TSX REPORT: World Athletics reveals 2026 $10M all-star meet; Microsoft: Russia trying to disrupt Paris 2024; Watanabe v. Gayibov in FIG rematch

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1. World Athletics unveils “Ultimate Championship” for 2026
2. European Athletics readies €50,000 “Gold Crowns” for Rome
3. Microsoft: Russia trying to disparage Paris 2024 Games
4. Watanabe and Gayibov in FIG Presidency rematch
5. Boxing Federation of India joins World Boxing

● World Athletics finally disclosed its season-ending new event for 2026, the “Ultimate Championship,” essentially a three-day all-star meet with a record $10 million in prizes, including appearance money for all qualifiers. It will be held in 2026 and every even year, completing the odd-year World Championships.

● European Athletics is also offering athlete prizes for the first time at its 90-year-old European Championships starting Friday in Rome. €50,000 will be provided to each of 10 winners of the “Gold Crown,” the highest-scoring performance in five event groups each for men and women.

● A Microsoft report detailed extensive Russian propaganda activity online, designed to spread disinformation about the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, primarily using video but also with automated bots on social media channels. The French are well aware of the threat.

● A re-match of the 2021 election for President of the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) will take place in October, with Japanese incumbent Morinari Watanabe again facing European Gymnastics chief Farid Gayibov of Azerbaijan. Watanabe is running for a third term, but has not been able to jump-start FIG’s revenues above past levels.

● The Boxing Federation of India will join World Boxing and work to bring over more Asian members in a bid to build up this new federation so that boxing can be confirmed on the program for the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 2028.

Panorama: Commonwealth Games (no word on 2026 host yet) = Athletics (2: Kenyan Olympic Trials to be in Nairobi; 14 stars inducted to Collegiate Hall of Fame) = Fencing (2025 Hall of Fame class announced) = Gymnastics (rosters for U.S. Trials announced) = Shooting (Sheng gets 10 m Air Rifle record in Munich World Cup) = Table Tennis (Fan and Sun win WTT Champions Chongqing) = Wrestling (nine inducted into National Wrestling Hall of Fame) ●

Errata: Some readers of Monday’s post saw references to the Chechen region of Russia as Chenchen; thanks to reader Dan Bell for telling us first!) ●

World Athletics unveils “Ultimate Championship” for 2026

Announcing its long-promised “off-year” event, World Athletics announced its new “Ultimate Championship” for 2026, a three-day event to be held in September in Budapest, Hungary:

“Highlighting this revolutionary competition is a record-setting prize pot of US$10 million, the largest ever offered in the history of track & field athletics – with gold medallists set to receive US$150,000. This innovative event, debuting 11-13 September 2026 and set to be held every two years, will first be hosted in Hungary’s capital city of Budapest, promising a spectacular conclusion to the summer athletics season.”

This will be a national-team event, with athletes in their national uniforms, and the highest prize money yet offered by the federation, with $150,000 for the winners. About 400 athletes are expected to compete, from about 70 countries in a short-format event, with finals-only in field events and semifinals (at most) and finals in running events.

This will place 8-16 athletes in each event, with a clear focus on the top stars. Said World Athletics chief executive Jon Ridgeon (GBR):

“There will be a strong focus on television audiences, with an aim to reach the biggest global audience possible. We also want to enhance the viewing experience, both at home and in the stadium, so we are looking at what new competition innovations can be introduced, all of which will be thoroughly tested in advance. We truly believe this will be a game changer for our entire sport.”

The game-changer could be that the event is planned to be held every two years, including in Olympic years, creating a new seasonal dynamic:

2026: Diamond League final, Ultimate Championship
2027: Diamond League final, World Championships
2028: Olympic Games, Diamond League final, Ultimate Championship
2029: Diamond League Final, World Championships
2030: Diamond League Final, Ultimate Championship

The event format and specifics are not finalized, as the announcement noted, “consultation with stakeholders – including athletes and their representatives, coaches, shoe companies, broadcast organisations, Member Federations and many others – will continue throughout the summer before a full event launch this coming Autumn.”

Qualifying for the event is primarily to be through the World Athletics World Rankings, with direct invitations for the Diamond League winners and prior-year World or Olympic champs.

The promised $10 million prize purse is larger than the $8.498 million paid for the 2023 World Championships in Budapest, which had prizes from $70,000 for the winner to $5,000 for eighth place in individual events and from $80,000 to $4,000 for relays. There was a $100,000 bonus for world records.

Importantly, Monday’s announcement added that “All athletes competing at the championship will be financially rewarded,” which is certainly not true at the World Championships.

Observed: The choice of Budapest for this first Ultimate Championship makes sense, given excellent government support for events of this type, the success of the 2023 Worlds there and that Marton Gyulai, the Executive Director of Sport for the 2023 Worlds was named last September as the Director of Competition and Events for World Athletics.

The creation of what is essentially an “all-star game” format for a year-end program is logical and can bring a clear sense of closure to the 2026 season. How it will mesh with the Diamond League final will be fascinating; in 2025, the Diamond League final will be in Zurich (SUI) from 27-28 August, so an Ultimate Championship two weeks later in Europe works logistically and can create a rhythmic final month of (almost) weekly meets of high quality.

However, the high-profile European Championships are already scheduled for 10-16 August 2026 in Birmingham (GBR) and for 21-27 August in 2028 in Chorzow (POL).

The bet on the part of World Athletics is that television interest in the event will be high, as the National Athletics Centre which sat 36,000 for the 2023 Worlds has permanent seating for 15,000 in the lower bowl. If desired, more seats can be added, but at what cost for a weekend event?

The “all-star” format at the worldwide level is not new; in response to the impact of the now-on-hiatus International Swimming League, FINA – now World Aquatics – organized a Champions Series” more or less on the same concept in 2019 (three meets) and 2020 (two meets) before discontinuing it. Each edition paid $1.69 million in total prizes, a lot of money in swimming, but far less than the $10 million to be offered by World Athletics in 2026.

It’s too early to speculate how the Ultimate will work with the proposed new league led by 1996 U.S. Olympic sprint icon Michael Johnson, or other events which have been promised or suggested. But with the dates settled and the 2025 Diamond League calendar to go by, the format of the late-summer meet schedule is out there early. That’s good for everyone.

European Athletics readies €500,000 “Gold Crowns” for Rome

The European Championships in track & field have been contested since 1934, but have never paid prize money, until now. With the 90th-anniversary 2024 edition starting in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on Friday (7th), European Athletics is not exactly paying prizes to each winners, but it’s taking a first step with its “Gold Crowns.”

The men’s and women’s events have been grouped in fours and fives and the “best performance” among the winners in each of these groups will receive €50,000 (about $54,523 U.S.) as a “Gold Crown” winner. The groups (same for men and women):

Sprints & Hurdles (5): 100 m, 200 m, 400 m, 100 m hurdles, 400 m hurdles

Middle & Long Distance (5): 800 m, 1,500 m, 5,000 m, 10,000 m, Steeplechase)

Throws (4): Shot Put, Discus, Hammer, Javelin

Jumps (4): High Jump, Pole Vault, Long Jump, Triple Jump

Road/Combined Events/Relays (5): Half Marathon, 20 km Race Walk, Decathlon or Heptathlon, 4×100 m, 4×400 m

That’s €500,000 in total, with the determination of who gets what based on the World Athletics outdoor scoring tables. And yes, an actual “Gold Crown” is planned to be given to each winner.

The concept was agreed in October 2023. According to European Athletics, “The Gold Crown initiative comes on the back of the publication of the new European Athletics Strategic Roadmap 2024-2027 in which competition and athletes are a priority and it includes an objective to ‘strengthen the European Championships, attracting the best athletes and creating the best possible event for fans, sponsors and broadcasters alike.’”

It’s another move toward the professionalization of the sport and the reality that athlete highly value their earning opportunities in what are often short careers due to injuries, competition or other factors. To continue to attract the top European stars, a move toward prize money was obviously needed. Look for more money in future editions in Birmingham (GBR) in 2026 and Chorzow (POL) in 2028.

Microsoft: Russia trying to disparage Paris 2024 Games

“[W]ith less than 80 days until the opening of the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, the Microsoft Threat Analysis Center (MTAC) has observed a network of Russia-affiliated actors pursuing a range of malign influence campaigns against France, French President Emmanuel Macron, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the Paris Games. These campaigns may forewarn coming online threats to this summer’s international competition.”

Sunday’s report from Microsoft notes that this is nothing new:

“Modern Russia, as well as its predecessor the Soviet Union, has a longstanding tradition of seeking to undermine the Olympic Games. If they cannot participate in or win the Games, then they seek to undercut, defame, and degrade the international competition in the minds of participants, spectators, and global audiences.”

For 2024, the effort apparently started last year:

● “Starting in June 2023, prolific Russian influence actors—which Microsoft tracks as Storm-1679 and Storm-1099—pivoted their operations to take aim at the 2024 Olympic Games and French President Emmanuel Macron. These ongoing Russian influence operations have two central objectives: to denigrate the reputation of the IOC on the world stage; and to create the expectation of violence breaking out in Paris during the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.”

“The ‘Olympics Has Fallen’ website and video became the first in many videos MTAC encountered from Storm-1679. The video, which falsely purported to be a Netflix documentary narrated by the familiar voice of American actor Tom Cruise, clearly signaled the content’s creators committed considerable time to the project and … analysis confirmed the fake documentary used AI-generated audio resembling Cruise’s voice to imply his participation, spoofed Netflix’s iconic intro scene and corporate branding, and promoted bogus five-star reviews from reputable media outlets.”

The report further describes efforts “to foment public fear to deter spectators from attending the Games” and most recently, “a notable increase in Storm-1679’s French-language content as the Olympics campaign gained steam, possibly signaling an effort to target the French public more directly or set the scene for alleged unrest in the lead-up to the Games.”

Looking toward the Games period, the report sees the Russian “[a]ctors are likely to use a mix of propaganda facilitated by generative AI across social media platforms to continue their campaigns against France, the IOC, and the Olympic Games” and to use automated bots as much or more than video.

Microsoft itself pledged that it “remains committed to protecting the conduct and integrity of the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. MTAC will monitor and report on any campaigns stemming from Kremlin-backed actors in the lead up and opening of the Paris Games.”

The French are well aware of these efforts and President Macron and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin have both warned against such actions and have stated a significant monitoring effort has been organized in its security services.

Watanabe and Gayibov in FIG Presidency rematch

The Federation Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) certified its candidates for elections at the upcoming FIG Congress on 25 October 2024 in Doha (QAT). The same two candidates for President from 2021 are running again: incumbent Morinari Watanabe from Japan and European Gymnastics President Farid Gayibov, who is also the Azerbaijan Minister for Youth and Sports.

On 6 November 2021, Watanabe was elected to a second term – he began as President in 2017 – by winning the vote, 81-47, over Gayibov.

During his tenure, Watanabe has maintained the high standing of gymnastics within the Olympic Movement, which is as a first-tier sport in terms of popularity and prestige, along with World Aquatics and World Athletics. Those three federations are slated to receive $40 million or more for its share of International Olympic Committee television rights sales from the 2024 Paris Games.

However, he had not cracked the code on revenue, as FIG – despite being one of the most popular Olympic sports – has floundered with the same rise and fall in income and assets during and after Olympic years (from FIG financial statements; CHF 1 = $1.12 U.S. on 3 June 2024):

2017: CHF 22.271 million
2018: CHF 20.324 million
2019: CHF 21.634 million
2020: CHF 19.035 million (pandemic)
2021: CHF 34.074 million (Olympic year)
2022: CHF 20.988 million
2023: CHF 17.783 million

2017: CHF 60.293 million
2018: CHF 52.013 million
2019: CHF 47.654 million
2020: CHF 44.485 million (pandemic)
2021: CHF 72.905 million (Olympic year)
2022: CHF 56.817 million
2023: CHF 48.046 million

Reserves peaked at CHF 35.6 million in 2021 (Olympic year), but are expected to recede to CHF 25.7 million by the end of 2024.

FIG’s major money makers are its Artistic and Rhythmic World Championships, held in all non-Olympic years, although it also holds Worlds in Trampoline, Aerobic, Acrobatic and Parkour. At the FIG Council meeting, it was noted that no bids were received for 2028 World Championships in Acrobatic, Aerobic, Parkour or the 2029 World Gym For Life Challenge.

FIG’s World Cup and World Challenge Cup series meets – Artistic and Rhythmic – are consistent money losers and in Artistic, are only occasionally attended by World Championships medal winners. Under Watanabe, this structure has not significantly changed.

Elections will also be held for Council and committee positions. USA Gymnastics chief Li Li Leung is a member of the FIG Executive Council and is running for another term.

Boxing Federation of India joins World Boxing

The boxing federation of the world’s most populous country is in process to join World Boxing, with the Friday announcement welcoming the Boxing Federation of India:

“The membership application has been approved by the BFI’s General Assembly and will be ratified by World Boxing’s Executive Board. The BFI President, Mr Ajay Singh, recently met with World Boxing’s President and Secretary General to discuss ways in which India can support the International Federation in growing its membership base in Asia, where the BFI is one of the largest National Federations.

“As part of its commitment to the future development of World Boxing, the BFI aims to play a leading role in establishing an Asian Confederation and drive the recruitment of other National Federations in the region.”

India is a significant player in Asian boxing, winning five medals – tied for third-highest – at the last Asian Games, held in 2023. Six Indian boxers have qualified for the Paris 2024 Games.

Said BFI chief Singh:

“It is absolutely vital to the sustainability of boxing that it retains its Olympics status, so we are delighted to join World Boxing and look forward to working closely with the Executive Board and our fellow members to shape the future development of the sport and deliver a brighter future for boxers across the world.

“The BFI shares the same values and goals as World Boxing and are keen to play a leading role in its development. We also wish to be at the forefront of the formation and hosting of a new Asian confederation to ensure boxing continues to expand and grow its membership on the continent.”

India is believed to be the 28th member federation of World Boxing, which will need many more to become a satisfactory governing body in the eyes of the International Olympic Committee.


● Commonwealth Games 2026 ● The month of May came and went and no announcement was made – as had been projected – on a 2026 host for the Commonwealth Games, following the withdrawal of Victoria, Australia in 2023.

The London-based Commonwealth Games Federation told GamesBids.com that “further time” is required before a 2026 host can be announced.

● Athletics ● Athletics Kenya announced that its 14-15 June Olympic Trials will take place at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi, which is a World Athletics-certified facility, alleviating fears that marks made at the Trials might not be accepted for Paris qualification.

A spectacular class of 14 stars was inducted by the U.S. Collegiate Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association into the Collegiate Track & Field Hall of Fame during Sunday ceremonies at the University of Oregon:

● Rosalyn Bryant (Cal State L.A.): 1976 Olympic 4×400 m silver medalist
● Regina Cavanaugh (Rice): six-time NCAA women’s shot put champion
● Hollis Conway (Louisiana): 1988 Olympic men’s high jump silver medalist
● Bill Dellinger (Oregon): 1964 Olympic men’s 5,000 m bronze medalist
● Benita Fitzgerald (Tennessee): 1984 Olympic 100 m hurdles champion
● Glenn Hardin (LSU): 1932 Olympic silver, 1936 Olympic 400 m hurdles gold
● Balazs Kiss (USC): four-time NCAA men’s hammer champion
● Marty Liquori (Villanova): 1968 Olympian, five-time NCAA champion
● Larry Myricks (Mississippi College): 1988 Olympic long jump bronze
● Louise Ritter (TWU): 1988 Olympic women’s high jump champion
● Karl Salb (Kansas): six-time NCAA shot champion
● Amy Skieresz (Arizona): six-time NCAA women’s 5,000-10,000 m champion
● Trecia-Kaye Smith (Pitt): seven-time NCAA women’s long jump-triple jump champ
● Angela Williams (USC): NCAA women’s 100 m champ 1999-2000-01-02

This class accounted for an astounding 67 national collegiate titles, 25 collegiate records, five Olympic or World Championships medals, and four world records set during their collegiate careers. The Collegiate Athlete Hall of Fame was established in 2022, honoring the greatest stars in cross country and track & field.

● Fencing ● USA Fencing announced its Hall of Fame Class of 2025, including three U.S. fencing stars: 1984 Sabre Olympian Phil Reilly, 1996 Olympic Epee fencer Jim Carpenter, and 1991 Pan American Team Foil gold medalist Jane Hall Carter.

Dan Magay, who won an Olympic Sabre Team gold with Hungary at the 1956 Melbourne Games, was elected as a “Legacy” candidate; he defected to the U.S. to escape Soviet repression in Hungary and won American national titles in 1957, 1958 and 1961.

Pat Bedrosian was elected in the Veterans category, coaches Amgad Khazbak, Semyon Pinkhasov and Kornel Udvarhelyi were honored, and Jeff Bukantz will be inducted as a contributor, having served as a referee in two Olympic Games and the U.S. team captain for the 2004 and 2008 Olympic squads.

They will be inducted during the Summer Nationals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the summer of 2025.

● Gymnastics ● USA Gymnastics announced the rosters for the U.S. Olympic Trials in Artistic Gymnastics, coming up on 27-30 June in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The field will include 16 women and 20 men, vying to be selected to the team for Paris.

The women will be led, of course, by nine-time national champ Simone Biles; three-time national champion Brody Malone is the leading men’s entrant.

● Shooting ● At the ISSF World Cup in Munich (GER), China’s 19-year-old Lihao Sheng – the Tokyo Olympic runner-up – broke his own world record in the men’s 10 m Air Rifle, scoring 254.5 points to increase his own mark of 253.3 from the Asian Games last year. Slovakia’s Patrik Jany, the 2021 European Champion, was second at 251.3.

In the all-teen final of the women’s 10 m Air Rifle, China’s Huang Yiting, 17, overcame 16-year-old Hyojin Ban (KOR), 252.7 to 252.6, with 21.1 points to 20.5 in the 10th frame. Sheng and Yiting combined to easily win the Mixed Team title in the 10 m Air Rifle, 16-4, over Norway.

● Table Tennis ● In the second WTT Champions tournament of the season, this time in Chongqing (CHN), China swept both titles again, with Zhendong Fan and Yingsha Sun earning the titles.

Fan, the two-time World Champion in men’s Singles and Tokyo Olympic runner-up, won a wild 4-3 battle over Chuqin Wang in a repeat of the 2023 Worlds final: 11-9, 11-9, 11-2, 8-11, 6-11, 8-11, 11-4. It’s Fan’s second career win in a WTT Champions event.

Sun has now won both WTT Champions events this season and has won four of the seven ever contested! She defeated 2021 World Champion Manyu Wang in another 4-3, see-saw thriller, 11-13, 11-7, 6-11, 11-7, 11-9, 6-11, 11-9.

Two more WTT Champions events are scheduled for 2024, in Montpelier (FRA) and Frankfurt (GER).

● Wrestling ● The National Wrestling Hall of Fame inducted nine members in ceremonies held last Saturday in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

The inducted athletes included 2012 Olympic Freestyle 60 kg bronze medalist Coleman Scott, 2016 World Freestyle 61 kg Champion Logan Stieber and 2004 Olympic women’s 72 kg Freestyler Tocarra Montgomery, also the 2003 Pan American Games champion.

Coach Tadaaki Hatta, himself a two-time All-American at Oklahoma State, was inducted for his coaching career; Darryl Miller received the Order of Merit for his role as an athletic trainer; Steve Banach received the Outstanding American award recognizing wrestlers for their contributions to society outside of the sport and J.R. Johnson was honored with the Meritorious Official award. Jonathan Koch was honored with the Medal of Courage as a former wrestler who overcame the loss of all or part of all four limbs and now helps others as a coach and motivational speaker.

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