Monthly Archives: January 2019

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Second a realistic aim for Scots

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan could scarcely have asked for a tougher draw in Euro 2016 qualifying, but he is confident that his side have what it takes to make it to an expanded finals in France.

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The Scots were drawn in Group D along with Germany, the Republic of Ireland and Poland, with Georgia also likely to provide stiff opposition and minnows Gibraltar completing the section.

In the past it would have appeared an impossible task for a Scotland side who have not qualified for a major international tournament since the 1998 World Cup in France, but UEFA’s decision to increase the number of finalists from 16 to 24 certainly gives them a chance.

The top two sides in each group will progress while third place will at least guarantee another chance to advance via a two-legged play-off, although Germany – the three-time winners who are bidding to qualify for a 12th successive Euro finals – surely have top spot annexed.

“Excited. I think that’s the one thing you can say about this group. Others might be a bit mundane,” was Strachan’s reaction after the draw was made in the southern French city of Nice on Sunday.

“There’s a new nation in the tournament in Gibraltar, and then you’ve got four other teams who are all possible to get the second place.

“I would imagine so,” said the 57-year-old when asked if it would be a straight fight to snatch second behind Germany.

“The Germans might make one mistake, and I don’t think they’ve failed to qualify for a major tournament for, I don’t know, 100 years. Since tournaments started they have always seemed to get to a finals.

“So the rest of us, I think common sense would be saying we’ll go for second place,” added Strachan, who will come up against an Ireland side managed by Martin O’Neill, the man he replaced in the Celtic dugout in 2005.

Scotland were the first European nation to be eliminated from qualifying for this year’s World Cup in Brazil, but a revival under Strachan saw them win three of their last four matches in that campaign.

They will get an early look at the Poles when they travel to Warsaw for a friendly match next Wednesday, March 5.

Microsoft plans spring Windows update

Microsoft will update its Windows system this northern spring to address some of the gripes people have had when they use devices without touch capabilities.

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Windows 8 and last autumn’s 8.1 update were designed for a touch environment. But some of the gesture commands don’t translate well when using traditional mouse and keyboard controls.

Among other things, Microsoft Corp. will add search, power and settings buttons to the Start page, so that users don’t have to figure out how to pull those functions like a sock drawer from the right. There also will be easier, touch-free ways to close apps.

Microsoft is also updating its Windows Phone system this spring to work better in corporate environments and to bring features desired in fast-growing emerging markets.

The announcement came Sunday ahead of the Mobile World Congress wireless show in Barcelona, Spain.

Many of the changes are geared at reducing manufacturing costs.

In essence, Microsoft is relaxing hardware requirements. For instance, there will be no longer a requirement that phones have a physical camera button and three control buttons on the front. That can be done through software instead, the approach used in many Android phones. Meanwhile, tablets and personal computers won’t need as much memory and storage as before.

Microsoft is also allowing phones to support two SIM cards, something in demand in China, India and other emerging markets where prices and plans vary so much that people switch services constantly for the best deals. For developed markets, Microsoft plans improvements for corporations, including VPN support on phones so people can access work networks securely.

More details on the phone changes are expected at Microsoft’s Build conference for software developers in April.

Netflix reaches deal with Comcast

Netflix has reached a deal with Comcast to ensure that its TV shows and movies are streamed smoothly to households, the first deal the online video streaming service has reached with an Internet service provider.

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The two companies said in a joint statement on Sunday that they are establishing a more direct connection to provide a better service to customers that will also allow for future growth in Netflix traffic. The companies say the arrangement is already giving customers a better experience.

Netflix had 33 million US streaming subscribers at the start of the year and accounts for about one third of all traffic on the Internet, according to research firm Sandvine. As the video steaming company has grown, Internet service providers like Comcast have pushed the company for more structured deals to enable its content to be transmitted smoothly and reduce the strain on their networks.

While the companies did not disclose the terms of the deal, Netflix investors will want to know how much this deal will affect the company’s bottom line and whether the costs will be passed on to customers. Netflix has been resisting paying fees to Internet companies and this deal could open the door to similar deals with other providers.

Netflix is already experimenting with different rate plans that charge slightly more for households that want to stream its shows and movies on four different screens simultaneously.

The deal comes after months of collaboration with Comcast though Netflix will receive no preferential network treatment under the multi-year deal, the statement said.

Germany has World Cup injury worries

Germany coach Joachim Loew admitted Sunday he has a few concerns ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with several of his stars either struggling for form or injured.

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“There are eight or nine players who have not played for a long time,” admitted Loew in Nice after the draw for the 2016 European Championships.

“They have no playing rhythm and for some it is questionable whether they will come back in time.

“That worries me and gives me a headache.”

The main concern is in Germany’s defensive midfield where Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger are Loew’s first-choice.

Madrid’s Khedira faces a race against time to be fit for Brazil having torn his cruciate knee ligament last November, while Bayern Munich’s Schweinsteiger only started his first game for the European champions on Sunday after an ankle injury late last year, then a knee problem.

Their back up, Borussia Dortmund’s Ilkay Gundogan, has not played since August after suffering from a back injury and a virus.

Loew received more bad news in the position on Sunday when Dortmund’s Sven Bender was ruled out for 10 weeks with an inflamed pelvis.

Up front, both strikers Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez have struggled with injuries this season.

Likewise at centre-back, Dortmund centre-back Mats Hummels is struggling to return from an ankle knock, his fourth injury since September.

Bayern’s Holger Badstuber is only just starting to run again after twice tearing knee ligaments and having last played in December 2012, while fellow central defender Benedikt Hoewedes of Schalke 04 has had three injuries in the last three months.

“At the World Cup, we need players who are in a very good rhythm,” said Loew.

“I hope some of the players can take a few steps forwards in the next few weeks.”

But Loew said he had no concerns about attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil, who’s form has dipped recently at Arsenal and missed a crucial penalty in their 2-0 home defeat to Bayern Munich last week in the Champions League’s last 16.

“Mesut didn’t have a good day, but he can deal with criticism,” said Loew, after Ozil was left out of Arsenal’s 4-1 league win against Sunderland on Saturday.

“He has already learnt to do that at Real Madrid.

“For us, he is a key component.”

Germany open their World Cup campaign against Portugal in Salvador on June 16, then face Ghana and the USA in Group G.

Daniel Radcliffe wins UK stage gongs

Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint both won gongs at the WhatsOnStage Awards which were dominated by The Book Of Mormon.

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The award-winning show, by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, won best new musical, best actor in a musical, and best supporting actor and actress in a musical.

Radcliffe, who was named best actor in a play for his role in The Cripple Of Inishmaan, said: “I am deeply honoured to receive this prestigious award and I accept it on behalf of the whole cast who together helped make this production of The Cripple Of Inishmaan a truly joyous experience for me as an actor.”

Grint was named the London newcomer of the year for his West End debut in Mojo – an award which Radcliffe won previously for Equus.

The winners, decided by a vote of theatregoers and announced at a ceremony at the Prince of Wales Theatre in central London, also included David Walliams who won the best supporting actor in a play award for his role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Dame Helen Mirren, recently honoured with the Bafta Fellowship, was named best actress in a play for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience.

In a pre-recorded acceptance speech, she said: “I’m so thrilled to receive this. I’m honoured that it was voted for by the public, that’s the most wonderful thing.”

The Audience also received best new play for Peter Morgan and best supporting actress for Haydn Gwynne, who played Margaret Thatcher in the drama based on the Queen’s regular meetings with the prime ministers who have held power during her reign.

Nets sign openly gay Collins to contract

Jason Collins has signed a 10-day contract with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets to become the first openly gay man playing in a major US professional sports league.

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The Nets confirmed on Sunday the widely reported deal on their official Twitter feed, and Collins was expected to be in uniform for Sunday night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Collins, 35 and a 13-year NBA veteran, revealed his homosexuality last April.

But that was after his contract with the Washington Wizards had expired, and he had not been picked up by another team since then.

Nets general manager Billy King said the move to sign Collins was “a basketball decision”.

“We needed to increase our depth inside, and with his experience and size, we felt he was the right choice for a 10-day contract,” King said.

Even though King said the Nets weren’t intending to make a social statement, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver commented on the deal.

“Jason told us that his goal was to earn another contract with an NBA team,” Silver said in a statement.

“Today, I want to commend him on achieving his goal. I know everyone in the NBA family is excited for him and proud that our league fosters an inclusive and respectful environment.”

Collins was praised for his courage in coming out as gay by US President Barack Obama, former president Bill Clinton and many players in the NBA.

If he takes the court in an NBA game, Collins would be the first openly gay man to play in one of the four major North American pro sports leagues.

Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay male athlete to play in a US pro league when he took the field for a Major League Soccer match last May, three months after revealing he was gay.

In addition, University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, a US college star in American football who announced this month he is gay, is likely to be selected in the NFL Draft later this year. But his first chance to play in the NFL would not come until an exhibition game in August at the earliest.

Collins played for the Nets in his first six seasons in the league, helping take the team to the 2002 and 2003 NBA Finals when it was based in nearby New Jersey.

Collins will be united with former Nets teammate Jason Kidd, now the Nets’ coach.

The Nets, in the midst of a seven-game road trip, are clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and lie four games behind Toronto for the Atlantic division lead.

G20 finance ministers agree to growth target: experts react

By Remy Davison, Monash University; Fariborz Moshirian; Mark Crosby, Melbourne Business School, and Tim Harcourt

The G20 finance ministers, who have been meeting in Sydney over the weekend, say economic grow is still below the rate needed to get people back into jobs.

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In a statement released at the conclusion of talks, the ministers and central bank governors pledged to “develop ambitious but realistic policies with the aim to lift our collective GDP by more than 2% above the trajectory implied by current policies over the coming 5 years”.

Treasurer Joe Hockey said boosting investment would create growth and jobs. “There is much we can do to remove constraints to private sector investment by establishing sound and predictable policy,” he said.

The Treasurer had pushed for a concrete target to be adopted in the weeks leading up to the Meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, the first in a series of meetings scheduled in the lead-up to the G20 Leaders Summit in Brisbane in November.

The ministers also recognised reliance on monetary policy to stimulate economic growth should be reduced. The communiqué was relatively silent on the role of debt, noting it should be put on a “sustainable path”.

Other previously adopted measures were restated. The ministers called on the United States to ratify the IMF reforms that would change the portion of votes given to each member, and reduced the US vote, that have languished since 2010. Mr Hockey confirmed there was “deep disappointment” the process hadn’t moved faster.

An automatic exchange of tax information was again endorsed after originally being taken up last year in St Petersburg. That move was foreshadowed at the Institute of International Finance forum that took place earlier in the week.

Expert reaction follows:


Remy Davison, Jean Monnet Chair in Politics and Economics at Monash University:

Most G20 meetings are talk-fests. This one was no exception. But what goes unmentioned is often more important than what is discussed. For the first time in its short history, the G20 has established a growth target, 2% (or $2 trillion-plus) above current forecast trajectories.

Joe Hockey credited this outcome to Australia’s leadership of the G20. However, analysts at investment bank JP Morgan were critical last week of establishing growth targets – effectively, these are wish lists – over which governments have little or no control.

Second, the communiqué criticised the lack of progress on the 2010 IMF reforms, which would give China and other emerging powers more voting power in the IMF. Washington has blocked these reforms persistently, although the Europeans and Japanese are not keen to see their voting positions diluted.

China currently holds 4% of IMF votes, against the US’s 16.5% (41% for all advanced economies).

Passing the 2010 reforms would give China 6%, making Beijing the third-largest player in the IMF, behind Japan and the US. However, the US would remain a veto player (85%-plus is required for any major IMF reform).

Third, the most important point was buried well down the list: the impact of Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS). This allows multinational firms, such as Google, Apple and Microsoft to minimise tax obligations in the country of operations, while shifting taxable revenues to alternative jurisdictions.

In most cases, profit shifting is entirely lawful. However, the consequence has been a gradual diminution of the taxation base in many OECD countries.

BEPS has long been an issue for the G20 and G8. However, it is also hypocritical for G20 countries to maintain the fiction of international taxation cooperation, when states continue to compete for investment and capital flows by deliberately creating tax rules and jurisdictions that routinely circumvent taxation agreements.

But the G20 has not shown it is serious about confronting this issue. The British Virgin Islands, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Channel Islands and Cyprus are among the many tax havens for firms, individuals and criminals alike. Ireland is a corporate low-tax jurisdiction. Even OECD members Belgium and the Netherlands act as clearing houses for hundreds of billions of dollars annually via the use of Special Purpose Entities.

The communique was ominously silent on the Basel III banking accord, which many central bankers regard as too stringent and damaging to growth. Basel III was introduced in 2010 to reduce myriad forms of dangerous, thinly-capitalised leverage that characterised over-leveraged global banks in the pre-GFC era.

European central bankers, behind closed doors, have backed away from Basel III, fearing their banks’ vulnerability, as well as the structures upon growth a more disciplined financial regime could bring.


Mark Crosby, Associate Professor of Economics at Melbourne Business School:

The problem with these sorts of pronouncements is that there’s absolutely nothing to make domestic policy makers change policies. If this additional growth is possible, why haven’t policy makers been able to implement changes to achieve it? I don’t think there will be any change in policies and no change in growth.

It was, however, interesting to see that the OECD report released earlier this week was pessimistic about medium-term growth and worried about productivity growth being low and fiscal issues remaining. I think medium-term growth is going to remain weak.

The only interesting thing to come out of the discussions was the desire to find new ways to finance infrastructure spending. [Consulting firm] McKinsey came out with a report last year about how much investment is required in infrastructure globally, around US$57 trillion, and the big question is how to fund that.

Hopefully there may emerge some interesting new ways to finance infrastructure, particularly in emerging countries, and that’s where there’s potential for slightly higher growth, but I think it’ll still be far from 2% faster.

If the IMF reforms move forward, emerging economies will see greater voting rights. At the moment it’s convenient for the US and Europe to keep the current quotas in place, and Europe in particular is overrepresented. The IMF does reflect, in some sense, too much of the interests of the US and Europe. The statement was interesting and hopefully change will come.


Tim Harcourt, J.W. Nevile Fellow in Economics at the University of New South Wales:

The target is ambitious but deliberate. They are trying to change the psychology of recovery by setting an ambitious target that might improve the chances of a stronger recovery, even if they just make half that, it’s still a gain. I think it’s an aspirational target trying to break the shackles of a slow recovery.

The communiqué made strong statements on having a flexible currency. I think if you read between the lines it’s referring to Abenomics in Japan, that it shouldn’t be creating a Pearl Harbour of currency wars and upsetting everybody else’s recovery.

The statement on the IMF reform was made, I think, because there was some talk they would drop a lot of those things and they wanted to firm them up. There’s an argument that the G20 could replace the IMF’s role in global finance, and so this statement said they weren’t interested in replacing the IMF, just reforming it.


Fariborz Moshirian, Professor of Finance, Director of the Institute of Global Finance at the University of New South Wales:

It’s great to see this year’s Summit is more focused on economic growth because, over the last five years, we’ve been working on repairing the global financial system, including dealing with the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and the US banking crisis. Thus, talking about stronger economic growth is useful for the market.

However, the way the statement is phrased doesn’t give responsibility to any member for this objective. This means no-one is going to take full responsibility if such a collective GDP goal is not achieved. In the past, the G20 was criticised for not having an executive power and only relying on peer pressure for achieving its objectives.

The communiqué is trying to strike a balance on monetary policy. It is saying that the US should be mindful of the implications of its monetary policy on developing economies but there’s nothing in this statement that guarantees that the Federal Reserve may consider the interests of emerging economies ahead of its own national monetary policy. More dialogue is required.

They are also asking emerging economies to accelerate restructuring of their economies so that they can attract good investment. In other words, emerging economies should not rely on speculative capital which flows because interest rates are higher in developing economies.

The issue with foreign exchange flexibility is with China, because China’s currency is fixed rather than flexible. A more flexible exchange rate in China could address the trade imbalances between the US and China and may lead to more imports from the rest of the world by China.

The authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. They also have no relevant affiliations.

Cricket: Australia collapse sees South Africa level series

South Africa took nine wickets after tea to level their three match series against Australia on the fourth day of the second Test at St George’s Park on Sunday.

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Set to make 448 to win, Australia were bowled out for 216 after South Africa claimed the extra half hour with Australia seven down at the scheduled close.

   

South Africa took four top order wickets for four runs shortly after tea to swing the game in their favour. Fast bowler Dale Steyn took four of the wickets that fell after tea to finish with four for 55.

   

Chris Rogers and David Warner put on 126 for the first wicket, scoring at more than four runs an over and Rogers then fought a lone battle before being ninth man out, run out for 107.

   

Part-time off-spinner JP Duminy made the breakthrough when he trapped Warner leg before wicket for a sparkling 66, made off 73 balls.

   

The scoring rate slowed but Australia still looked comfortable at 141 for one at tea.

   

Alex Doolan struggled for more than an hour, scoring only five runs off 43 balls before he was caught at first slip off Morne Morkel.

   

Shaun Marsh, who made 148 and 44 in the first Test in Centurion, was out first ball, trapped in front by a full delivery from Vernon Philander.

   

It completed a “pair” for the left-hander, who faced only two balls in the first innings.

   

Steyn claimed the key wicket of Australian captain Michael Clarke, who edged a catch low to second slip, where Faf du Plessis held a good catch, tumbling to his right.

   

Steyn, who was gaining reverse swing, had Steve Smith leg before with a full delivery which swung in to the right-hander.

   

Ten runs later Steyn’s fast reverse swing sent Brad Haddin’s middle stump flying.

   

Mitchell Johnson stayed long enough to see Rogers to his century but became a fourth lbw victim. Philander’s appeal was turned down by umpire Richard Illingworth but South Africa sought a review which showed the ball was hitting leg stump.

   

Rogers, who scored only ten runs in his first three innings of the series, looked in good touch from the start of his innings, taking advantage of some over-pitched deliveries early on and almost keeping pace with Warner during what was easily the most productive opening partnership by either side during the series.

   

Rogers reached his fifty off 95 balls. He could have been out in the last over before tea. On 69, he prodded at a ball from Steyn, who appealed loudly as it went through to wicketkeeper AB de Villiers.

   

Umpire Kumar Dharmasena gave Rogers not out and the slips cordon led by captain Graeme Smith were uncertain and did not seek a review. Replays showed the ball probably clipped the toe end of the bat.

   

Ryan Harris was leg before to Steyn in the first of the extra overs and Rogers was then out to a direct hit from mid-off by substitute fielder Alviro Petersen, trying to keep the strike.

   

With the umpires having looked at their light meters, South Africa used spin from both ends and left-armer Dean Elgar finished the match when Lyon was given out leg before. There were a maximum of 14 balls remaining in the day – and a forecast of rain for Monday.

   

South Africa were without injured left-arm fast-medium bowler Wayne Parnell but captain Graeme Smith juggled his bowlers well and made good use of his part-time spin bowlers.

   

Hashim Amla completed his 21st Test century – and his fifth against Australia – and finished on 127 not out when Smith declared at 270 for five. South Africa added 78 runs in 17 overs on Sunday. Quinton de Kock (34) was the only batsman dismissed.

   

Amla, who was 93 not out overnight, hit 16 boundaries in a 176-ball innings. His tally of five hundreds against Australia equalled a South African record shared by Eddie Barlow, Graeme Pollock, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers.

Close Cup shaves for Chiefs in SAfrica

Title-holders Chiefs needed an extra-time goal from Zimbabwean Knowledge Musona to see off second-tier Black Leopards 1-0 in northern city Polokwane.

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And Pirates had an even closer first-round call, pipping second-division Thanda Royal Zulu on penalties after a 3-3 thriller in Indian Ocean town Richards Bay.

Free State Stars were the one Premiership side beaten by lower-league opponents as they slumped 1-0 at home against Witbank Spurs.

Mamelodi Sundowns, traditional challengers to Chiefs and Pirates for league and cup crowns, won 1-0 at Ajax Cape Town 1-0 in an all-Premiership clash.

Leopards had Chiefs on the ropes at Peter Mokaba Stadium in regular time, but could not deliver the knockout blow because of poor finishing.

They were made to pay 19 minutes into extra time when a defensive slip allowed Siphiwe Tshabalala to set up substitute Musona for a close-range goal.

Once ahead, a Chiefs side lacking several rested regulars, including goalkeeper and captain Itumeleng Khune, erected an impregnable defensive barricade.

“A lot went wrong today,” admitted England-born Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter. “We lost concentration in and out of possession.

“Leopards had nothing to lose and we had everything to lose. In the beginning, they had more appetite for the battle than us.

“These are difficult times with so many domestic and CAF fixtures. I pick teams and have minimal time to prepare for the match.”

Chiefs hold a nine-point Premiership lead in defence of the title and host Mozambicans Liga Muculmana this Saturday in a CAF Champions League qualifier.

Leopards experienced Serb coach Kosta Papic summed up the game succinctly: “We did everything right except win the match.

“We carried no white flags – we were not afraid of Chiefs. My lone disappointment was our failure to take the scoring chances.”

Former African champions Pirates trailed Thanda after just 40 seconds, were two goals behind at half-time, and netted twice in stoppage-time to force 30 additional minutes.

Substitute Kermit Erasmus nudged the ‘Buccaneers’ ahead in extra time only for Mhlengi Cele to equalise on 121 minutes.

The shootout proved an anti-climax with calmer Pirates winning 3-1 after converting three spot-kicks while Thanda fluffed three of four.

Rodney Ramagalela, an early substitute for injured Katlego Mashego, struck on the hour-mark for Sundowns with an unstoppable drive past Brandon Petersen.

Everyone’s a winner with new events at the Winter Games

By Richard Baka, Victoria University

As the Sochi Winter Games have now come to a close, it is possible to reflect on the unprecedented addition of 12 new winter sports events to the program.

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These new events – all of which have been added to existing Winter Olympic disciplines – can be grouped into three classifications: mixed, men’s and women’s events:

there are three new mixed events: biathlon mixed relay, figure skating mixed team event and a luge team mixed relayfour men’s events were added: ski halfpipe, ski slopestyle, snowboard slopestyle and snowboard parallel slalomthere were also women’s events in each of those four and the addition of women’s ski jumping (which was almost added to the 2010 Vancouver Games), giving women five totally new events on their own.The demise of demo sports

Not that long ago adding new sports was a different and somewhat drawn out process. In most cases, they had to be “demonstration sports” first and if popular, they would then be assessed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and possibly upgraded to a permanent fixture.

Rob Hess at Victoria University and Rachel Winterton at La Trobe University documented the topic of demo sports in a new book On the Periphery: New Perspective on the Olympic Movement.

Besides looking at the history of demo sports, these researchers outlined how the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne had baseball and Aussie Rules as demo sports, but as we know, the Australian game never made it in the Olympics.

 

And let’s not forget ‘ski ballet’ demonstrated in 1988 in Calgary and again in 1992 in Albertville.

 

This process is now outdated and sports are sometimes dropped or added to the Winter and Summer Games as deemed appropriate by the IOC, which is influenced by sport federation lobbying, television “friendliness”, the public appeal of events and political and social factors.

More medals, please

 

At Sochi, Carina Vogt from Germany won the first ever gold medal for women’s ski jumping. Wikimedia Commons

 

At the first Winter Games in 1924, there were only 16 events and 49 medals awarded. By the time the 1988 Calgary Games rolled around, it had grown to 138 medals, and the 2014 Sochi Games had 2,800 athletes competing in 15 sports, comprising 98 events and awarding 294 medals.

This rapid growth, most of which has come in the past 30 years, led Eric Chemi in a recent Bloomsberg Businessweek article to refer to this as “medal inflation” characterised by (obviously) a lot more medals on offer, with more countries winning medals (26 in Sochi) and the average take-home per country growing to ten.

The total number of Winter Games medals is expected to exceed 300 very soon. In comparison to the Summer Games, which in London had 10,800 athletes competing in 26 sports (302 events) for 962 medals, there is still a large discrepancy – but the gap is closing quickly.

Essentially, there are four reasons for the Winter Games’ growth spurt.

1. The new Olympic cycle

When the IOC made its decision to put the Winter and Summer Games on off-setting schedules, going in even years starting in 1992 in Lillehammer, it was a major boost for winter sports.

Not having to share the same year, being able to attract more sponsorship and gaining expanded television coverage were all outcomes of the schedule change and the Winter Games have never looked back.

2. Gender balance

The history of the Modern Olympics has been one reflecting changes in our society over the past 75 years, and a good example is in the area of gender balance and an overall fairer shake for women.

 

Torah Bright won silver for Australia in the snowboard halfpipe. Andy Miah/Flickr

 

Women’s events (and now more mixed events) are getting us closer to a state of equilibrium. While slow to initially react in the 20th century, the IOC has been pressured to keep up with the times, and the number of female athletes in the Games has grown dramatically.

In Sochi, the 60-strong Australian Winter Games team was our largest ever and comprised 31 females and 29 males. Of the 12 medals we’ve won in the Winter Games to date, women have won seven (three gold) with five (one gold) to the men.

3. Television appeal

Many of the new winter sports events have very obviously been added due to their television appeal. And if there are more events of interest to viewers, advertising revenue goes up and the Winter Games get an increasingly higher profile. In the case of figure skating – always one of the premier winter sports – the addition of a team event was a no brainer.

Likewise, a host of new freestyle and snowboarding events – many of which resemble roller derby on ice – have added a new excitement element due to their “extreme” status, the luck factor and their unpredictability.

Unfortunately, Alex “Chumpy” Pullin’s disappointing performance in Sochi is a case in point where he was a strong medal favourite going into the event, but hopes were dashed when he crashed.

4. Pressure from the X Games

The IOC has also been forced to react due to the recent growth and success of the annual extreme sports event X Games – both the summer and winter versions.

 

Men’s Ski Slopestyle Final at the X Games, Aspen in January 2014.

 

Many of the new snow events have been added due to this factor as the Olympic movement tries to maintain a connection to the younger generation.

It is also quite refreshing to view the special camaraderie, and, in some cases, an anti-establishment attitude of some of the freestyle and snowboard fraternity who tend to look at their events as an art form where they attach a strong importance to having fun as well as competing.

But not everyone likes these new events. The US Olympic network NBC’s main host for Sochi, Bob Costas, referred to events such as slopestyle as “Jackass stuff they invented and called Olympic sports”.

 

… and he means it kindest possible sense.

 

However, the well-respected American publication Sports Illustrated devoted significant attention in its Sochi Olympic Preview edition with a major story on the new sports entitled “Amping up the X Factor” where it predicted a rosy future for the newest events.

Have the new sports added in Sochi been a success? It is still a bit early to conclusively say yes, but many of the new events have been very popular. Most have been television winners, so it is doubtful that any of these disciplines will be dropped.

If anything, there could be more new events added in time for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games in South Korea, giving the Winter Games an even higher profile.

Richard Baka does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.