Olympic fire and Rainer


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BEIJING -- Well-crafted statements from the leadership saying practically nothing ... even in the aftermath of major news.

No, this isn’t about USA Swimming.

Settled in behind the computer in the Beijing Games’ Main Press Center, thinking that some green tea might stave off jet lag for a couple of hours.


Then, an assist in the form of a rocket-of-an-email from the International Tennis Federation late on Monday afternoon. It uses words like ‘sad’ and ‘disturbing’ in reaction to the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in favor of Rainer Schuettler of Germany.

Schuettler, an Australian Open finalist in 2003, has won his bid for inclusion in the 56-player tennis event. The decision today by CAS could be a landmark one, going beyond the sport of tennis in the Olympics.

Here is part of the ITF’s statement:

The ITF is very disappointed with the decision and feels that the precedent set today could ultimately harm the rights of International Federations to set qualification criteria and puts the role of the International Federation in the Olympic Games into discussion. It is very disturbing for the ITF, and should be for the IOC, when players who do not meet the ITF qualification criteria, approved by the IOC, are entered at the expense of players who qualified and deserve to represent their countries at the 2008 Olympic Games. The ITF, like every International Federation, is asked by the IOC to set qualification criteria for our sport in order to deliver the best quality field to the Olympic Tennis Event. For the 2008 Olympic Tennis Event, the first 56 players were entered into the singles using the computer rankings of 9 June 2008 as long as no country had more than four singles players in the draw. The ITF never argues with the right of NOCs to enter athletes into the Olympic Tennis Event, but we expect these entries to be in the frame of a transparent and consistent qualification system, established by the International Federation with the approval of the IOC. The ITF believes that a transparent and consistent system of entry is the only possible way for tennis as an Olympic Sport to have credibility with players and fans. Every tennis event around the world uses the world ranking as the basis for entry and the ITF finds it difficult to accept that criteria can be changed from country to country depending on the views of particular National Olympic Committees. ... It is sad that the IOC was not able to arbitrate in a matter like this thus forcing ITF to be a respondent before CAS, a body that can only make reference to the Olympic Charter, for having applied correctly and transparently our rules. The German Olympic Committee used their criteria to refuse the entry of Denis Gremelmayr who should have received direct acceptance under the ITF qualification system. The next German in the list was Michael Berrer who was six places ahead of Mr. Schuettler at the entry deadline. Mr. Schuettler did not fulfill the entry criteria set by the German NOC until well after the 9 June deadline and, therefore, should not have been considered for entry. The ITF deplores the lack of understanding by the German Olympic Committee about entry to tennis events around the world including the Olympic Games. However, while recognising that the German NOC may not understand how professional tennis works, there is no excuse for Mr. Schuettler who is prepared to take a place that was earned by his compatriot Denis Gremelmayr and of next alternate Michael Berrer. The ITF wishes him the best of luck even if he was not eligible for Beijing.’

Wishing Schuettler luck in the Olympics? Well, at least the ITF finished on a polite note.

-- Lisa Dillman