Commonwealth Games
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Commonwealth Games open to athletes taking a knee

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The Commonwealth Games, the biggest summer multi-sport competition outside of the Olympics (that doesn’t include the United States), could allow athlete activism, such as taking a knee, at its next edition in 2022 in Birmingham, Great Britain.

Commonwealth Games CEO David Grevemberg was asked Thursday if an athlete who kneels two years from now would be punished.

He did not directly answer yes or no, but he cited “the profound impact” of sprinter Cathy Freeman, who carried the Australian and Aboriginal flags when she won gold at the Commonwealth Games in 1994 in Victoria, British Columbia.

Freeman, of Aboriginal descent, did the same as the face of the Sydney Olympics in 2000, bringing attention to the nation’s indigenous people.

“How do we get that balance right, what that means, and how can we work with athletes to ensure that their platform and their voice is heard?” Grevemberg said. “What that looks like on the field of play, I would say right now I wouldn’t want to be presumptuous in terms of going through that consultation, what athletes want, what are we able to accomplish, but I do think we are in a very, very unique place in the world right now, and I think there are some unique opportunities to really expand our views on this. I would have to say I think that conversation is critical. We need to find solutions, not build walls, but build bridges right now.”

The Commonwealth Games include athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations, notably Australia, Canada, Jamaica, South Africa and those that make up Great Britain at the Olympics — England, Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland (whose athletes can represent Great Britain or Ireland at the Olympics). Most of the sports are also in the Olympics, but some are not, such as lawn bowls.

On Wednesday, IOC President Thomas Bach said the IOC Athletes’ Commission will talk with athletes around the world to explore how Olympians can express themselves at the Games while keeping the Olympic Charter in mind.

Grevemberg also emphasized discussion.

“We are comfortable with the uncomfortable conversation,” he said. “We need to embrace that.

“I think the Black Lives Matter movement is actually challenging all institutions to really look introspectively at what we can do to be more fair, more free, have better equality.

“It’s been something that we had a lot of questions on in terms of why are you politicizing sport? Actually, we’re humanizing the conversation. We’re giving people the opportunity to express freedom of expression, freedom of association, but we also have some very strong policies on non-discrimination and respect and so forth. People say, ‘Aren’t you opening up the Pandora’s box, the floodgates?’ No, we are respecting people’s rights to voice their opinions and so forth.”

Two Olympics — in Tokyo in 2021 and Beijing in 2022 — will take place before the next Commonwealth Games.

“I don’t want us to be too prescriptive at this point in time because this is a real moving dialogue,” Grevemberg said. “I think it would be too presumptuous of me to say this is how it’s going to look.”

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World Alpine Skiing Championships on for 2021 after request to delay rejected

Alpine Skiing World Championships
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GENEVA (AP) — A request by the organizers of next year’s skiing world championships in Italy to postpone the event by one year was rejected Thursday by the International Ski Federation.

FIS ruled that the event will go ahead from Feb. 9-21, 2021, in Cortina d’Ampezzo — the highlight of an Alpine season that faces challenges to find safe protocols for international travel and attending races in Europe, North America and China.

The Veneto region of northern Italy was hit hard by the coronavirus and the season-ending World Cup races in Cortina in mid-March were canceled. That week-long event was to be a test for the 2021 worlds.

“The last month of efforts to come to this solution demonstrates the strong collaborative spirit of the ski family and stakeholders.” FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper said.

Organizers in Italy have said they expect losses of about 30 million euros ($34 million) if the worlds are also canceled. They asked for a postponement to March 2022, which would be only weeks after the Beijing Olympics.

“But we will be ready in any case and we will show that these world championships can change the history of a region despite the current difficulties,” Alessandro Benetton, president of the Cortina organizing committee, said in a statement.

Italian racer Sofia Goggia, the 2018 Olympic downhill champion, said she was “happy for Cortina because it will host the first major international event after the coronavirus epidemic.”

Cortina, which hosted the 1956 Olympics, will co-host the 2026 Winter Games with Milan and use the worlds as a showcase for the resort.

The women’s World Cup downhill on the Olympia delle Tofane course each January is one of the most scenic in the sport with a signature jump between tall outcrops of jagged rock.

The Dolomites venue was awarded the 2021 worlds by FIS after missing out as a candidate four straight times from 2013-19.

MORE: Anna Veith retires, leaves Austrian Alpine skiing in unfamiliar territory

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Russia track and field athlete clearance frozen due to unpaid fine

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MONACO (AP) — The program allowing Russian track athletes to compete internationally will be frozen because the country’s federation failed to pay a fine on time, World Athletics said Thursday.

The Russian track federation, known as RusAF, owes a $5 million fine and another $1.31 million in costs for various doping-related work and legal wrangles. World Athletics said RusAF missed Wednesday’s deadline to pay.

World Athletics said it would freeze the work of the Doping Review Board, which vets Russian athletes who want the “authorized neutral athlete” status that allows them to compete internationally, and its taskforce monitoring RusAF’s anti-doping reforms.

World Athletics said both bodies will be “put on hold” until its council meets to discuss the situation at the end of July.

“RusAF is letting its athletes down badly,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “We have done as much as we can to expedite our ANA process and support RusAF with its reinstatement plan, but seemingly to no avail.”

RusAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko earlier told the Tass state news agency that his federation’s finances were damaged by the coronavirus pandemic and that it had asked for more time to pay.

World Athletics’ statement didn’t directly address that issue, but said Russia hadn’t indicated when it would pay.

Russia was fined $10 million by World Athletics in March, with $5 million suspended for two years, after the federation admitted to breaking anti-doping rules and obstructing an investigation.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said fake documents were used under the previous management to give an athlete an alibi for missing a doping test.

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