U.S. Figure Skating president chides U.S. senator for proposing Olympic boycott, says U.S. athletes might not heed it

U.S. Figure Skating president chides U.S. senator for proposing Olympic boycott, says U.S. athletes might not heed it

SAN JOSE, Calif. - The president of U.S. Figure Skating said Wednesday he did not believe U.S. skaters would heed a politically motivated call to boycott the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea and indirectly chided the senator who raised the prospect this week.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted Monday that the U.S. should boycott if North Korea goes to the Olympics.

“I think they need to be careful saying things like that because these athletes have worked so hard to get there,” USFS President Samuel Auxier said.  “The Olympics should be above politics. They shouldn’t be playing politics with this.

“It was a disaster in 1980 for many of the athletes who couldn’t go.  And I’d hate to see that just because Trump and Kim Jong-un are trying to see which button’s bigger.”

Read More

On the defensive, IOC president plays alternative facts trump card

On the defensive, IOC president plays alternative facts trump card

Funny what you will find while looking for something else.

I was searching the International Olympic Committee’s web site to check a reported fact about how much the IOC charges cities to bid for the Olympic Games when I came across the headlines pictured above on a story posted the day after the Sept. 15, 2015 deadline for 2024 Summer Games bids to be submitted.

Eighteen months later, that headline looks like an IOC version of something Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway would have explained away as “alternative facts.”

A rejection in a public referendum (Hamburg), fiscal priorities (Rome) and the threat of a referendum (Budapest) have reduced the competition to just two world-class cities (Los Angeles and Paris) and made a mockery of the IOC’s self-congratulatory headlines.

In an interview last week with the German magazine Stuttgarter Nachrichten, IOC President Thomas Bach blamed the dropouts on the “anti-establishment movements we have in many European countries.”

Or, alt facts.

Read More

2024 Olympics: Paris looks to build bridges while L.A. has to walk through walls

2024 Olympics: Paris looks to build bridges while L.A. has to walk through walls

Paris and Los Angeles treated the start of the international campaign to win the 2024 Summer Olympics very differently Friday.

The French held a press opportunity at a glitzy brasserie with a view of the Eiffel Tower as it glowed and glittered in the projected five colors of the Olympic rings, and the new Paris 2024 slogan, “Made For Sharing,” appeared in the projection.

That was “Made For Sharing” in English only, in both the projection and on the Paris 2024 Facebook page, which has caused some consternation among the French, notably the Trumpian “Make France First” politician Marine Le Pen.  More on that later.

At the same time, the two leaders of the Los Angeles bid, chairman Casey Wasserman and CEO Gene Sykes, were doing a conference call with reporters.

The Paris 2024 press conference, which came only a few hours after an apparent terrorist attack at the Louvre, included the country’s prime minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, who pointedly said France wants to “build bridges, not walls.”

The L.A. conference call, which came just hours after reports that Iran was imposing what amounts to a tit-for-tat ban by prohibiting U.S. freestyle wrestlers from entering Iran for a meet, included Wasserman doing his best to do a tap dance worthy of Fred Astaire around the point Cazeneuve was making.

That point, of course, is that president Trump’s immigration and travel ban and his criticisms of Mexico, China, NATO, Australia, the Trans Pacific Partnership and whomever or whatever else Trump’s puppet master, Steve Bannon, wants to attack next are building walls the Los Angeles bid may find difficult to break down or bridge.

Read More

Holding your breath as Vonn chases history by skiing right on the edge of crazy (and thoughts on other things Olympic, including 2024, Nathan Chen & Evgenia Medvedeva)

Holding your breath as Vonn chases history by skiing right on the edge of crazy (and thoughts on other things Olympic, including 2024, Nathan Chen & Evgenia Medvedeva)

1.  Los Angeles has an excellent 2024 Olympic bid.  So does Paris.  So the idea of having the International Olympic Committee vote in September for both 2024 and 2028 rather than just 2024 makes absolute sense.  If both bids get to the day of reckoning in Peru, neither deserves to lose.

No one knows how the mechanics of an unprecedented IOC two-for-one deal might go.  It carries the slight risk of a huge upset if, as expected, the vote for 2028 would occur after that for 2024, because there is a third 2024 finalist, Budapest.

Sure, it is a) highly unlikely that Budapest could beat either Paris or L.A. head-to-head; and b) if Paris gets 2024, marking the centennial of its last Olympics, it is also unlikely that the IOC would choose to put two straight Summer Games in Europe (that hasn’t happened since 1948-52.)

Paris 2024 – LA 2028 is the best scenario, since it assures the Xenophobe-in-Chief will be out of office when Los Angeles is host – even if there is a chance the U.S. president who follows Trump will be equally deplorable.  (Or more deplorable, if that is possible.)

Read More

By straddling a line on Trump order, USOC loses its moral balance

By straddling a line on Trump order, USOC loses its moral balance

It’s nice that the United States Olympic Committee has received assurances from the U.S. government that it will, in the USOC’s words, “work with us to ensure that athletes and officials from all countries will have expedited access to the United States in order to participate in international athletic competitions.”

Note that the USOC statement says nothing about guaranteed access and really contains nothing new.  The State Department always has worked with the USOC, and it always has had the right to deny access to undesirables of any sort, like the Chilean shooter refused a visa for the 1987 Indianapolis Pan American Games because he was accused of human rights violations, including murder, in his homeland.  Some say that justified denial hurt Anchorage's bid for the 1994 Winter Olympics.

But in the big picture, even assuring entry of athletes for international competitions is of little consequence in the face of the Trump administration’s order banning immigration and travel to the United States for people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.  It also would be overly optimistic to think the government is going to expedite access for athletes from those countries – or even grant it - while doing “extreme vetting” at the same time.

According to a person with knowledge of the situation, those assurances came too late to prevent an Iranian-born taekwondo athlete who is a citizen of Iceland from being denied entry to compete at a major event in Las Vegas, a situation first reported by ESPN.  The timing may have been unfortunate, but even that logical explanation will not allay fears of more to come.

That is why the rest of the USOC’s Monday statement on the issue was so disappointingly anodyne, even if that was expected.  It will do anything, as I suggested in a column posted yesterday, to avoid a Trump tantrum against the Los Angeles bid for the 2024 Olympics, because lack of national government support would sound a death knell for L.A. 2024.

Read More