The sporting year of 2016 appears, in retrospect, like a dramatic struggle between the forces of light and darkness.
Rio de Janeiro hosted a summer Olympics that, despite all manner of gloomy prognostications, proceeded without major ill and featured a triumphant farewell for Games megastars Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps. Russia insisted there had been no state-sponsored doping system in recent years – "impossible" according to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin – as the two-part report by Richard McLaren on behalf of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) stacked up the evidence, including shocking revelations from 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Sochi, to claim that more than 1,000 Russian athletes had had their samples illegally manipulated and tampered with.
And so it went on.
The new year, no doubt, will provide us with a similar pattern of glory and grief, triumph and trauma. Which new champions, what new scandals will emerge remains to be seen.
But there are some key areas which look likely to command considerable attention as world sport works its way towards another anniversary.
So here are things to keep your eyes on:
1 - Paris, Los Angeles or Budapest for the 2024 Games?
The race for the 2024 Summer Olympics and Paralympics between Budapest, Los Angeles and Paris is due to be decided on September 13 during the 130th International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session in the Peruvian city of Lima.
Before the IOC membership makes its choice, further evidence of the contesting bids will be garnered by three IOC Evaluation Commission visits in April and May.
The bidding cities will present the third part of their Candidature Files for the Games in February. They are then due to present at the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations General Assembly in Aarhus in April.
Another presentation is expected to be given at a Candidate City Briefing in Lausanne in July before the Lima session.
Most observers deem it likely that the 2024 Olympics will go either to Paris or Los Angeles. The former city has conducted an impeccably intelligent series of public consultations within and without the capital. And, as articulated by the smart, chic Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, the Games are envisaged as a key part of an encompassing effort to regenerate previously neglected areas of the city, with potentially profound social benefits.
There has been a suggestion too from Paris, which failed in its bids for the Olympics of 2008 and 2012, that another knock-back from the IOC would put an end to its Games ambitions for the foreseeable future.
Los Angeles has been able to convey a strong message emphasising its enterprise, commercial potential, financial resource - and sunshine.
The factors which might undermine these two bids are, for Paris, security fears and for Los Angeles, Donald Trump.
Budapest’s strongest claim, apart from the beauty of the city, is that the award of the 2024 Games would show, in the words of bid leader Balázs Fürjes, that "the Olympic Games are not simply for the mega-city but for mid-size cities". In the new era of IOC President Thomas Bach’s Agenda 2020 initiative to make the staging of Olympics cheaper and easier, such sentiments play well.
2 - What will the IOC Commissions conclude over Russian doping charges?
The investigations into allegations of Russian doping by WADA included the independent reports by McLaren either side of Rio 2016.
Even before the Canadian lawyer produced the second part of that damning report on December 9, the evidence he gathered and publicised before this summer’s Olympics helped to persuade the International Paralympic Committee President Sir Philip Craven to ban all Russian athletes from Rio 2016.
Bach resisted making a similar stand in terms of the Rio Olympics, placing the responsibility for suspensions on international federations. Considering there was only a month to go until Rio 2016 when McLaren’s first report was released, that was something of a mission impossible.
Bach and the IOC have been lambasted for their stance. But last month the beleaguered President told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the report’s evidence had prompted him to feel "horror" and "inner rage".
Following the release of the second report, the IOC announced it had extended the mandate of the Oswald Commission - which is looking into allegations of sample manipulation at Sochi 2014 - to include all samples given by Russian athletes at London 2012.
Another IOC Commission, chaired by Samuel Schmid, former President of the Swiss Confederation and a member of the IOC Ethics Commission, is addressing the "institutional conspiracy across summer and winter sports athletes who participated with Russian officials within the Ministry of Sport and its infrastructure, such as RUSADA, CSP and the Moscow Laboratory along with the FSB".
The results of those two Commission investigations may give Bach the impetus to release his inner rage in the direction of the Russian President who was the first to congratulate him upon his appointment in 2013. May.
3 - Where will the Fancy Bears strike next?
Fancy Bears, the hacking group behind hundreds of leaked documents relating to anti-doping organisations in recent months, was named last week in a United States security services report into cyber bodies linked to the Russian Intelligence Services.
Whether that conclusion is accurate or not, there is little doubt that the facts the self-promoting Fancy Bears have brought to light through their hacks into the files of WADA have been - at the very least - interesting, and have succeeded in taking away some of the fire from Russian doping abuses by causing questions to be asked of certain anti-doping protocols in the West.
There has been a big focus on exposing medical records of individual athletes to show instances of therapeutic use exemptions (TUE), where substances ordinarily banned have been administered in order to allow them to overcome medical issues in order to compete effectively.
Multiple Grand Slam champion Serena Williams and four-time Rio 2016 gold medal winning gymnast Simone Biles, as well as two British Tour de France winning cyclists, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, were among the names published on the Fancy Bears' website.
In many cases the instances raised have been innocuous, and the exposure has been gratuitous. In some they have given rise to awkward questions.
Many observers were unimpressed by the performance of Dave Brailsford, the British head of Team Sky, as he told a Parliamentary hearing of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee last month that a package of requested medication that was delivered to 2012 Tour de France winner Wiggins at the 2011 Criterium de Dauphine contained a standard flu treatment.
What, if anything, will come of British Cycling’s PackageGate? And who will the Fancy Bears be mauling next? 2017 will tell us.
4 - Will National League Hockey stars be forced to end their Winter Olympic sequence?
National League Hockey (NHL) stars have been a regular feature of the Winter Games since the 1998 version in Nagano, where Canada’s legendary Wayne Gretsky made his final international appearance as his team was beaten by Finland in the bronze-medal match.
The players are reported to be keen to continue that Olympic tradition by appearing at Pyeongchang 2018. South Korean organisers are keen, super-keen, for that to be the case. But the icy pathway to Pyeongchang 2018 is not smooth.
Negotiations between the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation have juddered to a halt following the IOC’s decision to stop covering the cost of transportation and accommodation fees. Bill Daly, the NHL deputy commissioner, insisted last week that the expenses row is "not the only issue".
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman claimed earlier in December that team owners were displaying a "strong negative sentiment" and showing signs of "fatigue" after appearing at the five previous editions of the Games. It’s tiring, doing all that owning day after day.
So will the NHL show in South Korea? 2017 will tell.
"From our Board's perspective, there has to be a compelling reason for us to go to the Olympics, and as I stand here now, we're still searching for that reason," Daly added.
Another comment comes to mind from last year - it was by Riccardo Fraccari, President of the World Baseball Softball Confederation, in the wake of the decision to invite the sports back into the Olympic Movement for the Tokyo 2020 Games: "There is no other sporting/cultural platform, no matter how great and important it may be, that can be compared to the Olympic Games and the locomotive effect that they can bring to a sport."
5 - The FIFA World Cup. Let them all come.
When the FIFA Council next meets on January 9 and 10, the biggest topic of discussion will relate to the future shape of the World Cup finals. There are four proposals for changes to be made to 2026 finals. One is for it to remain with the current number of 32 teams. The second suggests 40 teams - something the newly ensconced FIFA President Gianni Infantino included in his election manifesto.
Two other proposals see the finals involving 48 teams. The first of these would see a number of "preliminary" games before 32 teams got down to the final business. The last foresees 16 groups of three teams playing off the group stages.
Observers have pointed out that the latter format would involve numerous meaningless "dead rubber" matches, and numerous teams going home after only two matches. It has also been observed that groups of three might tempt teams in the final game into producing a result to suit both at the expense of the third. The timetabling would also be awkward for television broadcasters.
Needless to say this inclusive final option, which has been called "a bad idea" and far worse, has found great favour among the rank and file of FIFA members from smaller nations. Surely not...
6 - Will the wheels really fall off Wheelchair Rugby? It’s UK Sport’s call
When UK Sport’s chief executive Liz Nicholl announced last month the "investment decisions" for the Olympic cycle culminating at Tokyo 2020, she did so from a hugely strong position. Britain’s performance at Rio 2016 meant it becoming the first nation to increase both its Olympic and Paralympic medal haul four years after hosting a Games.
Second place in the Olympic and Paralympic medals tables at Rio 2016 provided a dramatic contrast to the fortunes of 20 years earlier, when Britain earned a single gold at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, finishing 36th in the medals table.
"We know what it takes to win and what it costs to win," Nicholl said, adding that UK Sport would be "unable to invest for Tokyo in five sports that we invested in for their Rio potential".
These sports were archery, badminton, fencing, weightlifting and wheelchair rugby.
"We are sensitive to the fact that this will have a devastating impact on the hopes and dreams of some athletes, coaches and support teams that miss out and we will be fully supporting those affected through a transition plan," Nicholl said.
If UK Sport was sensitive then, it must be even more so now after the howls of outrage and pain such dramatic funding shifts have occasioned. Badminton officials and followers cannot understand how a sport which delivered an Olympic bronze medal last summer can be written off as a medal provider four years hence. And the reaction from wheelchair rugby players and followers has been huge, as evidenced by what were at the latest count 117 comments on the piece Nicholl wrote for insidethegames following her announcement. The vast majority of these voiced outrage, surprise and anger on behalf of the growing Paralympic sport.
As an example, here is an excerpt of a post from one organiser, Fran Jenkins: "This is a truly heartbreaking decision which will have a huge negative impact on the whole of our wheelchair rugby community.
"This ludicrous decision surely goes against the true legacy of the Paralympic Games which were originally founded by Dr Ludwig Guttman a neurosurgeon working in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire. He often wrote about the medical issues surrounding spinal cord injury but a far bigger concern to him was the general wider belief that this group of patients faced a pointless future.
"He worked tirelessly to restore hope and self-belief among these patients and one of his main tools was to engage them in team sports.This is where the true meaning of the Paralympic Games came from, not what is a ‘sensible financial ' funding plan!"
As Nicholl noted, affected sports have the option to appeal. A space worth watching in 2017…
7 - How many Olympic positives are still to be discovered?
By the beginning of December 2016, the IOC, deploying new and more effective methods, had re-tested at least 1,243 samples from Beijing 2008 and London 2012, which yielded 98 retrospective positives or provisional positives. Of the 73 athletes whose samples showed up positive when re-tested this year, at least 27 were Russian.
There are more tests to come, operating within the current eight-year statute of limitations for retrospective punishment.
The IOC has voiced its broad position on the question of timing, saying: "The amount of stored urine is limited, so we do not want to use it too soon (before new tests are developed) unless the intelligence for a particular new test in a particular group of athletes means that it is worthwhile.
"This is the case for a number of London samples thanks to the new test for steroids (long-term metabolites).
"Also the testing is expensive…so it makes sense to do it where there is a reasonable chance of success…
"New tests for substances other than anabolic steroids may be developed in the next three years…so unless there is a good reason, we want to keep samples until nearer to the eight years."
Now the process is underway, however, there seems likely to be a steady trickle of retrospective positives, which will require constant readjustments of the Olympic medal lists and tables. Last year a ninth-placed weightlifter at London 2012 ascended to the bronze medal position in the wake of retrospective tests on his competitors. He was subsequently sent home from Rio 2016 for a doping offence.
How long will this shifting process go on? A while. It’s surely worth it - but also worth following in 2017.
8 - Will Durban 2022 step up to the plate for the Commonwealth Games?
The 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast are set fair to maintain the giddy momentum established by the success of the Glasgow 2014 Games. But four years further on the omens are not good for the prospective hosts of the 2022 Games, Durban.
Having become sole bidder following the withdrawal of competitors Edmonton because of uncertainty over oil prices, Durban has proved inept and inert.
Gideon Sam, President of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee and a Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) vice-president, admitted at the CGF Assembly in October that Durban's hosting of the event "hangs in the balance".
After the documents were submitted to the CGF last month Sam believed all was hunky-dory. The CGF begged to differ and released a statement saying it could take "up to six weeks" for a recommendation to be made to the Executive Committee over the staging of the 2022 Games - "either in Durban or an alternative host city".
This could get very awkward.
9 - Will lightweight rowing continue at the Olympics?
After the 2016 World Rowing Championships in Rotterdam, the rule regarding Olympic rowing entries was altered. In the past, Rule 37 meant that FISA, the international rowing body, was able to decide upon a quota of events and a maximum number of athletes given to them by the International Olympic Committee. Now a new Rule 37 exists:
“The events programme for the Olympic Regatta shall be determined by the IOC Executive Board after consultation with the FISA Executive Committee, in accordance with the Olympic Charter. The FISA Congress shall vote to select a recommended Olympic programme for the purpose of the consultation with the IOC prior to the IOC’s decision on the programme.”
This means, effectively, that the IOC has the final say over events at the Olympics. As Daniel Spring, writing for Rowglobal.com, has noted, the IOC has recently reiterated its position that weight classes should not be included in any events other than combat sports and weightlifting.
FISA has submitted five proposals, all of which would retain some lightweight competition in Tokyo 2020. But there are fears the IOC may have something more draconian in mind. If so, next year will reveal it.
10 - Will Leicester City manage to retain the Premier League title they so refreshingly won last season?
With all due respect to our editor - no. Let's just hope they stay in the Premier League.