— Published 3 January 2023

2023, a year in four questions

The year 2023 will not be Olympic. With the exception of FIFA, where Gianni Infantino will move forward without rival towards a new mandate, it will not be an elective year in the international bodies of the sporting movement either. The calm before the big manoeuvres, as mentioned on Monday 2 January.

But the next twelve months will not follow the somnolent course of a long quiet river. They could even prove decisive for the four hottest issues in the Olympic movement.

In four questions, and as many attempts to answer them, FrancsJeux deciphers the major stakes of a year 2023 where anything can happen, the best or the worst.

Will Russian athletes return to international events?

Probably. But still far from being done. The IOC suggested it outright at its Olympic Summit last month in Lausanne: consideration is being given to the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to the international stage. It could be via Asia, where the association of National Olympic Committees (OCA) has offered to act as a pilot to pave the way for the rest of the world. If the experiment is deemed successful, the entire Olympic movement could follow suit. It is likely that Russian athletes will have to give up their colours, their anthem and their flag. But they have seen it all before. Perhaps they will also have to demonstrate, in a way that is still very uncertain, their opposition to the conflict in Ukraine.

It remains to be seen at what point in the year the doors will open wide. The IOC has been cautious about putting forward a timetable. But the Russians are pushing for a return to the international stage in time to avoid jeopardising their chances of securing quotas for the Paris 2024 Games. Logically, the decision should come in the first half of the year.

Will the IOC have multiple bids for the 2030 Winter Games?

A few weeks ago, the question did not even arise: Sapporo was the favourite, Salt Lake City was following in its own footsteps, with an eye on the 2034 edition. But the IOC reshuffled the deck in early December, announcing its decision to postpone the choice of host city until the Paris session in July 2024. With an extra year to continue the “dialogue” with the known and future candidates, the Olympic body has given itself time. But it remains exposed to the risk of not having a choice when it comes to awarding the winter event.

Last month, the Japanese announced that they were putting their bid on hold to review their strategy and roadmap. The move doesn’t fool anyone: the Sapporo 2030 team is shutting down its engine until the embarrassing Tokyo 2020 corruption scandal is out of the news. Clever. But it has also announced its intention to organise a national consultation on the relevance of the bid before relaunching it. Could the project survive a lack of public confidence? Difficult.

The Americans in Salt Lake City, for their part, repeat without weariness that they prefer the 2034 option, but are ready for the previous one if the IOC asks them to. They would certainly not refuse a Winter Games won without a fight. But for the Olympic body, the scenario of a non-choice would be disastrous in terms of image.

Will the race for the Summer Games in 2036 gain new entrants?

Time no longer has the same value in the Olympic movement. The IOC awarded the 2032 Games to Brisbane eleven years before the deadline. It is now in discussions with a handful of cities for the 2036 edition. Fourteen years before the event. Indonesia, Mexico, Qatar, Egypt and India are preparing a bid and have made this known. Barring a major crisis on a global scale, they could be joined in 2023 by two or three other countries. At the top of the list is Germany. Its National Olympic Committee has launched a wide-ranging process of reflection, which should lead to a decision before the end of the year. England may also be in the running as South Korea and Saudi Arabia.

Will boxing, weightlifting and modern pentathlon return to the Games?

These historic sports of the Olympic movement have been provisionally excluded from the Los Angeles 2028 Games programme by the IOC Executive Board. Will the provisional become permanent? The decision will be made at the Mumbai Session, scheduled for October 2023.

For boxing, scales are tipping dangerously in the wrong direction. Its international federation, the IBA, stubbornly remains deaf to the IOC’s expectations. Its president, the Russian Umar Kremlev, has started a tug of war with the Olympic body, but his chances of winning seem very slim.

Weightlifting is less defiant about the IOC, but its future remains uncertain. Its international federation, the IWF, elected Iraqi Mohammed Jalood as president last June, ending a long series of interim presidencies. IWF record remains strong, especially on the issue of doping. The next few months will be decisive.

The situation of the modern pentathlon is much less worrying. The IOC has ruled it out of the Los Angeles 2028 Games pending the choice of discipline by the UIPM to replace equestrian. The body opted for obstacle course racing, after a patient and methodical process. The choice was not unanimous, but it ticks many boxes. And, as a major advantage, the modern pentathlon can count on several supporters in the IOC, including Juan Antonio Samaranch and Albert of Monaco.