international play, but the Germans are the last unbeaten team in the tournament, with a 6-0 record, beating Japan, Australia and Finland in their first group, then drilling Georgia and Slovenia in the second group stage before an 81-79 thriller over Latvia in the quarters.
The Germans are led by front-court brothers Franz and Mo Wagner, who both play for the Orlando Magic, and Raptors guard Dennis Schroeder.
The first semi will have Canada (5-1) and Serbia (5-1), with the winners to play for the title on Sunday and the losers to meet in the third-place game, also on Sunday. By virtue of being the top two teams from the Americas, the U.S. and Canada have now qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympic tournament, as have Germany and Serbia as the top two European teams.
The U.S. has won this tournament five times, while Serbia has played in one final, losing to the U.S. in 2014. Germany won the bronze in 2002 in its only trip to the semis; this is the first appearance in the semifinals for Canada.
Kuss maintains La Vuelta lead as Molano wins Stage 12
The mostly-downhill 12th stage of the 2023 La Vuelta a Espana finished with the expected mass sprint, and a win for Colombian Juan Sebastian Molano, who covered the 150.6 km route from Olvega to Zaragoza in 3:23:35.
He made it to the line ahead of Australian Kaden Groves, already a winner of two stages this year, and Boy van Poppel (NED). It’s Molano’s second career win at the Vuelta a Espana, as he also won a stage in 2022.
Race leader Sepp Kuss of the U.S. stayed with the other contenders and was part of the 89 riders who all received the same time as Molano. Defending champ Remco Evenepoel (BEL) was 24th, Tour de France winner Jonas Vingegaard (DEN) was 25th, Kuss 36th and Primoz Roglic (SLO) was 43rd.
Kuss maintains a 26-second lead on Marc Soler (ESP), 1:09 on Evenepoel, and 1:32 on Roglic. The next two stages are both difficult, with Friday’s 134.7 km, triple-ascent stage ending at the 2,115 m Col de Tourmalet in the French Pyrenees, followed by another triple-peak stage on Saturday, with another uphill finish to Larra-Belagua. We’ll know a lot more about who the eventual winner will be by the rest day on Monday.
At the Simac Ladies Tour in the Netherlands and Belgium, a win for Dutch star Lotte Kopecky has given her the lead after the second stage, an Individual Time Trial in and around Leuven.
Kopecky was third in the Prologue, then 14th in the mass sprint in Stage 1 won by Italy’s Elisa Balsamo in and around Gennep (NED), then took control in the 7.1 km flat time-trial route in Leuven (BEL).
She won in 8:59, two seconds up on Riejanne Markus (NED) and 11 seconds ahead of Britain’s Zoe Backstedt and Anna Henderson. Kopecky now sits two seconds up on Markus and 0:13 up on Dutch star (and defending champ) Lorena Wiebes. The race finishes on Sunday.
Ealey wins in Brussels; main meet on Friday
American Chase Ealey, who defended her world title in the women’s shot put in Budapest, who again in Thursday’s city-center competition at the Memorial Van Damme in Brussels (BEL), the penultimate Diamond League meet of the season.
Ealey stood fourth after the first round and stayed there until the fifth, when she unleashed the only throw of the competition over 20 m, at 20.05 m (65-9 1/2) and that proved to be the winner. Canada’s Sarah Mitton, the Worlds silver winner, was runner-up again at 19.76 m (64-10), with world leader Maggie Ewen of the U.S. third with her first-round toss of 19.64 m (64-5 1/4).
Fellow Americans Adelaide Aquilla got a seasonal best of 19.20 m (63-0) in fifth, and Jessica Woodard was ninth at 18.82 m (61-9).
Friday’s meet will be shown in the U.S. on NBC’s Peacock streaming service from 2:00 p.m. Eastern time and replayed on Saturday on CNBC from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern.
There are some noteworthy possible record attempts. Norway’s two-time Worlds 5,000 m and Olympic 1,500 m winner Jakob Ingebrigtsen is expected to try for the very good 2,000 m world mark of 4:44.79 by Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj from 1999. That’s essentially running 56.8 per lap for five laps: a 3.47.2 for 1,600 m and then another lap in 56.8!
Jamaica’s 200 m superstar Shericka Jackson, now a two-time World Champion, is aiming for the 21.34 world mark by American Florence Griffith-Joyner from the 1988 Seoul Games. She got close in the Worlds final in 21.41, and said in the pre-meet news conference:
“At the World Championships I was so close to the world record. Just a little wind and I would have been the world-record holder. But my coach and I have spoken and we are going after it this year. I hope to get it tomorrow. And if I do, then that will probably ease a little pressure off me going into Eugene. But if not, we have another shot at Eugene.
“There’s no perfect race but I just want to run a good race tomorrow and put everything in place, because we are right there, we are so close, we are knocking on the door. And tomorrow we will have Jamaican weather – and it’s a new track. Tomorrow is definitely supposed to be one of those good days! My mind is feeling good, my body is ready, and that’s the best thing I can put together. Anything is possible tomorrow.”
≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ≡
● Weightlifting ● Tokyo Olympic champion Lijun Chen won his fifth World Championships gold in the men’s 67 kg class at the 2023 World Weightlifting Championships in Riyadh (KSA).
Chen won all three sections, taking the Snatch at 153 kg, the Clean & Jerk at 180 kg and the total at 333 kg, 12 clear of runner-up Eko Yuli Irawan (INA: 321 kg), who won his eighth career Worlds medal across five different classes from 2007-23! Armenia’s Gor Sahakyan was third at 312 kg in total.
No U.S. lifters competed in this class. Chen now has Worlds wins at 62 kg in 2013 and 2015 and at 67 kg in 2018-19-22-23. Competitions continue through the 17th.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Winter Games 2002: Salt Lake City ● Another legacy of the 2002 Winter Games was presented in a new location on 29 August, as the Hoberman Arch was unveiled at the Salt Lake City International Airport.
The arch was the backdrop of the Medals Plaza at the 2002 Winter Games and had been in storage, waiting for a permanent home. The history:
“The arch was designed by artist, architect and engineer Chuck Hoberman and was inspired by Utah’s natural stone arches. The semi-circular aluminum structure resembles the form and movement of a human iris and weighs approx. 31,000 pounds. It is made up of 4,000 individual pieces put together as 96 connected panels with 13,000 steel rivets. The panels vary in size with the largest being 5-feet-wide by 9-feet-high.
“At the time of its construction, the arch was the largest unfolding structure in the world.”
Staged at the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium after the 2002 Games, it was eventually removed, and then parts were stolen while it was being stored in an open lot. The restoration and adaptation for its new location was handled by artist Gordon Huether of Napa, California.
● Athletics ● Jim Estes, a long-time USA Track & Field staff member and a current member of the USATF Board of Directors filed suit in Marion County, Indiana against USA Track & Field, chief executive Max Siegel and chief operating officer Renee Washington, claiming:
“James Estes has been defamed by communications that attribute Estes’ professional misconduct as the sole reason for the disqualification the Chattanooga Sports Commission’s bid for to host the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials. This is simply not true.”
The 17-page complaint states that Siegel “intentionally and repeatedly made false verbal and written statements asserting professional misconduct by the Plaintiff,” that Washington’s “breach of duties were the actual and proximate cause of Plaintiff’s injuries,” and that USATF’s “breach of duties were the actual and proximate cause of Plaintiff’s injuries.”
The prayer is for compensatory and punitive damages and asks for a jury trial.
The 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials were awarded by USATF to Orlando, Florida, to be held on 3 February 2024.
● Football ● Spain appointed Montse Tome as its new women’s national team coach, replacing Jorge Vilda, who was dismissed in the continuing furor over the medal presentation ceremonies following the FIFA Women’s World Cup last month and the conduct of national federation head Luis Rubiales.
Tome has been an assistant coach with the national team since 2018. She was a midfielder for three different clubs in Spain from 2002-13 and appeared four times for the Spanish national team from 2003-05.
● Wrestling ● United World Wrestling is the latest federation to offer its own streaming service, called UWW+, through which “an individual will get access to video on demand, the biggest wrestling events of the season – including the world and continental championships and the Ranking Series events – captivating docuseries, exclusive off-the-mat content and much more.”
Unfortunately, the UWW site notes that live content on this service is not available in the U.S., due to existing broadcast agreements. Maybe in the future.
For our updated, 787-event International Sports Calendar (no. 3) for 2023 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!