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2010 Preview | Two of the biggest sports challenges of the year will involve money

Issue: "2010 The Year Ahead," Jan. 16, 2010

As with each year, the world of sports in 2010 will bring new champions and new inspiring stories, many from unlikely or previously unknown sources. But we already know that two of the biggest sports challenges of the year will involve money: How will professional golf fare without superstar Tiger Woods? And how will the city of Vancouver fare with the Olympics?

Tiger Woods

The salacious sex scandal surrounding Tiger Woods will ripple long into the new year, given the announcement from the world's best golfer that he will take an "indefinite break" from the game he dominates. Those words spell trouble for PGA Tour revenues, which typically fall by half in tournaments without Woods in the field. Other questions loom, too: Will sponsors stand by their man amid his public disgrace? How many more mistresses have yet to come forward? And will the FBI's probe into Woods' doctor for his possible link to banned performance enhancers turn up even more dirt on golf's former golden boy?

Even more important, perhaps, than the story's juicier developments will be the long-term effects of the ordeal on Tiger-as a golfer, a father, a husband, and a man. NBA star Ron Artest, who reformed his life after public disgrace, hopes Woods will walk a similar path. In an open letter to the man the Associated Press named Athlete of the Decade, Artest reminded Woods that "only Jesus is perfect" and shared honestly about his own shortcomings and journey to marital fidelity.

Baseball

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A 21-year-old Cuban phenomenon is expected to burst onto the Major League Baseball scene in 2010. Aroldis Chapman defected from Cuba this past July, establishing residence in Andorra before seeking MLB free agent status. Chapman first attempted defection in 2008 but was caught and brought before President Raul Castro, who suspended him for the remainder of Cuba's baseball season and prohibited him from playing in the Beijing Olympics but allowed him to play in an international tournament in the Netherlands. It was there, on July 1, 2009, that Chapman made a second and this time successful attempt at defection.

Scouts from more than a dozen MLB teams are salivating over the 6-foot-4 left-hander, who many believe could demand $15 million a year. Chapman's agents say they expect the young star to sign a contract by January. The Yankees and Red Sox are among those poised to enter the bidding war, though Chapman has little testing in game action at the highest levels. He put his hard-throwing style on international display at the World Baseball Classic last spring, where his fastball clocked as high as 102 mph.

Olympics

The 2010 Olympic Games appear headed for financial disaster. In the wake of two highly successful and extravagant affairs in Beijing in the summer of 2008 and Torino in the winter of 2006, the Olympic Committee has over-leveraged itself in Vancouver and stands to fall deep into the red by the time the games conclude in late February. NBC likewise overestimated the earning power of the games, spending $200 million more for the broadcast rights than it did in 2006 and now struggling to make up the resultant shortfall with sagging ad sales.

The city of Vancouver will take a hit, too, a reality that has sparked protests and vandalism of Olympic venues from local residents. Opponents of Vancouver playing host object to the nearly $600 million taxpayer expense, the destruction of affordable housing, and potential environmental degradation. City officials have added fuel to the protestors' fire, banning anti-Olympic signs under threat of fines or even jail time.

Some analysts predict that between budget shortfalls and angry residents, Vancouver could mark the end of an Olympic golden age, ushering in a new era in which cities are increasingly averse to hosting the games.

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