Olympics

'Unity in diversity,' and other wintry musings

'Unity in diversity,' and other wintry musings

For the last month, it has been all Winter Olympics in South Korea. Now, amid a blowing snowstorm in Birmingham, England, the world indoor track and field championships are on. All this cold, wind and snow — there’s time to think about this and that:

1. Of course the Russian Olympic Committee was reinstated just days after the close of the PyeongChang Games. 

To reiterate a point made in this space frequently, sports doping is bad. But sports doping is not the measure of all things. Also, sports doping happens in every country. 

It is way more important to the International Olympic Committee, and has been since the days when Juan Antonio Samaranch was president, to keep the so-called Olympic family together. This proposition is key. Indeed, when he was running for the office, the current president, Thomas Bach, made it his motto: “Unity in diversity.” 

Enough already with the pole dancing

Enough already with the pole dancing

For several weeks now, the internet has been abuzz with stories about the prospect of pole dancing becoming an Olympic sport. Some of the more absurd accounts, like this one posted Tuesday on something called Medical Daily (what?), breathlessly declare that it is “possibly headed to 2020,” meaning the next edition of the Summer Games, in Tokyo.

Enough already.

A “sport” that is irrevocably linked to strippers has no chance. Say that again, and out loud: a “sport” that makes most people snicker, or worse, because of the obvious, blatant and in-your-face connotation is not going to be in the Olympics. For sure not 2020. Not -- ever.

There is one reason, and one reason only, these clickbait stories are making the rounds. Can you say — word being used on purpose here — titillating?

Thought leadership: making Mandela's words real

Thought leadership: making Mandela's words real

It was of course Nelson Mandela who told us all something so simple, so eloquent and so powerful.

“Sport,” he said, “has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to inspire to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair …”

Last weekend, a car-and-knife rampage on London Bridge left eight people dead and dozens injured. Afterward, political, governmental and faith leaders issued calls for solidarity and resolve amid this latest act of terrorism in western Europe.

Historic U.S. biathlon gold: family, team, community, country - and belief

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Can we be honest with each other? For a great many people, what comes out of Washington, regardless of who is who there, is just noise. What matters is what, truly, matters: family and community.

Indeed, it is the day-to-day stuff of real life, the rituals, the joys and the heartbreaks, the ups and downs of the days that can seemingly take forever and the years that go by in a blink amid children and family and community that bind us all together: the crazy quilt, the rich tapestry that is the United States of America.

This is why Lowell Bailey’s victory Thursday in a 20-kilometer race at the biathlon world championships in Hochfilzen, Austria, is all the more special.

Bailey’s gold medal, in what in biathlon lingo is called the individual event, is the first — for emphasis, the first — biathlon gold for the United States at either the world championships (which date to 1958) or the Winter Games (1960, and see you next February in South Korea).

Bailey hit all 20 targets and, over the final four-kilometer loop, had to ski hard and fast to defeat Ondrej Moravec of the Czech Republic. The winning margin: 3.3 seconds. Martin Fourcade of France, in recent years perhaps the world’s best biathlete, took third.

What Lowell Bailey did Thursday is arguably the hardest thing to do in sports: to win when there is no evidence you can. When all you have is belief. And you, your family, your community, your team have had to sustain that belief — in this instance, on behalf of your country — for more than 20 years.

“It is a belief, a vision,” Max Cobb, the president and chief executive of U.S. Biathlon, said in a late Thursday phone call, “in the power of bringing the right people together and working as hard as you can to bring about something you really believe in and really want.

“All too often in life,” Cobb added, “we sell ourselves short by not daring to dream to do something great and trying to achieve something that seems unachievable — something that rationally seems unachievable.

“It is when you dare to do that great thing that great things happen. That is why today is so emotional.”

Lowell Bailey is 35 years old.

He has been at this biathlon thing a very, very long time. PyeongChang next year will be his fourth Olympics.

Bailey grew up around Lake Placid, New York. There are super-intense local rivalries — there is Saranac Lake, there is the farther-out hamlet of Paul Smiths, there is Lake Placid — but for the rest of us who are not locals there is, you know, Lake Placid, where 37 years ago this week they staged the Winter Games there. Eric Heiden raced and won five times. A pretty big deal hockey game went down between the Americans and Soviets.

That kind of thing, and to grow up in and around Lake Placid is to be part of that culture.

“It was such a thrill to see this,” Sue Cameron, who is literally Lowell Bailey’s next-door neighbor, said in an email.

“Everyone in Lake Placid is over the moon about his gold medal and so proud not only of Lowell but the entire U.S. biathlon team, athletes and coaches.”

Lowell Bailey grew up with a gang of kids that included, among others, Tim Burke and Billy Demong. And, as well, Haley Johnson (2010 Olympics), Annelies Cook (2014 Olympics) and Billy's younger sister, Katy.

"As young racers, all of them were obviously good and in some cases very good," said Kris Cheney-Seymour, 46, the group's first coach who now runs the state-owned nordic ski center at Mount Van Hoevenberg.

"They were by no means the Bad News Bears," he added, "but they also weren’t the prodigies. The dream was born. Probably they and their internal sport mechanisms bought into it first. Their parents were unconditional. And the community believed as well. Every step along the way was, in some ways celebrated, but also there was an inner belief that they could always do it."

Tim Burke, 35, is also a mainstay of the U.S. biathlon program. He has been to three Winter Games. At the 2013 world championships, he took second in this very same individual event.

At the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Demong became the first American to win Olympic gold in a Nordic event, the 10km individual large hill. He then skied the final lap in a silver medal-winning relay.

Lake Placid back in the day -- purple suit: future world champion Lowell Bailey, No. 61 Olympic gold medalist Billy Demong, No. 37 world medalist Tim Burke // Helen Demong

Billy Demong and his wife, Katie, now live in Park City, Utah.

“It’s incredible,” he said in a phone call, “to look at the group we grew up with, in a small town, in a small area — and look at how much success came out of that group.”

He added a moment later, “I have always been a bigger believer in groups and culture. We had that when we were kids growing up. We showed up. We pushed each other.” And this: “Part of learning how to win back in the day and believing we could win was coming to grips with the fact that there was not something in the water in Norway that we didn’t have.”

He also said, recalling when his U.S. teammate Johnny Spillane won gold in the 7.5k sprint at the 2003 worlds, the first American to win a gold at the FIS Nordic worlds, that he — Demong — did not cry then. Nor did he — Demong — cry in 2010 in Vancouver.

On Thursday, Billy Demong, watching Lowell Bailey win via livestream on the computer, cried. In excitement. And joy.

He said he called Tim Burke’s mother — Billy, who is now 36 and the father of two young sons, could easily summon Mary Jean Burke’s landline in upstate New York from the memory bank — and “we chatted about how special it was, going back to all of our childhoods.”

He added, “This is what it’s all about.”

Lowell Bailey’s younger sister, Kendra Bailey Davis, 32, was home with her husband, Jeff, and their 6-month-old son, Milo. They were stuck to the computer, too.

“We were just tearing [up],” she said, “and the whole day has been a string of texts and phone calls and video links and social media and real media.

“I did get a chance to video chat with him,” meaning her brother, “after he got home from the medal ceremony and we just stared at each other in disbelief. It’s a pinch-me, when-will-I-wake-up kind of day.”

Lowell Bailey’s younger sister also said, “I know I keep saying it but I don’t have another word: it’s unreal. It’s a dream come true for him and for our family.”

When Lowell Bailey stepped onto the podium, there was a moment when his wife, Erika, and their 8-month-old daughter, Ophelia, joined him.

In Utah, Billy Demong got the screenshot, then immediately dispatched it across the wires to Europe, to Lowell with a message: “You’re gonna want this one.”

This season, Lowell, Erika and Ophelia Bailey have made the biathlon tour a family affair.

“Lowell has some unique qualities in that he can take on a lot of things and still focus on biathlon,” Erika Bailey said late Thursday. “This morning, before the race, he was getting ready to walk out to the race and changing Ophelia’s diaper back in the van. He was able to do that and not get stressed out.”

“For me,” Lowell Bailey said, “it has made all the difference. It is just so great to have Erika and Ophelia here. Biathlon is a brutal sport. You can be on top of the world one day and not the next. Knowing that my family is here, waking up in the morning next to them and seeing their smiling faces — that’s what is’s all about.”

This, too — the crowd cheering him on as the race drew to a close. He knew, everyone knew what was at stake.

Earlier in these 2017 worlds, Bailey had hit every shot in the sprint and finished fourth, just six seconds out of a medal. He missed once in the pursuit, finishing sixth.

Biathlon is incredibly, incredibly hard. You don’t have to understand the intricacies to draw this parallel:

Imagine you run a lap on the track at world-class speed. Say 60 seconds, maybe just under, for 400 meters. Breathing hard? Now go shoot two free throws. Now two more. And do that as quickly as you can.

After Bailey cleaned his final targets, here came this wall of noise — cheers from the stands for an American.

“It was surreal,” Bailey said.

“Until someone gets to see what this atmosphere is like, until you stand alongside the course with 30,000 people screaming, or you stand inside the stadium, you can’t describe how it’s possible in our world of NFL football fans, who doggedly support the home team, how it’s possible for an entire crowd dominated by Norwegians and Germans and definitely not Americans — that they can, in an instant, turn and throw all their support behind an American skier trying to win the first American world championships gold medal …

“Just even thinking back on it gives me goosebumps.”

He also said, “To have something like this happen when I am 35 years old — it’s an amazing thing, amazing for me to experience. I know that the only reason I have stayed in it this long is because I have enjoyed almost every minute of it from when I was 12 years old and picked up a rifle until now, and stepped on that podium.”

That is, really, what it’s really about.

How it, genuinely, works.

A group of kids, boys and girls, in Lake Placid, have big dreams. Some go on to be world-class athletes. Then the likes of Lowell Bailey, Tim Burke and Billy Demong win medals and they inspire young boys and girls now, wherever they might be, to try to be like them.

Just the way, way back when, when Billy made his first Olympic team, Lowell and Tim thought, hey, we can do that.

Liam Demong, 6 years old, already fully shredding it // Billy Demong

In Park City, Utah, on Wednesday, Liam Demong, who is 6, played hooky from kindergarten. Liam and Billy went skiing all day. They tore it up to the tune of about 14,000 vertical feet. For Liam, it was a super big day all around. He got to ride up on the chairlift by himself for the very first time, with some cool 10-year-old friends.

About 4:30 in the afternoon, father and son came in for a bit. Liam attacked a chicken pot pie. Then he went back out into the snow, for three hours of ski jumping, which he now says — dad is trying very hard not to be that kind of parent, you know — is his favorite sport.

“I love,” Billy Demong said, “that he loves it.

“I love that there’s a core group of friends he’s doing it with, including his next-door neighbor. It’s like watching the whole thing happen all over again.”

More 2024 straight talk: the hits keep coming

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The hits keep coming for the International Olympic Committee, and we are not talking Top-40 radio.

On Sunday, voters in the Swiss Alps — for the second time — said no thanks to an Olympic bid that would have been staged in the posh mountain resorts of St. Moritz and Davos. A state in Switzerland is called a canton. That canton is called Graubuenden. Asked about financing a candidacy for the 2026 Games, 60.1 of voters there said, nope.

Four years ago, the vote against a 2022 bid was 53 percent.

Trend line: not positive. The Swiss say they'll keep exploring 2026 options in another mountain town, Sion, but whatever. In 1999, Sion was the 2006 IOC loser, to Turin, Italy.

Making Sunday’s balloting all the more a disconnect: voting was held amid the two weeks of the 2017 world alpine ski championships in St. Moritz. If ever conditions were ripe to highlight the cool stuff of a high-profile event in a ski resort that twice before had staged the Winter Games, in 1928 and 1948, it was all there.

Instead, disaster. Sixty-forty is a blowout, people.

Marius Vizer, the International Judo Federation president, at Sunday's Grand Slam 2017 tour stop in Paris // IJF

Actually, Sunday’s balloting makes for the latest in a string of lectures — sorry to use that word, IOC friends, because the good lord knows you don’t like to be told much, if anything — that taxpayers all over Europe have been screaming now for years from the rooftops.

Here is the question:

Are you listening?

Better:

What, finally, will make you hear?

What, ultimately, will make you realize what is what?

The Olympic movement is at — pick your phrase — an inflection point, a turning point, a tipping point.

Voters are not just rejecting the costs of the Games, though that is the biggest factor.

This is also an uncomfortable let’s look-in-the-mirror moment for the members of the IOC.

Voters — see Brexit, Trump, Olympic-related balloting, maybe next the upcoming elections this spring in France — are rejecting everything that goes with what they perceive to be the “elite.”

There could be no more glaring example of the “elite,” right or wrong, fair or not, than the IOC, particularly the IOC going to Davos for a three-week party at what taxpayers perceive to be their expense.

Davos! It was at the super-glitzy Davos get-together just a few weeks ago that the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba announced a long-term sponsorship of the IOC. To be both clear and fair, from the perspective of the IOC and Alibaba the deal is a coup. Terms were not announced but it reportedly is worth a reported $800 million to an entity, the IOC, that over the four-year cycle 2013-16 announced it intends to take in revenue worth $5.6 billion.

And you wonder why taxpayers are revolting against the Games?

Once more, it is worth heeding the words of Marius Vizer, the president of the International Judo Federation, who said in a speech in Sochi in April 2015:

“History demonstrated that all the empires who reached the highest peaks of development never reformed on time and they are all headed for destruction. The IOC system today is expired, outdated, wrong, unfair and not at all transparent.”

For these remarks, the IOC and president Thomas Bach tried (unsuccessfully) to all but excommunicate Vizer from the Olympic movement.

Time keeps proving Vizer all the more prescient.

In December 2014, the IOC, at Bach’s urging, passed a purported 40-point reform plan dubbed Agenda 2020. To date, as Sunday’s balloting in Switzerland made plain yet once more, Agenda 2020 has proven thoroughly unconvincing to taxpayers anywhere. The reason is clear: there is no fact-based evidence proving that Agenda 2020 amounts to anything but lip service.

Bottom line: the IOC simply cannot carry on the way it has been doing business since the 1992 Barcelona Games ushered in the notion of Games as catalyst for wide-ranging urban transformation project.

That era has come to a crashing, sudden end.

That is what voters in western democracies are saying, and emphatically.

And it’s easy to understand why:

Games-associated costs have become obscene.

$12 to $15 billion in Athens in 2004, $15 billion in London in 2012, a presumed $20 billion in Rio in 2016 (bid documents said $14.4 billion, and that was before a series of delay-related cost overruns), $40 billion in Beijing in 2008 and the killer, a reputed $51 billion in Sochi in 2014.

The Associated Press reports out of Rio recently have just been -- in a word -- grim:

https://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP/status/830584108350849024

https://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP/status/830411202488582146

For 2022, six cities in Europe dropped out, five put off to varying degrees by the $51 billion 2014 figure: Oslo, Munich, Stockholm, Davos/St. Moritz and Krakow, Poland. A sixth, Lviv, Ukraine, fell out because of war.

In Oslo, they didn't just complain about the money -- they complained about stuff like IOC protocol and how many cocktails, fruits and cakes were supposed to be on hand for visits. When Oslo dropped out, the IOC issued a statement that called it a "missed opportunity" and chastised the Norwegians for taking "their decisions on the basis of half-truths and factual inaccuracies."

You wonder why the perception persists -- despite the considerable on-the-ground good work the IOC does around the world each and every day -- that the IOC is elitist?

That 2022 race left the IOC to choose between Beijing, with no snow in the mountains, and Almaty, Kazakhstan. It chose Beijing.

The 2024 race in 2015 started with five cities. It is now down to three.

Hamburg, Germany dropped out after voters said no in a referendum.

Rome dropped out when the mayor said the Games were too expensive amid other priorities. Rome similarly dropped out of the 2020 picture.

Los Angeles, Paris and Budapest are still in.

The IOC will pick the 2024 winner on September 13 by secret ballot at an assembly in Lima, Peru.

September is a long way from February. A lot can, and doubtlessly will, happen.

Even so, the conversations that typically don’t happen in IOC bid campaigns need to happen. Because this campaign can’t be like the others. The Olympic movement literally cannot afford it.

The government-backed Paris 2024 bid, for instance, says its infrastructure costs would total $3.2 billion.

This total ought to be viewed with extreme suspicion. It is the nature of government-backed winning bids in the past 20 years to have made similar we’ll-keep-costs-down promises: Athens, Beijing, London, Sochi, Rio …

Take another look at that Rio athletes' village. Paris needs to build one, too.

Our Paris 2024 friends recently, so everyone should know, have been trying another tack. The Games have never been away from Europe for more than 12 years; the last Games in Europe were in London in 2012; 2024 would obviously be 12 years. Our French friends say, it’s precisely because the crisis is in Europe that the IOC ought to come to Europe for 2024. If the IOC doesn’t come to Europe for 2024, they ask, when will it ever come to Europe again?

Easy: 2028.

When these cities will be lining up because they already have expressed interest: Madrid, Budapest, Milan, St. Petersburg and Paris.

Also, probably some city in Germany.

In case this is not clear: Budapest wants to be the first city in Europe to stage the Games after London. And they have a good story to tell.

In any case, in virtually every country but the United States, sport is an arm of the federal government. Thus bids and Olympic Games tend to be the purview of governments. The logic tree goes like this:

It’s one thing for a federal government somewhere to put up, say, $50 or $80 million to organize and run an Olympic campaign. It’s quite another, as is the case in the United States, to have to raise that money from private donors.

When I wrote a few columns ago that Casey Wasserman, the LA24 bid chair, had gone about raising $35 million, I was wrong.

It was more like $50 million, maybe even a little more.

If Los Angeles does not win for 2024, Wasserman just cannot go back to all those people and say, looking at 2028, “OK, let’s do it all over again because now I think we really might win.”

Not going to happen.

Indeed, we all need to be as crystal clear about these things as possible:

To make Agenda 2020 anything more than just so much talk, the IOC needs for 2024 to grab onto the very thing that for years it has found so sour about the American bid: the fact that it is privately funded instead of government-backed.

A privately funded bid has no wiggle room. When the LA24 people say the bid will be $5.3 billion, it will — just like Peter Ueberroth proved in 1984, when there was no room for error — be $5.3 billion, if not less.

Moreover, this needs to be explicitly understood as well. Plain, forthright talk serves everyone’s interests:

If Los Angeles does not win for 2024, there will be significant resistance where it counts to the notion of there being an American bid for an extremely long time.

By significant, I am being gentle.

By where it counts, I mean U.S. Olympic Committee leadership, the USOC board of directors and at the highest levels of politics and government in the United States as well.

Even the winter sports people get it. They’re in for 2024. They’re not yapping about Denver or Salt Lake for 2026 or 2030.

This is it. 2024. The United States is in for 2024. Only.

This is it.

This is the message that needs to get out, to percolate, to be readily and well understood and absorbed, not just the message but the consequence that the Americans are exceedingly likely not to bid again for a long, long time if 2024 doesn’t go their way.

This is a very different bid campaign than any of the past 20 years. The stakes could not be more significant, perhaps existential, for the modern Olympic movement.

This is it.

In which LA karma meets Olympic dogma

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The universe, if you are listening, speaks in whispers. There is karma, and it is real.

For the doubters, the universe offered a jolt of lightning proof Sunday that we are, indisputably, living in Donald Trump’s United States of America. The New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons, 34-28, in the NFL’s first overtime Super Bowl.

For those who are not within the being-vetted borders of the American enterprise and neither understand the pageantry nor the crash-and-boom of American football: not to worry.

Here’s a primer:

The Patriots play in a stadium outside Boston. Boston and New York, as metropolitan areas, have a longstanding provincial rivalry that the rest of us in the United States could care less about but gets shoved down our throats, anyway. Trump, obviously, is a New York guy.

Even so, he somehow has a very friendly relationship with the Patriots’ quarterback, Tom Brady, who in winning cemented his legacy as the greatest NFL quarterback of all time; with the Patriots’ coach, Bill Belichick, who seemingly smiles about as often as a Democratic presidential candidate wins in Alabama; and with the Patriots’ owner, Robert Kraft, who has long been one of the key behind-the-scene players in the league, which has but 32 owners and is thus a more exclusive club than even the U.S. Senate.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/828447350200926212

Across the 50 states, we have to wait until late August for our next football fix. If you don’t feel our pain, it’s quite OK. We get it.

But you had best take notice that within an hour of the game, Mr. Trump had tweeted out his appreciation for the winners.

The White House press secretary, using Boston slang to describe himself on Twitter as a "wicked"  fan of both the Patriots and the baseball Red Sox, had been hilariously and mercilessly parodied over the weekend by NBC's Saturday Night Live.

https://youtu.be/UWuc18xISwI

Note: after the Patriot victory, Spicer took to Twitter to mix politics and sports.

https://twitter.com/seanspicer/status/828445799981912066

Before the game, to be clear, this is what Mr. Trump had posted to Twitter:

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/828375073006444544

Ladies and gentlemen, particularly friends who are members of the International Olympic Committee:

On September 13, at an assembly in Lima, Peru, you are going to be weighing who to vote for in the campaign for the 2024 Summer Olympics. The time is now to start paying careful consideration, indeed the most careful consideration, to the change that has shaken up Washington, our world and, as events proved Sunday, our universe.

There are three candidates in that 2024 race: Los Angeles, Paris and Budapest.

This is not an ordinary race.

It is not going to go down like any of the races of the past 20 years, in particular the campaign in 2005 when New York — after Mr. Trump ran a leg of the Olympic flame relay in Manhattan — got dumped for 2012, London winning, and in 2009 when Chicago crashed and burned for 2016, Rio de Janeiro winning.

This is not to say that Mr. Trump is, or isn’t, or ought to, or not ought not, appear in person in Lima for the IOC session itself.

Not the point.

The point is that there is a new sheriff in town.

If you don’t like it, OK, roger that. I did not vote for Mr. Trump. But he is now my president. That’s the way this works.

So let’s all lose the double standard and the screaming hypocrisy. Like, immediately if not sooner, please.

We over here in the States are super-tired of it, to be honest, and unless we start having an honest conversation about it, it’s not going to go well for anybody. Not for us. Not for you, IOC friends, the majority of you over there in Europe. Not for anyone.

You don’t like it if the conversation turns toward money. You tend to believe that all we think about in the United States when it comes to the Olympics is money. That is a load of crap. We love the Olympic ideals and the Games themselves. Beyond which, American money is what makes the Olympic engine go. Yet when we actually mention that elemental truth, it’s like we passed gas in church.

This has got to stop.

In awarding editions of the Olympic Games, it would be totally and thoroughly hypocritical, sanctimonious and unfair to judge the United States by different standards than others, and in particular Russia and China. These bid campaigns are not designed to be morality plays. They, purportedly, are about what is best for the Olympic movement.

IOC friends, from 2008 through 2022 there are eight editions of the Games. In your wisdom, you awarded three of those eight to Russia and China. Yet the conversation would be about Mr. Trump? Because, exactly, why?

Because he's different? For sure he's different from Mr. Obama, his predecessor. But you made it plain in 2009 that you strongly disliked Mr. Obama, and vice-versa. So, where are we here? You want, or you somehow believe you have the right, to substitute your values and your judgments for those of the American people and our electoral college when it comes our domestic politics? On what grounds? That would be appropriate because -- sorry, same question, exactly why?

Let's try this: you don't like change and Mr. Trump for sure represents change? But you're the group that in recent years took the Summer Olympics to "new horizons" such as China and Brazil and, moreover, the Winter Games to Russia and South Korea.

The disconnect and double standards abound, and they really have to stop.

This is not a high school-style drama about whether you like so-and-so. To reiterate: this is about what is best for the Olympic movement right now. And what is best is Los Angeles.

Sochi 2014: $51 billion. Let's just leave that out there. You were super-cool with Mr. Putin. So if the argument is you plain and simple just don't like Mr. Trump -- let's just leave that out there, and note Mr. Putin.

Those 2008 Beijing Games: $40 billion.

Beijing, for goodness' sake, is now going to stage the Summer (2008) and Winter (2022) Games.

Beijing! Air pollution! Human rights! Literally like no snow in the mountains almost two hours away from the capital!

Two editions of the Games in 14 years!

And — Beijing will be the first city — ever — in Olympic history to stage both the Summer and Winter Games!

Really?

In May 2014, NBC — I am not at this space connected in any way with the network — agreed to pay $7.65 billion for the rights to televise six editions of the Games in the United States, 2022 to 2032.

The deal marked one of Thomas Bach’s first signature achievements as IOC president (he had been elected in September 2013), and the IOC release pointedly noted that it signaled a “major contribution to the long-term financial stability of the Olympic movement.”

Before that, in 2011, NBC had agreed to pay $4.38 billion for four Olympics, 2014 through 2020.

Just a little breakdown of that: $775 million for Sochi 2014; $1.22 billion for Rio 2016; $963 million for Pyeongchang 2018; and $1.41 billion for Tokyo 2020.

For all those billions, NBC — obviously — had to bid blind for many editions of the Games. Its money bought it a ratings-questionable Asian triple in 2018, 2020 and 2022. That is, South Korea, Japan and China.

To be clear, nobody “owes” NBC anything.

At the same time, a little logic, please.

It’s American money that kickstarts — or more — all the things the IOC does, including but not limited to the ability to reach out to other parts of the world, as it has done in moving the Summer Games around in every edition since 1996 in Atlanta.

Truly, the Olympic movement does good work each and every day around the world. But aspirational idealism doesn’t turn into reality because of candy canes, rainbows and unicorns. It takes plans and people and it takes cash.

It’s not dirty to talk about this kind of thing. It’s real. We all should have had this conversation a long time ago, and we should keep having it with each other to and through September 13 in Lima.

Let’s switch over to the IOC’s top-level corporate sponsors.

There are, with last month’s addition of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, 13.

Six are headquartered in the United States: Coca-Cola, Dow, GE, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble and Visa.

Of the others, just to pick two:

Do you think Alibaba got in for the Chinese market? It already dominates that. It wants the United States.

Or Samsung, which is based in South Korea. Maybe, just maybe, it has designs on selling flat-screen TVs in every household in the United States?

Here’s what we Americans find so confounding.

Like any for-profit concern, an American business is in business to make money. Part of that for these corporations is, absolutely, growing the brand in other markets. We get that. They indisputably are seeking a return from connecting with the five Olympic rings, or they wouldn’t do it. That’s business.

But when we Americans say, what would happen to the Olympic movement if the American money dried up or the terms under which those American companies were allowed to seek their Olympic return on investment were subject to change — it’s like we are somehow considered impolite?

That’s what we just don’t get, to be honest.

You want, indeed the IOC needs, our money.

Beyond which, you send your children — and your national Olympic committees typically send their very best athletes — to our universities. Moreover, you make use of our world-class hospitals. And on and on. We generously extend, in almost every case, a gracious American welcome — the kind that makes for lifetime memories, sometimes even the sort that get passed down from generation to generation.

In a spirit of good faith and goodwill, the U.S. Olympic Committee leads spirited campaigns for the Games. We get humiliated. Then we get told that what we need to do is keep that cash from those American companies coming, and thanks for that, you know, but please work on being nicer, building better relationships, maybe being more, you know, European.

Something in all of that doesn’t seem quite right, you know?

Just a small point but maybe not, something telling:

The LA bid file turned in a couple of days ago runs to 110 pages. Paris: 148. Was there an IOC-imposed page limit? If so, did Paris exceed it? Is this evidence of yet another double standard?

Here, in quite another context, is what for sure does not seem right.

New York spent roughly $100 million bidding for 2012. Chicago, $80 million for 2016. Los Angeles will put out in the neighborhood of $60 million for 2024.

All in, that’s $240 million in roughly 14 years, from 2003-ish through 2017.

If LA gets kicked to the curb, too, the USOC ought to preempt any presidential or congressional action and declare, that’s it — we are out. Out for 2026. Out for 2028. Out for a very long time. Like, a very, very long time. Let’s concentrate just on the American mission and re-direct that kind of corporate American money toward the USOC instead of the IOC. Let’s see how the IOC gets along without an American bid for, oh, say, 40 years.

Seriously. Forty years.

Let’s take a poll: how many American athletes would prefer that the likes of $240 million in potential corporate funding be re-directed entirely toward, you know, American athletes?

The cozy secret the IOC has held close for a very long time is that it can keep taking American corporate money but rejecting American bid overtures, secure that the Americans will keep coming back with yet another bid.

That, too, has to stop.

The Olympic movement is genuinely at a tipping point.

It needs the United States after recent editions of the Games that cost $51 billion, $40 billion, $20 billion (2016, Brazil), $15 billion (2012, Britain) and may in Japan soar over $20 billion again.

A Los Angeles 2024 Games is budgeted at $5.3 billion, all in. It would be privately funded. It will be $5.3 billion because, unlike governmentally funded bids, which are the norm virtually everywhere else, including the Paris 2024 bid, it is what it is.

The very thing that has been a purported downfall of prior American bids — that the government is not responsible — is, now, the key to what the IOC needs.

Government-financed Games have, over the past 20 years, proven financially irresponsible. It’s almost certain that another government-financed games in 2024 would be the same, no matter any disputations because that is what happens. Here’s a bet right now that the $3.2 billion Paris says represent its infrastructure costs would balloon to two or three times that much if it wins for 2024.

The IOC cannot afford that, literally and figuratively.

IOC member friends, you can not afford, literally and figuratively, to say no to Los Angeles. We all need to have this direct sort of conversation.

Here's why: we don't know what we don't know. That is, we don't know what would happen afterward in Washington if LA loses.

But even after just a couple of weeks with Mr. Trump in office an informed observation is all too obvious: it very likely would not be positive or constructive.

For context:

IOC friends, you will recall how some if not many of you grumbled when in 2009 Mr. Obama’s security detail kept you waiting in Copenhagen, and the murmurs afterward were that the wait played into Chicago’s first-round exit?

This though Mr. Obama had recently won the Nobel Peace Prize? And became the first sitting U.S. president to pitch for an American bid, on behalf of his hometown? And — again, let’s be honest here — you embarrassed and humiliated him?

It’s not much of a logical leap to see the connection between Copenhagen 2009 and, in sequence, the FIFA indictments and the investigation by the U.S. Justice Department out of Brooklyn into allegations of Russian doping.

Mr. Trump wants Los Angeles to win. Take that to the bank, everyone.

Hypothetical here:

Let’s say the members go for Paris, even though it’s bedeviled by immigration-related security issues — Mr. Trump’s No. 1 priority — instead of Los Angeles.

Do you think Mr. Trump would be inclined to let that sort of slight slide?

Do you think, reminder we’re speaking hypothetically, that he would engage the Justice Department — soon to be led, probably, by Senator Jeff Sessions, the Republican from Alabama — anew?

This space has long maintained that it’s an overreach of American prosecutorial and judicial authority to go after international soccer authorities on a connection, in some cases tangential, to U.S. banking laws. But precedent being what it is — IOC friends, do you really want the FBI looking at you and your dealings?

Moreover:

Mr. Trump is, at least according to (his own) legend, something of a deal-maker.

Mr. Trump’s key advisor is Steve Bannon, who used to be a banker.

There are, as noted above, a lot of deals involving American money that drive the Olympic movement.

Who knows what interesting conversations might or might not be had involving whether those deals ought or ought not to be reviewed?

Maybe, as noted, in concert with the Justice Department. Or maybe a special project just run out of the White House itself. Is this what the Olympic movement wants?

To wrap up, friends, here is another bit of American slang for your careful consideration: karma can sometimes be such a bitch.

Like gin and tonic: sports and politics mix it up

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The headlines are rich with stories about how sports and politics mix. This inevitably brings up the old fiction about how, especially in the Olympic scene, the two are supposed to be like church and state — separate and apart. That's a notion from way long ago. From a time when basketball players wore way shorter shorts.

Sports and politics mix all the time. Like gin and tonic. Hot dogs and hamburgers. Back and forth. Whatever.

A gentle reminder that in September 2014, the current International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, in a speech at the Asian Games in South Korea, said that for sure sport and politics mix.

Sport needs to acknowledge its relationship to politics and business, Bach said in that speech. At the same time, he said, the world’s political and corporate elite must be mindful of the autonomy of sports organizations or run the risk of diminishing the positive influence that sport can carry.

“In the past,” Bach went on, “some have said that sport has nothing to do with politics, or they have said that sport has nothing to do with money or business. And this is just an attitude which is wrong and which we can not afford anymore.

“We are living in the middle of society and that means we have to partner up with the politicians who run this world.”

With that in mind, these, please:

A few days back, many track and field friends got so incredibly fired up over the Somali-born British gold medalist Mo Farah, arguably the greatest distance runner of our time, and his widely publicized, Nike-backed freak-out over whether he could get into the United States, when it turned out that a simple call to the British Foreign Office affirmed that of course he could.

Let us all now look forward to the learned observations of Sir Mo on Iran's announced ban on U.S. wrestlers.

Or perhaps it is only his own plight that he cares about?

Nike as well? And what it knows not only about its employees but, if not more important, what market research tells it about the demographics and voting inclinations of its customers?

In a staff email, Mark Parker, the chairman, president and chief executive officer of Nike, Inc., said he had been “moved” by the “powerful statement” that “Mo” — first name, as if everyone in corporate fun-world is the best of friends — “shared this morning.”

In that email, Parker went on to say, “Nike stands together against bigotry and any form of discrimination,” adding, “We’ve learned that on the field of play, where fairness and mutual respect are the rule, not the exception.”

That is of course a position to be commended.

Now, Mr. Parker, how far do those words reach?

Nike's business positions extend beyond the United States.

What, then, does Nike plan to do to stand up to the bigotry and discrimination of the Iranian regime? Or is standing up to bigotry and discrimination only a thing when it involves perceptions — that play to corporate image-making — of a certain Republican in the White House?

USA Wrestling statement on the reported Iranian ban:

“If these reports are true, USA Wrestling is extremely disappointed about this, which we believe would be an unacceptable situation. Wrestling is about competition and goodwill through sport, and is no place for politics.”

As for the reported Iranian action, and comparing it with President Trump’s executive order (and, by extension, Mr. Parker’s staff email):

1. Which governmental regime is using sport -- reasonable question: what other leverage does it have -- as retaliation?

2. Iran doesn't have an IOC vote so this means nothing for the Los Angeles 2024 Olympic bid.

3. Feel free, at any rate, to ask around IOC precincts about perceptions within the movement about Iran.

4. If you want to rail on Mr. Trump, go right ahead. At least in the United States, presumably you enjoy the right to free speech — that is, unless you’re in, of all places, Berkeley, California, and you have controversial matters on your mind.

At any rate, take a moment to look up all the episodes over the years in which Iranian athletes have not appeared or simply refused to engage with Israeli athletes because the Israelis are Jews and from an official Iranian perspective the Jews are scum and the state of Israel illegitimate -- and when they get back home to Iran from these sickening displays of seeking to delegitimize Israel and dehumanize its competitors, the Iranian athletes are typically welcomed as heroes.

In 2012, amid the London Olympics, the Iranian sports minister noted that “not competing with Zionist athletes is one of the values and sources of pride of the Iranian people and its athletes.”

5. Please read these two relevant paragraphs issued Friday by the Islamic Republic News Agency, referring to a statement from the Iranian foreign ministry:

"Islamic Republic of Iran will appropriately counter any measure threatening the nation’s interests, as it has suspended issuance of visas for the Americans in a tit-for-tat move against the US travel ban for the Iranians.

"The ministry also stressed that the Islamic Republic would not allow the ominous realization of the dangerous plots and delusions of the Zionist warmongers and their supporters."

6. Would it be reasonable to assert that the Iranians do not hold to the position that, when it comes to the Israelis, fairness and mutual respect are the rule on the field of play?

This case is obviously the exception.

Indeed, it flat-out amounts to bigotry and discrimination because the Israelis are Jews.

There is no other reason, no other explanation.

Sir Mo freaked out because of ill-conceived concerns he was going to be banned. The Iranians do not compete against Jews because of reprehensible, indefensible, indeed vile religious hatred as well as slanderous political opposition. The Iranians would seem, absent a reversal, to have actually moved to have banned the American wrestlers from their country.

Which, comparing apples and oranges, is worse?

So — where is the outrage over the Iranian action/s?

More — what is to be done?

They say that advice is worth what you pay for it. This advice is free. So here goes:

Time can work in the most intriguing way.

President Trump’s 90-day immigration-related executive order is due to expire in, oh, late April.

The International Olympic Committee’s evaluation commission visit to Los Angeles, in conjunction with the 2024 Summer Games campaign, is scheduled for April 23-25.

If it were me:

I would reach out to the White House and see if Mr. Bach, the IOC president, wanted to enjoy a White House visit with President Trump in, oh, mid to late April. Or if the White House was inconvenient, somewhere where the two leaders could meet. Maybe at the United Nations, which on the campaign last year didn't exactly seem like a Trump thing but is definitely a Bach hangout and is close to Trump Tower, where the new president has said the taco bowls are, you know, the best.

Wait. I hear the screaming from our French friends: "So unfair!"

OK, well, French president François Hollande and Bach got together for a face-to-face meeting in November 2013 in Paris.

And in April 2015 in Lausanne, Switzerland, the IOC’s base.

And, apples to apples, even during this 2024 campaign, in October 2016 in Paris, where Hollande presented Bach with a flag from the 1924 Paris Games and Bach said the “Paris bid is a very, very strong bid because of the unity and the large support it is sparking off,” adding, “Personally, I’m very impressed by the unity among both the sporting and political worlds.”

So — hope to see you soon in the United States, Mr. IOC President. If you get to the White House, and, a hand towel from the men's room, um, accidentally finds its way into your suit pocket and you leave with it as a memento of your visit, oh darn, we totally will understand. Barbara Walters and Meryl Streep, among others, have maybe collected some White House knickknacks, and Ms. Streep is even a Presidential Medal of Freedom of Winner. Again, Mr. IOC President, hope to see you soon.

Speaking of France:

The Paris 2024 bid on Friday launched the international phase of its campaign by revealing its new slogan, “Made for Sharing,” with co-chair Tony Estanguet saying in a statement that the tagline shows Paris “is a city welcome to ready the world,” adding, “We want to use the Games to break barriers and build bridges of understanding between communities and nations.”

Pause.

You can just hear the dialogue if not the cackling in the focus groups contrasting “bridges,” on the one hand, and “walls,” on the other, right?

Asked if the slogan was a rip on Mr. Trump, the French prime minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, told reporters Friday, “France has this idea of building relationships through the values of respect, fraternity and solidarity...

"It’s a very simple answer."

Uh-huh.

Class: we shall now examine France's colonial years, particularly but not exclusively in North Africa, and let us pay particular attention to the notion of "building relationships through the values of respect, fraternity and solidarity," with special regard to France's many Muslim constituents, and how those relationships continue to play out now, in our time, within France itself or in the way France is perceived within Europe and beyond.

The mayor, Anne Hidalgo, said in the same news release that Paris, “more than any other city, has embraced this culture of sharing and connection.”

Also Friday, French police shot and wounded a man who shouted “Allahu Akbar!” as he attacked them with a machete at the Louvre, the world’s most visited museum. Police sources told the British outlet The Telegraph that the assailant was a 29-year-old Egyptian who had arrived in Paris on January 26 after acquiring a one-month tourist visa in Dubai.

Hollande said, according to the newspaper, that the attack was “clearly an act of terrorism,” the latest that has put France in a  "state of emergency" that has lasted now for nearly two years.

From the U.S. president:

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/827499871011819520

Kudos. Applause. Way to be clever and think outside the boundaries, because this is exactly what the Olympic space needs, even if it's in the bid arena: something never, ever done in the 20 years I have been covering Olympic bids, which rigidly stick to the format of bid books and presentations.

Here is LA24 chair Casey Wasserman with part one of a series of "What's Not in the Bid Book!" He promises a look at stuff like best hikes in LA, where to buy cool sneakers -- and says, controversially, that Tito's Tacos, presumably the location in Culver City, California, offers the best tacos in town.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlrRRw0SbmE&feature=share

OK, so not perfect: I mean, what would you expect from someone who went to UCLA?

Advice to Wasserman as he builds his series, since most “in LA” stuff tends to revolve around the Westside, Downtown (which now goes by the trendy moniker ‘DTLA’), trendy spots like Los Feliz and Silver Lake and, of course, surfer and movie star hangout Malibu and the sprawl of the San Fernando Valley.

Check out the Roundhouse Aquarium at the end of the Manhattan Beach pier (free, kids of all ages love it) and the backside of the Palos Verdes peninsula (looks like Italy, locals only because it's way off the freeways).

There’s even a Golf Digest ‘top 100 public course’ way out there on the peninsula backside, with incredible views of the Pacific and Santa Catalina Island some 20 miles southwest of the mainland. The course is breathtakingly beautiful and has been featured in literally dozens of movies, commercials, TV shows and photo shoots.

It's Trump National.

On Mr. Trump and double standards: let's all chillax

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Everybody: chillax.

And while you’re at it, the time has come for everybody — this means you, you and especially you — to start thinking, and hard, about why it is that there’s such an obvious, ridiculous and totally unfair double standard when it comes to evaluating American bids for events such as the Olympics and soccer’s World Cup.

In the aftermath of President Donald J. Trump’s executive order on Friday imposing travel restrictions on certain countries, you might have thought — especially reading Twitter and the mainstream media Kool-Aid — that the freaking sky was falling.

The Los Angeles 2024 Summer Games bid: imperiled if not dead.

The notion of an American bid for the 2026 soccer World Cup: wounded, maybe fatally.

These assertions betray a wild miscalculation if not a fundamental misunderstanding of what’s at issue.

Moreover: a fevered rush to judgment never serves anyone or anything.

Deep breath.

First things first: the International Olympic Committee vote on the 2024 race isn’t until September 13 in Lima, Peru. Paris and Budapest are also in the race. Eight months from now is an eternity.

To speculate now, in January, about what might happen in September because of what Mr. Trump did in January is pointless.

Let’s all remember that our French friends have their own national elections in the spring. If Marine le Pen wins, will there be similar freak-out? If François Fillon wins, will the French trade unions go berserk and the threat of trade union uprisings threaten a Paris 2024 candidacy? Look, will Mr. Fillon even stay in the race? He has said in recent days he would drop out if he were criminally investigated over allegations, much reported on in the French press, that his wife was paid for parliamentary work she did not do.

Let’s say Madame le Pen wins. Just for the hypothetical. Is that the reason to vote up or down on Paris?

Or Viktor Orban, the populist prime minister of Hungary. He has said, “We have to change and make Europe great again.” That verbiage sounds — vaguely familiar. Does that make him the devil? Is he the reason a Budapest bid ought to soar or go down in flames?

If not — why is Mr. Trump being held to a different, and entirely unfair, double standard?

Here are Mr. Trump's words from his January 20 inauguration:

"We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world -- but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first," and that is an unchallengeable truth.

He followed, "We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow."

Let’s put the core of this right out there: you don’t have to like Mr. Trump. It does not matter whether you, you or especially you like the new president.

Repeat, and for emphasis: it does not matter.

Here is what matters:

Many of the members of the IOC like, or are inclined to like, Mr. Trump. Especially the IOC president, Thomas Bach. He likes Mr. Trump just fine.

Whoa.

While you are processing that, this:

Mr. Trump is the duly elected president of the United States. Advice: if he’s not your cup of tea, pour yourself a shot of bourbon or vodka or, if you prefer, pop a Xanax and proceed, quickly, through the five stages of grief and get to acceptance. Like, now.

Repeat: Donald J. Trump is the president of the United States. The American people elected him.

If you think Trump is the antichrist, you have a very short memory when it comes to Barack Obama in the international sports sphere, starting with that disaster of a show in Copenhagen in 2009 on behalf of Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid followed by the delegations to Sochi 2014 led by gay athletes including the tennis star Billie Jean King and, in short order, the overreach of American executive power in the form of the FIFA indictments and an investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn of doping by Russian athletes, as if the United States would or should have any interest whatsoever in doping in Russia.

Imagine if the tables were turned and the Russian federal police and prosecutors launched a purportedly doping-related investigation there of American athletes on the grounds that, say, American high jumpers had violated Russian banking laws. That’s a laugh.

At any rate:

Do you like Vladimir Putin?

What about Xi Jinping?

Do you like the Russian system of government? What about the way they do things in China? Would you consider China, even as “open” as it is now, autocratic or not? For that matter, Russia?

Let’s have a little straw vote here: would you rather, all things considered, live in the United States, Russia or China?

The 2014 Winter Games went to Sochi, with Mr. Putin making a personal appearance before the voting members of the IOC at an assembly in Guatemala.

Beijing is the first city on Planet Earth that will play host to both the Summer Games, 2008, and the Winter Games, 2022.

So — pretty clear that being Mr. Putin or Mr. Xi is not a bid killer. Yet being Mr. Trump ought to be?

Let’s have another little vote.

Would you rather, all things considered, live in Russia, Qatar or the United States?

Soccer’s World Cup will be in Russia in 2018.

And in Qatar in 2022.

Back to the news — because the president, who campaigned on a promise to implement immigration reform, took a first step in so doing, the United States is suddenly a pariah?

That logic does not hold.

To be clear: the order suspends entry of all refugees to the United State for 120 days, bars Syrian refugees indefinitely and blocks entry into the country for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

https://twitter.com/rncpeterkin/status/825462271971323904

This is why maybe just pausing before hitting that “send” button can sometimes be helpful, even for someone as thoughtful and well-intentioned as Mr. Peterkin, who is an IOC member from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

As the Washington Post reported Saturday, “Officials tried to reassure travelers and their families, pointing out that green-card holders in the United States will not be affected and noting that [homeland security officials are] allowed to grant waivers to those individuals and others deemed to not pose a security threat.”

The story adds, noting that details were for sure still being worked out and waivers would be “evaluated on a case-by-case basis,” and quoting an unnamed official, “If you’ve been living in the United States for 15 years and you own a business and your family is here, will you be granted a waiver? I’m assuming yes, but we are working that out.”

Wait — amid the tweets and corresponding rip jobs of the president of the United States, who was elected first and foremost to secure the safety and well-being of the people, and moved Friday to implement an initial, temporary strategy that he and his advisors deemed appropriate, this:

Where are the similarly heated complaints or observations about — just to pick one — France?

France has been under a “state of emergency” since the attacks in Paris in November 2015 that killed 130 people. Last month, the French parliament last month extended that state of emergency through July 2017, the interior minister warning ahead of the parliamentary vote that the country faced an “extremely high” risk of another attack.

Why not the same — or worse — outrage about a “state of emergency” now lasting almost two full years? In a western democracy?

Beyond which:

What does any of this, in theory, have to do with sport?

Answer: zero.

For those of you who would prefer to be idealists: isn’t the whole notion of the Olympics that sport can bring the world together, at least for 17 days?

“We are working closely with the administration to understand the new rules and how we best navigate them as it pertains to visiting athletes,” U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Patrick Sandusky said Saturday. “We know they are supportive of the Olympic movement, and our bid, and believe we will have a good working relationship with them to ensure our success in hosting and attending events.”

Would you know that from reading, for instance, the New York Times?

In a story published Saturday, the Times’ Jere Longman, an excellent newsman and a longtime colleague, quotes the historian David Wallechinsky, also a longtime colleague, as saying that Mr. Trump is perceived in Olympic circles as “anti-Muslim, anti-woman and anti-Latino.”

Wallechinsky then goes on to say of the president’s executive order, “This is worse. I would consider it a blow to the Los Angeles bid — not fatal but a blow.”

Oh — as if Mr. Putin, who has waged a war in Chechnya, is considered pro-Muslim?

Or Qatar or China, just to pick two, are havens for women’s rights?

Admittedly the United States is imperfect. Any country is. But which country has maybe, just maybe, made more progress in advancing the rights of women in the workplace and other spheres — China, Russia, Qatar or the United States?

As far as the IOC goes:

Right now the United States has three IOC members. There’s Larry Probst. And then there are Anita DeFrantz and Angela Ruggiero, and she is the current chair of the athlete’s commission.

France, two members, both men: Guy Drut. Tony Estanguet.

Hungary: two men. Pal Schmitt. Daniel Gyurta.

Would it maybe have been relevant, journalistically speaking, if Longman had mentioned that Wallechinsky, who is assuredly one of the world’s foremost Olympic historians, is also a noted compiler of published lists such as “world’s worst dictators”? Maybe an informed guess how Wallechinsky views the new president?

Beyond which:

Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin had a phone call on Saturday — initiated by Mr. Putin, according to the White House. The call lasted for an hour. Mr. Trump also spoke Saturday with leaders of Australia, France, Germany and Japan.

Where was the major diplomatic blowback? Hello?

Just to name one: did the prime minister of the United Kingdom criticize Mr. Trump? Uh, no.

Sure, the president of France did. But who cares? He’s about as popular in France as an “I’m with Her” button would be a White House staff meeting, and everybody knows it.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed Saturday to meet with Mr. Trump during a visit to Washington on Feb. 10. The next Summer Games are in Tokyo, in 2020. So interesting.

Mr. Putin and Mr. Bach have — since the November election —already spoken by phone. Mr. Bach, since taking office in September 2013, has met with more than 100 heads of government of state — but did not meet with Mr. Obama. Odds are good that Mr. Trump will meet, and probably sooner than later, with Mr. Bach.

Mr. Bach is, of course, on good terms with Mr. Putin.

Mr. Bach knows full well that the Olympic movement needs the United States right now. That’s why he made a trip to California last year, to Silicon Valley. The movement needs the creativity of California to reach the youth audience that keeps the Olympics relevant and material. What is the IOC’s major initiative right now? The Olympic Channel. Who produces more influential content than anyone anywhere? California — Hollywood, Snapchat, Google, Facebook, Apple.

Mr. Bach knows, too, that with recent budget headaches — Rio, Sochi, London, Beijing — the IOC has to take a very, very considered look at a Los Angeles Games for 2024, where everything is mostly built, the city has a two-time legacy of producing big-time and inventive Games, the locals want the Olympics and absent colossal and unpredictable disaster the Games will make everyone involved, as Sean Penn’s character said in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, beaucoup dollares.

Mr. Bach knows, too, that this is LA’s time. Bid leader Casey Wasserman scared up $35 million to fund a 2024 bid. He can’t go back to those donors if the IOC turns LA down for ’24 and say, let’s try again. Won’t happen.

Beyond which:

Let’s say you’re Mr. Trump. Let’s say the IOC turns LA down the way it did Chicago for 2016 and New York for 2012.

It would state the obvious to note that the new president has shown he is plainly willing to play hardball.

Repeatedly, too, he has expressed interest in the tax scheme.

It is not hard to figure out, not difficult indeed, that if the IOC shoots down LA for 2024, there might well be an inclination at the White House to say, OK, let’s take a very hard look, right now, at the tax status of all the IOC’s American-based top-tier sponsors.

Everybody: chillax.

Land of hope and dreams -- believe it

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At his show Sunday in Perth, Australia, with the E Street Band, Bruce Springsteen sought to honor the Women’s Marches Saturday back home in the States. Here are his remarks, in their entirety:

“The E Street Band is glad to be here in Western Australia. But we're a long way from home, and our hearts and spirits are with the hundreds of thousands of women and men that marched yesterday in every city in America and in Melbourne who rallied against hate and division and in support of tolerance, inclusion, reproductive rights, civil rights, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, the environment, wage equality, gender equality, healthcare and immigrant rights. We stand with you. We are the new American resistance.”

It's the last bit in particular that hits the wrong note. 

Look, I have been a huge Springsteen fan for more than 40 years. I have happily been to more than three dozen of his shows, in North America and in Europe. I listen, maybe obsessively, to E Street channel on Sirius XM satellite radio.

It’s easy to understand that Springsteen is giving voice to the fear and anger many, many like-minded people feel right now, as Donald Trump takes over the U.S. presidency. No retreat, baby, no surrender. Sure. 

Moreover, President Obama recently awarded Springsteen the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and it turns out, according to the Springsteen website Backstreets, Bruce without publicity played a January 12 acoustic show at the White House for more than 200 White House staffers in the East Room, a thank-you for their service.

Springsteen also has been remarkably outspoken about Mr. Trump over the past few months, in a September interview with Rolling Stone calling Mr. Trump a “moron” and declaring the United States in “crisis,” which is hardly the case. You want crisis? Check out the west African republic of The Gambia. Washington just executed yet another peaceful transition of power.

You want hate and division? Pretty confident that nickel in your pocket features Thomas Jefferson, the third president. He’s one of the greats, right? Up on Mount Rushmore. In the Declaration of Independence, he wrote “all men are created equal.” He kept slaves, believed blacks were “racially inferior” and is now assumed to have had several children with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings.

Of course it can be problematic to judge behavior in the 18th and 19th centuries by 21st-century standards. Even so, there can be no debate that slavery is and was flat-out wrong and having sex with a slave is just — all the more horrifying.

Deep breath, everyone, before we go off about anything and everything with Mr. Trump.

Campaign rhetoric is rhetoric. Hillary Clinton appeared at the inauguration. If she can show that measure of class and respect, maybe we can all take a lesson and, as well, a deep breath.

As Mr. Obama said in his final news conference as president: “… At my core, I think we’re going to be OK.”

Springsteen, if you really want to get to it, is trying to have it both ways. In that September Rolling Stone piece, he said, "I think you have a limited amount of impact as an entertainer, performer or musician,” adding, “… I haven’t really lost faith in what I consider to be the small amount of impact that somebody in rock music might be able to have. I don’t think people go to musicians for their political points of view.” Yet Sunday in Perth it was, “We are the new American resistance.”

Ladies and gentlemen, this is not the 1930s or 1940s. People are not being rounded up and being sent to internment or concentration camps. Perth is not Vichy France. Neither is Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Nowhere in the United States is. We don’t need a “new American resistance.”

We need — see the example of Hillary Clinton, as hurtful as it must have been for her — to look for common ground.

We need to recognize, as Bruce Springsteen makes plain in so many of his songs, that we are all in this together.

Bad Scooter is all alone, you know, until the change is made uptown and the Big Man joins the band. Only then do they bust the city in half.  

Together.

One of the perils of the moment: there is way too much disagreement in far too many forums that is laced with entirely too much vitriol and rancor. We need way more disagreement with respect. This column is intended to mark disagreement but in every regard with respect. We are all in this together.

What does any or all of this have to do with the Olympics or international sport? What are these words doing in this space?

There are, in our fragile world, three universal languages: music, sport and math.

Math, especially higher math, is elegant, according to those who understand it.

Maybe in another lifetime.

So it’s music and sport.

There’s a great argument to be made, amid the populist movements in our world that have produced Brexit and the election of Mr. Trump, that — now more than ever — the world needs the message of the Olympics.

If you’re so inclined, it needs the Games more than ever as soon as possible in the United States, perhaps both as rejoinder and affirmation.

The International Olympic Committee, a few years back, used a great tagline that sums it all up: celebrate humanity.

Indeed, that’s what the Games — with all their flaws, like each of us — are about, and that’s why the opening and closing ceremony of an Olympics always sounds with music.

That music speaks to who we are at a particular moment:

The Russian Police Choir performing a rousing version at the opening ceremony in 2014 in Sochi of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” The Australian band Midnight Oil rocking out “Beds Are Burning” at the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Games. Lionel Richie in that awesome sequined jacket-and-shirt combo at the closing ceremony of the 1984 Los Angeles Games, doing “All Night Long.”

The basic principle that the Olympic movement celebrates is simultaneously simple and yet incredibly profound.

It’s the very thing that Springsteen probably learned in high school in New Jersey in the ‘60s and for sure I learned at Northmont High School in rural Ohio, near Dayton, in the ‘70s: each and every person deserves to be treated with dignity, respect, civility, decency and tolerance and, as much as possible, every interaction with everyone you meet should be marked by humility and humanity.

And good manners.

Really, this is not that difficult.

If we all did this, instead of assuming the worst about each other or worrying that the sky is going to fall or that campaign rhetoric inevitably translates into destructive action, maybe we could do a lot better at talking with instead of at each other.

Like Bruce Springsteen says in many of his songs.

From 2007, and “Long Walk Home”:

“Here everybody has a neighbor

Everybody has a friend

Everybody has a reason to begin again

“My father said, ‘Son, we’re lucky in this town,

It’s a beautiful place to be born.

It just wraps its arms around you

Nobody crowds you and nobody goes it alone

“Your flag flyin’ over the courthouse

Means certain things are set in stone

Who we are and what we’ll do and what we won’t.”

One of Springsteen’s criticisms of Mr. Trump, as Springsteen also told Rolling Stone in September, is that “Trump’s thing is simple answers to very complex problems.”

Yet sometimes deriving simplicity from complexity is indeed just the thing. Maybe the one math lesson that sticks with everyone from high school: e = mc2.

The Springsteen catalogue runs to more than 300 songs. Arguably, the essence of it all springs from just two:

In “Born to Run,” from 1975, Springsteen asks the question that’s central to all of our lives: “I want to know if love is wild, babe I want to know if love is real.” Then: “Oh, can you show me.”

With love, we can all make our way. Together. Through fields where sunlight streams, as Springsteen sings in “Land of Hope and Dreams,” a song that dates to 1999 and was re-worked in 2012.

In this song, everyone is welcome to get on the train: saints, sinners, losers, winners, whores, gamblers, lost souls, the broken-hearted, thieves, sweet souls departed, fools and kings alike. Everyone. Just get on board. You don’t need no ticket.

On this train, dreams will not be thwarted. Faith will be rewarded. And, people, bells of freedom. they will ring.

More of that, please.

From and on behalf of each and every one of us.

The disconnect between Mr. Obama's actions, and his beautiful words

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The 44th president of the United States ends his term this week, succeeded by the 45th, and in a ceremony Monday at the White House honoring Major League Baseball's 2016 World Series champions, the Chicago Cubs, Barack Obama proved his usual eloquent self in describing sport’s distinct role in American — indeed, global — society.

What’s now up to history to judge when it comes to sport is the demonstrable disconnect between Mr. Obama’s eloquence and his actions. Arguably no president in American history, none all the way back to George Washington, has been as disruptive as Mr. Obama.

Particularly in the sphere of international sport.

There can be no question, none whatsoever, that Mr. Obama talks a good game. On Monday, for instance, in the august East Room of the White House, jammed with dignitaries and Cubs fans alike, many in jerseys and caps, the president was funny, captivating, moving and profound, all of it, in a 20-minute address.

Referring to his campaign slogan in 2008 and the Cubs’ World Series drought, which would ultimately extend to 108 years before the Cubs last fall defeated the Cleveland Indians in seven games, Mr. Obama said Monday: “… Even I was not crazy enough to suggest that during these eight years we would see the Cubs win the World Series.  But I did say that there's never been anything false about hope.  

Everyone laughed and applauded as he added, “Hope — the audacity of hope.”

The president, a longtime fan of the Chicago White Sox, the 2005 World Series champs from the city's South Side, went on to say:

“All you had to know about this team was encapsulated in that one moment in Game 5,” meaning the World Series, “down three games to one, do or die, in front of the home fans when [the catcher] David Ross and [the pitcher] Jon Lester turned to each other and said, “I love you, man."  And he said, "I love you, too.”  It was sort of like an Obama-Biden moment,” a reference to the vice president, Joseph Biden, Jr.  

Later, referring to the Cubs’ victory parade: “Two days later, millions of people -- the largest gathering of Americans that I know of in Chicago. And for a moment, our hometown becomes the very definition of joy.”

And, finally:

“So just to wrap up, today is, I think, our last official event — isn’t it? — at the White House under my presidency. And it also happens to be a day that we celebrate one of the great Americans of all time, Martin Luther King, Jr. And later, as soon as we're done here, Michelle and I are going to go over and do a service project, which is what we do every year to honor Dr. King. And it is worth remembering — because sometimes people wonder, well, why are you spending time on sports, there's other stuff going on — that throughout our history, sports has had this power to bring us together, even when the country is divided. Sports has changed attitudes and culture in ways that seem subtle but that ultimately made us think differently about ourselves and who we were. It is a game and it is celebration, but there's a direct line between Jackie Robinson,” the first African-American major league baseball player with the Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1947, “and me standing here. There's a direct line between people loving Ernie Banks,” the Cubs star from 1953-71, “and the city being able to come together and work together in one spirit.  

“I was in my hometown of Chicago on Tuesday, for my farewell address, and I said, ‘Sometimes it's not enough just to change the laws, you’ve got to change hearts.’ And sports has a way, sometimes, of changing hearts in a way that politics or business doesn’t. And sometimes it's just a matter of us being able to escape and relax from the difficulties of our days, but sometimes it also speaks to something better in us. And when you see this group of folks of different shades and different backgrounds, and coming from different communities and neighborhoods all across the country, and then playing as one team and playing the right way, and celebrating each other and being joyous in that, that tells us a little something about what America is and what America can be.

“So it is entirely appropriate that we celebrate the Cubs today, here in this White House, on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday because it helps direct us in terms of what this country has been and what it can be in the future."

These are, genuinely, lovely and moving sentiments. Thank you, Mr. President.

Did Mr. Obama’s administration prove true to those sentiments?

During most of his two terms, it can be argued, Mr. Obama — or by way of extension, deputies in his executive branch — used sports to project the full power and authority of the United States, both by way of action and, in the case of the president himself, omission. The government ranged far afield in projecting distinctly American notions of equality and morality in sports, some of the very values Mr. Obama said Monday "America can be," though it remains far from clear the roughly 200 other nations in the world can or should be like the United States, or want to be. The U.S. government pushed its views of the law in the anti-doping arena. And, of course, though there had been no cry to do so, the U.S. government saw fit to deputize itself to police international soccer.

Was this all triggered by the International Olympic Committee’s emphatic rejection of Mr. Obama in 2009?

Recently having been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the president went to Copenhagen that October to lobby for Chicago, his hometown, then bidding for the 2016 Summer Games. Chicago failed to make it out of the first round, fourth of four, losing to Rio. Madrid and Tokyo were also in the race.

"Other than people who like to cheer, 'We're No. 4! We're No. 4!' I don't know how this is anything but really embarrassing," Republican strategist Rich Galen told CNN at the time, adding that Obama's failed pitch would “probably be the joke on Capitol Hill for weeks to come.”

Had Mr. Obama ever before suffered a defeat, indeed a rejection, so intense and so personal? Was it that Mr. Obama was himself stung? Or was it his longtime, and protective, aide, Valerie Jarrett? Or both? Or others in the president's close circle as well?

Seven-plus years ago, the president played off Chicago’s Olympic loss. He said it was “always a worthwhile endeavor to promote and boost the United States.”

His real feelings may have emerged in an interview published this past October in New York magazine:

“So we fly out there. Subsequently, I think we’ve learned that [the] IOC’s decisions are similar to FIFA’s decisions: a little bit cooked. We didn’t even make the first cut, despite the fact that, by all the objective metrics, the American bid was the best.”

As anyone who has spent the better part of a lifetime in politics can attest, “objective metrics” often mean nothing. Same for just four hours around the IOC, which is how long Mr. Obama was on the ground in Copenhagen that October morning. How could the president of the United States not have known that?

And what has been the fallout since?

— 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016: Olympics, Winter and Summer. Four editions of the Olympics during Mr. Obama's two terms, four opportunities to make an appearance, two — in Canada in 2010, the United Kingdom in 2012 — in countries as close and friendly to American interests as they might get, hockey rivalries or words like “trunk” and “boot” aside. Mr. Obama shows in none of the four. (Michelle Obama went to London.) Compare: President Bush attended the 2002 Salt Lake and 2008 Beijing Games. President Clinton made the 1996 Atlanta and Hillary Clinton the 1994 Lillehammer Games.

— September 2013: Thomas Bach is elected IOC president. Since, Mr. Bach has met more than 100 heads of government and state. But not Mr. Obama. In October 2015, Mr. Bach and most everyone in senior Olympic leadership traveled to Washington for a conference. Mr. Obama did not deem it worthy of his time. Late in the event, Mr. Biden — clearly pressured to show up on behalf of the administration — made a seven-minute cameo.

— February 2014: Mr. Obama, in response to a Russian anti-gay propaganda law, decides to try to stick it to his friends in the Kremlin by sending to the Sochi Games U.S. delegations for the opening and closing ceremonies that include a number of gay athletes, including the tennis star Billie Jean King. Why a tennis star, even one as superlative as Ms. King, ought to be featured at a Winter Games event is yet to be explained.

Mr. Bach said in opening the Sochi Olympics, in a shot at Mr. Obama, “Have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful, direct political dialogue and not on the back of the athletes.”

— 2015, FIFA indictments. This is not to say that there wasn’t wrongdoing on multiple levels in and around the international soccer scene. The relevant question for history is otherwise. Outside the World Cup, soccer is far from baseball, basketball and especially football in the United States. And by far the majority of those accused have not been American citizens. The Justice Department, when it brings an explosive case such as this, does so to score political points as much to make a case in court. So: why so important for the FBI, IRS and the Attorney General of the United States herself to make this a federal matter?

— May 2016: federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, from the U.S. Attorney’s office serving what’s called the Eastern District of New York, have opened an investigation into allegations of doping by top Russian athletes, the New York Times reports. For those keeping score at home: Loretta Lynch, the attorney general, used to head that Brooklyn office. For those further keeping score: this is the same Justice Department that brought cases sparked by allegations of doping against the likes of baseball stars Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, couldn’t seal the deal, but now believes considerable taxpayer resource is well spent pursuing Russians?

President-elect Donald Trump, meanwhile, has already spoken by phone with Mr. Bach, expressing support for the Los Angeles bid for the 2024 Games. Paris and Budapest are also in the race. The IOC will pick the 2024 site in September at an assembly in Lima, Peru.

Mr. Trump takes office on Friday. For sure, he has a range of priorities to pick from. If he decides that one of them is making new friends, and fast, in international sports, he could make it plain to his pick for attorney general, the current U.S. senator Jeff Sessions, the Republican from Alabama, that the Brooklyn investigation ought to be dropped, and fast.

Like, why is the United States government interested in doping by Russian athletes?

Especially an administration directed by Mr. Trump, who has shown little to less than zero interest in pursuing allegations the Russians might have played an active role in pre-election hacking?

Mr. Trump wasn’t at the White House Monday. Not his moment. But in the Ricketts family, which owns the Cubs, here nonetheless was a little slice of America as it is right now: Todd Ricketts, Mr. Trump's pick for deputy commerce secretary, stood to one side of Mr. Obama while on the other stood Mr. Ricketts' sister, Laura, who during the campaign raised significant funds for Mrs. Clinton.

This past summer, as he was heading off to vacation at Martha’s Vineyard, the remote Cape Cod locale, Mr. Obama, with a nod to Mr. Trump, had this to say as the Rio Games were just about to get underway:

“In a season of intense politics, let’s cherish this opportunity to come together around one flag.”

And:

“In a time of challenge around the world, let’s appreciate the peaceful competition and sportsmanship we’ll see, the hugs and high-fives and the empathy and understanding between rivals who know we share a common humanity.”

Beautiful words. But — just that. Just words.