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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. World Games in Birmingham left with $14 million deficit
2. Final Decree granted in USA Gymnastics bankruptcy case
3. USA Gymnastics to consider abortion laws in site selection
4. Tokyo 2020 bribery case involves sponsorship discount
5. Ingebrigtsen completes Euro double with 1,500 m win
The 2022 World Games Birmingham, Alabama were a success on the field, but a financial loser off of it, with a $14 million deficit on a $65 million spend. The local and regional government may pick up most of it, but there is more fund-raising to go. The end has come for the USA Gymnastics bankruptcy case in Indiana (probably), but the organization’s chief exec says that abortion laws will impact their future event site selections. The bribery case involving a former Tokyo 2020 Executive Board member took a wild turn with a report that the company he was helping got a 67% discount on its sponsorship fee! And Norwegian star Jakob Ingebrigtsen completed a 1,500-5,000 m double at the European Athletics Championships.
World Games in Birmingham left with $14 million deficit
After a highly-successful World Games in July, the bills have come due in August. The World Games organizing committee in Birmingham, Alabama cost about $65 million to put on, but raised only $51 million, leaving a $14 million deficit (21.5% of the total spend).
That means there is a list of vendors who are owed money, with Birmingham City Council member Darrell O’Quinn telling WBRC Television:
“We don’t need any Birmingham businesses failing. We can’t leave these vendors hanging. I mean some of them are owed very substantial amounts of money. I know one vendor in particular, it’s an excess of $1 million that they are owed.”
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin asked the City Council to appropriate $5 million to help cover part of the debt; O’Quinn added:
“Their plan is have the city of Birmingham cover one portion.
“Then, the Jefferson County Commission cover another big chunk, and then talk to the Convention and Visitors Bureau to have them cover a portion as well. Then, the remaining balance, I believe is about $3 million, they would raise from private sector. That’s the plan.”
World Games head Nick Sellers explained:
“I couldn’t be more proud of our team at The World Games 2022 Birmingham Organizing Committee. We delivered an amazing event for $65 million, $10M under the original budget of $75M. This event is a major platform for the Summer Olympic Games. And we delivered an Olympic caliber program.
“However, for many reasons, our revenues left us with a $14 million deficit. We are working with our public and private partners to close the gap as quickly as possible and satisfy all of our debts.
“We have every intention to raise the associated funds and pay our vendors. …
“Many factors contributed to the disappointing shortage. Due to the latest COVID spike, fewer than expected international travelers attended the games, particularly from China and Europe. That contributed to weaker-than-hoped-for ticket sales, and some open hotel room nights outside of the city’s core. The virus also delayed the Games a year, adding significantly to our costs. Finally, a challenging economy caused two large sponsors to withdraw support just weeks prior to The Games.”
Observed: The Birmingham organizers did an excellent job and put on a fine Games under the difficult circumstances of a year’s postponement and a lousy sponsorship sales environment. It is noteworthy that the city and county governments are immediately willing to help with most of the debt, which will make the asks for private support much easier.
Events, especially large multi-sport ones, are expensive, hard to stage and not for the feint of heart. Birmingham’s interest in the World Games was as a platform to seek more events that will fill its hotel rooms and raise its visibility. That was achieved, but the investment is going to be a bit more than expected. Birmingham appears to be OK with this; other cities will not be and the financial results of this event will scare some potential bidders for future events away.
Final Decree granted in USA Gymnastics bankruptcy case
The long and winding path of the USA Gymnastics bankruptcy proceeding before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana has finally – maybe – come to an end.
On Wednesday (17th), the Court heard a motion for the closure of the case, and without objections from any party and the approval of the U.S. Trustee, the motion was granted.
The order includes “[T]he Bankruptcy Court hereby enters this Final Decree and orders this Chapter 11 Case closed,” but a dispute between USA Gymnastics and Liberty Insurance Underwriters will specifically remain open.
Also, “Entry of this Final Decree is without prejudice to the rights of any party in interest
to seek to reopen these cases for good cause shown.”
The case began with USA Gymnastics filing for voluntary, Chapter 11 bankruptcy on 5 December 2018; the Effective Date of the agreed-to reorganization plan was declared on 25 April 2022. The settlements process is underway, with insurers for USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee and others paying in $339.46 million to the claimants, plus related expenses.
USA Gymnastics to consider abortion laws in site selection
With the USA Gymnastics national championships in Artistic Gymnastics underway in Tampa, Florida through Sunday, the federation’s chief executive said that future site selections will consider the local laws on abortion.
Li Li Leung told the Associated Press, “We want to be able to align with cities and locations that are also aligned with our value system … We are about empowerment. We are about choice. We are about agency.”
She said that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year to return abortion rules to the states was contradictory to USAG values.
The booking of the Tampa site for the 2022 Artistic Nationals was made prior to the Supreme Court’s decision. The preliminary calendar for women’s Artistic Gymnastics in 2023 shows national qualifying events in Nevada in January, Ohio, Florida and Texas in February and in Virginia in March, but no sites selected yet for the Winter Cup (February), U.S. Classic (August), or the national championships (August).
However, there is a heavy schedule of 17 Elite Developmental and National Team training camp programs throughout the year, plus the American Cup competition in July and a World Championships selection event from 20-23 September, all in Katy, Texas. That state passed a law in 2021 which prohibits abortion after about six weeks and is being litigated at present.
Although not primarily a competition-site issue, will USA Gymnastics now move its main training facility out of Texas?
Leung also unveiled a new logo for the organization on Thursday afternoon, part of a rebranding effort which will continue through the fall.
Tokyo 2020 bribery case involves sponsorship discount
Japan’s Kyodo News Agency reported Thursday that the bribery case involving former Tokyo 2020 Executive Board member Haruyuki Takahashi and publicly-traded, 600-store business-suit retailer Aoki Holdings involves a “discount” of more than 65% on its Tokyo 2020 supporter license.
Aoki Holdings was granted designation as an tier-three “Official Supporter” in 2018, reported to ordinarily cost about ¥1.5 billion (~$11.04 million) or more, but that Aoki actually paid only ¥500 million (~$3.68 million). The idea is that Takahashi used his influence, as a former senior managing director of sponsorship agency Dentsu, Inc., to have Aoki (1) selected and (2) at a reduced fee.
Takahashi admits to receiving a “consulting fee” from Aoki Holdings, reportedly ¥1 million per month (~$7,360) from September 2017 into March of 2022, but has said there was nothing illegal about the arrangement. Aoki Holdings reportedly created a separate ¥250 million (~$1.84 million) fund for athlete support for the Games, with 92% of it going to Takahashi’s consulting company, ostensibly to fund these activities.
The Kyodo story included:
“Takahashi reportedly told investigators during questioning that he approached Aoki with a proposal to sponsor the games. He connected the retailer to an executive in the marketing division after the firm said it was interested in the deal if ‘fees were cheap.’”
Ingebrigtsen completes Euro double with 1,500 m win
Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen was unhappy with his silver-medal performance in the men’s 1,500 m at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene in July, but came back to win the 5,000 m title in splendid form.
He got both golds at the 2022 European Athletics Championships in Munich, completing his 1,500-5,000 m double on Thursday with a nearly wire-to-wire victory in the 1,500 m in 3:32.76, decisively ahead of Jake Heyward (GBR: 3:34.44) and Mario Garcia (ESP: 3:34.88). Ingebrigtsen led at the bell and ran his final lap in a speedy 55.25.
Poland’s Wojciech Nowicki finished second to countryman Pawel Fajdek at the Worlds in Eugene, but he won his second European men’s hammer title in style on Thursday with a world-leading throw of 82.00 m (269-0), his second-best ever. That’s two centimeters more than Fajdek threw at the Worlds and gave Nowicki a second consecutive Europeans win; Hungary’s Bence Halasz won the silver with a lifetime best of 80.92 m (265-6).
The men’s high jump was less thrilling, with Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi the only one to clear 2.30 m (7-6 1/2), with Tobias Potye (GER) and Ukraine’s Andriy Potsenko at 2.27 m (7-5 1/4). It’s Tamberi’s second European title, after his win in 2016.
Home favorite Konstanze Klosterhalfen (GER) won the women’s 5,000 m in a one-on-one duel with Turkey’s 10,000 m winner, Yasemin Can. The two ran together from just after halfway, with Klosterhalfen sprinting away on the final lap to win, 14:50.47 to 14:56.91. Britain’s Eilish McColgan, second in the 10,000 m, was third (14:59.34).
Germany’s Olympic, World and 2018 European women’s long jump champ, Malaika Mihambo, may have been the favorite, but she couldn’t catch up to the brilliant 7.06 m (23-2) first-round jump by Ivana Vuleta (SRB). Mihambo got out to 7.03 m (23-0 3/4) in round two, but no further, giving Vuleta – rebounding from a seventh-place finish in Eugene – her second European title, also in 2016.
World Champion Nafi Thiam (BEL) was a clear winner in the women’s heptathlon, scoring 6,628 points to best Adrianna Sulek (POL: 6,532).
Dutch star Femke Bol easily led the qualifying in the women’s 400 m hurdles (53.73) and will go for an unprecedented 400-400 hurdles double tomorrow.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● National Olympic Committees ● Two hopeful signs for sport in India. First, a Wednesday meeting of the Federation Internationale de Hockey (FIH) and the three-member Committee of Administrators agreed on the path forward for the Indian federation and for the men’s Hockey World Cup in January 2023.
A new draft constitution for Hockey India was presented and an elections schedule was agreed, to be completed by 9 October, to bring the federation in compliance with the Sport Code of India. In view of this, no plan to change or remove the men’s Hockey World Cup was discussed.
Second, the country’s Supreme Court stayed a High Court decree that appointed another Committee of Administrators to operate the Indian Olympic Association, in view of its non-compliance with the country’s Sports Code. As the All India Football Federation was similarly taken over and quickly suspended by FIFA, there was great concern that the IOC would do the same. The Indian Olympic Association’s appeal of the High Court decree will be heard on 22 August.
● Football ● The U.S. women were eliminated during the group stage of the FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup, ongoing in Costa Rica. An opening 3-0 win over Ghana was followed by a 3-0 loss to the Netherlands and a 3-1 loss to Japan.
The group winners were Spain from Group A (2-0-1), Colombia from Group B (2-0-1), Nigeria (3-0) from Group C and Japan (3-0) in Group D. The quarterfinals will be on the weekend and the medal matches on the 28th.
● Sport Climbing ● The new Olympic format of Boulder + Lead together and separate from Speed debuted at the European Championships in Munich (GER), but the women’s winner was no surprise: Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Janja Garnbret (SLO).
She dominated the event, winning the individual Bouldering and Lead events and then taking the new, combined event with a near-perfect 199.9 out of 200, ahead of teammate Mia Krampl (180.9) and Jessica Pilz (AUT: 180.6). Make Garnbret the early favorite for Paris, still just 23.
The men’s event was much closer, with Austria’s Tokyo bronze medalist Jakob Schubert outlasting five-time World Champion Adam Ondra (CZE), 175.6 to 170.8 for the victory in the new event.
● Swimming ● The U.S. vs. Australia “Duel in the Pool” is back! With a lot of twists.
Not held since 2015, this edition is not a seriously-scored, nation-on-nation dual meet, but a mixture of traditional and novelty events to be held mostly on Saturday and Sunday at the 10,000-capacity Sydney Aquatics Centre in Australia.
There’s a 4×800 m open-water relay on Friday, and pool events with relays using six legs with three winners taking two legs each; Skins events in the sprint distances, combined able-bodied and para swimmer events, segmented (“broken”) 400 m and 800 m Free events, bonus scoring options and so on.
USA Swimming will have streaming coverage of the event on Saturday and Sunday, and neither side will have all of its best swimmers competing. It will be perhaps most interesting to see what the attendance is like, as Australians take their swimming quite seriously.
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