Tokyo Olympics still undecided on fans — or no fans at all

Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, speaks during a press conference on June 11, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Yuichi Yamazaki/Pool Photo via AP)
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Updated 11 June 2021

Tokyo Olympics still undecided on fans — or no fans at all

TOKYO: The question of allowing any fans into Tokyo Olympic venues is still being debated with a decision unlikely to be announced before the end of the month.

This would be just a few weeks before the Olympics are to open on July 23. Fans from abroad have already been banned in what is shaping up as a largely made-for-television Olympics.

Tokyo and several prefectures are under a state of emergency until June 20. Infections have slowed recently, but the spread of variants is still a concern that could put pressure on already stressed medical facilities.

Dr. Nobuhiko Okabe, director general of the Kawasaki City Institute for Public Health, suggested on Friday he would lean toward few fans. He spoke on a panel put together by the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee.

“Thinking in a different way, I think it’s an option to suggest to people to enjoy the games on TV — like teleworking,” he said. “We could suggest a different way of enjoying the games.”

Okabe said it was not just a matter of fans in the venues, but what they do after leaving — heading to bars or restaurants.

“We don’t want people to move much,” he said. “That’s our wish as we think about anti-virus measures.”

Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee President Seiko Hashimoto originally said she would announce a decision in April about local fans but has repeatedly postponed it.

Ticket sales were to account for $800 million in income for the organizing committee. Much of that will be lost and has to be made up by Japanese government entities.

Japan is officially spending $15.4 billion to run the Olympics, though government audits suggest the figure is much higher. All but $6.7 billion is public money.

The Switzerland-based International Olympic Committee derives almost 75 percent of its income from selling broadcast rights, which drives the games and the urgency to hold it during a pandemic.

Japan’s JiJi Press reported Friday, without citing sources, that Dr. Shigeru Omi would issue a report next week that warns about the risks of having fans. He is a former World Health Organization regional director and a head of a government task force on the virus.

Speaking in a parliamentary session last week, he said “it is crucial that we must not let the Olympics trigger a flow of people.”

Hashimoto warned there could be penalties for anyone who breaks strict rules around the Tokyo Games. She did not say what they would be and said this was still under discussion.

The protocol for anyone entering Japan for the Olympics requires frequent testing, limited movement, and monitoring by GPS on smartphones.

This includes everyone from athletes to journalists to staff and other officials working the games.

About 11,000 athletes will attend the Olympics with 4,400 for the Paralympics. Tens of thousands of others will also enter Japan for both events. Organizers say the total figure for both events — athletes included — is about 93,000.

Organizers say that’s about half of the original total expected of 180,000.

“In order to get the citizens of Japan to feel secure there are rigid rules that we need to lay out or else,” Hashimoto said. “We’d like to avoid having to penalize people but we do need to take thorough measures.”

Juventus finally gets 1st win of Serie A season

Updated 22 September 2021

Juventus finally gets 1st win of Serie A season

  • De Ligt scored the winner in the 72nd minute to complete a comeback after Juventus fell behind four minutes after the break
  • Juventus moved up to 12th place, eight points behind leader Inter Milan

ROME: Critics had been demanding that Juventus use its younger players more during a horrendous start to Serie A.
They had to be appeased after Moise Kean, Federico Chiesa and Matthijs De Ligt each scored in a 3-2 win at Spezia for the Bianconeri’s first Italian league win of the season on Wednesday.
De Ligt scored the winner in the 72nd minute to complete a comeback after Juventus fell behind four minutes after the break.
Playing in place of Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini, the 22-year-old De Ligt coolly redirected in a loose ball that was being knocked around following a corner.
The 23-year-old Chiesa had equalized six minutes earlier with a typical goal for the Italy winger: he darted straight to the goal by dribbling through the legs of a defender then just barely got his shot off as he was sliding toward the ball.
The 21-year-old Kean — like coach Massimiliano Allegri in his second stint at Juventus — had given the visitors an early lead with a long shot after Adrien Rabiot knocked down a ball over the top from Leonardo Bonucci.
Spezia had struck back with goals both sides of halftime, the first coming with a solo effort from Emmanuel Gyasi, who dribbled by Danilo on the left flank and looped a long shot into the far corner.
Gyasi celebrated like Cristiano Ronaldo, his idol and the recently departed Juventus player, by leaping into the air and pumping his arms down toward his body.
Janis Antiste, a 19-year-old French forward, put Spezia ahead by beating De Ligt on a counterattack with the help of his shot being deflected by Bonucci.
Spezia nearly made it 3-1 but another effort minutes later was cleared off the line by Manuel Locatelli.
Juventus moved up to 12th place, eight points behind leader Inter Milan.
Hellas Verona has four points from two matches since hiring Igor Tudor to replace Eusebio Di Francesco as coach after three straight losses to open the season.
Nikola Kalinic scored twice in a 2-2 draw at promoted Salernitana three days after Verona handed Jose Mourinho his first defeat as Roma coach.
Mamadou Coulibaly equalized midway through the second half for Salernitana.

Europeans aim to ‘make it count’ in Ryder Cup defense

Updated 22 September 2021

Europeans aim to ‘make it count’ in Ryder Cup defense

  • Garcia will be playing in a 10th Ryder Cup when Europe launches its defense on Friday on the Wisconsin course hugging the shore of Lake Michigan

KOHLER: Europeans aim to 'make it count' in Ryder Cup defense AFP Kohler Padraig Harrington is hammering home the idea of European exceptionalism as his players prepare to defend golf's Ryder Cup in hostile territory against a star-laden US team.

Upon arriving at Whistling Straits, Europe's players learned where they line up in the history of just 164 players who have represented the continent.

Despite their wealth of experience and depth of enthusiasm for the biennial match play showdown, Europe's players were clearly moved to learn what rare company they're in.

"It was very powerful," Spain's Sergio Garcia said of the video that featured such past Ryder Cup greats as Jose Maria Olazabal and Tony Jacklin.

Every player to represent Europe — Great Britain and Ireland before the format changed in 1979 — was assigned a number, right through the members of this year's team of 12, who were urged to "make it count."

Garcia will be playing in a 10th Ryder Cup when Europe launches its defense on Friday on the Wisconsin course hugging the shore of Lake Michigan.

England's Lee Westwood will be playing in his 11th — but he too was struck by the video that contrasted the 164 to the 5,780 people who have climbed Mount Everest, 570 people who have been in outer space and 225 men who have won a major golf championship.

"You have a far greater chance of going into space or climbing Mount Everest than you have representing Europe in the Ryder Cup," Westwood said.

"It's something to be proud of, being able to pull on the clothing with the European team crest on it."

European teams have won nine of the past 12 Ryder Cups, thrashing the United States 17.5-10.5 in France in 2018. That includes three of the past six held on US soil.

In harkening to history, Harrington boosted the spirit of camaraderie that Europe must have to maintain its dominance against a US team that features eight of the world's top 10 players - the highest number for either team since the inception of the world rankings in 1986.

US captain Steve Stricker, aiming to make the most of all that talent, capitalized on the United States' home advantage by convening his team for an early weekend of practice at Whistling Straits, before the hoopla of Ryder Cup week was in full swing.

Jordan Spieth, heading into his fourth Ryder Cup, wasn't sure how helpful the days of light practice would be, but said Tuesday they had been beneficial.

"I thought the commitment of guys to get up here was cool," Spieth said.

"We were messing around. We were hitting shots. We weren't really like chipping and putting to all the pins.

It was more let's have some fun and play a match with each other and just kind of see — get our feet on the ground, see the grandstands, see the setting ahead of time so that when we arrive today, you're not kind of taken aback."

That could be especially useful for a US side featuring six Ryder Cup rookies, and it plays into Stricker's goal of "out-preparing" Europe.

"Certainly I think things can adjust, but as far as how prepared you can be on Tuesday for a Friday start, I would say it's probably the most that I've seen in the four Cups," Spieth said.

UEFA says FIFA snubs request for talks on World Cup concerns

Updated 22 September 2021

UEFA says FIFA snubs request for talks on World Cup concerns

  • Gianni Infantino has been deploying retired players and Arsenal’s ex-manager Arsene Wenger in a campaign to win support for the overhaul of world football
  • “UEFA is disappointed with the methodology adopted, which has so far led to radical reform projects being communicated," European football's governing body said

LONDON: Intensifying its opposition to FIFA’s push for biennial World Cups, UEFA complained Wednesday that Gianni Infantino’s world body has yet to respond to its request for talks to discuss the concerns of European nations.
Infantino has been deploying retired players and former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger in a campaign to win support for the overhaul of world football, which UEFA said is a sign of “promotional campaigns of unilaterally pre-determined concepts” rather than an open consultation process.
Doubling the frequency of World Cups would create significant disruption for club competitions, continental tournaments, including the European Championship, and existing global events like the Olympics.
“UEFA is disappointed with the methodology adopted, which has so far led to radical reform projects being communicated and openly promoted before having been given, together with other stakeholders, the chance to participate in any consultation meeting,” European football’s governing body said in a statement.
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has already said that Europe could boycott the World Cup if Infantino succeeds in securing approval for his plan from the FIFA Congress of 211 member associations. Most of those countries never get to play at the World Cup, which will feature 32 men’s teams for the last time in 2022 before expanding to 48 nations in 2026.
“There are real dangers associated with this plan,” UEFA said in a statement after an executive committee meeting, “the dilution of the value of the No. 1 world football event, whose quadrennial occurrence gives it a mystique that generations of fans have grown up with; the erosion of sporting opportunities for the weaker national teams by replacing regular matches with final tournaments; the risk to sustainability for players, forced to engage in summer high intensity competitions every year instead of longer recuperation breaks in alternate years.”
More than a week after asking FIFA “to organize a special meeting with them to be able to voice their concerns on the impact of such plans,” UEFA said it “to date not yet received a reply.”
Major women’s tournaments, such as the World Cup and continental events like the European Championship, are currently held in odd-numbered years. The men’s World Cup and Euros are held in even-numbered years. FIFA’s new vision would mean every year would feature a men’s tournament, including continental events.
“We are grateful for the attention reserved to the UEFA European Championship, with the proposed double frequency of its final event,” UEFA said, “but we prefer to address such a sensitive matter with a comprehensive rather than speculative approach.”
UEFA flagged up “the risk for the future of women’s tournaments, deprived of exclusive slots and overshadowed by the proximity of top men’s events.”
A World Cup would also clash with the Olympics, unlike now, if the new plans are approved.
UEFA highlighted “the impact on the global sports system and respect that football, as the most followed sport worldwide, must show to consolidated spaces of exposure and exploitation used by other sports.”
FIFA has been stepping up the publication of in-house interviews featuring former players stating the case for a review of the international match calendar and for holding the World Cup every two years. Infantino has not been made available for comment since May.
“The serious concerns that the FIFA proposal provokes ... cannot be dispelled simply with unsubstantiated promotional slogans on the supposed benefits of a thicker calendar for final tournaments,” UEFA said.
“The respect for a consultation process with the stakeholders — which should be unbiased — would suggest abstaining from promotional campaigns of unilaterally pre-determined concepts that nobody has been given the possibility to see in detail and which have wide-ranging, often unexpected, effects.”

Canelo Álvarez, Caleb Plant trade blows at news conference

Updated 22 September 2021

Canelo Álvarez, Caleb Plant trade blows at news conference

BEVERLY HILLS, California: Canelo Álvarez and Caleb Plant couldn’t wait until Nov. 6 to start throwing hands.
The super middleweight champions traded blows at their news conference Tuesday to promote their upcoming title unification bout, and the exchange left Plant with a cut under his right eye.
The fighters scuffled after exchanging verbal barbs during the ceremonial faceoff before the news conference began in the garden of the Beverly Hilton. Apparently in response to a comment from Plant about Álvarez’s mother, the Mexican superstar knocked Plant backward with a two-handed shove.
“You can say whatever you want to me, but not about my mother,” Álvarez said afterward.
Plant stepped forward and threw a left hook at Álvarez, who mostly dodged it and countered with a left hand to Plant’s face. Plant said the blow struck his sunglasses, which jammed into his cheek and caused the cut.
“We were just saying things, just the normal back-and-forth banter, and then he did what he did,” Plant said.
Álvarez put it succinctly on Twitter while posting video of the brouhaha: “Don’t talk about my mom.”
The fighters’ camps eventually separated them, but Plant was left dabbing at the blood on his cheek. He eventually put on his sunglasses for a frosty, combative news conference in which Plant repeatedly called out Álvarez for his doping violations in 2018.
Álvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) will risk his WBC, WBA and WBO super middleweight titles against Plant (21-0, 12 KOs), the unbeaten IBF champion from Tennessee, when they meet at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Plant repeatedly said Álvarez and trainer Eddy Reynoso are “cheaters.” Álvarez was suspended for six months for clenbuterol detected in a drug test, although the Mexican champ claimed the banned substance came from tainted meat.
“This sport is too dangerous for people to be popping positive,” Plant said. “He’s a cheater. It’s not up for discussion. Did he get suspended? Did he test positive? It’s not about what I say. It’s about what the (athletic) commission said. You have to take that up with them, not me.”
Reynoso responded angrily when pressed on Álvarez’s past positive test and the more recent failed doping test for Oscar Valdez, Canelo’s training partner. Speaking in Spanish, Reynoso didn’t directly address Plant’s comments, but instead profanely suggested Plant wasn’t training hard enough to win in seven weeks.
“Taking illegal substances doesn’t happen because you’re confident,” Plant said. “It happens because you’re afraid. That just gives me more confidence. I’ve dedicated a lot to this sport, and it will be my life’s work coming together in that one moment when I beat him. It would etch my name in the history books, and that’s what I’m here to do.”
Álvarez is unbeaten in 15 fights since his only career loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2013. He traded insults with Plant after their physical exchange, but kept his public comments more brief.
“For me, it’s for history, for Mexico, for my team,” he said. “I’m going to knock out this guy in less than eight rounds.”

Golden Shoe winner Lewandowski hopes to become ‘even better’

Updated 22 September 2021

Golden Shoe winner Lewandowski hopes to become ‘even better’

  • Lewandowski netted 41 times in 29 games for Bayern in the 2020-21 season

MUNICH: Europe’s “Golden Shoe” winner Robert Lewandowski sent out a warning to defenses around Europe on Tuesday when he likened himself to a ‘good wine’ that was still improving.
The Bayern Munich striker also offered warm praise and thanks to his wife Anna when he received the award as top scorer in European football last season.
Lewandowski netted 41 times in 29 games for Bayern in the 2020-21 season, breaking the great Gerd Mueller’s record of 40 goals in a Bundesliga season, set in 1971-72.
His tally represents the highest in Europe since Cristiano Ronaldo bagged 48 goals for Real Madrid in 2014-15.
The 33-year-old forward insisted, though, that there were still plenty more goals and titles yet to come.
“I’m still here, and I will be here for a long time!” said Lewandowski.
“Age is just a number, I feel very good, my form indicators have never been so good.
“I know that with my body I can still play for years at the highest level. I am like good wine and I hope to become even better.”
This season, Lewandowski has already scored seven goals in five days as champions Bayern top the early Bundesliga table.
“It’s not over yet, we are still hungry for titles,” said Lewandowski who hopes to help Bayern to a second Champions League title to add to the one he won with them in 2020.
“I don’t need to go and prove myself in another league,” said the striker who was linked with Real Madrid a few years ago.
“With the Champions League, I can measure myself against the best. I am 100 percent focused on Bayern and I don’t think about anything else.”
At the ceremony held at Bayern’s Allianz Arena, the Poland striker was effusive in his praise for his wife who is also his personal “motivation coach.”
“I have to thank my wife, she is a great support for me and a motivation when things are not going so well,” he said.
A former Polish international karateka, Anna Lewandowska is also a nutritionist and oversees her husband’s diet.
“I am very proud of him,” she said. “He is extraordinary as a person, as an athlete, as a partner, as a friend and as a husband.”
Lewandowski is only the second Bundesliga player to win the award after Mueller, who won in 1970 and 1972.
Lionel Messi has won the award a record six times while Ronaldo has taken it four times but they only scored 30 and 29 goals respectively in 2020-21.