Tokyo 2020 boss not ruling out last minute cancellation of Olympic Games

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CNN International 20 July, 2021 - 08:30am 23 views

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Tokyo 2020 chief Muto doesn't rule out 11th-hour cancellation of Olympic Games

CNBC 20 July, 2021 - 06:03am

The chief of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee on Tuesday did not rule out a last-minute cancellation of the Olympics, as more athletes tested positive for COVID-19 and major sponsors ditched plans to attend Friday's opening ceremony.

Asked at a news conference if the global sporting showpiece might still be cancelled, Toshiro Muto said he would keep an eye on infection numbers and liaise with other organizers if necessary.

"We can't predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases. So we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases," said Muto.

"We have agreed that based on the coronavirus situation, we will convene five-party talks again. At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises."

Covid-19 cases are rising in Tokyo and the Games, postponed last year because of the pandemic, will be held without spectators. Japan this month decided that participants would compete in empty venues to minimize health risks.

There have been 67 cases of COVID-19 infections in Japan among those accredited for the Games since July 1, when many athletes and officials started arriving, organizers said on Tuesday.

Japan, whose vaccination program has lagged that of most other developed nations, has recorded more than 840,000 cases and 15,055 deaths and Games host city Tokyo is experiencing a fresh surge, with 1,387 cases recorded on Tuesday.

Muto, a former top financial bureaucrat with close ties to Japan's ruling party, is known for his careful choice of words, while officials are facing a domestic public angry about coronavirus restrictions and concerned over a possible spike in cases triggered by Games attendees arriving from abroad.

Organizers, for whom International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said cancelling the event had never been an option, have promised to keep the Games "safe and secure".

But experts see gaps in an Olympic "bubble" that mandates frequent testing and has been designed to limit participants' movements.

Seiko Hashimoto, who sits alongside Muto as organizing committee President, said that safety measures introduced to reassure the Japanese public had not necessarily done so, and that she was aware that popular support for the Games had dropped.

"I really want to apologize from my heart for the accumulation of frustrations and concerns that the public has been feeling towards the Olympics," Hashimoto told the same news conference.

The first major test of how an Olympics can be held in the midst of a pandemic may well come in the men's soccer tournament, when Japan face a South Africa side that could struggle to field 11 players due to the coronavirus.

That match is due to take place on Thursday, a day before an opening ceremony that top sponsor Panasonic as well as Fujitsu and NEC Corp will skip. Toyota Motor dropped all TV ads linked to the Games on Monday.

Bach, who Kyodo news agency said would meet Japan's Emperor Naruhito on Thursday, said on Tuesday organizers could never have imagined the "unprecedented challenges" of bringing the global event to Tokyo, praising the "heroic efforts" of medical personnel and volunteers around the world amid the pandemic.

Two members of Mexico's Olympic baseball team tested positive for Covid-19 at the team hotel before their departure for Tokyo, the country's baseball federation said on Tuesday.

The athletes, Hector Velazquez and Sammy Solis, who tested positive on July 18, have been isolated, as have all team members pending results of more tests, it said.

Kenji Shibuya, former director of the Institute for Population Health at King's College London, said that the organizers' bubble system was already "kind of broken."

"My biggest concern is, of course, there will be a cluster of infections in the (athletes') village or some of the accommodation and interaction with local people," he added.

Organizing committee President Hashimoto said members of the public were concerned "because they feel that the current situation appears to show that the playbooks that were meant to guarantee security is not providing a sense of safety."

In a poll in the Asahi newspaper, 68% of respondents expressed doubt about the ability of Olympic organizers to control coronavirus infections, with 55% saying they were opposed to the Games going ahead.

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For Carli Loyd, other older Olympians, age is just a number

Associated Press 20 July, 2021 - 04:42am

TOKYO (AP) — Much has been made about Carli Lloyd’s age. The American forward will be — gasp! — 39 when the Olympics soccer tournament kicks off.

But for all the focus on Lloyd, she’s not even going to be the oldest athlete competing in Tokyo.

Meet Formiga, who is a seemingly ageless 43-year-old midfielder for Brazil. She’s one of a number of Olympians who are proving that, yep, age is just a number.

“You know, I literally haven’t switched off for 17, 18 years. It’s been hard-core craziness. I’m sure my husband and my family are going to be excited when I’m done playing because I’ll actually get to do things,” said Lloyd, who is in her fourth Olympics.

The oldest Olympic athlete was a Swedish shooter named Oscar Swahn, who was 72 years, 280 days old when he won a silver medal in the 1920 Olympics.

But there’s a codicil to this distinction. For nearly 40 years, the Olympics awarded medals in the arts. British artist John Copley was 73 when he won a silver medal in “painting and engraving” in the 1948 Games. It was the last Olympics that included art.

The oldest member of the United States team headed to Tokyo is Phillip Dutton, a 57-year-old equestrian who competes in eventing, a combination of dressage, cross-country and jumping. This is Dutton’s seventh Olympics. He won the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Games to become the oldest U.S. medalist since 1952. He was the oldest American in Rio, too.

First-time sport skateboarding, added in an effort to attract a younger audience to the Olympics, isn’t oly for the young. South Africa’s Dallas Oberholzer will try for gold at 46.

Lloyd is the oldest player on the U.S. soccer team that has the oldest average age — 30.8 — of any U.S. team that’s played in the Olympics. Other older players include Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn, both 36.

“I don’t look at players by age because there’s so many other things that we look at before we see how old they are. The most important thing is whether they perform or not, whether they’re going to be able to help us win the Olympics or not,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said.

For Lloyd, the fact that the games were put off for a year was actually helpful. She had knee surgery, reconnected with her family and hired a new trainer.

“There’s been so many things that I’ve worked on and tried to finesse in the last year,” she said. “So, I’m actually, I think, in a better position than I was in 2020. I’m just really grateful and going to keep plugging away.”

Ok, no one considers 20-year-olds old. But the U.S. gymnastic team includes several 20-somethings, including Simone Biles, who is 24. Gone are the days of Dominique Moceanu, who was just a 14-year-old sprite when she won gold in 1996.

The average age of the U.S. team is 20.8, the oldest it’s been since 1952. The oldest athlete on the team is MyKayla Skinner, who is also 24 but a few months older than Biles.

“Being older, it’s just been awesome because I feel like with all the experience I’ve had, I feel like my gymnastics has been better than ever, which is super cool,” Skinner said.

But they’re all youngsters, really, compared to Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan, who is 46 and competing in her eighth Olympics. She finished seventh in the vault in Rio.

Her age isn’t the only thing that makes Chusovitina a rarity in the gymnastics world: She’s also a mom. Her son is 21, older than many of the athletes she’s competing against.

Beach volleyball’s Jake Gibb, 45, is USA Volleyball’s oldest ever Olympian, beach or indoor.

It will be his fourth Olympics. This summer he’s paired with Taylor Crabb, 29, who is making his Olympic debut.

“Age is an advantage,” Gibb said. “So much of our game is pattern recognition. I’ve seen so many more unique plays and scenarios through my career and am able to react appropriately because of it. Don’t get me wrong it takes a ton of work to keep up with the young bucks physically, but I’ve done that. I’ve done that work so now it’s advantage.”

Pia Sundhage, the former U.S. soccer coach turned Sweden’s coach turned Brazil’s coach, put both Formiga and Marta on her roster for Tokyo. Formiga is headed to her seventh Olympics and Marta, a legend in the game, is 35 and will play in her fifth.

“Look at Formiga. We shouldn’t think it is over for them, no,” Sundhage said about her vets. “The way they play, they way they behave in the group as human beings ... it is very encouraging. They can play many matches.”

Hiroshi Hoketsu, in a bid to break the record for oldest Olympian ever at 80, was not selected for his home country’s equestrian team. He first competed at the 1964 Tokyo Games. He pulled out of the Rio Games because of an ill horse.

It appears, as of now, that in Tokyo the oldest athlete will be equestrian Mary Hanna of Australia, who is a 66-year-old grandmother competing in her seventh Olympics.

Hanna is also set to become the second-oldest woman to take part in an Olympics, after Great Britain’s Lorna Johnstone, an equestrian who competed in the 1972 games at age 70.

AP Sports Writers Will Graves and Jimmy Golen contributed to this report.

More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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