Gareth Bale

Great Britain’s Olympic soccer manager criticizes Gareth Bale for skipping London 2012

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Stuart Pearce, who managed the Great Britain soccer team to a quarterfinal exit at the London Olympics, recently singled out Welsh star Gareth Bale for pulling out Olympic consideration the night before the team was named last year.

Bale, a 24-year-old attacking midfielder, transferred from England’s Tottenham Hotspur to Spain’s Real Madrid for a fee reported to be upwards of $100 million two weeks ago.

Pearce’s comments to Sky Sports were published in several British outlets, including the Guardian:

“I don’t want to speak out of school and speak out of confidences, but we had a situation with Gareth Bale. We were going into the Olympic Games, I’ve spoken to him seven months prior about going to the Games, I’m going to put the squad out on the Friday morning – on Thursday he rings me and says his back’s not so good, he’s going to have to pull out of the squad.

“He plays his first game for Tottenham pre-season the same day as we play our first Olympic game. We’ve got the brightest talent in Britain at the time didn’t want to go to the Olympic Games. And he wasn’t alone, by the way. There [were] a couple of others as well, because of the media hype that football shouldn’t be in the Olympics.

“Now you ask the 23 players who went to the Olympics – you ask [Craig] Bellamy [Ryan] Giggs, ask players of that ilk what they felt about the Olympic experience and they’ll say arguably it could have been the best experience of their life on a football pitch.”

Britain was bounced from the quarterfinals by South Korea in its first appearance in the Olympic soccer tournament since 1960.

Perhaps Bale could have helped Team GB. He scored 21 Premier League goals for Spurs last season and won the Professional Footballers’ Association Players’ Player of the Year award.

Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas said last year that Bale merely made a faster-than-expected recovery to be able to play for Tottenham while the Olympics were going on.

2012 Olympic champion’s bow-and-arrow first pitch

What to watch at Drake Relays, Penn Relays

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Olympic gold medalists ramp up their track and field seasons at the Penn Relays and Drake Relays, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold this weekend.

Athletes are working toward the U.S. Championships in June and the world championships in August.

First, the historic Penn Relays will air on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold on Friday (5:30-6:30 p.m. ET) and Saturday (12:30-3 p.m. ET).

USA vs. The World in men’s and women’s 4x100m, 4x400m and sprint medley relays will air live on Saturday from Franklin Field in Philadelphia. A full schedule is here.

The U.S. teams are led by Olympic relay champions English Gardner and Natasha Hastings. The full roster is here.

Rio Olympic rematches highlight the individual-event fields at the Drake Relays in Des Moines on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold from 3-5 p.m ET on Saturday. A full schedule is here.

Perhaps no field is deeper than the 100m hurdles. World-record holder Keni Harrison takes on Rio silver and bronze medalists Kristi Castlin and Nia Ali, plus 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson.

The 110m hurdles contingent is strong as well. It features the last two Olympic champions, Jamaican Omar McLeod and American Aries Merritt, plus 2013 World champion David Oliver.

Grenada’s Kirani James and American LaShawn Merritt, who earned silver and bronze in Rio, go head-to-head again in the 400m at Drake.

The men’s 1500m is headlined by Rio Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy and London Olympic 1500m silver medalist Leo Manzano.

Rio bronze medalist Jenny Simpson races individually for the first time this year in the women’s 1500m.

That field also includes New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin, who gained fame of her own in Rio. Hamblin and American Abbey D’Agostino fell in an Olympic 5000m heat and helped each other make it to the finish line. Both were praised for their sportsmanship.

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IOC president unsure whether esports should be considered sport

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Esports are gaining momentum in the international sports movement, but they are not close to becoming an Olympic sport.

“We are not yet 100 percent clear whether esports is really sport, with regard to physical activity and what it needs to be considered sport,” IOC president Thomas Bach said Tuesday, according to insidethegames. “We do not see an organization or a structure that will give us confidence, or guarantee, that in this area the Olympic rules and values of sport are respected and in place, and that the implementation of these rules are monitored and secured.”

The first clear step (of many) to become an Olympic sport is for the IOC to recognize the sport’s international governing body.

Esports will be added as a medal sport to the Asian Games in 2022, and has been praised by LA 2024 Olympic bid chairman Casey Wasserman, but it is not yet IOC recognized.

“We are watching it, we see the differences, we see the lack of organisation,” Bach said, according to the report. “But we also see the high engagement of youth in esports. Therefore, we have to carefully consider how this could be consolidated.”

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