Elvis watches dressage
Elvis takes in some dressage in Vegas. Photo: Practical Horseman.

Olympic links: 17 April, 2015

Headlines

Aaron Cook swaps to Moldova, 2021 athletics Worlds given to Eugene (decision annoys Swedes), Ennis-Hill wants world silver upgraded, Fina director says Phelps could get Worlds wild card, more calls to drop Boston ’24 bid for LA, Louis Smith tops Euro pommel quali on GB return, GB men keep 100% record at ice hockey Worlds, Bolt plays basketball in Rio favela.

2024 Summer Olympics

Support for the Boston 2024 bid has increased slightly, but there are still many concerns about its long-term viability. USA Today’s Christine Brennan is the latest voice calling for the bid to be dropped and Los Angeles put forward in Boston’s place:

Boston is a great sports town and a wonderful city. That’s not the issue. The problem for Boston, and the USOC, is that polling consistently shows that more Bostonians are against the Olympics than for them. The pushback has been so strong that a state-wide referendum has been scheduled for November 2016.

Even if the polling turns more positive in the months ahead, the USOC cannot afford to hand over the fate of its bid city to the vagaries of the ballot box. Add the political certainty that those who are more energized to show up and vote will be those who are against the bid (already a formidable group), and it’s a public relations nightmare for everyone in the Olympic world.

The USOC should come clean and say it made a huge mistake, apologize for wasting everyone’s time in Boston, and hightail it to SoCal. Before it selected Boston, the USOC knew there never was more than a lukewarm interest in the Games there, while polling in L.A. always showed people salivating for a third Olympics, following the distant success of the 1932 Summer Games and the smash hit of 1984.

Is L.A. ready? Let’s put it this way. The 2024 Games are more than nine years away, but L.A. could host them now. Dust off the Coliseum, put the Rose Bowl and all those other college venues on alert, throw in a new NFL stadium, order up the weather from the summer of 1984, and voila: an American Olympics.

Athletics

The 2021 track and field world championships have been awarded to Eugene, Oregon – whose bid for the 2019 equivalent was recently overlooked in favour of Qatar. Unlike the 2019 edition, there was no formal bidding process for 2021:

“Council’s decision [Thursday] was taken in order to grant the sport’s access to one of the most historically successful countries in athletics as well as the most powerful economy in the world,” the IAAF said in a press release.

The IAAF said it last awarded a Worlds to a city without bidding for 2007, when Osaka, Japan, hosted.

The U.S. has won more medals and gold medals than any other nation in World Championships history dating to 1983. The World Championships are held in odd-numbered years and will be in Beijing this August.

Eugene, home of the University of Oregon, held the last two U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials and will do so again in 2016.

This was not welcome news in Sweden, which said it had been planning a Gothenburg bid for 2021:

“This is not fair play – we were taken by surprise,” said Swedish athletics’ general secretary Anders Albertsson.

When asked whether Swedish Athletics was aware of a change to the bidding procedures, Albertsson added: “We’ve stated the question on numerous occasions and been told the normal procedure would be applied in 2021.”

According to Albertsson, the deadline to show official interest was April 2016, followed by a bid submitted in August before an announcement of the host in November. The IAAF website has a section on the process for bidding for a World Athletics Championships, stating that a potential candidate should submit interest five years before the event.

“We told the IAAF of our intentions back in 2012 and then had a meeting with them when we hosted the Indoor Worlds in 2013. We wanted to host the 2021 championships so it would coincide with the the city’s 400th anniversary,” said Albertsson.

“We were preparing the documents for the political decisions that had to be made in Gothenburg. The federation and city put a lot of effort into the dream of hosting the championships. We congratulate Eugene – they will make an excellent hosts and there are no hard feelings. But we would have been happy to get to the starting line.”

Jessica Ennis-Hill wants her 2011 world silver medal to be upgraded to gold after winner Tatyana Chernova received a doping ban:

Ennis-Hill makes no secret of the fact that she believes she is the deserving world champion from four years ago: “I definitely want that medal and we’ve had communications to see how that ban works.

“Obviously I’m not happy about how the ban has been handled. I can’t really understand it myself. I’ve spoken to British Athletics and the IAAF and I am putting my faith in them to look into it a bit more. I don’t know what is going to happen. I’ll just have to get on with what I’m doing.”

Basketball

A boost for Canadian Olympic basketball hopes – Andrew Wiggins, the nation’s superstar of the moment, says he’ll take part in Rio qualifiers this summer.

Boxing

Irish Olympic silver medallist John Joe Nevin is told he’ll get “no extra privileges” in his court case over a criminal damage allegation.

Contrary to earlier reports, apparently Indian boxer Mary Kom does have permission to train individually, without attending a national camp.

No link for this, but British Lionhearts were soundly beaten by Cuba in the World Series last night.

Cycling

The start gate from the London 2012 BMX track has apparently turned up at a new track in Gwynedd.

Equestrian

Gymnastics

Louis Smith was the leading qualifier for the European pommel horse final on his return to the GB team. Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev was the top all-around qualifier – GB’s Dan Purvis was third.

Hockey (ice)

Britain’s men beat South Korea 3-2 to remain on course for gold in the third tier of hockey’s world championships. From BBC Sport’s Seth Bennett:

“In his first international tournament in charge of the senior men’s team, Pete Russell is revelling in the role. He has not been frightened to tinker with his line-up and tactics during games. That is a huge reason why Great Britain sit undefeated after three games and are now just two wins away from winning a gold medal.”

Rio 2016

Usain Bolt spent some time in a Rio favela on Thursday, playing some basketball among other things.

Rugby sevens

Canadian women’s sevens captain Ashley Steacy hopes to join her brother-in-law, hammer thrower Jim, in the country’s Rio Olympic team.

Swimming

In what would be a barnstorming move, a director of world governing body Fina has implied it could hand Michael Phelps an invitational spot at this year’s Worlds, overriding the block on his participation issued by the US national team:

“We may give him another status because he’s the greatest athlete [in] history,” FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu said, according to The Associated Press, adding that it would be “no problem for us.” “We can do whatever. He is the No. 1. He doesn’t need the accreditations.”

Phelps was told of Marculescu’s comments at the Pro Swim Series at Mesa, Ariz., later Thursday.

“Old Cornel,” Phelps joked to reporters after his first race since August (recap, video here). “I don’t even know. Cornel and I have known each other for a long time. It’s news to me. … I’m here to swim here right now. That’s what I’m focused on. I really don’t know what to expect. Bob and I’s plan has always been to prepare ourselves for [Summer] Nationals [in San Antonio the same time as the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, in August] because I wasn’t able to swim at the World Championships.”

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor won her second title of the British championships with victory in the 200m medley. Jazz Carlin also won her second title of the week, following 400m freestyle gold with a win over 800m.

Video: British Swimming’s search for a new sponsor.

“The most dominant swimmer on the planet.” Analysing Katie Ledecky’s prospects.

Taekwondo

Aaron Cook, the former world number one who fell out with the British team in a London 2012 selection row, will now compete for Moldova:

Cook, 24, competed for Team GB at the 2008 Olympics, but was overlooked for London 2012, despite being ranked world number one at the time.

His Moldovan citizenship was funded by the country’s taekwondo president and billionaire Igor Iuzefovici.

“We are saddened by Aaron’s decision,” said BOA chief executive Bill Sweeney. “Despite the fact that there is no legitimate case for nationality change here, the BOA cannot compel any athlete to represent the United Kingdom against his or her will.”

Here’s the Daily Mail’s report:

Cook, who fought for Team GB at Beijing 2008, announced his intention to change nationality in a statement on Facebook at the start of April, saying: ‘Although I am upset and disappointed I will not represent my country of birth at another major championships, I felt I had no other option.

‘Having received no funding or support from the GB system and financing myself since June 2011, this was not a situation that was acceptable to me and I did not want to put myself, family, friends, supporters or sport through the same situation we were forced to endure at the London 2012 Olympic Games.’

Jeremy Beard, the chairman of GB Taekwondo, said in a statement: ‘Having secured his place at the upcoming European Games, we are naturally disappointed that Aaron Cook does not wish to represent Great Britain in Baku, nor at the Olympic Games in Rio.

‘We have made exhaustive efforts to engage with him and his team for some time, but sadly it seems that he has made the decision that his future lies elsewhere and we wish him well.’

Other news

Former pentathlete Heather Fell, the silver medallist at Beijing 2008, will be Team GB’s chef de mission for this summer’s European Youth Olympic Festival in Tbilisi, Georgia.