Any chance that baseball had to get back in the Olympics for 2020 likely was scuttled when commissioner Bud Selig said Major League Baseball wouldn’t put its season on pause to enable the best players to compete.
“Look, we can’t stop our season in August,” Selig said last month. “We just can’t.”
That won’t fly with the International Olympic Committee, which isn’t going to hold a tournament for horsehide retirees and minor leaguers when the NBA and NHL send their best to Olympus.
That’s also bad news for the softball folks, who merged their federation with baseball’s last month in a bid to give both dropped sports a better route back in.
But it should help the wrestlers, who have linked arms around the planet to stay on the program after the IOC’s executive board recommended in February that one of the ancient Games’s original sports be dumped after 2016.
FILA, the international federation for wrestling, is convening an extraordinary congress of its 177 nations in Moscow next week to consider new competition rules and adding more women to leadership positions. The grapplers, who were blindsided by the board’s decision, are welcoming any and all allies to join them on the big mat, including UFC.
The IOC board will meet again in St. Petersburg (the Russian version) at month’s end to pick three sports for consideration at the IOC’s annual session in September in Buenos Aires. If wrestling is dropped, any of a half-dozen sports — karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding, and the Chinese martial art of wushu — could be added.
Nary a bad word
After violating a cardinal rule for would-be Olympic host cities — “thou shalt not criticize another bidder” — Tokyo’s governor, Naoki Inose, had to make a shamefaced apology for dissing 2020 rival Istanbul. “Islamic countries, the only thing they share in common is Allah and they are fighting with each other and they have classes,” Inose, who also chairs the bid committee, told The New York Times. Those comments, which Inose later admitted were “inappropriate,” irked the Turkish sports minister, who called them “unfair and disheartening,” and also annoyed the IOC, which reminded Tokyo of the rules of conduct that forbid bidders to make comparisons with others. “If Istanbul wins the right to host the Olympic Games, I will be the first to applaud it,” Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said. “I have no doubt that Turkey would be the first to approve if Tokyo wins.” A nicer gesture, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan kiddingly told Abe, would be for Tokyo, which hosted in 1964, to step aside for first-timer Istanbul. The Lords of the Rings will choose among those two cities and Madrid in September . . . Individual event tickets for next winter’s Sochi Games as well as hotel and hospitality packages are now available through CoSport, the USOC’s official agency. Check www.cosport.com for details.
Smooth so far
The United States men’s ice hockey team, which has skated past Austria and Latvia at the World Championships cohosted by Sweden and Finland, gets its first test Tuesday against defending champion Russia, which is chasing its fourth title in six years. The Americans, who finished seventh last year, haven’t medaled since their 2004 bronze. Their roster consists mostly of NHLers whose teams didn’t make the playoffs, including four players from Colorado and three from Tampa Bay. They’re coached by Joe Sacco, who recently was fired by the Avalanche. The surprise team so far has been Switzerland, which finished 11th last year but is unbeaten after upsetting Sweden in Stockholm and Canada in a shootout, and belting the Czech Republic, the reigning bronze medalists, 5-2, on Monday . . . The US women’s hockey team, which last month reclaimed its world title from the Canadians in Ottawa, won’t have much downtime. They’re due back in mid-June for the Lake Placid camp that will determine the Olympic team. The 41-member tryout roster, which numbers a dozen Olympians, includes eight Massachusetts natives: goalie Molly Schaus (Natick), defensemen Kacey Bellamy (Westfield) and Michelle Picard (Taunton), and forwards Alex Carpenter (North Reading), Jillian Dempsey (Winthrop), Meghan Duggan (Danvers), Emily Field (Littleton), and Erika Lawler (Fitchburg). The 21-woman team, which will be coached by Harvard’s Katey Stone, will be finalized in late December and will split its training among Lake Placid, Blaine, Minn., and the Edge Sports Center in Bedford . . . Tim Taylor, the former Harvard captain and longtime Yale coach who died of cancer last month, will be remembered in hockey circles as a true gentleman who was handed a thankless task as head coach of the 1994 Olympic team, which finished eighth in Lillehammer. All but a half-dozen of his players were minor leaguers up against more experienced rivals, and several of them were collegians. Taylor, who passed up the chance to be Herb Brooks’s assistant on the 1980 gold medal team because he’d only arrived at Yale in 1976, took the Lillehammer experience hard but with his customary grace. As his assistant John Cunniff said then, Taylor was “Confucius’s description of the superior man.” . . . US figure skating champion Ashley Wagner will have two coaches next season — one for home and one for the road. With John A.W. Nicks finding it difficult to travel at 84, he’ll direct Wagner on a day-to-day basis while she travels to competitions with someone else to be determined.
It doesn’t pay this way
If scullers Elle Logan and John Graves qualify for this summer’s World Rowing Championships in South Korea, they may have to get there on their own dime. Under US Rowing’s new priorities, designed to maximize the medal count in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, only eight of the 14 Olympic classes will be guaranteed funding support for the global regatta. Five of them are women’s events: the double, lightweight double, quad, pair, and eight. Only three of the eight men’s events (the four, lightweight four, and eight) are included, which is a massive blow to the sculling program. While the two-oar menfolk haven’t done much at the Games — no medal in the single since 1956, in the double since 1984, or the quad since 1996 — cutting off their cash won’t help. If they do well enough at the Worlds, the unfunded boats will get reimbursed, but it’s an expensive proposition. While the male scullers haven’t been competitive at recent Games, the women have done well. Michelle Guerette won the silver in 2008 and Newton native Gevvie Stone just missed the final in London last year. Logan, the Boothbay Harbor, Maine, product who twice has won gold in the eight, already has become competitive, winning the bronze at the first World Cup stop in Australia. If she and Graves finish in the top four at either of the upcoming Cup events in England and Switzerland, they’ll earn a trip to South Korea, providing they’re willing to ante up.
Omaha will host the US Olympic swimming trials for the third straight time in 2016, having been chosen ahead of St. Louis and San Antonio. Once again the venue will be the 17,000-seat CenturyLink Center, which will have two temporary 50-meter pools. It’s the first time that a city has hosted three consecutive trials since Indianapolis from 1992-2000 . . . “First,” the IOC-authorized documentary about a dozen Olympic rookies who competed in London, features three Americans — swimmer Missy Franklin, boxer Queen Underwood, and gymnast John Orozco — as well as Irish boxer Katie Taylor. It will be shown in more than 550 select theaters across the country on May 30. Check www.fathomevents.com for details . . . What Would Brian Boitano Do? That was the song query from a “South Park” animated short in the ’90s. Now the question is: What Would Brian Boitano Make? That’s the title of the former Olympic figure skating champion’s new cookbook, just published by Lyons Press, a Globe Pequot imprint. The answer: blood orange mojitos, crab-and-avocado crostini, linguini with shrimp, scallops and chorizo, and bourbon bacon apple tarts.
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com. Material from Olympic committees, sports federations, and wire services was used.