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Ron Judd's Olympics Insider

Ron Judd, an Olympics junkie and Seattle Times columnist who has covered Olympic sports since 1997, will use this space to serve up news and opinion on the Summer and Winter Games -- also inviting you to chime in on Planet Earth's biggest get-together.

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February 19, 2009 12:20 PM

Golf, rollerskating, five other sports proposed for 2016

Posted by Ron Judd

This just in:

Federations for seven sports have submitted formal proposals for inclusion in the 2016 Games, wherever those might be. The list includes two, baseball and softball, that once existed, but have been canceled beginning with the 2012 London Games. The list:

1. Baseball.
2. Softball.
3. Rugby sevens.
4. Squash.
5. Karate.
6. Roller speedskating.
7. Golf.

(A spokesman for the North American Tiddlywinks Association was not immediately available for comment.)

After careful consideration, we at the Insider offer the following reasoned advice to the International Olympic Committee on each proposed entry :

1. No.
2. Maybe.
3. No.
4. No.
5. No.
6. Hell, no.
7. Are you serious?

Earth to marginal-sports pushers: The Olympics are already too big. If you have any doubt, see the struggles of the flailing London 2012 organizers, many of whom are wishing they'd lost the bid to Paris.

You could make a case for reinstating baseball and softball (especially softball), both of which have at least established some Olympic tradition. But the theme for the coming century for the Games should be clear: Downsize. Economize. Minimize.

Or be prepared for the world's richest cities to start saying nyet to hosting the Games. Adding more sports to the slate for an already prohibitively expensive event is only going to add credence to the movement to establish permanent Olympic sites in several places around the globe, rather than reinventing a very pricey wheel every two years.

Comments | Category: International Olympic Committee , London 2012 Games |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 6, 2008 1:54 PM

Can a 2016 Chicago Obama-lympics be far behind?

Posted by Ron Judd


To all of the irrational (but understandable)-exuberance related expectations of a Barack Obama administration, add this one: Surely he'll make the 2016 Olympic bid a lock for his hometown of Chicago.

In some quarters, it's already leapt from "hope" status to an outright expectation.

"If Obama can find time in his schedule to crash (the October, 2009 IOC selection) party, fugheddaboudit, proclaims Dave Larzelere in The Sporting News. "Mayor Daley can gear up the kickback train, MJ can get ready for another comeback, and Oprah can start training for the triathlon, cause the five rings will be on their way to Chi-town."

Chicago bid officials, noting that much of a Summer Games in Chicago would take place within a stone's throw of Obama's victory speech in Grant Park, are equally giddy.

"I think the eyes of the world have been on Barack Obama and therefore on Chicago and the eyes of the world will be on Chicago more than in the past," Chicago 2016 bid chief Patrick Ryan told Reuters.

"Last night gave us a global opportunity to show the city's beautiful skyline, its lake and parks."

The hope -- bordering now on expectation -- is that Obama will make a personal appearance at the IOC meeting in Copenhagen next October, where delegates will choose a Games site from remaining candidate cities: Chicago, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and Madrid.

Former British Prime MInister Tony Blair pulled just such a stunt in 2005 to help London win what many consider an upset victory over Paris and other cities to land the 2012 Games. Russian President Vladimir Putin made his own pitch, in English, at an IOC meeting in Guatemala to help sew up the 2014 Winter Games for Sochi.

The scenario envisioned by veteran Chicago Tribune Olympic reporter Phillip Hersh:

I can see it now.

It is Oct. 2, 2009, in Copenhagen.

Chicago is making its final presentation before the International Olympic Committee chooses the host of the 2016 Summer Games. A video rolls showing a crowd of some 200,000 -- young and old, black, white, brown and yellow, gay and straight, men and women -- happily gathered in what is called the city's front yard, Grant Park.

Now the video shows the man they have come to see as he emerges from backstage and he walks out to greet the crowd.

And then, in Copenhagen, President Barack Obama, in person, walks out from backstage to join the Chicago 2016 presentation team.

Think that won't have a stunning impact?

Not only does Obama have a positive appeal for the IOC, but Sen. John McCain, his vanquished opponent, had a negative one, Hersh says, reminding us of the mercurial McCain's testy chairmanship of Senate hearings on the IOC in the wake of the Salt Lake bid scandal in 1998.

The optimisim is understandable. But as far as we know, at least, all of it has been generated without a single utterance from Obama himself about Chicago's bid. It's just assumed he'll be out in front of the effort.

"He has travelled around the world," Chicago 2016's Ryan enthused. "He is a very highly regarded international global figure. He loves sport and he is very proud of Chicago. I don't see any reason why he would be negative at all."

Well, we don't either. But the fact is, the guy has a lot on his plate, and this issue is probably not even on the edge of his table. It's understandable that Chicago's hopes are up. But we have a sneaking suspicion that other, darker politics among IOC members will play a role as great, or greater, than the ascendance of Obama.

Many IOC delegates are in a simmmering war with the American Olympic movement, for example, over what they consider to be a lack of wealth-sharing from the U.S. Olympic Committee when it comes to those big profits from TV contracts. A host of other less-visible political obstacles also could derail Chicago's bid.

But having Obama on your side when push comes to shove a year from now in Copenhagen certainly can't hurt. Can it?


Comments | Category: Chicago 2016 , International Olympic Committee , NBC |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 30, 2008 12:06 PM

No, seriously: We want to be blocked

Posted by Ron Judd

Another story on the IOC's clearly dirty fingers in the Beijing censhorship scandal is here.

Actually, we have mixed feelings about this. Clearly the Chinese reneging on (yet another) promise is infuriating. But journos arriving at the Media Center to find some Web access blocked should consider the upside, like mysteriously missing emails and directives from editors back home in the states:

"Huh? You wanted me to cover the synchronized swimming prelims last night instead of the basketball gold medal game? Never got the note. It's those blasted Chinese censors!" And so on.

And we will close by saying: Tibet. Tibet. Tibet. Tibet. Tibet. TIbet. Tibet. Tibet. TIbet. Tibet.

Did we mention Tibet?

Speaking of Tibet: Did we mention the Amnesty International Report?

Just checking.

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , International Olympic Committee , TIBET TIBET TIBET TIBET TIBET |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 16, 2008 12:41 PM

Double-amputee's Olympic door opening: Victory or bad precedent?

Posted by Ron Judd

First, let's get this out of the way: The fact that artificial limb technology has advanced to the point that we're now arguing whether replacement legs give a double amputee an advantage on the running track over the best athletes in the world is true cause for celebration.

But you can also argue that the decision by the International Court of Arbitration for Sport to allow "the Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius to compete for a spot on the South African Olympic team is a bad legal precedent.

Nobody and nothing should diminish Pistorius's accomplishments: Born without fibulas, he is an amazing athlete who posted a world-class time in the 400 meters wearing carbon-fiber running blades fitted to his legs. His fastest time, 46.56, is a Paralympic record, but still slower than the Olympic qualifying standard of 45.55.

CAS, in its ruling, reversed the international track and field governing body's decision that the carbon "Cheetah" blades gave Pistorius an unfair mechanical advantage, saying that advantage had not been documented scientifically. It's difficult to see how that's so, given that studies showed the prosthetic devices return some 90 percent of the "impact energy" expended by the human body, compared with 60 percent for human legs. It's not clear what "burden of proof" CAS required in the case, but the decision came to many as a surprise.

Arguments will fly both ways about whether the prosthetics are an advantage in averting injury to lower leg bones and feet, as most able-bodied athletes face in training, or a disadvantage in their propensity to overwork other body parts.

But a lot of the furor over the decision, it seems, is a bit premature. The argument that the court decision opens the door to all sorts of mechanical "cheating" in sport -- fins for swimmers missing a hand is a commonly cited example -- is a compelling one. But let's wait and see.

If there's a flood of athletes who have the stones to compete at an elite level against the world's best using prosthetic devices, the sports world can take the issue on at that time. We'll be surprised if and when that happens.

Meantime: Whether you agree with the decision or not, it'll make for quite the story if Pistorius earns a spot on the Olympic team, either by posting a fast enough 400-meter time or being named to his nation's relay team. Even if you're convinced his fake legs are "cheating," at least you'll know who has an "unnatural advantage" in his races.

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , International Court of Sport , International Olympic Committee , Olympic Trials |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 27, 2008 11:30 AM

Olympic athletes: Political opinions welcome -- sort of

Posted by Ron Judd

The International Olympic Committee's Athlete's Commission met in Switzerland recently to ponder what to do about growing unrest -- some of it in the athlete's own ranks -- about the choice of China as an Olympics host. Read their conclusions here.

It's a thorny issue, and the athletes reaffirmed their colleagues rights to express opinions. But they also subtly reminded them that they have every right to remain silent. And they dropped in their own reference, just in case anyone forgot, to the IOC's "Rule 51," which says "propaganda or demonstrations" on political issues should be stifled during the Games, or at any official Olympic competition or function. (IOC President Jacques Rogge's recent interpretation of that rule with regard to Beijing can be found here.)

You can argue this issue either way. But we expect -- and frankly sort of hope -- that not every athlete will feel squashed by Rule 51's constraints. In the rule's 50-year history, it has often been ignored. Political expressions have been made on Olympic soil as sacred as the medal stand -- see Tommy Smith and John Carlos, Mexico City, 1968, for just one example -- and the Games have managed to keep from collapsing on themselves. The IOC should be wary about waving the rule around any more than it already has.

In fact, those who argue that Olympism should maintain a wall between competition and politics are ignoring the role of politics in the Games through history. Just one example: At the 1948 St. Moritz Winter Games -- the first to take place after World War II canceled the 1940 Olympics that were to be held in, of all places, Sapporo, Japan -- athletes from Japan and Germany were flat-out barred from competition. How's that for a separation of politics and sport? We could go on, but plenty of other examples of nation state activity and Olympic repercussions can be found through a cursory scan of the history books.

Perhaps IOC execs in Lausanne bemoaning the mixing of Olympic medals and international malaise need to sit for a spell and consider their own part in this drama: They can't cower forever behind the shroud of assertions that "Beijing submitted the best bid!" Because everyone knows the awarding of the Games to China in 2001 was, ipso facto, a political statement by the Olympic movement. Squinting through the resulting blowback and expecting athletes to honor that choice, and refrain from responding to it, is both naive and hypocritical.

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , International Olympic Committee , Olympic History , Olympic politics |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

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Blogroll and links

www.olympic.org: The official International Olympic Committtee site, with news releases, a searchable Olympic medals database and other archival information.
www.nbcolympics.com: Olympic news site from one of the Games' primary sponsors.
NBC Olympics columnist Alan Abrahamson's column/blog
Chicago Tribune Olympic sports writer Philip Hersh's blog
www.usolympicteam.com: U.S. Olympic Committee's athlete web site.
www.aroundtherings.com: Ed and Sheila Hula's Olympic News Service (subscription).
www.wcsn.com: News service with audio, video and text coverage of Olympic sports, during and between Olympics. Free, but charges for live video feed subscriptions.
www.beijing2008.com: Beijing Organizing Committee Web site.
www.vancouver2010.com: Vancouver Organizing Committee's 2010 Winter Games site.
www.london2012.com: London 2012 Summer Games site.
www.sochi2014.com: Sochi, Russia's 2014 Winter Games site.
www.chicago2016.org: Candidate city Chicago's summer 2016 bid committee site.
Olympic swimmer Tara Kirk's highly entertaining WCSN blog
Bellevue Olympian Scott Macartney's WCSN alpine ski-racing blog
Other WCSN Olympic athlete blogs.