In partnership with:
Not just what's happening in and around the Olympic Movement and International Sports but what it all means.
Is Agenda 2020 for real? Or is it really just so much noise?
The 2026 election for the Winter Games, coming right up in just days between Stockholm-Åre and Milano-Cortina, might as well be subtitled: change or be changed meets put up or shut up.
Thomas Bach was elected International Olympic Committee president in September 2013. The next year, in December 2014, the IOC enacted his 40-point reform plan, Agenda 2020, and it has since become – purportedly – the basis of IOC strategic thinking. Layered on top of that came the New Norm in February 2018, 118 more points purportedly designed to effect further change.
Now comes the 2026 election, the first to test the Agenda 2020 blueprint.
The IOC’s difficulty in attracting candidate cities is well known – referendums, anyone? It is enough to note that the IOC almost surely considers it a huge win that for 2026 it has two western European candidates in for a vote.
That, though, is not enough.
To be honest, this space is having a very hard time understanding why Beckie Scott complained about being “bullied” and Edwin Moses said he was told to “shut up,” allegations found to be without merit in a lengthy report made public Wednesday about backstage World Anti-Doping Agency politics.
Politics involves some measure of rough and tumble. Sports politics is for sure politics.
As a graduate of the Northwestern journalism school whose first jobs in the business were in Chicago, where politics are not for the meek, this whole thing has seemed like one big episode from the theater of the absurd.
This episode at WADA has drawn worldwide headlines for months.
It simply does not reflect well on what in a related context in the report, issued Wednesday by the Covington and Burling law firm, is called the “North American” perspective on the long-playing Russian doping saga.
YOKOHAMA, Japan — Along with death and taxes, we experience other certainties.
LIfe also brings us American DQs — and other gruesome weirdnesses — in high-profile relays.
Why this is so remains an enduring mystery. Well, not really. It’s institutional and cultural. But as Sunday night’s close to the fourth edition of the IAAF World Relays proved yet again, it is very much so — so much that after two more DQs and a loss in the men’s 4x1 the happiest person in the U.S. track and field scene, as the jest in the press room went, in a nod to the politics that chronically beset American relays, was assuredly Carl Lewis.
It’s May. The world championships aren’t until the fall, in Doha, Qatar, and all of 2019 is but a prelude pointing toward the big show, Tokyo and 2020. t’s eminently possible this can — could, should — get sorted out by this fall and, presumably, by next summer. Ronnie Baker isn’t here. Christian Coleman isn’t here.
When it comes to the United States in the relays, as literally episode upon episode has made plain, Groundhog Day can happen anytime.
For decades, Iran’s athletes have refused to compete against Israelis. No matter the sport, no matter the situation.
In a historic breakthrough, on Saturday the International Judo Federation announced that for Iran’s judo athletes the boycotts would be no more.
Iran’s Olympic committee and its national judo federation, in a letter dated Thursday and made public Saturday, agreed to “fully respect the Olympic Charter and its non-discrimination principle.”
In a statement posted on its website, the IJF said the letter came after talks that followed the “disturbing phenomenon” involving the “sudden ‘injury’ or failure of weigh-in of Iranian athletes,” a “phenomenon which is linked by many observers to the possible obligation of the given athletes to compete against certain countries.”
The IJF, it said, “decided to step up in order to protect the right of athletes to fair competition.”
YOKOHAMA, Japan — Journalism is storytelling, and storytelling necessarily involves tension, and from the get-go an irreconcilable tension dictated the way local organizers and track and field’s international governing body approached this fourth edition of the IAAF World Relays.
The Japanese hosts necessarily and understandably viewed these Relays at 72,327-seat International Stadium — site of the 2002 World Cup soccer final that saw Brazil defeat Germany, 2-0 — as a test event for next summer’s Tokyo Olympics. Tokyo is maybe 35 minutes away. At a Friday news conference, Hiroshi Yokokawa, president of the Japanese track and field federation and member of the IAAF council, said, “The road [on which] we are now standing is heading straight to the Tokyo 2020 Games.” Koji Murofushi, the 2004 Athens hammer throw gold medalist who is the Tokyo 2020 sports director, called the Relays a “milestone for the Tokyo 2020 Games.” Even the athletes understood the direction, Ryota Yamagata, who ran on the Japanese men’s silver-medal 4x100 relay at the 2016 Rio Games, declaring at that same briefing, “We want to have a good start to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and 37[-plus] seconds is a good benchmark.”
Compare to the words of IAAF president Seb Coe.
The Relays, Coe said at that very same news conference, make for a “suffusion of fun and innovation.”
In the complex, emotionally charged matter of 46 XY DSD cases: the IAAF is right.
There. I said it.
If you already feel like sending hate mail, roger. But, and for emphasis: the IAAF is right.
Let’s be straight-up: Caster Semenya’s many vocal supporters have sought to focus the story on Semenya alone. That’s not right or fair. There are others similarly situated, including for instance — as was recently acknowledged — the Rio 2016 800-meter runner-up Francine Niyonsaba. So the IAAF is hardly targeting Caster Semenya.
What seeking to make this matter all about Caster Semenya does, however, is what a great deal if not almost all of the reportage about this matter has done: cast Semenya as the sympathetic if not profoundly empathetic protagonist in a classic narrative thread, the individual against the institution.
What’s often missing completely from that storytelling — or buried way, way down at the bottom, because in today’s overheated social media-driven cauldron of outrage, very few want to speak up — are other voices, those who have their own dreams, too, literally millions of girls and women around the world, and here is where the IAAF is 100 percent dead-on right to go to court to ask, what about them?
2020 Bid Cities,2020 Track Trials, 2022 Bid Cities, 2024 Bid Cities, 2026 Bid Cities, Archery, Baseball, Boston 2024, Boston Marathon, Diplomacy, Doping, Figure Skating, Gymnastics, Hockey, IOC, Istanbul 2020, Judo, LA 2024, Lance Armstrong, Los Angeles 1984, Madrid 2020, NCAA, NFL, Olympics, Pyeongchang 2018, Rio 2016, Security, Skiing, Soccer, Sochi 2014, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tokyo 2020, Track and Field, Uncategorized, USOC, Water Polo, Weightlifting, Wrestling, YOG
About Alan Abrahamson
Alan Abrahamson is an award-winning sportswriter, best-selling author and in-demand television analyst. In 2010, he launched his own website, 3 Wire Sports, described in James Patterson and Mark Sullivan's 2012 best-selling novel Private Games as "the world's best source of information about the [Olympic] Games and the culture that surrounds them." Read full bio.