In memory of Patrick Baumann

In memory of Patrick Baumann

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 story the IOC should be selling

The story the IOC should be selling

From the time we crawled out of the muck and mire, we human beings have told each other stories. It’s the way we make sense of our world. It’s also the way we give voice to our hopes and dreams.

The International Olympic Committee, for reasons that mystify, does not know how to tell a story.

This is why, yet again, it is getting its ass kicked in the candidature process, now for the 2026 Winter Games. Two cities are already out. Five remain in but none definitively. 

Pardon the bluntness but, really. This does not need to be this way. 

Signs, signs, everywhere signs: the esports revolution is coming to the Olympics

Signs, signs, everywhere signs: the esports revolution is coming to the Olympics

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Thomas Bach has been president of the International Olympic Committee for nearly five years now, and one of his pet phrases is thus: “We have to get the couch potatoes off the couch.”

Prediction, and cue the screams of the traditionalists: the couch potatoes are very likely going to shape, perhaps significantly, the 2028 Los Angeles Games. 

The esports revolution is coming, and fast, for it cannot and will not be stopped, and indeed the gamers are almost surely going to help propel a thorough and long-overdue review — if not, indeed, the start of a re-do — of the Olympic program. That next-generation program is coming, in 2028 and LA.

“It’s the passion that really gets us together,” Bach told 21-year-old Jake Lyon, a professional gamer for the Houston Outlaws in the Overwatch League, as part of a Friday and Saturday forum dedicated to esports.  

A gold medalist in fencing at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Bach told Lyon in a remarkable one-on-one, nearly hour-long breakout session Saturday morning at the Olympic Museum, both having shared on stage the emotion that comes with championship and victory, “We feel the same passion for your activity as you feel the passion for our activity.”

Meet the 'new norm': same as the old norm

Meet the 'new norm': same as the old norm

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Like a bad itch, the International Olympic Committee has a way of scratching on a recurring basis the in-house fiction that it can conjure up new ways to save astonishing sums of money in the staging of its franchise, the Games.

Here at its annual assembly, its 132nd session, the IOC unveiled its latest, a strategy it immediately dubbed the "new norm,” calling it a "Games changer."

This “new norm” outlines an “ambitious set of 118 reforms that reimagines how the Olympic Games are delivered.”

Buzzkill: this new norm is the same old-same old, at least where it counts: in winning public opinion.

The altogether cleverness of 'Olympic Athlete from Russia'

In taking action Tuesday on the Russian doping matter, the International Olympic Committee was faced with the delicate task of trying to thread a needle while wearing a pair of those red mittens that were all the rage at the Vancouver Olympics way back when in 2010, which, you know, is more or less when — because the Russian team performed so poorly there — this sordid tale began, right?

The task at hand was to make it seem like the IOC was coming down hard on the Russians — to appease the baying jackals of the western press, in particular the Americans and the Brits — while simultaneously crafting a diplomatic compromise that would serve the IOC’s long-term purposes.

The IOC, seeking to balance a multitude of interests, got what it wanted.

The initial reports screamed out over the news and social media in our 24/7 gotta-have-it tell-me-what-it-means-this-instant world: Ban! Ban! Ban! 

Reality: the IOC made a play for what it always plays for, stability.

And the more sophisticated argument, because as always the real work is in the details, is that the Russians are getting off way easier than would seem at first blush. 

Even Russians deserve due process, and especially cross-examination

Even Russians deserve due process, and especially cross-examination

The lengthy decision posted Monday in the matter of the Russian cross-country skier Alexander Legkov is to be applauded for its extended review of the Russian doping matter.

A three-member International Olympic Committee “disciplinary commission” panel, explaining the rationale for stripping Legkov of the 50-kilometer gold medal he won at the Sochi 2014 Games, found Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the former Moscow lab director, a “truthful witness.”

It’s also the case that this decision is likely fatally flawed. Legkov ought to proceed directly to the Court of Arbitration for Sport with an urgent appeal -- do not pass go, do not collect $200, all of that. 

IOC president Thomas Bach has promised — most recently in a speech last week to European Olympic officials — that the Russians, Legkov and others, would be assured due process. In a news release accompanying the publication of the Legkov decision, the IOC said, "Due process has to be followed, and re-analysis is still underway."

No way did Legkov get due process.

Why? Because Rodchenkov was unavailable for cross-examination.

Less drone-fest, more drones

Less drone-fest, more drones

There are 206 National Olympic Committees across our world. You know, Earth. The big blue ball that the NBA basketball star Kyrie Irving maybe thinks is flat. 

All the committees in good standing (read: not suspended) get together once a year. It's a big deal. Because of the sheer size of it, it's arguably the biggest-deal meeting of the Olympic year.

It happened this week in Prague.

What a waste of a big-deal opportunity.

In which the IOC all but announces the Russian team will be at the 2018 Games

In which the IOC all but announces the Russian team will be at the 2018 Games

Wednesday marked 100 days to go until the opening of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, and once again the International Olympic Committee made it as clear as the sort of ice that makes like a frozen sheet of glass in a mountain lake that the Russians will — as they should be — be at those Games.

So much noise in so many U.S. and other western media outlets about whether or not the Russians will, or won’t, be at the Games. So much political pandering from so many anti-doping agencies whose officials either assuredly do or, for that matter, should know better.

The Olympics are about inclusion. Full stop. 

The Russians will be in Korea. 

So Brazil is suspended, and the Russians ...

So Brazil is suspended, and the Russians ...

The International Olympic Committee is fed up to here — no, way past that, up to, like, there — with the now-arrested Carlos Nuzman, head of the Rio 2016 Games and the Brazilian Olympic Committee.

In its zeal to appear decisive in the wake of Nuzman’s Thursday arrest in Rio, the IOC on Friday announced it was suspending both Nuzman and the Brazilian Olympic Committee, which goes by the acronym COB.

Zeal is rarely constructive.

Why? When you act in haste, you generally don’t think through all the consequences of what you’re doing.

16 bars of gold

16 bars of gold

It was only a little more than a year ago, standing center stage on a wet and windy night at historic Maracanā Stadium, that Carlos Nuzman, president of the Rio organizing committee, declared at the closing ceremony of the 2016 Summer Games, “I am the happiest man alive.”

He added, “Let’s celebrate together this great victory, this triumph of sport, of youth.” Knowing what we know now: that is what is called chutzpah. Nuzman, authorities said Thursday, had 16 gold bars in a safe in Switzerland.

The real story of Rio, and perhaps the Tokyo 2020 Games as well, is now going to be written, and the International Olympic Committee — which bought itself time with the award of Paris for 2024 and Los Angeles for 2028 — is already looking out to the 2026 Winter Games, but the essential disconnect that is Nuzman and the IOC response to his arrest is at the core of why the institution is enduring such profound turbulence.