It isn’t quite the Salt Lake bidding scandal and none of its members is involved, but the Olympic ticket-scalping scandal worried the IOC’s executive board enough to call an emergency meeting last weekend and consider suspending the ticketing process for the 2014 Winter Games until it gets to the bottom of what happened to thousands of hard-to-get London tickets that the IOC sent to its national Olympic committees.
The exposé in London’s Sunday Times charged that more than two dozen officials and agents who controlled tickets for 54 countries were offering to sell them for up to 10 times their face value.
The biggest name was Greek committee chief Spyros Capralos, a top organizer of the Athens Games. The IOC, which distributes a million tickets to its 200-plus NOCs around the planet, forbids them to be sold outside the country, hawked for inflated prices, or put on the black market.
With disappointed applicants already suspecting that the system is rigged for those with five-ringed connections, Olympic officials clearly need to keep much closer watch on how tickets are distributed.
“These people should no longer belong to the Olympic movement,’’ declared Swiss member Denis Oswald, who heads the IOC coordination commission for the London Games.
While the USOC, which uses CoSport as its exclusive agent, wasn’t involved in the scandal former official Greg Harney, now an executive for Cartan Tours (which handles tickets for 40 countries), was quoted as having advised Times undercover reporters posing as client go-betweens about setting up a sham address. Harney, who denied any wrongdoing, said he would cooperate with the IOC ethics commission, which will handle the investigation and make recommendations.
US on spin cycle
While USA Cycling won’t speculate about why four Beijing veterans - including bronze medalist Levi Leipheimer - withdrew from consideration from the Olympic road team, the federation has to be relieved, even if means sending a “B’’ team to London. Leipheimer, George Hincapie, Christian Vande Velde, and David Zabriskie all are former teammates of Lance Armstrong, who last week was targeted by the US Anti-Doping Agency and could be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. If they’re called to testify against him or, worse, are implicated in what USADA contends was a massive doping conspiracy, it would make for a nightmarish scenario at the Games. Of the five-man squad (Taylor Phinney, Tyler Farrar, Timmy Duggan, Chris Horner, Tejay van Garderen) only Phinney, a former world titlist on the track, has competed in the Games . . . If the 27-year-and-counting medal drought for the American women at Boston doesn’t end next April with the Olympic trio of Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, and Desiree Davila in the fold, it never will. What they want, though, is a bunch of top foreigners in the field. “We want to be the one that ends the drought but we want to do it against the best people in the world and that includes the three of us,’’ said Goucher, who was third in 2009 and fifth last year, when Davila placed second to Kenyan world medalist Sharon Cherop. While their overseas rivals won’t be announced until the fall, sponsor John Hancock says they’ll be of the customary quality. “Boston historically holds one of the most competitive races in the world and next year should prove no different,’’ said Ron Friedman, the company’s head of sponsorship and event marketing. It’s the first time that Boston ever has signed on all three Olympians for the following year’s race. Goucher tuned up for London by setting a course record (1 hour, 9 minutes, 46 seconds) at last weekend’s US half marathon championships in Duluth while Flanagan, who will be making her Boston debut, will ready herself by running the 10,000 meters at the upcoming Olympic track trials in Oregon.
Alicia Sacramone had an impressive competitive re-entry at the recent US gymnastics championships, winning her sixth vault crown and finishing third on balance beam just eight months after tearing an Achilles’ tendon at the world championships in Tokyo. “I think I proved a lot of people wrong this week,’’ concluded the Winchester native, “and I’m glad I finished healthy and in one piece.’’ Along with Beijing teammates Nastia Liukin and Bridget Sloan, Sacramone earned a bid to next week’s Olympic trials in San Jose, where five will make the London squad. Liukin, the 2008 all-around gold medalist, has been struggling with a damaged shoulder and appears to be a long shot. Looking solid are world champ Jordyn Wieber, who retained her national crown, the electric Gabrielle Douglas, and Needham native Aly Raisman, who made the podium for the third straight time and won both the beam and floor exercise. The men’s group includes John Orozco, the new national champ from the Bronx, Beijing medalist Jonathan Horton, global parallel bars king Danell Leyva, and fellow members Jake Dalton, Steven Legendre, and Alex Naddour from last year’s bronze-medal squad.
Matchup no dream
The Heat-Thunder matchup was the worst outcome for the Olympic men’s basketball team, which could have a third of its player pool - LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden - tied up until June 26, 10 days before the team begins camp. Had it been the Celtics and Spurs, who have nobody on the list, coach Mike Krzyzewski could have convened everyone by now . . . No surprise that Harvard’s Katey Stone was tapped to direct the Olympic women’s ice hockey team for the 2014 Games in Sochi. Stone, the nation’s winningest Division 1 women’s coach, led the last two world squads to gold and silver medals and has had nine of her players make the podium at Olympus. “This is the pinnacle,’’ said Stone, who’ll be the team’s first female coach following Ben Smith and Mark Johnson . . . The US women’s soccer team sent a five-ringed calling card to its Olympic rivals Monday, hammering Japan, 4-1, at the Volvo Winners Cup in Sweden. It was the first victory in their last four meetings with the World Cup champs, who beat the Americans in last year’s final. The US, which has won the gold medal at the last two Games, will host Canada in its final tuneup June 30 in Utah.
Queen of the day
US lightweight boxer Queen Underwood had to wait three weeks for the decision but she finally collected her London ticket Monday when she was granted a spot in the inaugural Olympic women’s tournament after losing in the prelims at the world championships in China. “I now have the chance to write my own story and my winning the gold medal is now going to be the headline,’’ proclaimed the former world medalist, who’ll join teammates Marlen Esparza and Claressa Shields . . . Silas Stafford and Tom Peszek, the last two men cut from the US Olympic men’s eight, collected a satisfying consolation prize last week, winning the pairs trial in New Jersey. “When we crossed the line I kind of let out a barbaric yawp,’’ confessed Stafford, who tossed Peszek into the water, then jumped in himself. Also earning London rowing tickets were Beijing veteran Ken Jurkowski of New Fairfield, Conn., and the women’s pair of Sara Hendershot of West Simsbury, Conn., and Sarah Zelenka, who are reigning world champions in the four, a non-Olympic event. The final three boats - the women’s eight and both quads - will be named Friday . . . Mahe Drysdale’s Olympic-year bad luck continues. Four years ago the five-time world sculling titlist from New Zealand had a severe gastrointestinal infection at the Games and did all he could to salvage the bronze medal in Beijing. Last week he was struck by a car while cycling in Germany and sustained shoulder and hip injuries that kept him out of the World Cup in Munich, the final Games tuneup. Drysdale, a former Head of the Charles champ, was back paddling two days later and reckoned that the accident won’t derail his preparation.
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com. Material from Olympic committees, sports federations, personal interviews, and wire services was used in this report.