With less than 100 days until the Olympic Games, a record number of athletes and countries will compete at the 13th edition of USA vs. the World at the Penn Relays on Saturday, April 28. With teams around the globe eager to ready their squads for the Olympic Games, no fewer than 21 countries will be represented at the premier relays event in the world.
Team USA will battle against teams from Jamaica, Australia, the Bahamas, Canada, Germany, Kenya and Morocco. This year’s relays include the men’s distance medley, women’s sprint medley, men’s 4x100 meter relay, women’s 4x100 meter relay, men’s 4x400 meter relay and women’s 4x400 meter relay.
Penn Relays veterans Allyson Felix, Sanya Richards-Ross and Carmelita Jeter will once again headline the U.S. women’s squads as the trio has its sights on London gold in the 100, 200 and 400 meters. Richards-Ross is fresh off her world indoor victory in the 400, while Felix is a two-time Olympic silver medalist and three-time world champion in the 200. Both women are still weighing a possible 200/400 double in 2012, and Felix could even drop down to the 100. The duo will also be joined by their teammates from the gold medal winning World Championships 4x400 meter relay squad, Francena McCoroy and Jessica Beard.
Jeter was named the 2011 Jesse Owens Female Athlete of the Year after winning gold at the World Championships in the 100 meters and doubling up with silver in the 200 meters. With a personal best of 10.64 in the 100 meters, Jeter is the second-fastest women in history. Three members of the 2011 World Outdoor champion 4x100 meter relay also will be in the pool for Philadelphia with Jeter, Felix and Bianca Knight.
Middle distance training partners Phoebe Wright and Erica Moore are great assets for the sprint medley relay lineup. Wright was a six-time Penn Relays champion during her career at the University of Tennessee, and Moore won her first international medal with a bronze at the World Indoor Championships.
The women of Team USA will face stiff competition from the best of the world. Three of the four women from Jamaica’s silver 4x100 meter relay team, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson, are also set to compete, and Shericka Williams and Novlene Williams-Mills both ran on Jamaica’s second place World Outdoor 4x400 meter relay team. Pryce enters 2012 as the defending Olympic champion in the 100. Jamaica will once again be bringing their 800 meter heavy hitter Kenia Sinclair, who split 1:57.06 for 800 meters in last year’s sprint medley relay.
While the USA vs. Jamaica rivalry is a crowd favorite, the U.S. women will also have to watch out for Great Britain. All four of the members from the winning World Indoor 4x400 meter relay team are scheduled to compete, including former American Shana Cox, now running under the Union Jack.
On the men’s sprint side, Team USA is lead by veterans Walter Dix, Angelo Taylor, Justin Gatlin and Lashawn Merritt. Dix is the current world silver medalist in both the 100 and 200 meters and has already run a windy time of 9.85 in the 100 meters this year. Brining more 100 meter talent to the team is Gatlin, who in 2003 and 2012 World Indoor 60 meters champion. Olympic champion Lashawn Merritt ran to silver in Daegu in the 400 meters and also anchored the winning 4x400 meter relay team. In the 4x400, he will be joined by his world championship relay teammates Taylor and Bershawn Jackson.
Bernard Lagat will lead the men’s distance medley team with an impressive line-up assembled from a group that includes Jeshua Anderson, Khadevis Robinson, Nick Symmonds, Russell Brown and Leo Manzano. Lagat is fresh off of his third World Indoor title in the 3,000 meter and set an indoor American record in the 5,000 in February.
The biggest international star will undoubtedly be 400 meter world champion Kirani James of Grenada. James will be joined by countryman Rondell Bartholomew, who took sixth at the World Outdoor Championships. However, the two men will have to make up a lot of ground for their teammates as they were the only sprinters from Grenada to run under 46 seconds in 2011.
The Jamaicans are the defending world and Olympic champions in the 4x100 meter relay. Gold medal Nesta Carter will lead the 4x100 crew while Jermaine Gonzales and Allodin Fothergill competed on Jamaica’s third place World Outdoor 4x400 meter relay and will be on the track at Penn.
Other nations to watch include the Bahamas in the 4x100 meters as well as Kenya and defending USA vs. the World champions Morocco in the distance medley relay.
As strange as it may seem, even after nearly three weeks of non-stop athletic drama, even after nearly 11,000 participants from more than 200 countries have competed for a total of 302 gold medals, we still don’t really know who the “real winners” will be for the 2012 London Olympics, when all is said and done.
When I say “real winners,” I don’t mean, like, the 100-meter dash, the long jump, or the all-around gymnastic competition. We do know that. That’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m referring, instead, to which organizations, which athletes, will come away from London with an economic advantage, and which ones — medal or no medal — absolutely will not.
According to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) own recent report, the organization generated $5.4 billion in the four-year period up to, and including, the 2008 Olympics, in Beijing. Indications are that IOC revenues for the four-year period ending at the London event will be in the astounding range of $7 billion.
The IOC claims, with a perfectly straight face, that 90 percent of all of that cash, including the $1.2 billion it received from its broadcast sponsor, NBC Universal, goes to support “organizations throughout the Olympic Movement,” and that it only retains about 10 percent of that to cover its own administrative expenses.
Despite those very noble sentiments, when you do the math, you see that, after London, Beijing and all of the other Summer Olympics events before that, U.S. athletes — on the whole — have come away holding the short end of the stick.
It’s not that the IOC is broke — not even close. In fact, on July 23, the International Olympic Organizing Committee announced that its financial situation was “strong and safe,” that it was in possession of $588 million in reserves (up from $105 million in 2001) and that television and sponsorship revenues are continuing to increase. IOC President Jacques Rogge even went on to say that the Committee’s financial plan calls for surpassing $4 billion in TV rights for the next Olympics, up from $3.9 billion generated, leading up to London.
At about the same time, the IOC also confirmed that, up through 2021, its U.S. arm, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), would participate in 12 percent of all IOC TV broadcasting rights fees and 20 percent of all fees generated from the 11 “TOP” Olympic corporate sponsors, an amount estimated at an additional $957 million, as of July, 2012. That, by the way, doesn’t even include revenues from domestic sponsorships generated directly by the USOC.
Again, let’s do the math, but this time let’s focus on the participation of the athletes, themselves, in all of that loot. Adding the USOC’s 12 percent of the $3.9 billion in TV rights, together with its 20 percent of the $957 million in “TOP” sponsor fees, gives the USOC about $659 million in revenues, in those two categories, alone.
And what part of that is shared with the athletes? Not much, it seems.
In London, for example, other than travel expenses, the 530 American Olympians received no direct financial support from the federal government. Aside from the honor of representing their country, U.S. athletes could only look forward to receiving financial rewards if they happened to actually win a gold, silver or bronze medal. Such an accomplishment would earn them $25,000, $15,000 or $10,000, respectively.
According to the most recent count, as of Friday, U.S. athletes had earned 90 medals, in all, 30 gold, 25 silver and 26 bronze. That adds up to $1,610,000, or just .02 percent of the $659 million of USOC revenues. I don’t know ... it just seems as though they could do substantially more.
According to Matt Rudnitzky of Sports Grid, 50 percent of U.S. athletes who rank in the top 10 in their events in track and field earn less than $15,000 annually, including sponsorships, grants and prize money. And, contrary to the popular perception that all Olympic athletes are living the lush life of swimmer Michael Phelps, whose estimated net worth following the Beijing Olympics jumped to $50 million as a result of endorsements from VISA, Powerball, Omega, Subway, AT&T Wireless and Speedo, the overwhelming majority of Olympic athletes go without any endorsement income at all, have to work part-time jobs to continue their training schedules and to support their families, and live essentially, from week-to-week and hand-to-mouth.
Perhaps that’s why, shortly after their arrival in London, several prominent U.S. athletes took to Twitter and spoke to traditional media outlets to register their formal complaints about the fact that Olympic athletes don’t participate, at a more reasonable level, in the Olympic Committee’s substantial profits.
In that regard, two of my newest hero-athletes now include Sanya Richards-Ross, this year’s women’s 400 meter gold medal winner and Nick Symmonds, a very accomplished, high-profile 800 meter runner. Richards exposed herself to great personal and financial risk when she said, “I just believe that the Olympic ideal and the Olympic reality are now different. I’ve been fortunate to do very well around the Olympics, but so many of my peers struggle in the sport.” Similarly, Symmonds, a guy I never previously cared very much about, did not hesitate, at all, to crawl out on the same financial limb that Sanya chose for herself, when he asked, very publicly: “How many have gotten rich using Olympic athletes’ free labor?”
My kind of people. I hope the IOC and the USOC were listening.
A large part of the protest by those two and by other courageous athletes, related to an IOC regulation called Rule 40, which prohibits Olympic athletes from advertising for non-Olympic sponsors, immediately prior to, or during, the Olympics.
What set off the athletes was the fact that the IOC went so far as to prohibit the Olympians from using their own Facebook or Twitter accounts to mention, or to depict themselves, in photos with products of their “personal sponsors.” Those sponsors are the same advertisers who, individually, provide revenues to the athletes during the course of the year, when the IOC and the USOC don’t.
For many athletes that was the final indignity. They began to use the hashtags #Wedemandchange and #Rule40 to make their case to the world. One of the most creative expressions was by American hurdler/silver medalist Dawn Harper, who tweeted a photo of herself with a duct tape gag over her mouth, on which the words “Rule 40” were printed.
It’ll be interesting to see how all that turns out.
In the meantime, I won’t be surprised at all to continue to see stories that give the false impression that most of our hard-working, Olympic athletes are already doing just fine, because 2008 gymnast Shawn Johnson became a “media darling” and is now worth an estimated $9 million; because Nastia Liukin, who won five gold medals as an Olympic gymnast, in the same year, now pulls down about $1 million annually in endorsements, or because the greatest sprinter in world history, Usain Bolt, earned about $20 million, in 2012.
Each of those deserving athletes is to be commended for being able to capitalize on their hard work and Olympic success. I can only hope that other young Olympians, such as Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Claressa Shields, Missy Franklin and Ashton Eaton can, somehow, follow their lead.
At the same time, we should remember that well-compensated and fairly compensated Olympians are still very much the absolute exception to the rule, and we should keep our eye on the larger ball.
It’s still too early to say, for certain, who the real winners of the London Olympics actually were. We’ll find out, shortly.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
Villanova will host three Big East basketball games at Wells Fargo Center this season. Villanova will face Louisville at the Wells Fargo Center on Jan. 22. Four days later, they will play Syracuse in South Philadelphia at the center.
The Wildcats conclude the regular season at the center when Georgetown comes to the city on March 6. The balance of Villanova’s home dates will be played on campus at the Pavilion.
The Wildcats open the regular season on Nov. 9 at the Pavilion when UDC is in town as part of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project. Villanova will then host Marshall on Nov. 11, also at the Pavilion.
The 2012–13 campaign marks Villanova’s 16th consecutive season hosting contests at the center. It has averaged better has 16,000 fans per home game in that span, which does not include four NCAA tournament games the Wildcats played there in 2006 and 2009.
Philadelphia sportswriter Frank Bertucci has a new blog
Frank Bertucci, Philadelphia sportswriter, is writing a blog titled “Frank Thoughts.” Bertucci, a long time sports journalists, offers a great perspective on the local and national sports scene with his blob. You can read it at http://www.frankthoughts.org.
Saint Joseph’s to meet Notre Dame in Coaches vs. Cancer Classic
Saint Joseph’s will battle Notre Dame in the championship round of the 2012 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on Nov. 16 at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Brigham Young will take on Florida State in that evening’s first game, with the consolation and championship games set for Nov. 17.
On Nov. 16, BYU and Florida will tip-off at 7 p.m. followed immediately by the Hawks and the Fighting Irish. On Saturday evening, the consolation will be played at 7 p.m. followed by the championship game. All four games will be on truTV. It will mark only the second meeting between Saint Joseph’s and Notre Dame, with the first taking place on December 29, 1992.
Saint Joseph’s is serving as one of the regional hosts for the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic and will start play in the tournament by entertaining Yale at Hagan Arena on Nov. 12. Tickets for the games at the Barclays Center can be purchased at CvCClassic.com or BarclaysCenter.com. Proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society.
Olympic Gold again found at Penn Relays
The Penn Relays standouts have picked up some Olympic gold. The list of London Olympics gold medal winners includes athletes who also have competed at Franklin Field. Twelve men and 10 women can be added to the list of Penn Olympians and 15 of those 22 ran at the 2012 Penn Relays.
Topping the list are Jamaica’s two sprint champions, Usain Bolt and Shelly Ann Fraser-Price. Bolt, who ran at Penn in high school and again, memorably, representing Jamaica in 2010, repeated as Olympic 100 (9.63) and 200 (19.32) champion, and anchored the Jamaican 4x100-meter relay to a world record time of 36.84 seconds.
Fraser-Price, who went from winning the Penn Relays college women’s 100 meters to Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008, repeated as Olympic champ at London, running the 100 in 10.75 seconds. She was also one of the 2012 Penn relays runners to win in London.
The American women’s 4x100 relay that won the USA vs. World event at the Penn Relays last April, Tianna Madson, Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter, ran in that same order at London and set a new world record of 40.82 seconds, blowing away an East German mark that had stood for over 20 years. Felix, a regular at the Penn Relays in the USA vs. the World races, also won the 200 meters (21.88) and ran the second leg on the winning 4x400 relay.
Other male Penn Relays/Olympic gold winners included the Bahaman 4x400 relay of Chris Brown, Demetrius Pinder, Michael Matthieu and Ramon Miller, winners in London in 2:56.52 after finishing second to a USA team at the Penn Relays in 3:00.56. Besides running at Franklin Field this year, Pinder and Matthieu had both run here as collegians, Pinder at Texas A&M, Matthieu at Texas Tech.
Individual champs to add to the list include Kirani James (Grenada, 400in 43.94), Aries Merritt (Tennessee, 110 hurdles in 12.92), Felix Sanchez (Dominican Republic, 400 hurdles in 47.63) and Christian Taylor (Florida, triple jump in 58-51/4).
Another women’s double gold medalist who has been a familiar face at Franklin Field was Sanya Richards-Ross, winner at 400 meters (49.55) and anchor of the 4x400 relay (3:16.87). Richards-Ross first ran at the Penn Relays with the University of Texas, and has been a regular with USA teams since then.
With her and Felix on the 4x400 were Dee Dee Trotter (Tennessee, USA) and Francena McCorory USA). Two other gold medalists on the 4x100, after running in heats, were Jeneba Tarmoh (Texas A&M, USA) and Lauryn Williams (USA).
And one more name that can be added to the list of 2008 Olympians to compete at the Penn Relays is Great Britain’s Christine Ohurnuogu, women’s 400-meter champ in Beijing who ran at the Penn Relays for the first time in 2012 on both a 4x400 relay and sprint medley relay in USA vs. the World events.
The 2013 Penn Relays will be on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 25, 26, and 27.