Olympic Newsdesk -- Geesink Memorial; Sochi Mascot Search; USOC Restructures

(ATR) Dutch IOC member and judo great Anton Geesink honored ... Sochi takes votes for mascot ... USOC changes follow six-month review ... USA beats Iran at FIBA Worlds ...

Funeral for IOC Member, Dutch Judo Legend Anton Geesink

(ATR) European Olympic Committees president Patrick Hickey tells Around the Rings that Anton Geesink will be remembered as a true icon of the sport of judo.

Services for Geesink were held Wednesday in his home town of Utrecht. An IOC member since 1987, Geesink etched his name in sport when he won the gold medal for judo at the 1964 Games in Tokyo, defeating the Japanese favorite in the sport’s Olympic debut.

"He was my hero and an icon for judo," said Hickey, a judo black belt who competed for Ireland internationally.

"Judo has lost its symbol with the passing of Anton. Everybody loved him. He was such a legend," he added.

Hickey was Geesink's campaign manager when he ran for the presidency of the International Judo Federation in 1972.

Hickey joined IOC vice president Thomas Bach, Prince of Orange, IOC member from the Netherlands, past IJF president YS Park and a host of judo legends and Dutch sports leaders at Geesink's service in Utrecht.

Sochi Mascot Open To Vote

Competition is underway to design Sochi 2014’s mascot, the first ever to be chosen by popular vote.

"We have made an unprecedented decision – to get our Mascot designed by the whole country," Sochi 2014 CEO Dmitry Chernyshenko said in a statement.

"Yes, it will be a challenge, but we are ready to ensure that every vote is heard."

The organizing committee will accept Olympic and Paralympic nominations from Russians young and old through Dec. 5 at its website.

A jury will then select the best entries, and professional artists will take over from there.

A nationwide text message and telephone vote on Feb. 7, exactly three years before the Winter Games open, will determine the winning mascots.

Those emblems will be revealed in a live broadcast that same day.

USOC Rethinks Divisions, Restructures Accordingly

The USOC is shaking up its structuring ahead of London 2012.

CEO Scott Blackmun announced a host of changes Wednesday in the wake of a six-month operational review.

"Our primary job is to ensure that we maximize our support of NGBs and America's elite athletes," he said in a statement.

"After a thorough review, I believe we can better accomplish that mission, and be better preparedfor London and beyond, if we make these structural changes."

Chief among those is the separation of Olympic training center operations and NGB funding allocation into two distinct divisions.

Mike English will lead the Sport Operations Division, and Alan Ashley will head the Sport Performance Division. Both will report to COO Norman Bellingham.

"Mike and Alan have done an extraordinary job under the existing structure," Blackmun said.

"I think we can better deliver against our mission of sustained competitive excellence, however, if our Sport Performance Division, which is responsible for allocating resources, is not also tasked with the job of operating the training centers and other facilities."

Two other changes will furthertheUSOC’s ongoing efforts to merge Olympic and Paralympic operations.

Both will share a single communications division headed by Patrick Sandusky, and Paralympic sport performance will integrate with Ashley’s Olympic sport performance division.

All changes are effective immediately.

US First To Four Wins At FIBA Worlds

Team USA beat Iran 88-51 Wednesday to keep its record at the FIBA World Championship perfect.

France, Argentina, Lithuania and host country Turkey are also without a loss. At least one of those perfect records will be spoiled Wednesday night when France and Lithuania square off in Izmir.

Team USA plays Tunisia Thursday in its fifth and final prelim.

Only 16 of the tournament’s 24 teams will stay in Istanbul next week for elimination rounds. The final game is slated for Sept. 12.

Munich Conference Draws Olympic VIPs

VANOC director and five-time Olympian Charmaine Crooks with Craig Reedie, IOC member from Great Britain, at the Sponsors Sports Venue Summit in Munich. (ATR)

Written by Matthew Grayson.