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Volume 10 No. 25


British Basketball has "received a funding reprieve in the wake of a high-profile campaign against UK Sport's decision to axe its Olympic programme," according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. In January, the funding agency said that the sport "had not done enough to prove it could win a medal at the 2016 or 2020 Olympics" and would lose its £8.5M ($13.4M) backing. Six governing bodies "made informal presentations to the UK Sport board on Wednesday in an effort to overturn funding decisions announced in December." Only basketball and wheelchair fencing have proved successful after presenting "new and compelling performance information" that impressed the board members. Basketball and wheelchair fencing "will receive one year's funding," with the rest conditional on the fulfilment of "strict performance criteria." British Basketball Chair Roger Moreland said that the Int'l Basketball Federation (FIBA) "had played a key role in demonstrating to the UK Sport board how much progress had been made over the past seven years" (GUARDIAN, 2/1).

MAKING A RUN: In London, Ashling O'Connor reported during funding reviews in the fall, British Basketball "had yet to learn the draw for EuroBasket," which takes place in Slovenia in September. Britain has since earned its highest seeding and has a realistic chance of making next year’s World Cup in Spain. UK Sport CEO Liz Nicholl said this was "significant." She said: "It increased our confidence that they had an excellent opportunity to qualify for Rio and, once there, the trajectory makes it possible for them to medal in 2020" (LONDON TIMES, 2/2).

DENG'S VOICE HEARD: Also in London, Ben Rumsby reported UK Sport "has denied bowing to pressure" from NBA player Luol Deng's letter to Prime Minister David Cameron after confirming British Basketball "would be awarded an initial one year of funding." Nicholl said of Deng's attempt to secure government intervention: "It doesn’t affect us. It’s a bit of noise. All our decisions are based on performance potential." Deng hailed the news Thursday as "incredible." He said, "The last few weeks have been a great example of teamwork and what can be achieved when everyone works together. The hard work, however, starts now" (TELEGRAPH, 2/1). FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann said: "I am thrilled for British basketball and UK Sport's recognition and appreciation of the very strong case we presented. The new funding will allow the sport to build on the progress and growth it has already made in a very short time and aim for a podium place in 2020" (PA, 2/1).

Japan women's judo coach Ryuji Sonoda has resigned "amid accusations that he physically abused athletes" in the buildup to the London Olympics, according to Justin McCurry of the London GUARDIAN. Sonoda is accused of "harassing and assaulting female judoka" while they were preparing for the London Games. The revelations have "rocked the Japanese martial art," coming the same week as former Olympic two-time Gold Medalist Masato Uchishiba was sentenced to five years in prison for raping a female member of a university judo club in '11. Uchishiba, 34, won Gold Medals in the 66kg in Athens and Beijing. Japan's judo federation confirmed that Sonoda, a former world champion in the 60kg category, had "used violence against the women." Sonoda admitted the allegations were "more or less true." He said: "I deeply regret that I have caused trouble with my behaviour, words and actions. It will be difficult for me to continue coaching the team" (GUARDIAN, 2/1).

DAMAGE CONTROL: The Japanese Olympic Committee said that it found the behavior by Sonoda "most regrettable." A JOC statement read, "Violence has no place in sport and directly contradicts the values of the Olympic Movement." The JOC also announced following an emergency board meeting Thursday that it will launch an investigation by board members and a third-party lawyer to review all facts in the case. The JOC will also conduct separate investigations for each national sport federation to confirm that similar misconduct has not occurred (JOC). The AFP reported JOC President Tsunekazu Takeda had "ordered swift action to avoid any contamination" of Tokyo's bid for the 2020 Olympics. Takeda said, "We will be trying to restore public trust in sport and work to prevent the (Olympic) bid from being affected" (AFP, 2/2).

Documents prepared for a first meeting of the state commission responsible for preparing for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games revealed that Russia spent 1.1T rubles ($36.7B) "on preparatory events" for the Sochi Games by the start of '13, according to the IANS. Investors spent 737B rubles ($24.6B) of that sum "on preparations for the Games, due to be held in the southern Russian resort of Sochi on the Black Sea next February." A total of 1.5T rubles ($50.1B) "is to be spent on preparatory events." More than 70% of the facilities required for the Olympics "are now ready" with just more than a year to go until competition starts (IANS, 2/2).

TURN THE TV ON: R-SPORT reported Organizing Committee Chair Dmitry Chernyshenko said that "around 3.5 billion viewers will watch the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics" on TV. Chernyshenko predicted that "Russia's first Winter Olympics will see a 17 percent rise on the last Winter Olympics" (R-SPORT, 2/3).

A FLOOD OF VOLUNTEERS: IANS reported authorities said that the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic volunteering program "has so far received 160,000 applications, with one month left before the deadline." The program was expected to recruit 28,000 Russian and foreign volunteers, 3,000 of whom would be local residents to guide visitors around the city" (IANS, 2/2).

For athletes who competed in the London Games, the only real legacy is "a daily visit to the job centre." Some 150 Olympians and Paralympians went to Reading, England's Madejski Stadium last month, "trying to find out if there is a working life after sport" at an inaugural Athlete Career Fair, held for those who wish to keep competing and those who have retired. The fair, a joint initiative by the British Olympic Association, the British Paralympic Association, UK Sport, the English Institute of Sport and the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust, is "a continuation of the EIS Performance Lifestyle programme," which has been running since '04 to help athletes find work after retiring from sport (London INDEPENDENT, 2/3). ... Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov promised that his city "won’t experience the snow shortages during the 2014 Winter Olympics," which "caused a major headache for the organizers" of the previous Games in Vancouver. Pakhomov: "As for the snow, there won't be any risks -- we're not even worried about it. Of course, we all saw the problems in Vancouver, but we have more natural snow here in February, and every track has its own snow machine (RUSSIA TODAY, 2/1).

The Int'l Cycling Union (UCI) has "agreed to make the proposal for the additional disciplines in Brazil." The UCI will "bid for points races to return, plus an extension to the BMX and mountain-bike programmes," which featured one discipline at the London Games (BBC, 2/3). ... IOC President Jacques Rogge said that the Olympic body "will consider whether to help fund a truth-and-reconciliation process in cycling." Rogge said that he has not received a request from the Int'l Cycling Union (UCI) to help fund the process, "but the IOC would consider the possibility" (AP, 2/1).