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‘Do Italy just win everything now?’: Celebrations after Italian athletes take Olympic gold

Italian media on Monday paid tribute to the country’s Olympic medalists, after sprinter Lamont Marcell Jacobs won the men’s 100 metres and high jumper Gianmarco Tamberi also took gold.

‘Do Italy just win everything now?’: Celebrations after Italian athletes take Olympic gold
Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs (R) is congratulated by high jump gold medallist Gianmarco Tamberi, after winning the men's 100m final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Photo: Cameron Spencer /POOL/AFP

“No one faster, never so high,” read the headline of Italian newspaper Il Messaggero on Monday, under the beaming faces of Jacobs and Tamberi.

All of Italy’s newspapers celebrated the historic victories, with La Stampa citing “The Gods of Olympus.”

Tokyo 2020: The Italian athletes to watch at the Olympics

With a European record of 9.80 seconds, the Texas-born and Italian-raised Jacobs – a relative unknown who had never broken 10 seconds before this year – followed in the swift footsteps of retired Usain Bolt as champion of the blue riband event of the Olympic athletics programme on Sunday.

The victories were hailed by Italian national volleyball team coach Mauro Berruto as “the most extraordinary 20 minutes in the history of Italian sport”.

Tamberi clinched a rare shared gold with Qatari high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim, after both recorded a best clearance of 2.37 metres. 

After Jacobs’ win, the two Italians shared a joyous bear hug, an image played repeatedly on television on Monday.

The dual victories cap a triumphant summer for Italy, fresh from its European Championship football title last month.

The victory for the Azzurri over England was celebrated as a boost for the country after it was among those hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Italy coach Roberto Mancini applauded the Olympic winners Sunday, writing on Twitter that “You are the history. All the medals of these Olympic Games are fantastic. Go Italy.”

READ ALSO: Why do Italian athletes wear blue?

After Italy also won the Eurovision song contest earlier this year, the competition’s official Twitter account joked that the country now “wins everything”.

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SPORT

French rugby in turmoil as FFR boss gets suspended sentence over corruption

Lawyers for FFR President Bernard Laporte said he was going to appeal against the court's verdict

French rugby in turmoil as FFR boss gets suspended sentence over corruption

French rugby was reeling Tuesday after the president of the country’s governing body Bernard Laporte was handed a two-year suspended prison sentence on corruption charges nine months before France hosts the game’s World Cup.

Fédération Française de Rugby (FFR) president Laporte, 58, was convicted after a French court ruled he showed favouritism in awarding a shirt sponsorship contract for the national side to Mohed Altrad, the billionaire owner of Top 14 champions Montpellier. He was also banned from holding any rugby post for two years. Both are suspended pending an appeal, which Laporte’s lawyer said was imminent.

Laporte later stepped down from his role as vice-chairman of the sport’s global governing body, World Rugby, pending a review by the body’s ethics officer.

“World Rugby notes the decision by World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte to self-suspend from all positions held within its governance structures with immediate effect following his conviction by the French court in relation to domestic matters, and pending his appeal,” World Rugby said.

“While acknowledging Laporte’s self-suspension and right of appeal, given the serious nature of the verdict World Rugby’s Executive Committee has referred the matter to its independent ethics officer for review in accordance with its integrity code,” it added.

Resignation call
Laporte faces problems on the domestic front, too, with Florian Grill, who narrowly lost to him in the 2020 election for federation chief, calling for Laporte and the entire board to stand down.

“It is unheard of in rugby, this is an earthquake,” Grill told AFP. “We have never before seen a president of the federation condemned to two
years in prison, even if it suspended.

“We think the 40 members of the board of directors should draw the obvious conclusions and resign.”

French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said the sentence was an “obstacle for Bernard Laporte to be able, as it stands, to continue his mission in good conditions” as federation president, and called for a “new democratic era to allow French rugby to rebound as quickly as possible and sufficiently healthy and solid, with a governance by the federation that will have the full confidence of the clubs”.

The court found that Laporte ensured a series of marketing decisions favourable to Altrad – who was given an 18-month suspended sentence and
€50,000 euro — in exchange for a €180,000 image licensing contract that was never actually carried out.

Altrad’s lawyer said he would study the decision before deciding on whether to appeal.

At the trial’s close in September, prosecutors said they were seeking a three-year prison sentence for Laporte, of which he should serve one behind bars, and the two others on probation.

The friendship and business links between Laporte and Altrad are at the heart of the case.

It goes back to February 2017, when they signed a deal under which Laporte agreed to appear at Altrad group conferences, and sold his image reproduction rights, in return for €180,000.

But while that sum was  paid to Laporte, prosecutors claim that he neveractually provided the services he signed up for.

Laporte did, however, make several public statements backing Altrad and, in March 2017, signed the €1.8 million deal with the businessman making his namesake firm the first-ever sponsor to appear on the French national team’s jerseys.

The Altrad name and logo still features on the shirts thanks to a follow-up deal negotiated by Laporte in 2018 and which prosecutors say bears all the hallmarks of corruption. It is also on the All Blacks’ national squads’ shirts, and New Zealand Rugby is reportedly seeking an urgent meeting with company officials following the court ruling.

Laporte, formerly a highly successful coach who guided France twice to the World Cup semi-finals (2003 and 2007), was also found guilty of favouritism
with regards to Altrad’s Montpellier Herault Rugby (MHR) club.

He was convicted for intervening with French rugby’s federal disciplinary commission to reduce a fine against the club from €70,000 to €20,000 after several telephone calls from Laporte.

While prosecutors saw this and several more incidents as proof of illicit favouritism, Laporte himself had claimed there was no “cause-effect relationship”.

On the last day of the trial in October, Laporte’s lawyer Fanny Colin accused the prosecution of “confirmation bias” by “taking into account only elements backing their original assumptions”.

The verdict comes only nine months before the Rugby World Cup kicks off in France on September 8, 2023, with matches played in nine stadiums across the country.

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