Here's why track and field needs to change

Here's why track and field needs to change

LONDON — Coming into these 2017 IAAF world championships, the American Fred Kerley was the next big thing in the men’s 400.

More precisely, Fred Kerley of Texas A&M was the next big thing. He came to London having run 15 individual 400s in 2017. He had won 15.

It didn’t go Kerley’s way in the 400 final. He finished seventh, a result pre-figured in the semifinal, when he just barely qualified for the final on time. This is not to beat on Kerley. Just the opposite. It’s to pay him respect. He’s 22, and — counting the rounds and the final here — he ran 18 400s this year, plus a bunch of relays, plus some 200s to boot.

Social media and the referendum: made for sharing


Snap Inc., the Venice, California-based parent company of Snapchat, went public Thursday. It’s now worth $34 billion.

As the Washington Post pointed out, that’s more than Macy’s and American Airlines. The New York Times noted that $34 billion is more than “the old-line media company CBS,” and about three times the value of the social-media presence that is Twitter.

What does this have to do with the Olympics?


Snapchat, for the unfamiliar, is the mobile app that allows you to send pictures and videos that, after a few seconds, self-destruct. Once you learn the basics, you can add filters, everything from rabbit ears to dog noses to whatever. You can also add tags that show where in the world you are.

Grown-ups go — what’s the big deal? Teens go — awesome, mom and dad can’t figure it out.

Snapchat is actually way more. There’s another part to the app, and its NFL content during the recently concluded season drew 42 million unique viewers. Translation: a lot of people. Snapchat literally has changed the way people shoot pictures — as Ad Age pointed out, brands and publishers wanted to reach that sort of massive audience, which in turn meant shooting vertically instead of horizontally for video on mobile phones.

When it comes to Snapchat and social media, the signals of change are all around us. But most grown-ups within the Olympic scene — the International Olympic Committee in particular — have proven way too slow on the pickup.

The ongoing campaign for the 2024 Summer Games, down now to just two candidates, Paris and Los Angeles (see above, Venice, California), is in every way the very first real social-media bid race.

Snap is now worth crazy money. Twitter is the essential news feed. There are roughly 7 billion people on Planet Earth, and Facebook had 1.86 billion monthly active users as of the fourth quarter of 2016. Let’s not forget the pretty pictures on Instagram, the recipes on Pinterest and on and on.

What does this mean?

For a global enterprise such as the Olympics, there assuredly are positives to the way social media can crush time and space. But as the 2024 bid campaign has made abundantly plain, there are negatives, too, with which the Olympic movement must reckon.

Instead of doing so, it is instead facing grave risk.

And its most senior officials barely comprehend what is it at issue.

This is not hyperbole.

Paris is very fond of its bid slogan: “Made for Sharing.” It is super-clear that bid and government officials think it’s super-positive. But history shows that construction and infrastructure costs inevitably skyrocket. What happens when concern over such costs reaches a trigger point? Cue — on social media — outrage, grievance, agitation. What if “Made for Sharing” flips into a negative, and quickly?

Never have the Games been awarded in an era when social media has shown how easy it can be to amplify such grievance and conflict.

See two of the other cities that started this 2024 race: Budapest and Hamburg, Germany.

Both are now out because of social media and, in Hamburg’s case, an attendant referendum, in the case of Budapest, the threat of one.

The warning signs are all blinking red for Paris, too.

To be blunt: the IOC does not fully appreciate this.

Nor does it understand the essentials: how itself to use the power and reach of social media and, on the other hand, how to help those within its orbit blunt or confront social media when employed as an attack on the Olympic movement.

You see this in so many ways.

The IOC’s most important communications outreach remains stuck in 1982 if not before: a beautifully designed and elegantly produced quarterly coffee table-style magazine called Olympic Review.

The IOC says it wants to reach the kids. The kids are glued to their phones. And the IOC puts out a magazine that arrives by snail mail every three months, and then only to a selected mailing list.

Wait, counters the IOC: we have 4.9 million Twitter followers.

That’s not anywhere near top 100 in the world.

The Barcelona soccer team has 20 million. Real Madrid, 22.3 million. LeBron James, the basketball star, has 34.3 million. The soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, nearly 50.2 million.

Top 10 starts with Justin Timberlake (58.1 million) and goes up to Justin Bieber (No. 2, 91.9 million) and Katy Perry (No.1, 96 million).

Katy Perry says on her bio, “Artist. Activist. Conscious.”

The Olympic values: “Respect. Excellence. Friendship.”

Why is she so big and the IOC so — not?

The Olympic charter is, essentially, a rough facsimile of one of the American organic documents, the Declaration of Independence.

What makes the Olympic movement different from for-profit sports entities is the values at the core of the charter. Those are democratic values — democratic with a little d.

Right now, again no exaggeration, all this is at risk.

The proof is in the races for the 2022 and 2024 Games.

For 2022, five cities in western Europe dropped out of the running, put off by the costs of an Olympics, in particular the $51 billion figure associated with the 2014 Sochi Games.That left the IOC to choose between Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan.

The members chose Beijing, site of the 2008 Summer Games, by four votes. The Chinese figure to keep infrastructure outlay down by not including however many billions it’s going to cost to build a high-speed rail line up to the mountains — where there’s no snow.

If you take away a fair accounting of what's what and the humanistic ideals that underpin this entire Olympic thing, you very quickly have to ask what this is all about— and, of course, if this Olympic thing isn't really dealing from a position of weakness.

It’s entirely reasonable to ask what position the IOC is in now.

Two surviving bids. (2024, 2022)

"Choosing" between a totalitarian or autocratic regime. (2022)

In December 2014, the IOC, urged by president Thomas Bach, passed a 40-point purported reform plan dubbed Agenda 2020. Virtually nobody believes that any of the reforms, particularly as they relate to Olympic bids, are meaningful. Why? Because there’’s no factual evidence any of them are real.

Instead, what we have is blather and puffery.

The Rio 2016 Games were nothing less than an organizational and financial calamity. Yet the IOC, in December, called them the “most perfect imperfect Games.”

This sort of thing is why, even before Rio but amid the 2022 campaign implosions, the locals in Boston said no — social-media agitation playing a key role. The U.S. Olympic Committee made the dumb choice early on to go to Boston before reversing course and heading to LA.

Boston’s no-Games activists took their social-media expertise to Germany. A 2015 referendum there sank the Hamburg bid.

It can hardly be coincidental that over time the results of these referendums are, for the IOC, getting worse. A vote four years ago in St. Moritz — in Switzerland, of all places, the IOC’s longtime base — asked voters if they wanted 2022. No, by 53 percent. They tried again last month, again in St. Moritz, for the 2026 Games. No, by 60 percent.

Rome pulled out last fall for different reasons: the mayor said the city had better things to spend money on than the Olympics.

Who, on January 1 of this year, thought a Budapest referendum might be in the offing?

Now the Budapest bid is dead. Layers of government had spent years putting together investment, strategy and branding. It all blew up that quick.

A campaign stitched together by local organizers, Momentum Mozgalom, in a matter of weeks — weeks! — managed to collect 266,151 signatures in favor of holding a referendum on the bid.


“It is disappointing that this [Budapest] decision had to be taken — the candidature committee had presented an excellent project, which was built on the reforms contained in Olympic Agenda 2020,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said, and poor Mark Adams, because if the “reforms” were truly meaningful and the bid truly was so “excellent” it’s hard to see how 266,151 people thought maybe they ought to have a vote on that, and nonetheless he has to get up and say this sort of stuff.

So what is the lesson of Boston, Hamburg, Budapest and, perhaps, Paris?

It’s not who is president of the United States or France or wherever. Donald Trump, whatever. Marine le Pen, François Fillon, Emmanuel Macron, Benoit Hamon, whoever.

Presidential politics matters, but not now in the way most in the media are trying to wrap their minds around. That was then, so 2007, and this is now:

The real threat to the Paris bid — and it is potentially lethal — is social media and the possibility if not probability of a follow-on referendum.

That threat is immediate. It is, too, this spring and summer. It is even after September 13, the day the IOC is due to meet in Lima, Peru, to decide the 2024 winner.

To explain:

In 2017, the ability to communicate directly via social media— and, critically, to organize — is more ready than at any time in human history. See Trump’s presidential campaign. See the so-called women’s marches upon the Trump inauguration. See any number of other examples.

Practically, what this means — for the Olympic scene — is this logic tree:

1. Any democratic society that has a 2. government-run Olympic bid and/or organizing committee but at the same time 3. community activists who 4. are fired up over something, whatever that may be 5. with unfettered access to the internet 6. will inevitably, and probably sooner than later, figure out that they can leverage that activism and gain not just political notoriety but power through social media by seeking a referendum on the Olympic project. Consequently, 7. the referendum absolutely, positively will significantly threaten if not sink the project.

This sound overly dramatic?

It’s not.

This is what the IOC needs, and now, to take stock of.

Social media is not just Katy Perry or Justin Bieber’s marketing fun. It is a tool for political activism and organization. If people sniff out a con or a problem — even if it is not true — it can, and will, explode. If there is concern or anxiety, it can — and will — explode.

Hungary, a democratic parliamentary republic since just 1989: 266,151 signatures on a Budapest 2024 referendum in a matter of weeks.

Just imagine what could be done in France, where democracy has been in action for considerably many more years. That is a powder keg waiting for the spark.

Maybe it’s already lit. Activists say they have collected 5,000 signatures toward a referendum.

The Paris 2024 argument can essentially be boiled down to two factors: One, we’re Paris. Two, it’s 100 years since we held the 1924 Games.

To be clear, there has never been a legitimate poll in Paris assessing public support for the 2024 project.

Let’s say a poll comes out and the yes numbers are at 60. A no campaign that starts looking up only at 10 points — that, given social media, would be so easy to wipe out. The bid would essentially be DOA.

Let’s say further that the IOC were to foolishly opt for sentiment instead of common sense. Even so, the risk to the Paris project extends beyond September 13.

By no means would an IOC vote for Paris in any way stop the prospect of a referendum. Has the IOC even paused for a moment to consider this notion?

Over seven years, the time from awarding a Games to opening ceremony, governments change. If a referendum passes, what is the IOC going to do — go where it’s not wanted? Sue? Oh, sure — litigate (in some forum) and then force the French government to pay, because that is just the thing to make other governments want to take on a Games down the line.

By contrast: LA.

The difference between LA and Paris is as obvious as it is critical.

Paris for 2024 is a government-run enterprise. To reiterate the point made in this space over the past several weeks, recent editions of government-run Olympics have been bloated, and that is why taxpayers are mad as hell and that is why in the west they are both turning on the IOC and turning to social media to agitate: Sochi $51 billion, Beijing 2008 ($40 billion), Rio 2016 (projected $20 billion), Tokyo 2020 (now looking at $25-30 billion when the bid promised $7.8 billion). Given this record, there is no reason to expect anything but the same from Paris.

Los Angeles, the bid and, if it wins, the organizing committee, is privately funded. (Just as in 1984, which produced a $232.5 million surplus.)

What that means: a privately run LA 2024 project is, for the most part, out of the reach of government.

This is why surveys consistently have shown incredible taxpayer support for LA 2024 — 80 percent and higher.

In any democracy, there are always some people who don’t like something. That’s just life.

But if you wanted to start a referendum against LA 2024, it wouldn’t make any sense.

That would be like voting on whether you want the neighborhood grocery store run by Cousin Marvin to be open or closed. What? He’s a private business, just like Mrs. Anderson's bakery down the street. Leave him alone. And her, too.

Beyond which, mindful both of 1984 and of the Boston experience, the LA 2024 people at the outset went around town to hold 30 community meetings — not only to gauge but to build community support.

Did Paris have community meetings in every arrondissement? Hmm. Here is Danielle Simonnet, a Paris councillor for the city’s 20th arrondissement, telling Le Monde in its February 23 editions, “Of course we need a referendum,” later in the story calling Games costs “enormous,” adding, “The bill is going to be salty.”

Also, and this is just common sense talking along with some 30 years of journalism experience, if the LA plan was dicey or not well-cooked, and there needed to be a journalist to expose it, you can believe that journalist would already have found someone in that LA 2024 bid team. Or some soul within the bid team would have reached out to the journalist.

That has not happened, is very unlikely to happen, in Los Angeles.

Because, one, of that neighborhood reach-out in LA and, two, the LA plan is solid and privately funded. Example: the original thinking was, let’s build an expensive athletes’ village downtown. The bid team thought it through and shifted course, to the already-existing dorms at UCLA.

The Paris plan, again to contrast, calls for building a hugely expensive village in what is now a violence-marked banlieue called Seine-Saint Denis.

Wait until someone on the ground in Paris or elsewhere in France, angry about something, figures that out.

That’s what referendums are for: made for sharing, indeed.

The Olympics and President-elect Donald J. Trump


A Romanian friend and I were talking the other day about the campaign for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

If Paris wins, he said, it will be a thoroughly French Olympics. But if it's Los Angeles — that, he said, would be an international Games with the potential to prove truly transformational for the Olympic movement in the 21st century.

Maybe Tuesday’s election of Donald J. Trump has changed everything.

Or maybe — actually, probably — it has changed nothing.

Take a deep breath. Things tend to work out.

Are there any guarantees? No. Promises? No. But that’s not the way life is. And, again, things tend to work out.

Voting in Venice Beach. This is California // Getty Images

The president and president-elect Thursday at the White House // Getty Images

Did Trump say all kinds of rude, belittling and worse things during the campaign? Absolutely. Since his election, has he struck a more conciliatory, encompassing tone? For sure. On Thursday at the White House, he met with President Barack Obama, the president saying, “I want to emphasize to you, Mr. President-elect, that we are now going to want to do everything we can to help you succeed because if you succeed, then the country succeeds.”

The last time this sort of weirdness settled over a significant portion of the United States if not beyond, it was January 1981, and Ronald Reagan, a former movie star, was being inaugurated. We all lived through that. Indeed, Reagan was president during the 1984 Summer Games in LA, which all but saved the movement. How much did he personally have to do with those Games? Very little.

If you stop and pause for just a moment, it’s actually quite possible a Trump presidency could be good for the Los Angeles 2024 bid. The committee issued a statement Wednesday that congratulated the president-elect, noted the bid’s “strong bipartisan support at the local, state and federal level” and said it was looking forward to working with Trump to “deliver a ‘new games for a new era.’ “

OK, good PR move. Even so, the Olympics, and particularly the bid process, is all about connections. Here’s what that statement didn’t — couldn’t — say:

Angela Ruggiero, the U.S. women’s ice hockey star, is now chair of the International Olympic Committee’s athletes’ commission. She is also a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” the TV show that Trump starred in for years. Trump was so impressed with her that, afterward, he offered her a job.

So — now the IOC has a direct conduit to the president-elect of the United States. What more do you want?

Angela Ruggiero, center in black dress, at "Apprentice" cast party // Getty Images

IOC president Thomas Bach on Wednesday offered a brief statement to Associated Press that said, “Let me congratulate President-elect Trump on his victory and wish him all the best for his term in office for all the people of the United States and of the world.”

Would it have been “better” for the American 2024 effort if Hillary Clinton had prevailed in the electoral college as well as the popular vote?

To be sure, she was, in Olympic circles, something of a known quantity. She led the U.S. delegation to the 1994 Lillehammer Games. She and President Bill Clinton led the American side in Atlanta in 1996. When the 2012 Games campaign was going on, Hillary Clinton, then a senator from New York, traveled to the IOC session in Singapore to lobby for New York.

No disrespect intended whatsoever to Mrs. Clinton but New York got crushed and Atlanta is hardly remembered fondly in many senior Olympic circles.

At any rate, there’s little question that California wanted Hillary. The state went for Mrs. Clinton by roughly 2-1, 61 to 33 percent. The U.S. Olympic Committee turned to LA for 2024 for a variety of reasons — one of which is precisely that California is different, about as far away from Washington, D.C., another potential 2024 candidate, as possible. Far away -- literally and figuratively.

Reflecting on Trump’s election, Stanford political science professor Bruce Cain told the New York Times, referring to California, “We will go back into the mode that we were in during the Bush administration,” meaning George W. Bush, “which is we were the kind of the rebel state.”

We got through the Bush years, too, it should be pointed out. The American experiment did not collapse in on itself. For what it's worth, Bush is a huge proponent of the Olympics, traveling to Beijing in 2008 to watch Michael Phelps and the rest of the U.S. team after opening the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

At any rate, who is the former governor of California? Arnold Schwarzenegger. We all lived through that, too.

Who is replacing Trump as host of the successor show “The Celebrity Apprentice,” his debut set for January 2017, just a few days before Trump is due to be inaugurated as president? Schwarzenegger.

People, the world turns in mysterious ways.

Here are some factors that remain immutable:

-- The United States is not Russia nor China, where the strong hand of the national government plays a key Olympic role.

— As the IOC well knows, western governments have a rude habit of change in the seven years between the time a city wins the Games and the opening ceremony. See, for instance, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Greece, Japan and others, including South Korea, site of the 2018 Winter Games, where hundreds of thousands are expected this weekend in the streets in protest against the current president.

And, for that matter, the United States.

Who knows whether Trump would even still be president in 2024?

— The recent demise of the Rome 2024 bid proves emphatically that the mayor — who killed off that bid despite national government and Olympic committee support — is more important in the Olympic bid process than anyone at the national level.

LA mayor Eric Garcetti is a rock star. Indeed, with Clinton’s defeat, a loss that simultaneously made plain how few young Democratic stars there are, Garcetti is uniquely positioned to assume an even more prominent profile.

What tends to win Olympic votes is connection and relationship. The USOC chairman, Larry Probst, and chief executive, Scott Blackmun, along with Ruggiero and longtime IOC member Anita DeFrantz have spent the past several years seeking just that. Along with, now, Garcetti and LA 24 bid leader Casey Wasserman.

For all this, if you were the bid committees in Paris and Budapest, the two remaining 2024 candidates, you might well be feeling suddenly frisky at the prospect of a Trump presidency.

To be super-American about this, and quote Lee Corso, the former American college football coach turned ESPN television personality: not so fast, my friend.

One way to interpret Tuesday’s result is that it makes for a rebuke of multiculturalism and globalization — the very things purportedly at the core of the Olympic soul. If that’s the way the IOC ends up looking at it, that’s going to be very tough for the LA effort. Or, simply put, if the members want to punish the United States for its choice of president -- see Bush 43 -- that's going to be tough, too.

Perhaps, though — “drain the swamp” and all that — it’s more a rejection of Washington and its elites, and by extension global elites. Look, there is no bunch more perceived as a bunch of global elites more than the IOC, a point proven repeatedly in recent months and years with western European rejection of bids in — deep breath — Munich, Hamburg, Stockholm, Oslo, Krakow, St. Moritz, Vienna and, now, Rome.

This is a matter about which the IOC ought to be paying rapt attention. Its increasingly urgent mandate: to remain relevant in our obviously changing world.

So American voters just elected a rhetoric-spewing avowed nationalist?

This bears all the signals of the second act in a global three-act play.

Act One: Brexit. To put an Olympic spin on it, the British vote to leave the European Union came in the aftermath of what many consider the finest Summer Games in recent memory, in London in 2012.

Two: Trump.

Three: next year’s presidential election in France. Would anyone be surprised if the third domino fell, with the candidacy of Marine Le Pen?

Her tweet Tuesday, even before all the votes had been counted stateside:

Translation: “Congratulations to the new U.S. president Donald Trump and to the free American people.”

As for Hungary:

This past summer, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán said, referring to Trump, that the ideas of the “upstanding American presidential candidate” and his opposition to “democracy export” could also apply in Europe. Orbán, who has ordered fences built at the Hungarian border in a bid to stop migrants, also said in July, “I am not Donald Trump’s campaigner,” adding, “I myself could not have drawn up better what Europe needs.”

Amid the Trump victory, here was Orbán on Facebook:

Then, speaking Thursday at a European conference, he echoed, “We are two days after the big bang and still alive. What a wonderful world. This also shows that democracy is creative and innovative.”

In even more-important news within the Olympic bubble, the government is due Jan. 1 to take over much of the authority of the Hungarian Olympic Committee. The IOC has long frowned on such intrusions in what it likes to call “autonomy,” meaning appropriate independence from government.

France is not Hungary. But with the French Olympic committee comes a big dose of French government. That's the way things are.

That’s the farthest thing from an issue in the United States. By 1978 law, Congress maintains USOC oversight. But the USOC must run and fund itself.

If all this makes anyone squirm about the rise of “populism” if not nationalism, if there is suddenly a tinge of forlorn regret for the Obama years, let’s have — once more — an Olympic reality check.

Copenhagen, 2009. The president is the new winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. He comes to Denmark to lobby for his hometown, Chicago, in the race for the 2016 Games. Chicago gets kicked to the curb in the first round, with fewer votes even than New York got four years before.

“… I think we’ve learned,” the president said in an interview published last month in New York magazine, “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.”

Coincidence or not: since then, it’s Obama’s Justice Department that has gone after FIFA and has opened a criminal investigation into allegations of state-sponsored Russian doping. Coincidence or not: Loretta Lynch, the former head of Justice’s Eastern District of New York, the office that is leading the charge, is now the attorney general of the United States. She reports to Obama.

It was Obama, recall, who opted to make a political statement in advance of the 2014 Sochi Games by sending a U.S. delegation that was to be headed by the tennis star Billie Jean King and two other athletes. King had to bow out of the opening ceremony delegation because of her mother’s death; she later made it to the closing ceremony.

In three years as IOC president, Bach has met with more than 100 heads of government and state. A notable exception: Obama.

Politicians come and go. That is a vivid lesson of Olympic history. The issue that matters is elemental: where is the best place for the Olympic movement to reimagine its future? That starts with 2024.

Ask your kids.

If you can get them away from their election chatter — and how it’s going to impact their lives, the very currency with the very audience the IOC is chasing — on Snapchat.

Snapchat — which of course is based in the hipster LA neighborhood of Venice Beach.

Olympic trend-setter: beach volleyball


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The International Olympic Committee has had great success at its Winter Games in recognizing that change can be a good thing. Recent years have seen the addition to the Winter program of, among others, snowboarding and slopestyle. Coming next: Big Air. When it comes to the Summer Games — not so much.

Same for Sunday afternoon's women's gold medal match, won by Brazilians xx and xx

That’s why the recently announced additions to the Tokyo 2020 Games of sports such as skateboarding, surfing and climbing -- assuming technical and political problems can be smoothed over -- make for welcome, and long overdue, additions.

In recent years, the IOC, in a bid to reach out to the teens and 20-somethings it avowedly is so interested in reaching, has added BMX cycling to the program. And, before that, beach volleyball.

Nothing — repeat, nothing — highlights the way forward like beach volleyball.

It is, to quote the president of the FIVB, volleyball’s international governing body, Brazil’s Dr. Ary S. Graça, centered on two essentials -- technology and innovation.

Beach volleyball is, altogether and all at once, sport, music, show, scene, party, cultural touchstone.

The demographic the Olympic movement craves, outside the stadium

The line to get in -- even that is a show

And inside

And crowding the rails afterward for a glimpse of the players

In those regards -- just like, well, skate, surf and climb.

To play beach volleyball, the women wear bikinis, visors and sunglasses; the guys tank tops, board shorts, baseball caps and shades. In the stands, here at this week’s Swatch 2015 Tour finals, the picture was much the same — bikinis, board shorts, headgear, shades.

Just outside: stands for lemonade. But also margaritas and cold beers.

And a photo booth.

And a contraption, like the one set up at the NFL Combine, where you can see how high you might jump.

As for jumping: before Sunday's men's gold-medal match, between Americans Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhausser and Brazilians Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt, a gaggle of skydivers from the Red Bull Air Force dropped in, parachuting in from a plane flying out over the nearby Atlantic Ocean.

Standard fare for the NFL, maybe. But Olympic sports? When was the last time you saw a parachute drop to open a modern pentathlon event?

Beach volleyball is not just easy on the eyes. It’s easy — even if you’re new to the sport — to understand.

Scoring is straightforward and common-sense. First team to 21 wins the set; you have to win a set by two points. Two sets wins the match. If there’s a tie after two sets of 21, first one to 15 (again, by two) is the winner.

The average match lasts about 45 minutes, maybe 100 rallies.

Sunday's women's gold-medal event -- Brazil's Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca defeated Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst, 21-17, 21-18 -- took 39 minutes.

The guys got it done in 38 minutes, Brazil's Alison and Bruno -- as they are known in beach volley circles -- defeating the Americans Lucena and Dalhausser, 21-13, 21-15.

Between every single point, a (loud) rock or hip-hop snippet blasts the speakers — the audio version of a video Vine.

The announcers are amped up, over-the-top, always on, all the time. “If you’re dancing,” one shouted to the crowd amid Saturday’s semifinals, the cameras will find you,” meaning time on the big screens at either end of the court. What do you know? The camera found two young women, one in a blue bikini top, the other wearing yellow.

The announcer cooed: “Hello, ladies!”

At some point, “T-Shirt Steve” is bound to show up and fires free shirts into the crowd.

Cheerleaders come out routinely and shake their groove thing.

Sunny the mascot also did a lot of dancing. And crowd-surfing.

Kudos to Sunny the mascot, working it in 85-degree F weather

All of this got the crowd so pumped-up for the second of Saturday’s two men’s semifinals — won by Americans Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhausser, both with Florida roots, over a Dutch team — that, afterward, Lucena hopped the restraining wall and high-fived everyone in sight.

“It was probably the ‘funnest’ match I’ve played in, ever,” Dalhausser said.

Lucena called the atmosphere the “most-electric” of any U.S. match he has ever played.

Nick Lucena, left, and Phil Dalhausser

Holland's Robert Meeuwsen, along with Alexander Brouwer the Dutch team that fell to the Americans in Saturday's semis: "The tournament was great. We hope there are more like this. The crowd was really great."

Coming soon: LED nets. If that’s not clear, LED nets mean this: the nets will light up with messages.

On Sunday, Graça made public a nine-point strategic plan that centers on positioning volleyball as “the No. 1 family entertainment sport in the world.”

Note the "family" part.

And that it's not just “sport.”

Nor just “entertainment.

Again,  “the No. 1 family entertainment sport” anywhere, with an emphasis on the sport’s reach and popularity among teen girls.

Graça: “The public is going [to matches] to have fun. Not only to see the sport. But to have fun.”

FIVB president Dr. Ary S. Graça with Brazilian world champions (July 5, The Hague) Bruno Oscar Schmidt, left, and Alison Cerutti

He made a fascinating point — that any number of sports feature what he most deliberately called “violence.”

In combat sports, the violence is real.

But take soccer. Outright assault-style violence? Maybe not often (except in the stands). But rough tackling? Aggressive defensive marking? For sure.

Volleyball, especially the beach version? High-fives and hugs after virtually every point.

“We are giving a new option to the public,” Graça said. “You can choose. If you like violence, OK, you go to a sport where there is a lot of contact and violence. If you don’t, you have a lot of options, and that is volleyball.”

It is the case that volleyball’s plan bears more than a passing resemblance to the nine “smart goals” that USA Track & FIeld chief executive Max Siegel, one of the few executives in the Olympic world ahead of the power curve, set forth at the 2012 annual meeting, his first in charge.

That said, volleyball is looking at unprecedented opportunity. Just ahead: the double bang of Rio 2016, where the sport is not only going to be the big ticket but multiple Brazilian medalists are a distinct possibility, and Tokyo 2020, where volleyball is also big.

It only makes sense to outline a framework like the one Graça did Sunday.

Objectives include becoming a top-tier Olympic sport, along with track and field, swimming and gymnastics; reaching 2 million users on FIVB digital platforms by next year (it made 1 million last month); signing four new global sponsors by 2020; and growing the federation’s annual income, now $31 million, to $66 million by 2020.

How to do this will take “working,” as Graça said repeatedly Sunday. It also will, as he observed several times, take this other factor:

“TV, TV, TV.”

Inside the TV truck before Sunday's finals

On-site digital HQ

A screenshot from Sunday's Red Bull Snapchat "story"


The stadium here holds maybe 3,500. Even if that’s 3,500 whipped-up believers and converts, how does that translate to national or global reach?


Beach volleyball may already be video and digital miles ahead of almost everyone else in the Olympic movement in one regard — relying on Red Bull’s world-class production expertise, it now cuts and makes available, for free, match (and more) video.

For instance: it’s understood it might well be too expensive now for a German TV crew to travel to Florida for a tourney that runs to multiple days. But when a German team does something noteworthy, like Ludwig and Walkenhorst in making it all the way to Sunday's finals before losing, the mechanism is now in place to call TV outlets in Munich, Berlin, Bonn, Hamburg, wherever, and say, would you like 30 seconds or two minutes on the silver medalists?

Who wouldn’t?

Same idea for certain digital platforms

Click on Red Bull’s Snapchat story Sunday — there, among other stuff, is the Fort Lauderdale event.

It’s not clear who else in the Olympic scene is using Snapchat.

Or, for that matter, if many Olympic federation or national Olympic committee executives even know what it is.

Be assured, however, that young people by the millions know -- and use -- Snapchat.

Graça, again: “We need TV. Without TV, we are going nowhere. But also we have now this social media that is very important.

“I want to talk to 100 million people. And we can do it.”