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  • Countdown to Beijing 2022


    Countdown to Paris 2024


    Last week we looked at the event changes between the 2020 and the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. The other notable change ahead of those games will be the number of athletes competing. Totallympics takes a closer look.
    Using the qualification documents, the 2020 Olympics had an expected athlete quota of 11,114 (the final number was higher due to some sports having more athletes than expected qualify and the IOC allowing more athletes to compete at the games due to COVID-19, court appeals and via the refugee team). The 2024 Olympics is set to have a total of 10,500 athletes, a decrease of 614 quotas.
    As baseball/softball and karate were not selected as host selected sports, the athlete quotas were completely removed. This saw a reduction of 234 and 80 quotas respectively. However, with the other host selected sports seeing an increase in athlete quotas, this reduction had a net effect of -242.
    The remaining 72 quotas were split between the four sports with breaking getting the most quotas (32 athletes) as the sport is set to make its Olympic debut. Sport climbing, the only returning sport to get an increase in its total events sees a notable increase of 28 athletes while skateboarding and surfing will see increases of 8 and 4 respectively.
    Of the 28 core sports, all of them either saw them maintaining their 2020 quotas or saw an overall decrease. Cycling is a bit unique as while the overall sport saw a decrease of quotas (-14 athletes), the BMX freestyle (+6) and track cycling (+1) disciplines saw an increase of athletes, but were offset by a decrease in mountain biking (-4) and road cycling (-17).
    Among the core sports, athletics will experience the largest decrease with 90 fewer athletes expected to attend the 2024 games. Due to the removal of four events, weightlifting also has a significant decrease with 76 fewer athletes while aquatics rounds out the top 3 with 62 fewer athletes (-8 in artistic swimming, -6 in open water swimming, -26 in swimming and -22 in water polo). A summary of the quota changes can be seen in the table below.

    Of the sports which lost athlete quotas most of them only saw losses of less than 6% of their total quotas from 2020. The two exceptions were boxing and weightlifting. Both sports have recently lost favour in the eyes of the IOC. Even after adjusting weightlifting having fewer events, both sports will experience a decrease of over 10% of their 2020 total.
    While these athlete quota cuts were made by the IOC as a cost saving measure, they remain quite controversial. Detractors argue that it is not in the spirit of the Olympics and that it would make nations with smaller teams even smaller. What do you think, is the cost saving measures a necessary evil or are there other ways the IOC could cut costs?

    With the conclusion of the 2020 Summer Olympics, curious eyes have turned to Paris and how those games will defer from Tokyo. What changes will we see? The most eye-catching stat is that Paris 2024 will have fewer events with 329 total, 10 fewer than Tokyo 2020. This is the first time since Rome 1960 that the next Olympics will have fewer events than the previous one. Totallympics takes a closer look.
    This decrease is largely due to the changes of host selected sports as Tokyo selected sports baseball/softball (2 events) and karate (8 events) have been removed. Additionally, four weightlifting events will be removed and not replaced (the 10 remaining weight classes will be confirmed at a later date). The other three Tokyo selected sports; skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing will make their return with sport climbing gaining an additional two events (men’s and women’s speed). The fourth and final host selected sport will be breaking, set to make its Olympic debut with B-boys and B-girls events.

    Additionally, other sports will have changes to their program, but will keep the same number of overall events. The biggest changes will be seen in canoeing and sailing. For canoeing the men’s and women’s K1 200m events were dropped while the slalom discipline gained two events with men’s and women’s extreme canoe. Additionally, the men’s K2 1000m and C2 1000m will consist of 500m events.
    Sailing sees the complete removal of the men’s Finn class while the men’s and women’s 470 will now become a mixed event. These changes will make room for the men’s and women’s kiteboarding. While the windsurfing events remain, they will change equipment from the RS:X to iQFoil.

    In order to decrease the difference between men’s and women’s medalling events, boxing will have a men’s event transferred to the women for a total of 7 men and 6 women events. The weight classes will be confirmed at a later date. Overall, there will be 157 men’s, 152 women’s and 20 mixed or open events.
    Other sports to have changes include athletics where the men’s 50km race walk will make way for the mixed team race walk, shooting where a rotation from mixed team trap to mixed team skeet will occur and sport climbing where the men’s and women’s combined will only include the bouldering and lead portions as speed is now a separate medalling event.
    Next week Totallympics will take a closer look as to the changes to the athlete quotas as the 2024 Olympics will have to adhere to the IOC’s 10,500 limit after having more than 11,000 athletes in Tokyo.

    Games and Rings
    As the 2020-21 Squash World Championships get underway today, I'm struck by the absence of the sport on the Olympic program. One wonders what sin squash must have committed to result not being included ever.

    It's not like the sport hasn't recently tried. The World Squash Federation (WSF)'s bids for inclusion were unsuccessful for the Games in 2012, 2016, 2020, and now 2024. It certainly is a head-scratcher, as there are so many boxes checked for what fits as an Olympic sport.

    So, here's my pitch:

    Similar to its racket sport cousin badminton, squash has its origins in the British mid-1800s. The first national association for squash, now U.S. Squash, was formed in 1904, and the oldest squash tournament, the British Open Squash Championships, were first held in 1929. The Professional Squash Association (PSA) World Championships separated from the British Open as a stand-alone event in 1976, and is now considered the crowning event to the seasonal PSA World Tour.

    It's truly a global sport. The WSF counts 50,000 courts worldwide, and a membership of almost 150 nations. The top 10 seeds for the World Championships across both men's and women's fields represent eight different nations and all six continental regions: Africa (Egypt), Asia (India), Europe (France, Great Britain), North America (United States), Oceania (New Zealand), and South America (Colombia, Peru). Players from Switzerland, Latvia, Canada, Mexico, Spain, Hong Kong, Germany, Netherlands, South Africa, Czech Republic, and Belgium are also in the fields. Legendary players in squash history have also come from Malaysia (Nicol David), Pakistan (Jansher Khan) - both eight-time world champions - and Australia (five-time winner Sarah Fitzgerald).   Athletic Stars
    These are serious, professional athletes. The World Championship total pot is $1 million U.S., while the prize for World Tour events can reach $175,000 U.S. for both men and women. Nicol David, widely recently voted as the World Games Greatest Athlete of All Time, has an estimated net worth over $1 million U.S. from career earnings and endorsements.   Nicol David was world champion a record eight times   Urban
    Squash can be played right within urban centers. New York's J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions is played inside Grand Central Station. San Francisco's Oracle NetSuite Open is played alongside the Embarcadero's Ferry Building. The World Championships this year will be inside Chicago's University Club. Wherever one might put, say, a breakdancing or 3x3 basketball court, or a beach volleyball sandpit, one could put a squash court.   Sustainability
    The PSA uses an all-glass, portable court ringed by temporary grandstand seating that is easily transported, set up, and broken down. There's no need to build new infrastructure.   Fan Accessibility
    And, that glass court allows for spectator intimacy with the action. Similar to tennis, squash tournaments are straightforward single elimination events, so competition is fast-paced and athletic - and can be easily consumed by fans. A tournament with fields of 32 for both men and women can easily be finished in less than a week.   The next Olympic opportunity for squash won't be until Los Angeles 2028. But that may be a longshot, too, as baseball and softball are likely to make a comeback. Lacrosse and cricket are making inroads, too. Karate, in for Tokyo 2020 but out for Paris 2024, would also be in the mix. And, it's unlikely a different spot would open up from the existing core sports.   Here's French star Gregory Gaultier probably pondering what an Olympic medal would look like around his neck

    It's a shame, as the global, engaging nature of the sport fits well within the Olympics. I'm not sure what the reluctance has been - too elite? (more so than golf?), too exclusive? (more than artistic swimming?) not practical? (um, the portable glass court...) not hip enough? (refer back to Nicol David's popularity, for one) - but the diversity, ease of engagement, and history of the sport deserve a spotlight.

    It's well past time.   This opinion piece originally appeared at

    Matt Nelsen
    The International Olympic Committee announced the Refugee Olympic Team for Tokyo 2020 on Tuesday, and as a connoisseur of multi-sports games, I found myself curious as to the multi-sports games credentials of the athletes selected for the team. 
    I began my quest for knowledge by consulting an archive of multi-sports games results dating from the early 2000s to the present. While the search itself took a few hours, having to comb through results of various multi-sports games, it did produce some interesting factoids about a few members of the Refugee Olympic Team. 
    The first “hit” in the database was for athletics participant, Dorian Keletela. Keletela ran as a representative of the host country, Republic of Congo, back at the 2015 African Games. He was entered into the 100m and clocked a time of 10.68 in the heats. He failed to advance out of the heats, thus ending his pursuit of gold. This was also his only recorded participation at a multi-sports games. 

    The second athlete to pop up during the search was Wessam Salamana. Salamana competed in boxing at the 2010 Asian Games as a representative of the Syrian Arab Republic. Salamana actually enjoyed relative success at the Games, beating opponents from Timor-Leste, Republic of Korea, and Bhutan on his way to earning a bronze medal. In fact, his only loss came in the semifinals when he was defeated by the eventual gold medalist from Thailand. The 2010 Asian Games would mark Salamana’s only participation at a multi-sports games, but he’ll definitely be hoping to relive his time on the podium at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
    The next athlete to appear in the database also registered a start for the Syrian Arab Republic. Ahmad Badreddin Wais competed for the country in cycling at the 2018 Mediterranean Games. He recorded results in both the road race and time trial. In the road race, Badreddin Wais finished in 47th place and outside the time limit. However, he faired much better in the time trial placing 16th out of 20 riders, only 2:55 behind the winner of the event. He will likely be hoping for a similar performance in the time trial during the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
    Perhaps the most prolific multi-sports games athlete on the Refugee Olympic Team is Javad Mahjoub. Mahjoub competed for the Islamic Republic of Iran at both the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games. His performances in Judo at both Games were full of ups-and-downs. At the 2010 Asian Games he managed to win his first match, before subsequently losing two matches, including one in the repechage round. He faired slightly better at the 2014 Asian Games, qualifying for the bronze medal match after losing in the semifinal stage. Unfortunately, he finished the competition in 5th place after a loss in the bronze medal match. He will definitely be hoping for improved results at Tokyo 2020.
    The last athlete to appear in the database was Cyrille Fagat Tchatchet II. Tchatchet II participated in weightlifting at the 2014 Commonwealth Games representing the country of Cameroon. He managed a very respectable result at the Games finishing his event in 5th place ahead of 15 other lifters. In total, he managed to lift 315kg during the -85kg competition. The 2014 Commonwealth Games would also mark the end of his multi-sports games journey until it was announced he made the Refugee Olympic Team for Tokyo 2020.
    In total, these five athletes represent only a small part of the Refugee Olympic Team. However, these five athletes also show that the Refugee Olympic Team is not to be taken lightly in Tokyo. While they might not be favorites for medals, they are experienced competitors at this level, and will be ready to give it their all in Tokyo. 
    For those who missed the announcement of the Refugee Olympic Team, a full list of the athletes selected can be found here.

    Games and Rings
    Cuba has a storied history of success in the Olympic Games. Since its Games debut at Paris 1900, its much-vaunted boxers have won 73 medals (second only to the United States), and its fabled baseball program has won three of five golds (and won silver the other two times). Outside of those two signature sports, Cuba has made its mark in other sports, notably track & field, judo, wrestling, and even fencing. The women's volleyball team won three straight golds between 1992 and 2000, with a bronze in 2004. At Barcelona 1992, Cuba hit its high point in the medal count - 31 total, and fifth place in the medal count. Those were the Games of high jumper Javier Sotomayor, boxer Felix Savon, and middle-distance runner Ana Quirot. Boxers, including Savon, won nine of 12 possible medals (including seven gold). Women's volleyball started their three-gold streak. Judo and wrestling saw gold medal wins, too. Cuba won the inaugural baseball tournament.

    For the next four Games, the island nation experienced a consistent level of high performance: 25 medals at Atlanta 1996, 29 at Sydney 2000, 27 at Athens 2004, and 30 at Beijing 2008. Those years, there was an admirable sense of Cuba being able to 'punch above its weight' in its success. Despite increasing isolation as a lone socialist state burdened by economic sanctions, its athletic programs remained a vibrant, vital area of showcase pride for the nation. But the last two Olympics has seen its star power ebb. Cuba managed only 15 medals at London 2012 and 11 at Rio 2016. As well, after reaching second in the Pan American Games medal table in 2011, Cuba dropped to fourth in 2015 and sixth in 2019.  And now, and despite its legendary aura in the sport, Cuba will not qualify for Tokyo 2020's baseball tournament. Given its recent slide  - in the WBSC Premier12 event in 2019, Cuba ranked tenth and last alongside Netherlands and Puerto Rico - the result in qualifying isn't too surprising. But the Cuban absence will be noticed given the team's legacy in the sport. For sentiment's sake, one hopes Cuban baseball doesn't follow that lead and can make a comeback in time for Los Angeles 2028. But history is  not a promising guide.

    That women's volleyball team of the mid-to-late 1990s suffered a similar fall. After just missing the podium in fourth place at Beijing 2008, the team has failed to make an Olympics since. They placed 21st and 22nd in the last two World Championships, and came nowhere near Tokyo 2020 qualification after finishing sixth in the 2019 NORCECA Championship, with the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico ahead and taking bragging rights for current Caribbean power.
    As far as the nation's boxers, they will again be standard bearers, with Tokyo 2020 qualification in each of the eight men's weight classes (but note, no women's). Collectively, the Tokyo-bound team already has six Olympic medals dating from as far back as Beijing 2008 - a sign of longevity, but also of a lack of younger athletes breaking through. Judo, wrestling, and track & Field again promise the best chance for medal support to boxing this summer, but the nation will probably be hard-pressed to significantly improve its results from Rio 2016.

    Cuba's sport prowess has certainly diminished. Has the difficulty in maintaining a consistently strong sports development feeder system in its closed society finally taken a toll? There's a good opportunity for a socio-economic study in the question. In the meantime, this summer's Games quickly approach. Can Cuba again rise to consistent sporting heights?   This opinion was originally published on on June 2, 2021.

    Matt Nelsen
    Panam Sports has reached an agreement with the University of Miami and the Mexican Consulate in Miami to receive 4,000 vaccines that will be used to help ensure the health of the athletes and officials who will participate in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
    Panam Sports has already sent an official document to all the National Olympic Committees to inform them of this opportunity. The organization will cover the cost of the air tickets for those who travel to Miami to receive their vaccines. 
    National Olympic Committees have been asked to send their request listing the athletes and officials they wish to be vaccinated as soon as possible so they can be inoculated at least 30 days before entering Japan. 
    Athletes and officials participating in this year’s 2021 Junior Pan American Games will also be eligible to receive the vaccine under this offer.
    Panam Sports is the first continental sports governing body to secure and offer vaccines to athletes and officials.

    “We know that in many of our countries throughout the continent it is very difficult to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. Therefore, we have made a significant effort to reach this outstanding agreement that will help all of the athletes who have not had the chance to become inoculated. Now these athletes have the opportunity to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the United States, and thus travel with better protection to compete at the Tokyo Olympics,” said Panam Sports President, Neven Ilic.

    “I want to offer my greatest appreciation to the University of Miami, the Mexican Consulate in Miami, and our Executive Committee member, Jimena Saldaña. They all helped us achieve our goal of vaccinating the athletes and officials who will participate in Tokyo, as well as those who will be in Cali this November,” Ilic added.

    Matt Nelsen
    The Cali-Valle 2021 Junior Pan American Games will now take place between November 25 and December 5.

    The Covid-19 pandemic has claimed yet another victim in the world of international multi-sports games. The 2021 Junior Pan American Games originally scheduled to be held from September 9 to September 19 have been postponed by around two and a half months and will now open in late November. 
    According to Panam Sports, the Pan American region has been one of the most affected by Covid-19. While Panam Sports and local organizers were encouraged by the recent progress in vaccinations around the region, they still felt like there was more work to be done in the fight against Covid-19.

    Speaking on the decision to postpone, Panam Sports President Neven Ilic, said the following remarks, “After several months of meetings with the Colombian authorities, we have adopted this measure that we believe is the best option to protect the health of our young athletes. We want to give more time for both the organizing country and the participating nations to advance in their vaccination processes. This will allow more delegations and the largest number of people to be inoculated against Covid-19 when the Games begin.”

    Cali-Valle 2021 Executive Director, Jose Luis Echeverry, also spoke about the decision to postpone. He stated, “The decision we have made is very positive. It will be very beneficial to be able to wait a little longer given the emergency caused by Covid-19 not only in Colombia, but throughout the continent. With this new date, it gives us the possibility of having safer Games for everyone because when the time comes, we will have a higher vaccination rate in the host country.”

    The first Junior Pan American Games of Cali 2021 will bring together more than 3,800 athletes from 41 countries who will compete in 39 disciplines. The gold medalist(s) in each sport will automatically qualify for the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games.

    Further information about the Games can be found at or

    Games and Rings
    Major League Baseball's 2021 season gets underway tomorrow, and its top stars are likely fully embracing the return to playing. In an alternate universe, though, they'd also be excited this year at the opportunity to showcase their sport and represent their home nations at the Olympic Games this summer.

    In reality, the vast majority of MLB players will not be in Tokyo. While its "second-tier" players could be available, MLB's elite players will not. And from Barcelona 1992 through Beijing 2008, the last Olympic stretch for baseball before its Tokyo return, they did not, either. Simply put, MLB's team owners and players' union don't like the idea of shutting down the league's summer season for two weeks to accommodate the Games. (Meanwhile, the Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization have committed to the Olympic break.)   South Korea won the last gold medal in the Olympics, at Beijing 2008 (IOC)   For Olympic and baseball (not necessarily MLB) fans, it's incredibly frustrating. The Olympics are the ultimate stage for a worldwide sports audience, and a validation of a sport as globally relevant. Sure, MLB has had the World Baseball Classic - notably, revenue from which it controls - but it hardly compares to the Summer Games. 

    Outspoken MLB star Bryce Harper puts it frankly, "You want to grow the game as much as possible and you're not going to let us play in the Olympics because you don't want to (lose) out on money for a two-week period? OK, that's dumb". (Um... yes, baseball team owners are more interested to grow their immediate revenue than to "grow the game".)

    Baseball may not get the chance again. The sport was not included in the program for Paris 2024, taking women's softball (despite embracing the Olympics) down with it. Very likely, the fact that the sport's biggest power brokers don't have an interest is a key to why baseball isn't a core sport for the Olympics. A return for Los Angeles 2028 is possible, helped by a United States-based Games, but MLB availability may very well again be an issue.

    The vast majority of sports do see the Olympics as a unique, elite goal for its players. But MLB is not alone in some recalcitrance. Here is a look at how some other high-revenue professional sports approach the Games.

    Ice Hockey

    As the only traditional team sport in the Winter Olympics* since Chamonix 1924, ice hockey has a special position of interest from the International Olympic Committee in ensuring elite players participate. Aside from that background, men's ice hockey's relationship with the Games is similar to baseball's.

    The sport's top professional league, the National Hockey League, has a team ownership structure reluctant to stop a season's play and risk revenue and player injury. And, similar to MLB's World Baseball Classic, the NHL has its own contrived international tournament, the World Cup of Hockey.

    And also similar, other top leagues make the Olympics a priority. But every four years, there is another round of negotiations, with the NHL's business interests pitched against the IOC's and the International Hockey Federation's interest in presenting a top quality tournament to expand the game. NHL players appeared for the first time in Nagano 1998, and did so through Sochi 2014, but skipped Pyeongchang 2018. Current expectation is that the NHL will return for Beijing 2022. That's due in large part to the players themselves wanting to go.     NHLer Sidney Crosby celebrates a 'golden goal' at Vancouver 2010   I'm also of the mind that Olympic site location has a lot to do with NHL acquiescence. Since Nagano, Salt Lake City (2002), Vancouver (2010), and Sochi (2014) in particular represent nations with significant importance to the NHL. Pyeongchang (2018)? Not so much. That, plus seeing China holding great potential for NHL fans, combined with its beleaguered World Cup stalling, might have made Beijing 2022 more palatable.

    *(I'm not counting curling as a 'traditional' team sport. But let's get bandy into the Olympics!)


    The National Basketball Association is the ultimate team sport role model for embracing the Olympics. Prior to Barcelona 1992, men's basketball teams from the world's powerhouse, the United States, were purely amateur and from the college ranks. With the IOC loosening restrictions on professionals, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) pushed for NBA players be allowed to participate. No doubt eager to re-establish its basketball dominance after its Seoul 1988 bronze medal disappointment, the United States was enthusiastic - as were other countries' teams looking to play against the best.

    The U.S. 'Dream Team' was born: a selection of the absolute best NBA players together to dominate the world. It was a sporting event of legend, the team not only winning gold in commanding fashion, but winning over countless new NBA fans across the globe. The NBA's recognition of the power of a global stage to spur growth was born.   The 'Dream Team' embraced its Olympic opportunity   Since, NBA players have represented various national teams at each Olympics, with each successive U.S. team featuring a strong roster of top players, with visions of legacy at stake. Despite overblown concerns over the zika virus, Rio 2016 still attracted a record number of NBA players. And the U.S. has shortlisted 57 - 57! - finalists for Tokyo 2020's team.

    Dissimilar to MLB and the NHL, the NBA's season does not cover the two weeks of the Olympics. That's a big positive for NBA players to participate, as essentially an offseason tournament doesn't immediately affect team owners' pockets. Even when the current Covid-19 pandemic caused concern for this year's Games, the NBA found a way to allow its schedule to accommodate its players.

    It's not clear how long the love affair will last. If and when the U.S. doesn't win gold again, favor for Olympic participation by some players may fall. There is also a World Cup, run by FIBA, but so far that hasn't dampened Olympic allure.

    It should be noted that on the women's side, the WNBA similarly embraces the Olympics. In fact, the league owes its existence to the Olympic tournament at Atlanta 1996. Rio 2016 featured a record 26 WNBA players.


    Soccer (football) first appeared as an Olympic sport at Paris 1900, and has consistently been a top audience draw each Games, buoyed by its deep global popularity. But soccer has had its growing pains, too, with the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) prioritizing its men's World Cup since 1932.

    Today, that means that the men's tournament is only open to players aged 23 and under, which means most top-flight players cannot participate (unless chosen as allowed three-per-team over 23). The restriction hasn't dampened the enthusiasm for Olympic soccer in some key aspects. The sport holds the largest field of of any of the men's team sports (16). And, it is widely seen as a stepping stone to the senior ranks, with numerous budding stars featured on past rosters.

    Lionel Messi won gold at Beijing 2008 alongside Angel Di Maria, Javier Mascherano, and Sergio Aguero. Neymar won silver at London 2012 and gold at Rio 2016. Cristiano Ronaldo competed at Athens 2004. The Mexican gold medalists in London featured Hector Herrera and Giovani dos Santos. Carlos Tevez has gold from Athens 2004 (as does Mascherano). Samuel Eto'o played at Sydney 2000, as did Ivan Zamorano (who bronze with Chile). Barcelona 1992's iconic Spanish team featured Pep Guardiola, Luis Enrique and Santiago Canizares.   Spain celebrates the gold medal as the home team at Barcelona 1992   On the other hand, as the United States' recent loss in qualifying shows, professional teams are - similar to baseball - loathe to release players, affecting quality of play certainly at that stage.

    Similar to women's basketball, women's soccer powers have no compunction about the Games, or restriction. Despite a growing World Cup and multiple professional leagues, the top stars of women's soccer still very much view the Olympics as a singular goal.


    The International Golf Federation may find Tokyo 2020 a crossroads for its growth ambitions through the Olympics. When the sport was re-added to the Olympic schedule in 2009 after more than a 100-year absence, for Rio 2016, organizers surely had dreams of Tiger Woods - by far the sports' biggest star in 2009 - adorning the Olympic Village while wearing a gold medal as the biggest advocate for the Games. Woods pledged his commitment. Fellow superstars Padraig Harrington and Michelle Wie spoke in person about their Olympic dreams. The PGA Tour worked collaboratively to revamp its schedule.

    Cut to a few months ahead of the Rio Games. Diverse and prominent men's players Vijay Singh, Louis Oosthuizen, and Charl Schwartzel announced they would not play, followed by even larger names Adam Scott and Jason Day. Then Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson.

    Only four of the world's top 10 remained in the men's draw. Credit to the women, though...all of their top 10 players committed, and only one professional woman declined. In any case, Rio 2016 went forward, with an arguably mid-level podium result for the men with Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, and Matt Kuchar. The women, though, had a star-studded medal stand, with Inbee Park, Lydia Ko, and Shanshan Feng.    The LPGA's elite took the podium at Rio 2016   Why weren't the men as enthusiastic as the women? Between the usual complaint of over-scheduling and the aforementioned easy-excuse zika virus, once one prominent player stepped down, others found it easy to follow suit. Why should the #20-ranked player care about the tournament if the #1-ranked one (Day, at the time) doesn't? U.S. star Stacey Lewis puts in At least they have something in common with baseball and hockey team owners.

    So, now Tokyo 2020...and Johnson, currently the #1-ranked man, has announced he'll again skip the Games. While no others - yet - have followed suit, using an overworked schedule or another virus risk as an excuse, the IGF should be working the phones to ensure an elite men's field's commitment. As for the women, Park remains excited. If the defending champion is in, surely the rest will follow.


    Although there is always talk about the Olympics adding pressure to a packed schedule every four years, and there is inconsistency on ranking points awarded, both the WTA and ATP tours accommodate the break. Players often see the tournament as a 'fifth Grand Slam event' and consistently are invested.

    Witness Novak Djokovic's emotions at his first round loss at Rio 2016. Lisa Raymond took the U.S. Tennis Association to arbitration to fight for a place on the Sydney 2000 team. Venus Williams is pushing her body for another Olympic run. Roger Federer was "crying and crying" as his Sydney 2000 dreams fizzled. Dominic Thiem now claims "a medal is my dream" at Tokyo 2020.   Novak Djokovic's surprising first round loss at Rio 2016 produced tears   At Beijing 2008, Rafael Nadal reveled in the impact beyond tennis. "For tennis, the slams are more important. For sportsmen, the Olympics are more important. I win here for a lot of people, not just for me."

    Nadal gets it. Why can't more top athletes and their officials?   A version of this opinion was originally published on

    The first day of the 2021 Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament saw athletes from East and South Asia book their spot to the games. The Asian qualifiers differ from other continental qualifiers as each of the five regions along with the highest ranked runner-up (in the April 2021 rankings) are given singles quotas. As a reminder, the West Asian qualifier took place last year. The Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament is currently being held in Doha. Qatar from March 18th to March 20th 2021.

    Due to being the only eligible nation from the region to compete Mongolia was ensured to win a quota in the men’s and women’s singles while India was guaranteed to win a quota in the women’s singles. The only question would be who?

    The East Asian women’s singles qualifier was won by Mongolia’s Batmonkhiin Bolor-Erdene whom defeated her compatriot Batbayaryn Doljinzuu 4-1. On the men’s side it was Mongolia’s Enkhbatyn Lkhagvasuren who won in straight sets over his compatriot Jargalsaikhan Munkhzorig.

    In the South Asian women’s singles qualifier India’s Sutirtha Mukherjee won over her compatriot Manika Batra 4-2. Batra however, will still qualify to the Olympics as she will be the highest ranked runner-up.

    The men’s South Asian qualifier saw three athletes compete in a round-robin tournament. The first match was a see-saw event where India’s Sathiyan Gnanasekaran won the first two sets against his compatriot Sharath Acanta. Acanta would win the next three to take a 3-2 lead, but Gnanasekaran was able to close out the match by winning the next two sets in a 4-3 set thriller. Both Indian players would go on to win straight sets over Pakistan’s Muhammad Rameez. This meant Gnanasekaran won the South Asian men’s quota. Acanta will also qualify due to being the highest ranked runner-up.

    The Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament continues tomorrow with more matches in the other regions along with the mixed double qualifier.

    Qualified Nations

    Men's Singles

      India   India*

    Women's Singles


    * To be confirmed upon publication of April 2021 rankings

    Four men and five women booked their spots to the 2020 Olympics after their performance at the World Singles Qualification Tournament. The event took place in Doha, Qata from March 14th to March 17th 2021.

    The women were split into four brackets where the winner of each qualified to the Olympics. The first knockout bracket was won by top seed Britt Eerland of the Netherlands who needed all seven sets to defeat Chile’s Paulina Vega and then defeated Spain’s Galia Dvorak 4-0 in the finals. The second bracket was won by Sweden’s Linda Bergstrom whom defeated top seed Margaryta Pesotska of the Ukraine 4-1. Joining her from the third bracket was second seed Polina Mikhailova of Russia as she defeated top seed Suthasini Sawettabut from Thailand 4-2. The final for the fourth bracket went to a seventh set as Monaco’s Xiaoxin Yang won as the top seed over Spain’s Maria Xiao.

    The losing finalists were then placed into a final bracket to determine the final quota. Xiao booked the first spot to the finals by defeating her compatriot, Dvorak 4-2. She was joined by Sawettabut whom defeated Pesotska 4-1. The fifth and final quota was won by Sawettabut thanks to a 4-1 victory over Xiao.

    The men were split into three brackets where the winner of each qualified to the Olympics. The winner of the first knockout bracket was won by the Czech Republic’s Lubomir Jancarik whom defeated Ukraine’s Lei Kou in straight sets. Hungary’s Bence Majoros won the second bracket by defeating Romania’s Ovidiu Ionescu 4-3 in the semifinals and Belgium’s Florent Lambiet 4-1 in the finals. The third bracket was won by second seed Yang Wang of Slovakia who won over Greece’s Panagiotis Gionis 4-2.

    The losing finalists and semi-finalists were all placed into a final bracket to determine the final quota. The final came down to Great Britain’s Liam Pitchford whom needed seven sets to defeat Gionis and Russia’s Kirill Skachkov whom won in straight sets against Lambiet. The final quota was won by Skachkov as he defeated Pitchford 4-1.

    There are still a couple more opportunities for athletes to qualify in the singles events. Four out of six continental qualifiers remain with the Asian qualifier beginning in Doha tomorrow while all remaining nations can still qualify via the World Rankings.

    Qualified Nations

    Men's Singles

      Czech Republic   Hungary

    Women's Singles

      Monaco   Netherlands

    Matt Nelsen
    World Athletics announced the launch of a 3D virtual museum of athletics today.
    Known as MOWA, the Museum of World Athletics™ is the first sports museum to be established solely in the digital world. It offers visitors an interactive journey through the history of athletics and the sport’s flagship World Athletics Championships, highlighting many of the legends of the sport.
    The museum gives visitors a unique online experience, highlighting key athletics champions from each continent, and celebrating each edition of the World Athletics Championships, through realistic interactive content, including items donated by the athletes which help to tell the story of the sport. 
    Among the exhibits are items owned by many of the greatest athletes in history, including Paavo Nurmi, Jesse Owens, Fanny Blankers-Koen, Irena Szewinska, Carl Lewis, Marie-Jose Perec, Jan Zelezny, Allyson Felix and Usain Bolt.
    World Athletes also highlighted how the museum demonstrates the universality of athletics, claiming that athletes from more than 30 countries and all six continental areas are represented. The six areas of World Athletics (Africa, Asia, Europe, North and Central America, Oceania, and South America) each have a section devoted to the history of athletics in their region as well.
    World Athletics also noted that the museum includes other carefully thought out details such as the lines of an athletics track on the virtual floor to guide visitors, and the shadows of the objects, providing a convincingly immersive experience for sports and museum fans.
    Speaking about the launch of MOWA, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said, “We are delighted to be the first international sport federation to bring a 3D virtual sports museum to a global audience. Through MOWA, sport and museums fans from around the world will, without the geographical limitations of a physical location, be able to discover the fascinating history of athletics, and the amazing achievements of our athletes. It is particularly exciting to launch this project at a time when the pandemic has limited the ability of fans to attend sporting events or visit museums in person.”
    Coe continued, “Athletics is the most accessible and diverse sport in the world and we were keen for the museum to reflect that by making the platform accessible to everyone, no matter where you are and what device you use.”
    World Athletics worked with digital sport company dcSPORT, led by Olympic gold medallist and 2004 world indoor 60m champion Jason Gardener, to create the museum. 
    Through the use of cutting-edge 3D technology, MOWA is designed to look and feel like a real building.
    A visitor’s journey begins by entering through a large reception hall, which features the six continental displays, before moving through an ‘Origins Tunnel’ which follows athletics’ 3000-year journey from antiquity to the modern day, and arriving at the ‘World Championships Room’, which features all 17 editions of World Athletics’ flagship championships.

    Visitors can roam around the museum freely and interact with more than 60 exhibits and more than 400 items of supporting content: text, photos and video.
    World Athletics claims the project took six months to bring to life, and was designed with the capacity to evolve over time. World Athletics will continue to add new features and galleries regularly, beginning with an Olympic exhibition, which will open in July, before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
    MOWA is hosted by the official World Athletics website and can be visited for free by clicking here.

    The final six men’s handball teams have booked their spot to the 2020 Olympics after their performances at the Olympic Qualification Tournaments. Three tournaments were held concurrently where four teams played a round robin. The top two teams from each tournament qualified to the games. The tournaments were held from March 12th to March 14th 2021.

    The first tournament was hosted by Podgorica, Montenegro who stepped in after Norway withdrew. The 2019 World Championship silver medalist Norway was still able to win the group as they defeated Brazil (32-20), Chile (38-23) and South Korea (44-31).

    Brazil recovered from their first day loss to post wins over South Korea (30-24) and Chile (26-24), though the team was down 17-11 against the latter after the first half. South Korea finished third as they won 36-35 over Chile on the first day thanks to building a nine-point lead and preventing a feverous comeback by the Chilean team.

    This will be Norway’s second appearance in the men’s tournament at the Olympics with the first being back in 1972 while for Brazil this will be their sixth tournament where they last competed in Rio as hosts.

    The second tournament was hosted by Montpellier, France. The first day began with Portugal securing a 34-27 victory over Tunisia while the second match between France and Croatia saw the latter build up a five-point lead early into the second half, but France persevered and came back at the halfway point only to build their own lead to win 30-26.

    Croatia had another suspenseful match on the second day where they fell behind by six goals to Portugal early in the second half. They spent the rest of the match catching up to win 25-24 thanks to a goal by Luka Cindric with 20 seconds remaining. France won their match 40-29 against Tunisia.

    The final set of matches saw another close event involving Croatia as they went even with Tunisia for most of the first half. Croatia was able to take control of the match in the second half and put some distance against Tunisia to win 30-27 and finish with two victories.

    The final match of the group between France and Portugal saw the former jump up to a six-point lead only for Portugal to close the gap down to a 1 goal French lead at the end of the half. The second half was a close affair though Portugal barely took possession of the lead. Going into the final minutes France held a three-goal lead. Portugal however would pull off a miraculous comeback including scoring the game winning goal during the final two seconds to win the match 29-28. This caused a three-way tie with Croatia, France and Portugal finishing with four points. Going by goal differential between the tied teams, France and Portugal qualified to the Olympics, leaving Croatia as the odd team out.

    This will be France’s eighth Olympics in a row. They also won three medals over the past three games (gold in 2008 and 2012 and silver in 2016). Portugal on the other hand will be making their handball Olympic debut.

    The third tournament was hosted by Berlin, Germany. The first match of the tournament between Germany and Sweden was intense. In the first half, Germany was never behind, but Sweden always kept it close with the half ending 14-13 German lead. The second half it was Sweden’s turn to never fully relinquish the lead, but never having full control of the match. A goal in the final two seconds by Germany’s Marcel Schiller allowed the match to end with a draw. In the other match Slovenia won over Algeria 36-28.

    Germany and Sweden showed they were on another level against their competitors on the second day as they defeated Slovenia (36-27) and Algeria (36-25) respectively. The pair would clinch Olympic qualification on the final day with Germany defeating Algeria 34-26 and Sweden winning over Slovenia 32-25. Sweden finished first overall thanks to a better goal differential.

    Sweden has won four silvers in its Olympic history with the most recent one being in 2012. Germany has also won four medals and is the current defending bronze medalist.

    This is the final opportunity for nations to qualify in the men’s handball tournament. The final women’s teams are set to be decided at their own Olympic Qualification Tournament to be held next weekend.

    Qualified Nations

    Men's Tournament

      Brazil   France

    Two pairs of world champions were crowned today with the conclusion of the 2021 470 World Championships. Additionally, this event doubled as the European qualifier for the 2020 Olympics. The highest ranked eligible boat in the men’s and women’s event qualified to the games. The 470 World Championships were held in Vilamoura, Portugal from March 5th to March 13th 2021.

    The men’s 470 began with 2019 world silver medalists Jordi Xammar and Nicolas Rodriguez of Spain taking an early lead. Trouble first appeared during the fifth race where the pair finished 19th, making it the dropped score.

    However, a 20th place finish on the seventh race held on the third day meant the duo had to take on the 19 points from the previous day. This forced them to drop to fourth at the time and allowed for 2019 world bronze medalists Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergstrom of Sweden and Russians Pavel Sozykin and Denis Gribanov to take a joint lead.

    Dahlberg and Bergstrom took sole possession of the lead by the end of the fourth day and was able to extend their lead to 11 points going into the medal race. The pair sailed a safe final race to win their first world title with a net score of 52 points. The silver medal was won by Portugal’s Diogo and Pedro Costa (73 points) whom also won the Olympic quota for their nation while the bronze medal was won by Xammar and Rodriguez (78 points).

    The women’s 470 similarly saw 2019 world bronze medalists Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz of France take a first day lead. A relatively poor third and fourth races allowed Spain’s Silvia Mas and Patricia Cantero, 2018 world silver medalists to take the lead by five points.

    The Spanish pair remained consistent, but were challenged by Afrodite Zegers and two-time Olympic medalist Lobke Berkhout of the Netherlands. Despite being behind by 21 points after the sixth race, the pair made a comeback over the next five races to cut the lead down to three.

    The medal race saw Mas and Cantero take the shadow strategy where they remained closely behind Zegers and Berkhout to prevent them from finishing two places ahead. This allowed Mas and Cantero to win the gold medal by a single point (75 points) ahead of Zegers and Berkhout. The bronze medal was won by Italy’s Elena Berta and Bianca Caruso (84 points). The Olympic quota was won by Turkey’s Beste Kaynacki and Okyanus Arikan.

    This completes the 470 class line-up for the Olympics. All that remains is for all nations to accept their quotas. Should a nation decline a quota, the next eligible nation at the 2019 World Championships will then be offered a spot to compete.

    Qualified Nations

    Men's 470


    Women's 470


    Games and Rings
    As the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing approach, scrutiny on China as a host is back in focus. Its on-going record of human rights abuses  - most recently, between the treatment of its Muslim minority to the subjugation of Hong Kong - is depressing. And, it's a legitimate question on whether such a regime should be showcased as host of a "sportswashing" event like the Olympics.

    That this conversation is happening shouldn't come as a surprise. It was certainly previewed in the contest to host these Games. As more palatable candidates dropped out of the bidding race, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was left with two options in 2015: Beijing and Almaty. Despite experiencing similar concerns ahead of its hosting of the 2008 Summer Games, China really was seen as the lesser of two evils...Kazakhstan was and is no humanitarian state, either.   July, 2015: Thomas Bach announces Beijing as the host of the 2022 Winter Olympics.   So, Beijing it is, unless the IOC inconceivably decides to move the event. So, the calls for an Olympic boycott have happened. Some of it is political grandstanding - in the United States, at least, an easy way to pressure the current administration while preaching righteousness. But athletes are chattering, too, while China remains defiant. For now, the U.S. Olympic Committee has reiterated its stance against a boycott.

    Which begs the Olympic boycotts even work? Let's look at history.

    1956 Melbourne

    Multiple nations stayed away from Australia's first Summer Games, for a variety of reasons. In response to the Soviet Union's invasion of Hungary just before the start of the Games, Spain, Switzerland, and the Netherlands pulled out. Egypt, Lebanon, and Iraq boycotted as a result of the Suez Crisis with Israel. And, China (the Peoples Republic) officially boycotted since China (Taiwan) was allowed entry. 

    At that time, probably only the Netherlands' absence affected general competition quality. And, decades later, it's viewed by the Dutch as "the black page in the Olympic history for the Netherlands". It's hard to argue that the boycott influenced outside events, as the trajectories of the Cold War, Middle East crisis, and Chinese territorial fights continued well past 1956.

    1964 Tokyo

    Due to political discrimination at the separate Games of New Emerging Forces (GANEFO) in 1963, those participating athletes were barred from the 1964 Games. Thus, Indonesia and North Korea pulled all their athletes from the Olympics.

    The resulting legacy of the 1964 boycott is simply a missed opportunity to see North Korean Sin Kim-Dan, then the world record-holder, compete in the women's track 800 meters. That had promised to be one of the more intriguing events on the track.

    As for GANEFO? Built as a direct competition to the Olympics by Indonesia, it was officially dead by 1970.   Cartoonist Eric Heath pondered a separatist future of the Games in 1976   1976 Montreal

    In 1976, New Zealand's rugby team toured South Africa despite an international sporting embargo on the apartheid-led nation. In response to New Zealand not being expelled from the 1976 Games later in the year - and despite rugby not being an Olympic sport - more than 20 African nations led a boycott. By far the most prolific multinational political effort at the Games, the success of the effort is nuanced.

    Some argue that the massive boycott did help repeal apartheid in the longer end, as it shined a wider light on South Africa's racist policies (and Black African unity against it), as well as spearheading immediate resistance to rugby's friendliness with South Africa within New Zealand itself.

    On the other hand, by far the lasting commentary of a Montreal 1976 retrospective is the massive debt incurred in staging the Games, not the boycott. And, track fans (again) were deprived of potentially stirring matchups, particularly from East African runners.

    Note, Taiwan also boycotted these Games, as a result of not being able to use the moniker Republic of China, in IOC deference to the People's Republic of China (who again didn't even enter).

    1980 Moscow

    In by far the biggest Olympic boycott effort, the United States led more than 60 other nations, including Canada, Japan, and West Germany, to skip the Games in order to voice opposition to the recent Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and to not use Games participation as "implicit approval" of Soviet aggression.

    With many leading nations absent, and many individual athletes from participating nations similarly staying home, competition was hit hard and the host nation was seemingly chagrined. But not chagrined enough to change its Afghanistan policy: the Soviet Union remained in the country until 1989.

    In the U.S., the boycott is very much seen as ineffectual, and devastating for the more than 400 American athletes prevented from competition. Even the U.S. Olympic Committee weighed in last year against boycotts after continued remembrance of 1980.   1984 Los Angeles

    Announcing a distrust of security for its athletes, the Soviet Union led a boycott of the Los Angeles-hosted Games in 1984. rather acknowledged as a tit-for-tat move for 1980, it is also widely seen as having failed. While 13 other Soviet-tied nations also stayed home, the Games most certainly persevered.

    Buoyed by excited media coverage, Los Angeles 1984 is as well-known for who did compete as much as who didn't. Romania and Yugoslavia bucked the Soviet block and thrived. P.R. China appeared for the first time since 1952.

    The Games were also a financial hit, providing a funding model that is today's top sports sponsorship property.

    The Soviets and friends didn't come? The hit to competition didn't seem to matter to the massive audiences in the end, as Los Angeles brought the party back to life.

    1988 Seoul

    Despite not having official diplomatic relationships with the communist bloc at the time, South Korea managed to avoid a significant boycott effort. North Korea, after being denied an unlikely request to co-host in a significant manner, stayed home, along with their ally Cuba.

    Otherwise, Seoul 1988 set a record for participating nations (159) and, with all sporting world powers (sans Cuban baseball players and boxers) present, full competitive action was restored

    One take on whether this boycott was a success is looking at when South Korea again hosted a Games with Pyeongchang 2018. Then, in order to ensure North Korean participation, a series of "unity" measures were integrated. Some might argue that a line might be drawn back to the lessons of 1988's failed negotiations, but the Olympic concessions proved only a temporary respite, as any goodwill generated in 2018 is certainly forgotten now. Plan on another round of North Korean angst if and when South Korea hosts again. Beijing is hoping it's hard to boycott mascot Bing Dwen Dwen   So, where will today's boycott talk go? There are a lot of beginning similarities to the U.S. approach with Moscow 1980. A call to move the Games, then to boycott by determined politicians. A president increasingly scrutinized for how hard-line he is with a geopolitical enemy. A legitimate humanitarian transgression by the host, deserving of significant and perhaps symbolic international reaction.

    Too often, though, those championing a boycott overlook those directly affected, the athletes. And athletes remain the heart of the Games; despite any fanfare and ceremony, it's about the ultimate camaraderie of competition. If 1980 is a guide, one should expect the significant public relations risk of a litany of athlete disappointment stories.

    And, times have changed. The Games are bigger, and athletes and sport federations have much more at stake commercially. Although there are a myriad of world championships, world cups, and grand prix events in any given sport, the Olympics remain the ultimate opportunity for an athlete to showcase their hard work and career.

    What to do? Though some individuals may be at peace with making a personal choice to not compete, it would be a tough call today to to ask an entire delegation to step down. Athletes deserve to be the priority, and not victims of political retributions.

    Perhaps the focus should be to pressure the IOC to not award the Games to questionable spots in the first place. That certainly may be one purpose behind the IOC's targeting a single "preferred" future host for the next few summer editions. While Beijing 2022 will probably proceed as planned, at least there's a blueprint to better avoid a problem in the future. A version of this opinion originally appeared on 

    Matt Nelsen
    Panam Sports and the Cali-Valle 2021 Organizing Committee have announced the final sport to be added to the official sports program for the 2021 Junior Pan American Games.
    Women’s Softball has been announced as the final addition to the sports program for the Games. The sport will feature eight teams with a maximum of 16 players each, adding 128 more athletes to the continental event.
    The participating players must be in the Under-20 age category (athletes born between 2002 - 2005) between 16 and 19 years old. Therefore, the 2019 U-17 Pan American Championship held in Barranquilla will act as the qualification tournament for the Games. The qualified countries include the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Peru, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, and the host country Colombia.

    Panam Sports reached an agreement with WBSC Americas Softball for the Qualification System and with the National Olympic Committees for the financing of the airfare. 
    Women’s Softball will be held in Barranquilla along with Men's Baseball. The city has agreed to take care of all of the accommodations and food expenses for the participating delegations of these sports.

    “This is great news. Softball, like baseball, is a sport that has achieved significant development in the region, that is why we are very happy with the agreement reached with the city of Barranquilla, with the Pan American Confederation and with the National Olympic Committees,” said Panam Sports Secretary General, Ivar Sisniega.
    “We’ll have more than 3,800 athletes for the first edition of these Games, and I’m sure that they will transform them into the most important and massive sporting event for young people in the world this year, which leaves us very proud and motivated to continue working hard from now until September to make this party an unforgettable experience for everyone,” added the former Mexican Olympic pentathlete.

    “We are very pleased to host Softball in Barranquilla, especially the women's tournament. The capital of the Atlantic has so much passion for this sport and baseball, disciplines that are in their blood. This is a magnificent opportunity for 'la arenosa' to be seen as a venue for the I Junior Pan American Games Cali-Valle 2021. This union of efforts between cities shows that Colombia is a country that works as a team, knows about camaraderie and is ready for great things,” said Cali 2021 Executive Director, Jose Luis Echeverry.

    The sports program of the First Junior Pan American Games of Cali-Valle 2021 is now composed of the following 28 sports: Aquatics (Artistic Swimming, Diving, Swimming), Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Bowling, Boxing, Canoeing, Cycling (BMX, Mountain, Road, Track) Fencing, Gymnastics (Artistic, Rhythmic, Trampoline), Handball, Judo, Karate, Modern Pentathlon, Roller Sports (Artistic, Skateboarding, Speed), Rowing, Shooting Sport (Pistol, Rifle), Squash, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Tennis, Triathlon, Sailing, Volleyball, Weightlifting, Wrestling (Freestyle, Greco-Roman) and now Baseball/Softball.

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