Fiji Sevens shirt
A Fiji Sevens shirt. Photo: Ben Ryan

Olympic links: 24 April, 2015

HEADLINES

Nicola Adams out of nationals after home burgled, Astana keep WorldTour licence, Bolt says Gay got off lightly, French eventing team kicked out of Olympics, GB gymnast swaps to Jamaica, IOC opens consultants’ registry for 2024 Games, GB announces Baku 2015 team amid Azerbaijan human rights concerns, inspirational London marathon tales.

2024 SUMMER OLYMPICS

Consultants seeking work with cities bidding on the 2024 Olympics must now register with the IOC.

ATHLETICS

The Times (subscription): Usain Bolt thinks Tyson Gay got off lightly with his reduced one-year ban. In a separate Times feature on Bolt, he says his focused has switched to the legacy he can leave. (Thanks to Nick Zaccardi for these.)

Sunday’s London marathon: five things to watch in the women’s race, Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge has been “running 12 miles a day since he was eight”, Geoffrey Mutai says “this is the win I still want”, and inspirational stories from some of the runners.

Stockholm marathon organisers have apologised for a plan (since aborted) to award prize money only to Nordic athletes this year.

BAKU 2015

Somebody has been working overtime on ways to make a team announcement attention-worthy. Hence, Olympic sprint canoe champion Ed McKeever ends up racing “the world’s fastest-talking man” as the latter reads out the GB team for Baku 2015. (If you’d rather not indulge in that, there’s a slightly more traditional report here.)

The Guardian argues human rights concerns in Azerbaijan can’t be ignored:

The Baku Games, organised by the European Olympic Committees, will feature 6,000 athletes from 50 countries competing in 20 sports. However, in the past week alone two respected human rights activists have been imprisoned on what are widely deemed to be trumped-up charges linked to the event, which runs from 12-28 June.

Rasul Jafarov, a campaigner who was planning a Sport for Rights movement during the Games, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison last week. On Wednesday a prominent human rights lawyer, Intigam Aliyev, was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison on charges of tax evasion, illegal business and abuse of authority.

Amnesty International, which has identified at least 20 prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijan, said the charges were “spurious”. Aliyev, who has a range of health problems, has taken more than 200 cases to the European court of human rights and been successful in more than 40.

Critics are concerned that, far from forcing Azerbaijan to engage on issues of human rights and freedom of expression, the staging of the event is accelerating its determination to intimidate and silence independent journalists, activists, lawyers and opposition politicians.

Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe and central Asia, said: “Intigam Aliyev is the latest victim of a concerted campaign by authorities in Azerbaijan to sweep all of the country’s problems under the carpet as they prepare to host one of the largest European sports events in less than two months. The message is: ‘Tell the world about our problems and you will be punished’.

“The only crime Intigam Aliyev has committed is to defend the human rights of his fellow citizens. He should have never been jailed in the first place and must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Chief operating officer Simon Clegg said human rights concerns weren’t really his business:

“I don’t think it is overshadowing the European Games,” Clegg said. “I recognize that there are some questions being asked. Those political questions need to be put to politicians. All I can do … is focus on the massive challenge that I’ve got ahead of me of delivering the first ever European Games for the best athletes in Europe.’

“I’m not going to get dragged into areas of activities which obviously fall totally outside my scope of responsibility. I have more than enough on my plate to deal with at this moment in time.”

BT Sport has reached a deal to broadcast the Games in the UK.

BASKETBALL

Britain have named 19 players to a shortlist for the 2015 EuroBasket squad.

BOXING

Olympic champion Nicola Adams has pulled out of this weekend’s English nationals after her house was burgled.

CYCLING

The Astana team can keep their WorldTour licence:

The International Cycling Union (UCI) has backed down in its bid to throw Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali’s Astana team out of its elite circuit.

The UCI asked its licence commission to revoke the Kazakh-based team’s WorldTour status in February. This followed a string of positive doping tests at the team and its development squad last year.

But Astana and UCI lawyers met in Geneva on Thursday to agree a deal that sees the team keep its licence.

The main provision is that Astana’s anti-doping procedures will continue to be scrutinised by independent experts at the University of Lausanne.

“Astana Pro Team is grateful to the License Commission for the opportunity to present the team’s commitment to observing the UCI’s ethical criteria,” read a statement.

Diving

DOPING

A disaster for the French eventing team:

France was stripped of its spot in equestrian’s team eventing competition at next year’s Olympics on Thursday because of a doping violation.

Maxime Livio’s horse Qalao des Mers tested positive for a sedative medication that is banned in competition at last year’s World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. Livio had not provided a veterinary form to administer the substance acepromazine, the International Equestrian Federation said. It described the drug as a “tranquilizer with sedative effects.”

The French eventing team, including Livio, placed fourth to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The FEI said France is now disqualified and loses its Olympic berth in the event. Under FEI rules, a team is typically disqualified for a single doping violation at major events. Seventh-placed Canada now gets one of the six Olympic eventing slots offered at the World Equestrian Games.

GYMNASTICS

Reiss Beckford has been granted permission to switch nationality from Britain to Jamaica, with a view to becoming Jamaica’s first-ever Olympic gymnast:

Beckford was given the go-ahead as a result of his dual-nationality after applying to the International Gymnastics Federation earlier this year.

A three-time European and Commonwealth Games silver medalist for Team GB, 23-year-old Reiss has always dreamed of competing in the Olympic Games.

According to a release from Sports Sphere, he was first reserve for Team GB at the London 2012 Olympic Games and, on realising that he would be a likely reserve for Rio 2016, Reiss decided to pursue his Olympic dream through his Jamaican heritage.

Pyeongchang 2018

Make sure you go to Pyeongchang, not Pyongyang.

RIO 2016

Rio 2016’s chief exec is interviewed on various topics by the Associated Press:

IOC vice president John Coates a year ago called Rio’s preparations the “worst” in memory. Levy partly blamed last year’s World Cup.

“First, there was an overlap with the World Cup and us. The government, of course, had the World Cup to deliver,” Rio CEO Sidney Levy said.

“The second thing is, John Coates exaggerated dramatically. That’s my opinion. It was not such a huge turnaround we did here. We get the impression from the outside there was a radical turnaround, which in my view didn’t happen.”

Has Rio been judged too harshly?

“No, I don’t think so. It’s been pretty fair and square how we’ve been judged (on) the things that don’t work, the things that work.”

SAILING

Sailing’s World Cups have a new format. Is it working?

TRIATHLON

Two big British names return for this weekend’s World Series leg in Cape Town: Alistair Brownlee and Helen Jenkins. Jonny Brownlee is skipping this round.

OTHER NEWS

Vice asks: will drought and climate change kill the Winter Olympics?

Marius Vizer, fresh from attacking the IOC (and then half-apologizing), has now gone after the IAAF:

Vizer, whose SportAccord organization represents Olympic and non-Olympics federations, suggested IAAF President Lamine Diack’s family had improperly benefited from his role in sport.

“I dedicate and I sacrifice my family for sport, I mean sacrifice in the way of dedication,” Vizer said at a news conference in Sochi. “And in my eyes, (Diack is) a person who sacrifices sport for his family.”

Vizer’s comment was an apparent reference to Diack’s son, Papa Massata Diack.

The younger Diack left his role as an IAAF marketing consultant in December pending an investigation into ethics allegations. They include allegations that he requested a payment from Qatar when it was bidding to host the world championships and that he was linked to a payment reportedly made by a Russian athlete to avoid a doping ban.