TSX REPORT: Way cleared for Russia to OK “neutrals” at Paris; Hidalgo to swim in Seine in June; U.S. sending 616 to 2024 Games!

NBC's "Rings Across America" tour ready to promote its Paris 2024 telecast (Photo: NBC Sports)

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1. Russian Olympic chief: not involved in Paris participation decision
2. Paris mayor Hidalgo wants no Russians, will swim in Seine
3. USOPC expects to send massive, 616-athlete team to Paris Olympics
4. NBC promotes Paris with “Rings Across America” tour
5. Modern Pent champs Choong, Micheli worried about the future

● The head of the Russian Olympic Committee said Thursday that it has nothing to do with “neutral” athletes competing at Paris 2024, opening the way for the Russian Sports Ministry to approve their participation, but only after hearing the final requirements from the International Olympic Committee.

● Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said she does not want any Russian athletes at the Paris Games, but knows she is not the decision maker. She does plan to fulfill her promise to swim in the cleaner Seine River, possibly on Olympic Day.

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee announced a projected 616-athlete team for the Paris Olympics and 240 for the Paralympics, along with medal presentations to both the Beijing 2008 figure skating team (if appeals are settled) and upgraded 2012 gold medalists.

● NBC unveiled a new “Rings Across America” tour at events like the Indy 500 that NBC will televise this spring, to promote the Paris Games telecast to attendees. Also, daytime broadcasts of the Games will be available in about 160 AMC movie theaters … yes, you have to buy a ticket.

● The Tokyo Olympic champion in modern pentathlon and a two-time World Champion both said they are worried for the future of the sport. Tokyo winner Joe Choong said he’s ready to retire in view of the removal of riding from the sport and Worlds winner Elena Michaeli called the change to obstacle course “quite a trauma.”

Panorama: Paris 2024 (2: new study says now-discarded Olympic surfing tower will hurt Teahuopo’o reef; Myrtha to provide 24 pools for Paris) = Cycling (UCI sanctions two federation officials for bad behavior!) = Football (FIFA Council approves annual U-17 World Cups, allots 10 to Qatar and Morocco) ●

Russian Olympic chief: not involved in Paris participation decision

Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov, himself a four-time Olympic gold medalist in fencing, told reporters on Thursday:

“The ROC has never engaged in a boycott of the Olympic Games; we, as the ROC, will never take the path of a boycott. We always support the participation of Russian Olympians in these competitions, but exclusively on non-discriminatory, equal terms with athletes from all over the world.

“Unfortunately, Paris 2024 cannot provide Russian Olympians with equal conditions, in connection with this the question arises: why such unfair conditions for Russian athletes?”

What does that mean?

Pozdnyakov, speaking after a meeting of the Russian Olympic Committee, explained further:

“Rules of conduct at the Olympics will be put forward, which will be in strict accordance with the criteria, or rather, the principles, that were voiced at the December IOC Executive Board meeting. Thus, the athlete taking part must condemn the special military operation [in Ukraine], and some others must sign documents that, from the point of view of lawyers of the legal department of the ROC, can bring negative consequences in terms of violation of Russian legislation.

“Today the issue was not considered, it was not on the agenda. None of the members of the ROC executive committee raised this issue. From the point of view of our lawyers, in accordance with our charter, the Russian Olympic Committee is responsible for, and protects the interests of the Russian Olympic team. From the point of view of our lawyers, neutral athletes in no way fall under this concept. Therefore, I doubt that we will further discuss this issue at the official level.”

Taken at face value, his comments appear to mean that the question of whether “neutral” athletes that come from Russia should compete at the Paris Olympic Games, have nothing to do with the now-suspended Russian Olympic Committee.

That would – apparently – leave the door open for Russian participation – as “neutrals” – at Paris, as recommended Wednesday by Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin:

“Everyone is talking these days about the issue of Russia’s potential participation in the upcoming Olympics, and my stance is that we must not be turning our backs, isolating ourselves and boycotting the [Olympic] movement.

“We must preserve the opportunity for dialogue as much as we can and compete in this tournament.”

Matytsin also claimed that while the Russian Olympic Committee has a role to play, the decision should be up to his ministry:

“We are in a constructive dialogue. The Olympic Committee is a public organization that plays a significant role in organizing the sports movement in the Russian Federation. Therefore, we will carefully consider the proposals that will be made at the ROC executive committee.

“But the state policy in the field of sports is determined by the government.”

Matytsin indicated that no formal announcement would be made until after the International Olympic Committee’s Executive Board meetings next week.

Paris mayor Hidalgo wants no Russians, will swim in Seine

“I prefer that they don’t come.”

That’s Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, in an interview with Reuters, adding:

“We cannot act as if [Russia’s invasion of Ukraine] did not exist. We could not act as if [Vladimir] Putin was not a dictator who today threatens the whole of Europe.”

She also brushed aside any thought of sanctions on Israel, based on its response to the deadly attack it suffered from Hamas on 7 October 2023, and said that a ceremony would be held to remember the attack by Palestinian terrorists on the Israeli delegation at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

Hidalgo, who has championed the renovation of the Seine River to improve water quality to the point where swimming can be allowed for the first time in more than a century, said she is planning to fulfill her promise to swim in the river prior to the Games:

“We’re currently thinking about this swim, which could take place around the Olympic Day [on 23 June].”

She said French President Emmanuel Macron – who said he will also swim in the Seine – is welcome to join her and that she has had interest from others, including a Paris fire brigade, crew members from the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, police units and more.

On Wednesday, Marc Guillaume, the Prefect of the Ile-de-France region which includes Paris, told reporters that “Everything that had been envisaged to allow the events to be held in the Seine will have been carried out,” and there is no back-up plan to go elsewhere. This includes open-water swimming and the triathlon events; in case of rainwater overflow – which canceled some of the test events in 2023 – events could be postponed for a day or two to allow for run-off.

Hidalgo has insisted on environmental considerations in all aspects of the Paris 2024 plan, including the construction of the Olympic Village without air conditioning, but with a water-cooling project above and below the floors:

“This village was designed to avoid the need for air conditioning, even in very, very high temperatures, in order to maintain comfortable temperatures.

“I think we have to trust science on two counts. The first is what scientists are telling us about the fact that we are on the brink of a precipice. Everyone, including the athletes, must be aware of this.

“And secondly, we have to trust the scientists when they help us to construct buildings in a sober way that allows us to make do without air conditioning.”

Multiple teams, including Australia, Brazil, Canada and Norway are arranging for air conditioning units in at least some rooms. Hidalgo noted that those choices are up to each National Olympic Committee, but that the long-term usage of the complex as housing will be free of air conditioning.

USOPC expects to send massive, 616-athlete team to Paris Olympics

Concluding two days of board meetings, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee Chair Gene Sykes and chief executive, Sarah Hirshland, gave an update on Thursday afternoon on the preparations for Paris. Hirshland announced:

“As of today, we have 41 athletes qualified by name for the Olympic Games, across 10 sports, another 16 teams that have qualified and have not yet named their rosters; 16 athletes have qualified by name for the Paralympic Games, across five sports, and we have five Paralympic teams that have qualified, yet to name the specifics of their rosters. …

“We have an expected team size of 616 for the Olympic team and an expected team size of 240 for the Paralympic team.”

Those are big teams, and the 616 projected Olympians would be the third-largest team in American history:

● 646 in 1996 in Atlanta
● 621 in 2021 in Tokyo
● 616 projected for Paris 2024
● 588 in 2008 in Beijing
● 576 in 2000 in Sydney

The Paralympic Games projection of 240 is right in line with the 242 sent to Tokyo in 2021; there were 279 Americans for Rio in 2016 and 223 for London in 2012.

Hirshland also noted the release of the report of the Commission on the State of the U.S. Olympics and Paralympics on 1 March, which for the USOPC is more of a beginning than an end:

“Let me start by extending my appreciation to all the members of that commission, and to Congress, for their dedication and commitment. The report offered helpful perspective on many topics that our Movement has been evaluating and discussing for many years. These are important conversations to have today, and to continue as a community as we look forward.

“Over the past five years, we’ve undergone a journey of transformation and growth. We have navigated through a sea of challenges, and have risen from them stronger and with a renewed, unwavering commitment to our mission and to continued advancement and progress.

“In addition to conversations among our community, I’ll be in Washington in the coming weeks to talk with legislators and staff, and will remain active in these conversations. And while our focus remains on providing certainty to athletes, fans and donors that the United States is ready for a strong showing in Paris, a successful summer Games in L.A. and securing a Winter Games in Salt Lake, we recognize the importance of ongoing progress around all the aspects of our Movement, and we’re committed to that dialog.

“Additionally, reflective of an ongoing conversation, and also a topic raised in the report, we remain engaged on the topic of college sports, and we echo our strong advocacy for securing the broad presence for Olympic and Paralympic sport on college campuses.

“This is a priority subject for us and will continue to work with our athlete representatives, the Collegiate Advisory Council and the NGBs to ensure that Olympic and Paralympic sport opportunities are central to this conversation.”

Sykes also announced a new USOPC corporate mission statement, adopted by the Board:

Empowering the competitive excellence and well-being of Team USA athletes, championing the power of sport, and inspiring the nation.”

Hirshland commented about the status of the USOPC’s plan to award the Beijing 2022 figure skating Team Event medals to the skaters in Paris in view of the multiple appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport decision:

“The variety of appeals may, in fact, delay the award of those medals, although it is our hope and sincere interest in being able to award those medals in Paris. That is what the team has requested and we believe that that can happen, regardless of the hearings. Obviously we’re not in control of that timeline, but it’s certainty our hope that that’s what we’re able to do.”

There are more medals to be awarded, to Americans Erik Kynard (men’s high jump) and Lashinda Demus (women’s 400 m hurdles), who were promoted to London 2012 gold medalists after doping disqualifications. Hirshland said these are also hoped for in Paris:

“Equally important to celebrate both, although as I said, the circumstances are different. We will do everything we can to celebrate the athletes in both cases. I think we’ll do both in Paris: that’s our hope, and be able to really leverage and utilize an environment that holds the Olympic spirit.

“There’s no circumstance in which we can get the moment back that they deserve. But what we have to do is our very best, to give them a moment that honors the accomplishment and the achievement that they deserve and we’ll do that. If we can do all of them in Paris, that’s our plan.”

NBC promotes Paris with “Rings Across America” tour

After very difficult ratings for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 and the Beijing Winter Games in 2022, NBC is banking on a big rebound for Paris 2024, in a much more favorable time zone for American viewers.

But to make sure that people know about it, NBC is bringing the Olympic Rings – as part of a 20-foot-long interactive display – to events it is televising this spring for a “Rings Across America” tour:

Mar. 14-17: The Players in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Apr. 06-07: Premier League fan festival in Nashville, Tennessee
May 04: Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Kentucky
May 26: Indianapolis 500 in Indianapolis, Indiana

The exhibit was first displayed at Universal Studios Florida in Orlando in February, with more dates and locations to be added.

During the Games, U.S. fans who want to see the Games on the biggest screen possible will get their chance as NBC announced Wednesday that it will be showing selected hours of coverage in movie theaters:

“Beginning the day after the Opening Ceremony, select daytime hours of NBCUniversal’s live coverage of the 2024 Paris Olympics on NBC will be shown in approximately 160 AMC locations nationwide, allowing fans to gather and experience the competitions, moments, stories, and emotion of the Olympics on the big screen as they unfold live in Paris. Tickets will be available for purchase through AMC and Fandango this summer.”

That’s right: ticketed. So you can watch at home on over-the-air or cable TV, stream on Peacock, or go to a theater; specific hours of broadcasts have not been announced, but it appears that the targeted daypart is afternoons.

Modern Pent champs Choong, Micheli worried about the future

“After any Olympics a lot of athletes, particularly the older ones, choose it as the right time to retire, but I think after Paris the flood of retiring athletes is going to be much larger than usual.

“For example, it’s very likely that I will announce ‘that’s me done’ – and start to look at what’s next. And I’m only 28.

“I’ve spoken to some athletes who are 21 and they’re fed up with the politics. It could be a hugely worrying time for the sport if too many decide to step down.”

That’s Tokyo Olympic modern pentathlon men’s gold medalist, Joe Choong (GBR), speaking with the British inews.co.uk site, continuing his criticism of the sport’s international federation, the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne.

The UIPM, taking direction from the International Olympic Committee, removed riding as one of its five sports and replaced it with obstacle racing, also deciding to absorb the obstacle federation (FISO) in the process. Said Choong:

“I’ve really struggled with the decision. It’s been really disappointing to see how athlete voices haven’t meant anything. All the way to the top the IOC said our voice was important but at the same time they’ve done nothing to make sure we are heard. …

“I’m hopeful Paris will put on a fantastic show for the last Modern Pentathlon ever. I really hope it works out for all the 20-year-olds who have put their heart into our sport already.”

Italy’s 2022 and 2023 women’s Worlds gold medalist, Elena Micheli, 24, told Eurosport the changeover has been anything but easy (translation from the original Italian):

“Paris will be the last edition with horse riding, which will leave room for the obstacle course.

“It’s quite a trauma. The reason behind the choice it is very complex and, to put it simply, it is closely linked to issues of both television spectacularity, economics and race management.

“Organizing a riding competition with a fleet of horses that can jump 110 or 120 hurdles really requires a lot of difficulty. They decided this way to being able to remain within the Olympic context as indicated by the IOC.

“In reality, our sport has always undergone changes in the various editions, for example with the timing. We started with a competition spread over five days, while in Paris we will have to face all the tests in an hour and a half. But despite having undergone various changes, never had the format upset us so much that we had to change a discipline.”

Modern Olympic founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin (FRA) helped to introduce the sport, which was first contested at the 1912 Stockholm Games and included fencing, swimming, riding, shooting and running. The sport was condensed from five days to one for the 1996 Atlanta Games and the final now takes place in 90 minutes in a specially-prepared venue.

The UIPM announced Wednesday that it is starting a new event, with obstacle racing and the Laser Run, combining shooting and running, to promote an entry-level format, that will start later this year.


● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● A Wednesday news release from the University of Hawaii cites a study published on 29 February in Remote Sensing that the new, Paris 2024 tower for the Olympic surfing competitions will cause $173,097 in damages to the existing coral reefs.

University of Hawaii Hilo associate professor John Burns led the study and said in in the announcement “We hope the International Olympic Committee, appropriate government officials and the greater international community can see how devastating this impact will be.”

The problem for Burns and the study is that it was based on the original proposal for – as the announcement describes – “approximately $5 million USD to construct a substantially larger tower to provide amenities for judges including toilets, air conditioning and capacity for 40 people.”

In fact, that plan was cast aside in late 2023 and the project downsized to essentially replicate the existing, wooden tower, but in aluminum for strength and safety.

The first stage of the new tower, approved in December, was completed in early February and is expected to be completed by 13 May and used for a World Surfing League competition as a test event.

Too little, way too late.

Myrtha Pools will supply 24 pools for swimming, diving, artistic swimming and water polo for the 2024 Paris Games, for both competition and training facilities.

The Associated Press reported that the stainless steel sections that will create the pool walls are in production at the company’s Castiglione delle Stiviere factory (near Verona), with two pools to be used for swimming: one for training and warm-up and the second for the Olympic competitions.

New technologies were introduced to provide more transparency through the water to aid underwater broadcast cameras and a new system to reduce the impact of chlorine, both in the water and in the air.

Myrtha chief executive Roberto Colletto (ITA) said that, depending on the depth of the pool (2 m or 3 m), between 2.5 and 4.0 million liters of water (660,430 to 1,056,688 U.S. gallons) will be used in each.

● Cycling ● The Ethics Commission of the Union Cycliste Internationale issued several decisions on Thursday, two of which dealt with individual behavior of national federation officials:

● “Following a report concerning Mr Patrick Lefevere [BEL], General Manager of the UCI WorldTeam Soudal Quick-Step, for public comments considered as disparaging towards women, the Ethics Commission confirmed that breaches of articles 5 and 6.1 of the Code of Ethics were committed in two instances.

“Mr Lefevere has been requested to make a public statement recognising the inappropriateness of his statements and apologising therefor. A fine of CHF 20,000 has also been imposed, suspended on condition that Mr Lefevere issues a public statement and does not commit a similar breach of the UCI Code of Ethics within the next three years.”

● “The Ethics Commission had also opened a case against the former President of the Ukrainian Cycling Federation, Mr Alexander Bashenko, for the use of insulting language directed at incumbent officials within the National Federation as well as officials of the UCI and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

“The statements made in messaging groups with members of the National Federation were deemed contrary to article 5 and 6.1 of the UCI Code of Ethics. Mr Bashenko was handed a provisional suspension upon the case being opened and the UCI Ethics Commission has now confirmed a suspension of one year starting from 23 May 2023 as well as a fine of CHF 5,000.”

Lesson: the UCI is watching you. (CHF 1 = $1.13 U.S.)

● Football ● The FIFA Council awarded 10 youth championships to Qatar and Morocco on Thursday, creating a continuum of events between the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and the 2034 World Cup to be awarded to Saudi Arabia:

● The FIFA U-17 World Cup for boys will be expanded to 48 teams and will be held annually, instead of every two years, beginning in Qatar in 2025-26-27-28-29.

● The FIFA U-17 World Cup for girls will be expanded to 24 teams and held in Morocco annually – instead of every two years – from 2025-26-27-28-29.

FIFA’s finances continue to explode, with President Gianni Infantino (SUI) saying after the meeting that “Thanks to its solid financial governance, FIFA is well on track to exceed its budgetary target of USD 11 billion for the 2023-2026 cycle.”

A total of $2.25 billion is earmarked for development and support operations in the 2023-26 quadrennial.

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