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In A Night Of Terror, A Moment Of Grace On The Soccer Pitch


And part of what makes life go on is the love of sports. Our Tom Goldman joins us on a sad morning. Good morning, Tom.


SIMON: The stadium in France, where France and Germany were playing a friendly football match last night, as they're called, was one of the places struck. Fans were frightened but they also gave us a moment of grace.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing in French).

GOLDMAN: That's, Scott, soccer fans exiting the stadium, singing the French national anthem. As you say, a moment of grace to recognize a very traumatic night.

SIMON: Tom, wouldn't anyone in sports today have to wonder - I don't mind saying worry - you know, if soccer, basketball, tennis, hockey, even chess fans watching a big match have now become targets?

GOLDMAN: Well, they certainly do wonder. You know, while nothing happened inside the stadium last night, the fact that the attacks were nearby fueled fears that major sporting events are a current soft target. According to reports in this country, the NBA and the NHL - National Basketball Association, National Hockey League - sent statements to teams playing Friday night, telling them to be on heightened alert. The NBA statement read in part, we do not have reason to believe the events in Paris are related to the NBA, however we cannot be too careful in ensuring we are taking proactive measures.

SIMON: There is - changing gears - another huge sports story this week. A track and field's governing body handed down a provisional suspension of Russia's track and field team yesterday. What does this mean?

GOLDMAN: Well, it means, for now, Russian track and field athletes cannot compete internationally, including the 2016 Rio Olympics. Russia is also prohibited from hosting two international track and field events scheduled for next year, the 2016 World Race Walking Cup and the 2016 World Junior Championships. The punishment, of course, based on the World Anti-Doping Agency report released earlier in the week that found widespread state-sponsored doping and corruption in the Russian Athletics Federation athletics in track and field. Now, after the 22 to 1 vote by the IAAF Council - the IAAF being track's governing body - IAAF President Sebastian Coe said his sport finds itself in a shameful situation, which he says is why the lopsided vote was, quote, "the strongest sanction we could apply." But Coe also mentioned the failings in his organization and, indeed, critics say problems like this have festered for so long because organizations like the IAAF or like cycling's governing body, the UCI, before this, were lax in their anti-doping enforcement, even complicit at times.

SIMON: So is it possible there won't be a Russian track and field team - teams at the Rio Olympics?

GOLDMAN: Well, again, according to Coe, and I'm quoting, "that's entirely up to the Russian Federation and the speed with which we can enact change." There's going to be a so-called verification team. And Coe said this team will be tough on the Russians in measuring whether or not the country does an about face and starts adhering to World Anti-Doping Agency rules. You know, Scott, I think the feeling is now that the Russians, from sports officials to President Vladimir Putin, are saying the right things publicly, that they're being quite obstinate and defensive early on. The Russians are saying they'll change. The problems are solvable. Putin talking about cooperating with anti-doping authorities and saying the battle must be open - a sporting contest is only interesting when it's honest. So I think it would be a surprise if the Russian track and field athletes were not at Rio when the games open next August.

SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman. Always good to talk to my friend. Thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.