The 2022 Winter Olympics have now drawn to a close. Sunday night’s closing ceremony dazzled the small crowds of in-person attendees. It was a fitting close to a memorable event, with music, theater, fireworks, and more. The games saw over 300 medals awarded across 109 events in the 15 sports of the Winter Olympics. The International Olympic Committee is already moving forward with plans for future Olympics, but now is a good time to reflect on what just happened.
Norway Makes Winter Olympics History
One of the biggest stories of the Olympics this year was the record-breaking performance of Team Norway. The Norway Team beat the record for most gold medals won at a single Winter Olympics with 16. This marks the second time in a row that Norway took the top spot in the medal table. Their staggering 39 medals won at Pyeongchang’s 2018 Winter Olympics was equally impressive as this year’s haul of 37 medals in total.
Russian Controversy Continues
Norway beat out the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), which took second place in the medal count with 32. Russian athletes have been required to compete under the name ROC since a 2019 state-sponsored doping scandal banned the nation from formally competing under their flag. The ban is expected to expire in time for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
However, certain events of the 2022 Olympics are renewing accusations regarding Russia’s doping practices. The most recent scandal centers on Kamila Valieva, a Russian figure skater who placed fourth in women’s singles. She also took first place in the short program and fifth place in free skating. Her performances helped lead the ROC team to a gold medal.
These achievements have been marred by scandal after the 15-year old skater tested positive for banned medication. A test revealed that she had taken Trimetazidine, a banned heart medication. Additionally, her tests were positive for hypoxen and L-carnitine, two other heart medications that are not banned. The United States Anti-Doping Agency commented that this combination would be intended to increase endurance and oxygen efficiency, providing a competitive edge.
The response from Valieva herself was that she had accidentally taken some of her grandfather’s heart medication, an excuse that many of her competitors aren’t buying. The US team, in particular, is upset that medals haven’t been awarded for the women’s team, even where they placed second. The International Olympic Committee has decided to postpone awarding medals in any event where Valieva was in the top 3 to await the results of an ongoing investigation.
More Major Upsets of the 2022 Olympic Games
Kamila Valieva falling to fourth place in the women’s singles was likely the most significant upset of the games. She had been considered, by most, to have been the frontrunner going in. There were plenty of other unexpected outcomes in other events as well..
The USA’s Mikaela Shiffrin skied out of three races despite her reputation as one of the best skiers of all time. This comes after having skied out just two races in the last four years of international competition. Shiffrin also competed in the mixed team parallel event where the US took fourth place.
The men’s hockey quarter-finals saw the US take on Slovakia, where the US carried a 2-1 lead into the final minute of play. Slovakia then tied the game with a last-minute goal and went on to win the tie-breaking shootout, advancing to the semi-finals. There, they lost to Finland, who then beat out the ROC to take the gold. Finland’s first Olympic Hockey gold in history.
China was heavily favored to take the skiing mixed aerials event, performing admirably, but ultimately star skier Jia Zongyang fumbled a landing. This allowed for Chris Lillis to lead Team USA to the gold in the event’s debut Olympic Games.
The US men’s speed skating team went into the event a strong favorite, having recently set a world record in December. However, the team only took bronze following an unexpected defeat in the semi-finals by the ROC, who was then beaten by Norway in the finals.
Samuel Ikpefan Bears Nigerian Flag at Closing Ceremony
The sole competitor representing Nigeria at the 2022 Olympic Games, Samuel Ikpefan, has been the focus of much Nigerian state news. He carried the Nigerian flag during the closing ceremonies, with 2018 bobsleigh competitor Seun Adigun carrying the flag during the opening ceremonies.
Ikpefan is the first Nigerian skier to compete at the Winter Olympics, finishing 73rd out of 88 in the qualifiers and not advancing to the next round. Nigeria news has been celebrating the fact that the nation has been represented in two winter Olympics in a row.
Testing! Testing!: The PGA Tour Has A Dead Parrot Problem
Jupiter, Fla.: In case you haven’t noticed, the PGA Tour is doing its rendition of the Dead Parrot sketch from Monty Python.
C: “Look, my lad, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I’m looking at one right now.”
O: No no he’s not dead, he’s, he’s restin’!”
A visit to the Cognizant Tournament of the Palm Beaches (Honda ended its 40-year sponsorship this year) showed a business struggling to respond to its fan base and its competitor— the LIV Tour, three years after the Great Golf Schism. Around us, those fans who could be bothered watching the golf, not each other, were asking, “Who’s that guy?” as unknown player after player teed up his ball.
Make no mistake, a long shot is a popular story. But the Tour this year has been like golf’s witness protection plan. Canadians loved Nick Taylor’s win in extra holes at Phoenix, but he’s hardly a household name in the U.S.. A steady diet of first-time winners— Matthew Pavon, Nick Dunlap—veterans left for dead— Grayson Murray— and guys sharpening their games for the majors— Hideki Matsuyama, Chris Kirk— is not making LIV shake in its Skechers.
Whatever star power NBC had for their coverage went into the water on the 16th Hole Saturday with McIlroy’s errant tee shot on the par four. That left it to 2019 Open Championship winner Shane Lowry to carry the recognition segment of the field. That was before a torrential tropical storm delayed play for four hours on Sunday, pushing the finish to Monday morning.
What made the tepid field so disappointing for fans is that so many of the top pros live in the same area code as the PGA National layout— and many of the non-attendees will play a private Member/ Guest event Monday at the nearby prestigious Seminole Golf Club. (If you want to know what McIlroy was sprinting to finish in the dark Sunday, it’d because he plays Wirth his Dad at that event.)
Whispers suggest that the absence of top names at their event contributed to Honda pulling the plug. If you talk to those close to the Tour, there remains a bitterness among players who stayed loyal to the Tour when LIV threw around crazy money. Assured that they stood for integrity, unlike the Saudi-backed LIV upstart, they’d be rewarded. Only to have the Tour stab them in the back by secretly negotiating a peace pact with the hated Greg Norman/ Phil Mickelson operation.
As well, having long been told by the Tour management there was no money for changes, the LIV challenge “suddenly” freed up more money. The structure of who plays and for how much was given a radical shift. Just don’t ask fans to explain the Player Impact Program, the new Earnings Assurance Program or the designated play-in tournaments. There’s a lot of Trust Us in the new reality.
One has to only watch a deflated McIroy, the Tour’s staunch defender, to see the embarrassment he feels (he’s now pulled back from the Tour’s governing structure). LIV member Taylor Gooch wondered aloud if a first Masters win for McIlroy would come with an asterisk with so many LIV stars not competing.
McIlroy needs no cap days, but it’s now clear that others who stuck around missed the money dangled by the Saudis, and no one is telling them how they’ll make it up. This disparity was reportedly one issue behind the meldtdown of Team U.S. at last September’s Ryder Cup.
For Cognizant, an IT company that has reportedly signed a multi-year commitment to sponsor the event in place of Honda, it must be a little humbling to see the Tour unable to produce a field worthy of their investment. And players sprinting in darkness to finish rounds so they can make other obligations.
This attrition of the Tour’s hold on the sport might be understandable were LIV grabbing the spotlight of golf fans. But LIV has only a minor TV network in the U.S., a jarring presentation format and very little word of mouth. Joaquin Niemann has won the past two events in the middle of the night North American time. Who knew? But he won’t be at the Masters.
Not that it’s all beer and skittles for the LIV defectors. As the Official World Golf Rankings do not recognize LIV events, players like Sergio Garcia and the South African players on LIV are rapidly losing their world ranking points to get into the major tournaments. A host of players are now scrambling to find a “side door” into the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA. Those tournaments are all over the world, going from this week in Jeddah, SAU, to next week in Hong Kong. (Seems like melatonin is in everyone’s bag.)
It’s a sad state for golf fans being denied the best players on a weekly basis or— even more disappointing— at the majors. There is little indication what format the so-called settlement will entail when it’s finally hammered out between the Tour and LIV. But one thing they can agree on is that none of this is doing anything to please fans or sponsors of the sport.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via brucedowbigginbooks.ca.
Taxpayers Federation calls for transparency on World Cup costs
From the Canadian Taxpayers Federation
Author: Carson Binda
“Toronto taxpayers can’t afford to pay for soccer games that are almost a hundred million dollars over budget already”
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is calling on Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim to release updated cost estimates for the FIFA World Cup games scheduled for 2026. The CTF is also warning Toronto taxpayers that FIFA bills are spiralling in that city.
“Vancouver taxpayers deserve accountability when hundreds of millions are on the line,” said Carson Binda, British Columbia Director for the CTF. “Costs have ballooned in Toronto and Vancouver needs to be honest with its taxpayers about how much the soccer games are going to cost.”
Recent financial estimates have blown past the initial budget in Toronto. In 2022, Toronto expected the total cost of hosting world cup games would be $290 million. That number has now ballooned by 31 per cent to $380 million.
“Toronto taxpayers can’t afford to pay for soccer games that are almost a hundred million dollars over budget already,” Binda said. “That’s unacceptable when taxpayers are getting clobbered with higher taxes.”
Currently, the cost to host seven games in Vancouver is up to $260 million, however the provincial and municipal governments have consistently failed to produce updated cost estimates.
“What are Premier David Eby and Mayor Ken Sim hiding?” Binda said. “They need to stop hiding the numbers and tell taxpayers how much these soccer games are going to cost us.”
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