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Not just what's happening in and around the Olympic Movement and International Sports but what it all means.
Reading the more than 200 pages of the Ropes & Gray report into the “constellation of factors” underlying Larry Nassar’s abuse of gymnasts, it’s evident there is abundant blame to go around beyond the obvious — Nassar was a monster.
For the U.S. Olympic Committee, this crisis marks a signal moment.
Whether or not one might dispute some of the considerable blame leveled the USOC’s way in the report, especially given still-unexplained FBI inaction, it’s crystal-clear the time is now for the USOC to undertake its own far-reaching review of its mandate and governance, in particular its relationships with and the oversight it exercises — or should, or doesn’t — over the 50 national governing bodies.
Hence this call:
The USOC should empower a special blue-ribbon commission aimed at assessing — to use the language from Ropes & Gray, pages 162 and 163 — the USOC’s “structural challenges” in “reorienting from a service- to an oversight-centered approach and moving the NGBs away from an ingrained interpretation of the [1978 Amateur Sports Act] that was based on protecting athletes’ right to compete.”
The very first, and most pressing, matter is elemental: how much oversight?
Who run the world, as Beyoncé so eloquently puts it?
Can there be any doubt that the International Olympic Committee and the International Association of Athletics Federations are in the midst of undertaking the most emphatic efforts to put talented, sophisticated, deserving women in positions of leadership?
Thus the question: under what theory can Willie Banks’ candidacy for the USA Track & Field position to the International Association of Athletics Federation governing Council be effective?
Particularly when USATF already has, in Stephanie Hightower, a senior executive who has given USATF a much-bigger voice, presence and influence within the IAAF than in some time and who, as well, commands the respect and trust of the most important person at the federation, its president, Sebastian Coe.
Big picture: in the wake of yet another failed Olympic referendum, this one Tuesday in Calgary, the result eminently predictable, the sky is not falling. The International Olympic Committee is not imploding like some death star. There will be Olympic Games in 2020, 2022, 2024, 2026, 2028 and beyond.
Indeed, scoreboard says Olympic sponsorship revenues are obscenely healthy — see, for instance, what’s going on in Japan for 2020, where the incoming revenue ledger for corporate sponsorships is on the order of $3 billion.
For that matter, there remains extraordinary magic in the five Olympic rings. The most recent evidence: last month’s Youth Games in Buenos Aires, where thousands of people jammed into the streets not just to be part but to feel, soulfully, part of the experience.
Can we be honest with each other? No matter the referendum, Calgary was never going to win an IOC vote. The IOC would strongly prefer a European winner for 2026 after Games in Asia in 2018 (PyeongChang), 2020 and 2022 (Beijing). For 2026, Stockholm and Milan are, in theory, still alive. So the melodrama that played out in Calgary over the past several months amounted to much ado over exactly nothing, and it fizzled Tuesday to the logical end, the polite Canadian no-thank you camp winning, 56-44 percent.
We all know what awaits us at the end. What we don’t know, can never know, is when the end comes for each and every one of us. This is why, despite the considerable rancor and conflict in our world, the better path forward is to listen a little bit more, to be just a little more gentle in your words and your manner, a little more kind, to always work toward solution.
This was Patrick Baumann’s way.
It is why his sudden passing at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires has not just stunned but shaken the Olympic landscape. Baumann died from a heart attack, according to FIBA, the international basketball federation. He was just 51.
Baumann served as FIBA’s top administrator for 15 years. He was the key figure behind, among other things, the introduction of its so-called urban discipline, 3x3 ball, into the Summer Games. It will debut in Tokyo in 2020.
And so much more.
The International Olympic Committee, in moving three — not four — candidates along Thursday to the final stage of its 2026 Winter Games process, also signaled unequivocally where it wants those Games to go: Stockholm.
Will Stockholm actually stage the 2026 Winter Olympics? Is there government will in Sweden for this thing? Magic 8-Ball says — what?
This is why Milan and Calgary were also moved along.
Erzurum, Turkey, the fourth entry nominally still in the hunt before Thursday’s policy-making executive board meeting, was always going to get cut. For 2026, it had zero chance. Not fake news.
Also not fake: none of these three may yet make it to the finish line. In which case, what then, Magic 8-Ball?
Is it, “Cannot predict now”? Or, “Outlook not so good”?
As ever, meanwhile, the IOC like Magic 8-Ball speaks in code, and in decoding the announcement that Stockholm, Milan and Calgary were your finalists, it’s 100 percent obvious that the IOC wants to go back to Scandinavia, which after all is the the heart and soul of the Winter Games experience and, indeed, sought to use Thursday’s announcement as a means to deliver this shout-out to the political and governmental authorities in Sweden:
Hey, play ball with us. Because if you do, you’re gonna win.
BAKU, Azerbaijan — These 2018 world championships underscored why judo already is one of the best sports in the Olympic landscape: easy-to-understand action, gender equity, universality, an honor code that promotes if not demands respect for each other as well as the rules and the sport. Further, when it comes to putting on the show itself, and this was richly evident here at what colloquially is called MGA Arena: the shine of world-class production values.
For those who don’t already understand the secret that Olympic insiders do:
Judo is already rising fast. These championships, which wrapped up Thursday, were not just a showcase but a springboard. This whole thing is gonna take off over the next six years, and those years are likely just the start of something really big.
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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.