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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. World Athletics Champs averages 2 million viewers on NBC
2. Give credit to Coe, but there are more questions
3. Paris 2024 announces sports schedule, ticket offers
4. French President Macron to offer free tickets but no taxes
5. Lochte medals highlight Olympic memorabilia auction
Quite a few U.S. television viewers took in the World Athletics Championships on NBC over the past two weeks: about two million per show on average. That’s much better than other meets, but still more than a third less than the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials. World Athletics President Coe made no excuses and was forthcoming about the challenges for track & field in the U.S. in the future; that was refreshing and welcome. Paris 2024 celebrated the two-years-to-go mark on Wednesday and revealed the detailed sports schedule and some ticketing details; the least-expensive tickets will apparently cost €24. French President Macron promised no Olympic taxes, but the government will distribute tickets to some who would not otherwise be able to go. And a major Olympic memorabilia auction ends with the sale of Ryan Lochte’s silver and bronze medals from the 2004-08-12 Games, and a lot more.
World Athletics Champs U.S. TV viewership
averages 2 million on NBC
Television ratings data for the just-completed World Athletics Championships came in on Tuesday and showed that interest in the meet was solid on NBC and showed promise on cable:
World Champs on NBC:
● Jul. 16 (Sat.): 2,129,000 (3:00 p.m. Eastern)
● Jul. 16 (Sat.): 1,575,000 (9:00 p.m.)
● Jul. 17 (Sun.): 2,235,000 (2:00 p.m.)
● Jul. 17 (Sun.): 1,925,000 (10:00 p.m.)
● Jul. 23 (Sat.): 1,733,000 (9:00 p.m.)
● Jul. 24 (Sun.): 2,362,000 (9:00 p.m.)
So, NBC’s seven shows – across 12 hours – averaged 1.993 million viewers, with the best audience of the meet on the final Sunday.
This is almost double the audience from the USA Track & Field Championships in June, which averaged 1.051 million viewers on NBC and more than double the Pre Classic and NYC Grand Prix invitationals in May and June, which averaged 906,000 viewers.
But the World Championships paled in comparison to the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials, also held at Hayward Field in Eugene, down 37% from the six-show NBC average of 3.183 million viewers.
The Worlds on cable was a mixed picture:
● Jul. 15 (Fri.): 430,000 on USA Network (8:00 p.m. Eastern)
● Jul. 16 (Sat.): 160,000 on CNBC (1:30 p.m.)
● Jul. 16 (Sat.): 247,000 on CNBC (8:00 p.m.)
● Jul. 17 (Sun.): no data (<200,000) on CNBC (9:00 a.m.)
● Jul. 17 (Sun.): 368,000 on CNBC (8:00 p.m.)
● Jul. 18 (Mon.): 210,000 on USA Network (9:00 a.m.)
● Jul. 18 (Mon.): 272,000 on USA Network (11:30 p.m.: delayed)
● Jul. 19 (Tue.): 249,000 on USA Network (11:35 p.m.: delayed)
● Jul. 20 (Wed.): 647,000 on USA Network (7:30 p.m.)
● Jul. 21 (Thu.): 732,000 on USA Network (8:00 p.m.)
● Jul. 22 (Fri.): 783,000 on USA Network (8:30 p.m.)
● Jul. 23 (Sat.): 353,000 on CNBC (8:00 p.m.)
● Jul. 24 (Sun.): 384,000 on CNBC (8:00 p.m.)
Across 12 shows and 27 1/2 hours, the cablecasts averaged 403,000 viewers. The four live evening shows on USA Net did well, with an average of 648,000, but the two delayed, mid-week evening programs averaged just 261,000. The five shows on CNBC that had results measured (one was too small) averaged 302,000.
The cable average of 403,000 is down 30% vs. the 2021 Olympic Trials cable average of 573,000 across six shows on the now-closed NBCSN. But the live, mid-week shows on USA Net did better than that and rivaled the top audiences from the 2021 Trials.
In terms of the World Championships in competition with other sports, the final Saturday NBC audience of 1.733 million was second in the same time frame to FOX Saturday baseball (1.751 million), and the Sunday audience of 2.362 million led all sports programs, but was third vs. other prime-time programming on CBS (Big Brother: 3.359 million) and ABC (Final Straw and $100,000 Pyramid: 2.785 million average).
What does this tell us? That there is an audience for track & field in the U.S., potentially larger than that for the smaller leagues such as Major League Soccer and the WNBA, which have drawn multi-million and even billion-dollar contracts for broadcast rights. But creating a consistent stage for the sport in the era of all-controlling coaches and agents will be difficult.
NBC reported that the first seven days of the Worlds had drawn a cumulative audience of 13.7 million people, which may also include its streaming programs on Peacock. But that’s not the way television is sold; advertisers want to know what kind of audience they can count on, day in and day out.
Give credit to Coe, but there are more questions
For those who knew the history behind the award of the 2021 World Championships – postponed to 2022 – to Eugene, it was fascinating to see how the event played out and the positioning that was taken by World Athletics and USA Track & Field.
Credit to World Athletics and its President, Sebastian Coe (GBR), for never once even hinting at the history, that the direct award to Eugene without a bid process or a formal vote, was the doing of the late, convicted criminal Lamine Diack of Senegal, during his ill-fated tenure as IAAF President.
Coe and Co. never mentioned Diack’s folly in pushing for the 2019 Worlds to go to Doha, either, trying to make the best of a difficult situation and positioning the event as a way to expand exposure to the sport. Same for Eugene. No excuses, always looking forward.
And at his wrap-up news conference, Coe was forthright:
● “I’m probably not going to be Mr. Popular for saying this but I don’t think in years past the sport has been marketed as well as it could have been in the U.S. I think there was a complacency for many years that believed it was just enough to come back from an Olympic Games or a world championships on top of the medals table. I think there’s now a much greater recognition that that in itself is important, but it’s not enough.”
● “We need to be in this market. It’s important. It’s not punching its weight.”
● “We want to be back here. It won’t be Eugene. I want to be back into L.A. or Miami or Chicago.”
Good for him. Now let’s see what happens as the excitement of Eugene cools.
Viewers also did not see any mention of the man most responsible for bringing the Worlds to Eugene: former Oregon coach and TrackTown USA chief Vin Lananna, now the head coach at Virginia. Lananna is the President of USA Track & Field, but has been demoted to Vice Chair by its Board of Directors in a direct slap at the membership, which has elected him twice.
The next question following the Worlds in Eugene will be about finances. The Oregon22 organizing committee never released a budget, which included a $10 million contribution from USA Track & Field, and received $40 million in State of Oregon and U.S. government subsidies. With the less-than-full attendance at the event, will it break even?
If there is a deficit, who picks it up?
Paris 2024 announces sports schedule, ticket offers
Marking two years to go to the Paris 2024 Games, the detailed sports schedule was announced Tuesday, as well as the outlines of the ticketing program.
A total of 329 events across 32 sports will take place in 762 sessions, with tickets apparently priced from a low of €24 (currently $24.29 U.S.) to about €950 (~$964), with the Opening Ceremonies higher:
“[M]ore than 1 million tickets across all sports on the Olympic Games programme will
cost just €24. Nearly half the tickets on sale to the general public will cost €50 or less and almost a third of general public tickets for finals will be priced at €100 or under. Over 90% of the general public tickets are priced at €200 or less.
“These prices, which are extremely affordable for an event the size of the Olympic Games, have been made possible thanks to the adoption of a special pricing structure: the highest-priced tickets, which make up 15% of the tickets on sale to the general public, will generate almost 50% of Paris 2024 ticketing revenue. Individual tickets for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games will cost between €24 and €950 (excluding the ceremonies). The highest fares will be €950 and represent about 0.5% of the total volume of tickets to the general public.”
The full details of the ticketing program are expected in December, with sales to start shortly thereafter. The 91-page sports schedule, by session, is available here.
The Games slogan was also announced “Ouvrons Grand Les Jeux” or “Games Wide Open,” for the possibilities of a post-Covid Games and new opportunities for athletes and participants.
French President Macron to offer free tickets but no taxes
A series of announcements came from the French President Emmanuel Macron on the 25th, a day before the two-years-to-go celebrations, which included a clear refusal to implement any kind of added tax to help pay for the 2024 Games in an interview with the French all-sports daily, L’Equipe:
“I reaffirmed a simple principle: there will be no Olympics tax. The Games must finance the Games.”
There is considerable concern over the budget and the impact of both inflation and supply-chain issues.
Macron did say, however, that the government will purchase 400,000 tickets for the Games. According to FrancsJeux.com:
“They will be distributed to young people and schoolchildren, in priority those under the age of 16, but also to volunteers from the sports movement, people with disabilities, state officials and local authorities who contribute to the preparation of the event. This so-called ‘popular ‘ ticket office will be intended to make the Paris 2024 Games accessible to a public that would not necessarily have the means to buy tickets for the competitions.”
Macron also met with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (GER), who enthusiastically commended the preparations so far, noting especially:
“Sustainability, legacy and inclusion are at the heart of their strategy, which, with two years to go, is already contributing to the positive impact the Games are having before competition has even begun.”
The IOC noted specially – in view of the security problems at the UEFA Champions League final match in Paris in May – Bach’s expression of “full confidence in the security provided by the French authorities, which had been evident again during the very successful final stage of the Tour de France along the Champs-Elysees,” which Bach attended on Sunday.
Concerns continue to be expressed within the French government on the security arrangements and cost of the Opening Ceremony, to be spectacularly held on the River Seine and to be watched live by 600,000.
Lochte medals highlight Olympic memorabilia auction
The massive RR Auction of Olympic memorabilia closed on Sunday, with 15 items selling for $10,000 or more, including the buyer’s premium. The Ryan Lochte collection of silver and bronze medals and other personal items was popular (prices include buyer’s premium):
● $89,423 for his pair of Beijing 2008 bronze medals
● $56,348 for his three London 2012 silver and bronze medals
● $21,008 for his Athens 2004 silver medal
● $16,143 for his Breitling watch purchased after the 2012 Games
Lochte has said he will donate the proceeds to the Jorge Nation Foundation, which arranges special trips for terminally-ill children.
There were plenty of other items which did well:
● $50,000 for a 1924 1st Winter Games gold medal
● $45,000 for a 1936 Berlin gold medal
● $40,206 for a 1948 London gold and silver medal pair
● $19,899 for a 1904 St. Louis athlete participation medal
● $15,625 for a 1900 Paris silver medal
● $12,501 for a 1972 Munich gold medal
● $10,981 for a 1952 Helsinki gold medal
An excellent selection of Olympic torches was also on offer; the top offers:
● $48,721 for a 1992 Albertville Winter Games torch
● $20,625 for a 1972 Sapporo Winter Games torch
● $18,996 for a 1988 Calgary Winter Games torch
● $12,501 for a 1956 Melbourne Games torch
● $11,688 for a 2020 Tokyo Games torch
There were lots of other interesting sales. An excellent collection of official’s badges for the 1972 Sapporo Winter Games sold for $9,371 and two posters for the never-held Helsinki 1940 Games sold for $1,751. A 1980 Lake Placid Winter Games cowboy hat, used for the Opening Ceremonies, sold for $250.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Athletics ● World Athletics adopted a policy of introducing “repechage” races into the Olympic program for Paris 2024, giving athletes eliminated early the possibility of advancing back into the medal round.
The details are not all in place yet, but the repechage round will be used for events from 200 m to 1,500 m, including the hurdles:
“[A]thletes who do not qualify by place in round one heats, will have a second chance to qualify for the semi-finals by participating in repechage heats.
“This will replace the former system of athletes advancing through fastest times (q) in addition to the top placings in the first round heats (Q).”
Why? This protocol will give athletes in these distances at least two races at the Games, instead of instant elimination in the heats. This concept is widely used in other sports, with the same rationale.
The five semi-finalists for the International Fair Play Award have been announced and fans can vote for their favorite on World Athletics social-media platforms this week, to help cut the finalist list to three. Nominated:
● Katie Nageotte (USA) assisting Holly Bradshaw (GBR) after an injury at the women’s vault and then defending her decision to withdraw.
● Ukrainian high jump stars Yaroslava Mahuchikh and Andriy Protsenko for their silver and bronze-medal performances against the backdrop of the Russian invasion.
● American Noah Lyles, who “lost his spikes” in a rock-paper-scissors duel with a young fan.
● British hurdler Andrew Pozzi, who came to the aid of injured Petr Svoboda (CZE) after their race and helped get him to medical aid.
● British heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson, supporting devastated German competitor Sophie Weissenberg after the latter suffered three fouls in the long jump and did not score any points.
Voting is available on the World Athletics Twitter and Instagram pages.
● Basketball ● Two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner was back in a Moscow court on Tuesday as her trial for “drug smuggling” continued. She has pled guilty to bringing a small amount of hashish oil into Russia in a vape cartridge, but said she did not mean to break the law. Griner may testify on Wednesday.
The U.S. continues to consider her illegally detained, since February, and has been working to secure her release.
● Cycling ● The revived Tour de France Femmes rolls on this week, with Dutch star Marianne Vos taking Monday’s flat, 136.4 km Stage 2 in a final sprint over Silvia Persico (ITA) and Poland’s Kasia Niewiadoma, in 3:14:02.
On Tuesday, another fairly flat, 133.6 km ride from Reims to Epernay, it was Denmark’s Cecile Uttrup Ludwig winning the final sprint over Vos, Persico (4th), Niewiadoma (6th) and two others in 3:22:54. Vos retains the lead, with a 16-second edge over Persico and Niewiadoma.
There are two more hilly stages and then the final three stages in the Vosges Mountains, where the race will be decided.
● Modern Pentathlon ● The UIPM World Championships have started in Alexandria (EGY), with the host team winning the women’s relay via Haydy Morsy and Amira Kandil. They won the fencing event, were fifth in swimming and fourth in riding to start the Laser Run with a 14-second advantage. That proved to be enough to finish ahead of Mariana Arceo and Mayan Oliver of Mexico, who had the fastest time on the course (13:50), but with the Egyptian second (14:05). Korea won the bronze medal, with the final scores at 1,298-1,291-1,260.
The Koreans had already won the men’s relay, with 2017 World Champion Jinhwa Jung and 2019 Worlds bronze medalist Woongtae Jun winning the fencing and swimming and with a third in riding, started 21 second ahead in the Laser Run. They held on to win, 1,427 points to 1,419, over Eslam Hamad and Ahmed Hamed of Egypt, who had the sixth-fastest time in the Laser Run. Czechs Matous Tuma and Filip Houska (1,408 points) won the bronze.
The championships continue through Sunday.
● Volleyball ● The FIVB Nations League tourneys for men and women finished over the last 10 days, with Italy and France winning their first titles in the women’s and men’s events.
The Italian women defeated Brazil, 25-23, 25-22, 25-22, in Ankara (TUR) in the final, finishing with a 13-2 overall record. Serbia defeated Turkey in straight sets to win the bronze; Serbia had eliminated the Olympic champ U.S. team in the quarterfinals in a five-set marathon.
France, the Tokyo 2020 gold medalist, won the men’s final over the U.S. men by 25-16, 25-19, 15-25, 21-25, 15-10 in a five-setter in Bologna (ITA). The U.S. had won their round-robin match – also in five sets – and both teams finished with a 12-3 overall record. It was a major improvement for the U.S. men, who finished 10th at the Tokyo 2020 tournament.
● Water Polo ● The FINA men’s Super League Final tournament in Strasbourg (FRA) will end with a gold-medal rematch between the United States and Italy on Wednesday.
The U.S. – sixth at the recent World Championships in Hungary – won their group-stage match-up, 13-9, and the two teams have pushed to their playoffs to the re-match. Both teams were 2-1 in group play, then the American squad defeated Australia, 12-11, in the quarterfinals and host France, 16-15, in the semis. Italy defeated Serbia by 14-17 and then Spain, 9-8, to reach the final. Max Irving leads the U.S. in scoring with 14 goals so far.
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