August 27, 2017

Stop Subsidizing Sports!

Filed under: Economics, Education, Government, Sports, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 25 Aug 2017

Let’s talk about “sports”—that thing where we gather around to watch a muscular stranger put a regulation-size ball in a specific location.

Why are taxpayers forced to pony up cash for athletic ventures that don’t benefit them? Franchise owners routinely extort massive stadium subsidies through threats of relocation and fake promises of economic revitalization. Universities jack up student rates to subsidize athletic programs that should be self-sustaining. And the Olympics is economically devastating to every municipality foolish enough to get suckered by one of the oldest scams around.

Mostly Weekly host Andrew Heaton explores the sports phenomenon and why we should quit throwing other people’s money at it.

Links, past episodes, and more at https://reason.com/reasontv/2017/08/25/stop-subsidizing-sports

Script by Sarah Siskind with writing assistant from Andrew Heaton and David Fried.
Edited by Austin Bragg and Siskind.
Produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg.
Theme Song: Frozen by Surfer Blood.

August 7, 2017

Dutee Chand and the international sporting dilemma

Filed under: India, Sports — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Dutee Chand is a woman who competes for India in track and field events. Dutee Chand has elevated levels of testosterone in her body … this creates a problem for those who determine who is allowed to compete as a woman in international sporting events:

Dutee Chand won the bronze medal in 22nd Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneswar, 8 July 2017. (via Wikimedia)

For the past two years, Dutee Chand could be herself.

She could run and train and even compete in the Rio Olympics. She didn’t have to constantly remind people that, yes, of course, she is a woman and that, yes, of course, she qualifies to compete with other women despite her naturally high level of testosterone.

She didn’t have to feel pressure to change her body so it conformed to rules or contemplate quitting her sport — pressure placed on her after doctors subjected her to gender testing in 2013, humiliating her by doing so, when she was only 17.

For two years, she could just be Dutee Chand. That’s because, two years ago last month, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is the supreme court for global sports, temporarily suspended an international track and field rule that had barred her from competing as a woman.

Chand, a sprinter from India, and women like her were excluded because their bodies produced a high amount of testosterone. It was often so high it was classified as being within the male range, a situation the authorities considered an unfair advantage. The only way these women could compete, track and field officials ruled, was if they took hormone-suppressing drugs or had surgery to limit the amount of testosterone their bodies produced.

The problem for international sporting bodies is that they’re still stuck in the binary — only two genders — model of competition, which leaves them unable to cope with situations like this. They can either prevent athletes like Dutee Chand from competing against other women or accept that the old standards no longer apply. Pushed to the limit, this means there can no longer be any kind of binary division of sporting activities into the old “male” and “female” categories … which will, in all likelihood, be devastating to women hoping to compete internationally, nationally, or even regionally. There’s no easy answer, and any Solomonic decision is going to make the situation worse, not better.

At its core, the sports world — rigidly separating men and women — will perpetually struggle to adapt to increasingly nuanced gender distinctions. In June, the District of Columbia became the first jurisdiction in the United States to offer an “X” gender, signifying a neutral gender, on its driver’s licenses. In March, a transgender New Zealand woman crushed her competition in her first international weight-lifting meet, and a transgender boy won a Texas state championship in girls’ wrestling.

Not every governing body is equipped to rule on these kind of eligibility questions. Not every athlete fits into this box, or that one.

To Chand, though, the issue of hyperandrogenism in sports is clear cut. She grew up as a girl. At 21, she is a proud young woman. She wants to race as one.

On Saturday, she did. But in the coming months, the Court of Arbitration for Sport will decide whether letting her continue to do so is fair.

What if it gets it wrong?

November 13, 2016

Olympic Games 1916 – Reaction To Tanks – Barbed Wire I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, WW1 — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 12 Nov 2016

It’s time for another exciting episode of Out Of The Trenches. This week we talk about the Olympic Games 1916, how the Germans reacted to the first tanks and about barbed wire.

August 30, 2016

QotD: The proper reaction to an Olympic bid for your city

Filed under: Humour, Quotations, Sports — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

Local boosters frequently argue that the Olympics will produce a wave — a veritable tsunami — of economic benefits. The reality, as the Economist says, is that “prudent city governments should avoid the contests at all costs.” This does not really capture it. Prudent city governments should run screaming from any proposals to host the Olympics, and napalm the spot where the proposals were found, just to be safe.

Megan McArdle, “The Olympics Don’t Have to Be a Disaster”, Bloomberg News, 2016-08-10.

August 23, 2016

Hey, EU! Two can play this silly medal total game!

Filed under: Europe, Media, Sports — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

If you’re on Twitter or Facebook, I’m sure you’ve seen at least one variant of this bit of EU self-puffery going around:

EU fake 2016 Olympic medal ranking

As Guido Fawkes points out, under those rules the British Empire completely eclipses the medal total of all the EU states:

The former countries of the British Empire won 396 medals – 138 more medals than a post-Brexit EU. While the European Parliament invents an EU state to “win” the Olympics, the medal tally of a one-time actual supra-state leaves Brussels for dust. Former member countries of the British Empire accrued 76 more medals than the rest of the world (24%). In all, the Empire’s score of 137 gold medals trounces the EU’s, which after removing Great Britain sits at just 79.

Looking at other alliances NATO countries took a stunning 443 out of the 974 medals on offer (45%), while Anglosphere countries grabbed a whopping 288 – 30% of the world total. This is compared to Francophone states’ measly 87 (9%), even with Canada’s 22 (2%) generously included. Hoisting the colours appears to have been good luck; countries with Union Jacks in their flags took a massive 115 medals, of which 40 were gold!

July 26, 2016

The “international sporting event” in “a major city in Brazil”

Filed under: Americas, Law, Media, Sports — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Every four years, the world’s media turn en masse to a new location for the summer Olympic Games. This time around the games event is in Rio de Janeiro a major city in Brazil. I’d give more details, but the IOC is determined to reserve as much of that information to themselves and their official sponsoring media partners:

As the Olympic Games approach, the tension between athletes and non-sponsors with the United States Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee has ratcheted up once again.

In recent weeks, the United States Olympic Committee sent letters to those who sponsor athletes but don’t have any sponsorship designation with the USOC or International Olympic Committee, warning them about stealing intellectual property.

“Commercial entities may not post about the Trials or Games on their corporate social media accounts,” reads the letter written by USOC chief marketing officer Lisa Baird. “This restriction includes the use of USOC’s trademarks in hashtags such as #Rio2016 or #TeamUSA.”

The USOC owns the trademarks to “Olympic,” “Olympian” and “Go For The Gold,” among many other words and phrases.

The letter further stipulates that a company whose primary mission is not media-related cannot reference any Olympic results, cannot share or repost anything from the official Olympic account and cannot use any pictures taken at the Olympics.

This isn’t really a new or surprising thing, as we had warnings about any discussion of the “‘international sporting event’ in ‘the capital of the United Kingdom'” back in 2012. More recently, Toronto’s Pan Am Games organizers did the same sort of trademarks-out-the-wazoo-and-lawyers-on-speed-dial stuff over their 2015 international sporting event in ‘a large city in Ontario’.

If nothing else, it gives me an excuse to not blog anything about those every-four-years international corruption championships…

November 19, 2014

Corruption in the sport of … Badminton?

Filed under: Asia, Sports — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

Vice‘s Brian Blickenstaff smashes Badminton as “the world’s most corrupt sport”:

Late last week, it emerged that Lee Chong Wei, the world’s top badminton player, failed a drug test. A niche sport in the United States, badminton has been part of the Olympics since 1992 and enjoys huge popularity in Asia. Lee is the sport’s Novak Djokovic, a truly dominant force over the past several years. He’s the best player Malaysia, one of the world’s most badminton-mad countries, has ever produced. A two-time Olympic silver-medal winner, Lee is, or was, a favorite for gold in Rio de Janeiro; he faces a two year ban and could miss the Olympics entirely.

But Lee’s drug test isn’t notable simply because sports fans can’t look away when a giant teeters and falls; it’s notable because the incident is one of many scandals to hit badminton over the past year. On current form, badminton might be the world’s most corrupt sport.

In June, during the Japan Open, two Danish players were approached and offered north of 2,500 Euros to fix matches. The alleged fixer was Malaysian. The two players, Kim Astrup Sorenson and Hans Kristian Vittinghus, both reported the incident to authorities. 2,500 Euros might not be a lot of money, but the implications are huge. Vittinghus is the world’s 10th ranked singles player. If people are trying to flip a top-ten athlete, what’s happening lower down the pyramid?

I can attest that I’ve never been offered a bribe to throw a badminton game. Perhaps that’s because I’m not good enough to convincingly throw a game … unlike the Chinese Olympic players in 2012. Oh, wait … they weren’t convincing either.

February 17, 2014

The dirty not-so-secret about Olympic venues

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:44

Every time somebody suggests that Toronto be seriously involved in an Olympic bid, I become a big supporter of the other competing cities. Toronto is dysfunctional enough without adding the cost, disruption, and anti-democratic central planning aspects of hosting the Olympic games. In Samizdata, Michael Jennings looks at the shenanigans going on both in Sochi with the current Winter Games and in future venues:

The 2018 Winter Olympics are in Pyeongchang county in South Korea. Assuming that North Korea does not collapse or try to start a war between now and then, this will be straightforward, as these things go. A vast amount of money has been spent building new world class ski resorts at Alpensia and Yongpyong. These have largely been built already. They were built in anticipation of Pyeongchang winning the Winter Olympics. Pyeongchang also made unsuccessful bids for the games of 2006 and 2010, and has therefore been building for some time. There are already large financial black holes from the construction of these venues, but one cost overruns will be anywhere near as bad as have come from the highly corrupt race to get things built on time that took place prior to Sochi. Plus there have been and will be time for lots of test events to get the venues right. Of course, there are still highly expensive new highways and railways to be built, and a lot of indoor venues to be built for the ice events in the coastal city of Gangneung. As national pride is at stake, South Korean taxpayers will undoubtedly suffer painfully, but South Korea is a rich industrial democracy with competent people in charge. These games will likely go smoothly, but they will cost a lot — just not as much as Sochi.

The venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics has not yet been decided, but the IOC announced last year there were six final bidders: Stockholm (Åre), Sweden; Oslo, Norway; Krakow, Poland (Zakopane, Poland and Jasná, Slovakia); Almaty, Kazakhstan; Lviv, Ukraine; and Beijing (Zhangjiakou), China. [It has always been the case that the indoor ice events would be held in a city and the outdoor snow events in a mountain resort. In recent times the need for the city to be close to the resort has been relaxed somewhat, and I have listed the mountain resort(s) in brackets if it is a long way away from the official host city].

Sweden has already withdrawn their bid, and Norway appears to be close to doing so. The reason: they are seeing the immense expense and horrible shenanigans going on in Sochi. A little secret of the Olympics is that many of the the same people run it every time — the host city largely just picks up the bill. Once the event has ridiculous expenses and large amounts of outright corruption attached to it, this all comes with it to the next venue. Receiving kickbacks on construction projects becomes what it is all about.

Relatively uncorrupt places like Norway and Sweden look at this, and find that they want nothing to do with it. As great centres of winter sport, they have many of the right facilities already, meaning less scope for construction industry kickbacks. This means that for some of the IOC the fact that a country is already prepared for the Games is actually a negative rather than a positive.

Anyway, though, the point is that the two countries best able to host the games end up not being serious candidates.

As for the others: Poland and Slovakia would run the games just fine, but a fair bit of infrastructure and facilities would need to be built. Krakow is a lovely city. Zakopane is a lovely resort, and the Tata mountains are a suitable place for the games, even if the best downhill resorts are on the Slovakian side rather than the Polish side. (Some of the infrastructure construction would not be too counterproductive: Poland built lots of new roads, railways stations and airport terminals before the Euro 2012 soccer tournament, most of which were needed anyway and were part of Poland’s long term post-communist infrastructure modernisation). The Olympic games are not what money should be spent on in the present economic circumstances, though, and one also hopes that the richer countries of the EU are past paying for the Olympics to be held in the poorer countries of the EU (see Athens 2004). But with the EU, who knows?

February 13, 2014

Time to change the name of the Winter Olympics back to the “Nordic Games” they started as

Filed under: Russia, Sports — Tags: — Nicholas @ 14:13

Mick Hume isn’t a big fan of the Winter Olympics, and suggests that they revert back to their original name:

The six nations to have won medals at every winter games are, unsurprisingly, Austria, Canada, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the US. (Of the other snowy powers, Germany might be on the list but was banned from competing immediately after the Second World War; the Soviet Union did not enter until the 1956 winter games, where it won more medals than any other state.)

This snow-job badly skews the assessment of sporting prowess. Thus Jamaica, the undisputed king of world sprinting, remains a Cool Runnings joke at Sochi. Africa, the new powerhouse of global athletics, is barely there; an American-based student has just become the first Winter Olympics entrant from Zimbabwe, where it has not snowed since before he was born.

Before the International Olympic Committee decided to claim winter sports for itself, the major festival of sporting events on snow and ice, also held every four years, was called the Nordic Games. That might still seem a more fitting name for it today.

There’s also the quite fair comment that unlike the original Olympic events, too many of the Winter events are, for lack of a better word, effete sports for rich folks:

The Winter Olympics have little such universal appeal. Most events are arcane, technical affairs of which we know little and understand less, the commentators talking a foreign language – hog line, backside rodeo, bossing that melon – even when apparently speaking English. The competitors often seem a self-defined cliquish elite not only in the best sporting sense, but also in not-so-admirable cultural terms. Whatever they might think, however, to be the quickest of a closed shop of posh blokes swanning about the slopes in garish Euro-trash garb is hardly on a par with Usain Bolt’s Olympic title of the Fastest Man on Earth.

No doubt the accusation of dull, sectional, technical cliquishness could also be levelled at a good few fringe events in the summer games, from sailing to dressage – but then they shouldn’t be Olympic sports, either.

Many of these events look more like ‘games’ in the childish sense than world-class sport. For instance, speeding down an icy slope on a tea tray, either head-first (‘skeleton’) or feet-first (‘luge’), would be many a reckless youth’s idea of fun. Several of the new events introduced at Sochi have made matters worse, giving out Olympic gold medals for messing around doing smartarse tricks in the snow. The reaction to Jenny Jones winning the UK’s first-ever medal on snow in one such event, the ‘slopestyle’, rather captured the puerile atmosphere, with all three BBC commentators squealing like Blue Peter presenters on speed (‘This feels like I’ve got slugs in my knickers!’) before all bursting into tears when Jones got bronze. As Britain’s top TV columnist Ally Ross observed in the Sun, ‘Snowboarding is, and always will be, just young people twatting about’.

However, this suggestion would eliminate one of the all-time evergreen sporting jokes “… and 4.2 from the Russian judge”:

As for the events decided by judges’ marks, there is a good case for arguing that no such subjective carry-on should ever be considered as a serious sporting contest. Even one of the greatest sports, boxing, can be demeaned by the idiosyncrasies and idiocies of judges. Sporting tragedy becomes farce when judges award Olympic medals for dancing on ice or doing tricks in the snow, almost reducing the ‘greatest show on earth’ to the level of reality TV (‘Strictly Come Sochi?’). Britain may still go on about Torvill and Dean’s gold as ‘our’ finest Winter Olympic hour, but if ice dancing is a real Olympic sport it is hard to argue with those who want the ballroom version included in the summer games.

Personally, I haven’t watched any of the Olympic coverage this time around. Elizabeth’s god-daughter played hockey for Canada in three previous Olympic games, but she retired from competition last year … so there’s not the same level of personal interest now.

April 29, 2013

QotD: The critical importance of accurate audience assessment

Filed under: Media, Quotations, Sports — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:25

My favorite example of handling the loyal audience/new audience divide badly is when NBC decided they wanted to get more women to watch the Olympics, and thus large swaths of their prime-time Olympics coverage were devoted to documentary-style features about the hardships that the athletes had overcome — a seemingly endless cavalcade of relatives with cancer, or car accidents, or brutal injuries, or their dogs getting sick, or the Starbucks barista getting their drink order wrong — suddenly, every athlete’s life was like a country-western song. And the usual audience for the Olympics asked, with greater levels of irritation, “Hey, weren’t we supposed to be watching some actual athletic competitions? Wasn’t some skier supposed to be falling down a mountain by now?”

Jim Geraghty, “Spreading Our Ideas in the Era of Drug-Dealer Journalism”, National Review, 2013-04-29

March 23, 2013

Cherie Piper hangs up the skates

Filed under: Cancon, Sports — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:56

It might seem a little odd for me to post an item about a hockey player retiring — given the overall lack of hockey coverage you might find on the blog — but we actually have a connection here: Cherie is Elizabeth’s god-daughter.

One of Scarborough’s most decorated Olympians is set to call it a career.

Cherie Piper, an Albert Campbell Collegiate grad who helped Canada win three Olympic gold medals in women’s hockey, announced her retirement from competitive hockey prior to the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) regular season finale which her longtime club team, the Brampton Thunder, won 7-0 over the Toronto Furies.

[. . .]

Her tally for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics was 10 points (five goals, five assists) in five games — fifth on the team.

At the 2006 Turin Olympics, her seven goals and eights assists was good enough for second place amongst all point-getters and tied for tops for goals.

She is in the top-10 all-time scorers for the Canadian women’s team.

Photo by Julie Jacobson

February 2, 2013

Rick Mercer discovers Olympic fencing

Filed under: Cancon, Humour, Sports — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:33

January 29, 2013

Next year’s calendars will be for the year “2013+1” to avoid paying the IOC a licensing fee

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Law, Media, Sports — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Just when you think the depths of idiocy have been fully plumbed, there’s the International Olympic Committee to prove you wrong:

Via the IPKat we learn that the IOC has already locked down next year in preparation for the Winter Olympics. No, seriously. A trademark on the number “2014,” which non-coincidentally happens to be a (lesser) Olympic year, has been granted by the UK’s Intellectual Property Office.

    The IPKat’s attention has been drawn to Community Trade Mark E3307444. The mark in question consists of the number “2014”, which no-one would ever imagine to be the appellation by which next year might just be known. Applied for in 2003 and registered in 2005, this mark is owned by none other than the Comité International Olympique of Château de Vidy, Lausanne.

So, with the kind of efficiency you only find in the most brutal of trademark bullies, the IOC has trademarked a number many people were planning to use starting next January, nine years in advance. And the IOC isn’t leaving anything to chance. It has staked a claim on all 45 of the possible registration classes, including (but good god, certainly not limited to) chemicals, pharmaceuticals, metals/alloys, machines, tools, scientific equipment, surgical instruments, lighting, heating, vehicles, firearms, musical instruments, furniture, ropes, tarps, string, textiles, toys, coffee, fresh fruits and vegetables, beer, other alcoholic beverages, tobacco, insurance, conferences and seminars, design and development of computer programs, restaurant services, asbestos and security.

Anything and everything possibly covered by a registered trademark has been nailed down by the Committee, making it very possible that anyone using the number “2014” in the year 2014 might find themselves dealing with the IOC’s trademark cops.

January 18, 2013

Obsessing over drugs will damage sports much more than Lance Armstrong could

Filed under: France, Media, Sports — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:41

At sp!ked, Tim Black reviews Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong, by David Walsh:

And so, in the aftermath of his Oprah-atic confession, bound to neither sate the critics nor elate the devout, the infernal humiliation of one-time cyclist Lance Armstrong continues.

The kicking and pelting began in earnest in August last year, when the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles following his failure to challenge their numerous doping charges. The USADA then followed that up in October with a voluminous, damning report, complete with gruesome testimonies from Armstrong’s one-time confidantes and teammates. By this point, even the International Cycling Union (UCI), which had long sided with Armstrong, had given up the defence to join in the lynching. ‘Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling’, exclaimed UCI president Pat McQuaid. ‘Lance Armstrong deserves to be forgotten in cycling.’

As sporting officialdom condemned, large swathes of the media spat. Gossipy stories of Armstrong’s bullying, his lying, his alleged sociopathology were published without nuance; op-eds assassinating Armstrong’s character, inflating his wrongs to Biblical proportions, were rushed off without perspective. On a man once lionised by millions, whose fame had for years been wrapped yellow around the wrists of those who admired him, open season had been declared. All the hunt lacked was a sighting of the quarry himself. And then this week, that finally happened — in the interview with Oprah Winfrey. Caught and unavoidably contrite, Armstrong acted out the role of the doping sportsman. Yes, he was saying, I am everything that the Dopefinder Generals say I am: I am that witch.

December 11, 2012

Deserved praise for Christine Sinclair

Filed under: Cancon, Soccer, Sports — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:57

Cam Cole explains why Christine Sinclair deserves all the accolades that are being awarded:

So what was it about Sinclair that allowed her to win the Lou Marsh on Monday, having led the Canadian women’s soccer team to a mere bronze medal?

Well, one thing the 29-year-old striker from Burnaby did — has done for years, but did most profoundly at the London Olympics — was lead a women’s sport to a place, in her country, above the men’s equivalent.

It’s no coincidence that she is the first soccer player in the 76-year history of the award to win the Lou Marsh.

[. . .]

Fortunately, in Canada, our standards are not so narrow. We don’t consider it much of a negative for a captain of our national squad — who is superior in every other way, who is unselfish and rises to the occasion and doesn’t roll around on the turf as if felled by sniper fire every time she is touched by an opponent — to express our national rage when her team, our team, has just been jobbed.

Overwhelmingly, Canadians were glad Sinclair went off on the referee, with the able assistance of her even more combustible teammate, Melissa Tancredi.

Overwhelmingly, after an incident that in normal circumstances might have been a national embarrassment, the country rallied around Sinclair, and her fellow Olympians chose her to carry Canada’s flag in the closing ceremony.

After a bronze medal? Yup.

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