Olympics-Tokyo 2020 chief Muto doesn’t rule out canceling Games

South Africa’s Olympic soccer team members wearing masks leave their training ahead of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Chiba. Organizing committee’s chief Tuesday didn’t rule out a last-minute cancelation of Olympics over COVID-19. (Reuters)
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Updated 21 July 2021

Olympics-Tokyo 2020 chief Muto doesn’t rule out canceling Games

  • Toshiro Muto said he would keep an eye on infection numbers and liase with other organizers if necessary
  • COVID-19 cases are rising in Tokyo and the Games will be held without spectators

TOKYO: Tokyo 2020 organizing committee’s chief on Tuesday didn’t rule out a last-minute cancelation 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 canceled, Toshiro Muto said he would keep an eye on infection numbers and liase 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 https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/coronavirus-incidents-tokyo-o... 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 canceling 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 toward 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 Corp. as well as Fujitsu Ltd. and NEC Corp. will skip. Toyota Motor Corp. 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 percent of respondents expressed doubt about the ability of Olympic organizers to control coronavirus infections, with 55 percent saying they were opposed to the Games going ahead.


Qatar beats Italy to reach men’s beach volleyball semifinals in Tokyo

Updated 04 August 2021

Qatar beats Italy to reach men’s beach volleyball semifinals in Tokyo

  • Duo of Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan are now on a five-match winning streak ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Russian Olympic Committee team

TOKYO: Qatar has reached the Tokyo 2020 beach volleyball men’s semifinal after beating Italy in straight sets at Shiokaze Park on Wednesday evening.
The Qatari duo of Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan put on an impressive display to defeat the Italian team of Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo 2-0 (21-17, 23-21) in the quarterfinal.
The Qatari athletes, both 26, will now take on Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) on Thursday afternoon (from 4pm KSA).
On Sunday, Younousse and Tijan defeated the US 2-1 (14-21, 21-19,15-11) in the round of 16 to reach today’s last-eight match.
Qatar’s beach volleyball team is now on a five-match winning streak at Tokyo 2020.
The started their Olympic campaign on July 25 by beating Switzerland 2-1 (21-17, 21-16) in their preliminary round — Group C match.
They followed that up with two more group victories; a 2-1 win over Italy three days later, and a 2-0 against the US last Friday.

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Egyptian riders fall short of medals in Tokyo 2020 jumping individual final

Updated 04 August 2021

Egyptian riders fall short of medals in Tokyo 2020 jumping individual final

  • In a strong field of 30, Mouda Zeyada and Nayel Nassar finished 19th and 24th

TOKYO: The Egyptian equestrian athletes Mouda Zeyada and Nayel Nassar failed in their quest for Olympic gold at the jumping individual final at Tokyo’s Equestrian Park on Wednesday afternoon.
Their times of 86.63 and 89.63 left Zeyada and Nassar in positions 19 and 24 respectively and out of contention for the medals.


In the jump-off to decide the winner after six competitors shared top spot, the gold medal eventually went to the British rider Ben Maher (37.85), the silver to the Swede Peder Fredricson (38.02), and bronze to Maikel van der Vleuten of the Netherlands (38.90)
On Tuesday, a near-faultless ride had seen 30-year-old Nassar progress to today’s final, where he was joined by 26-year-old compatriot Zeyada among the competition’s top 30 qualifiers.
Nassar in particular has been the center of attention since the weekend after Bill Gates, father of his wife Jennifer Katharine Gates, sent him a message of good luck on social media that went viral in the days before the start of the competition.

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Eriksen at Inter training ground, in ‘excellent shape’ after Euro collapse

Updated 04 August 2021

Eriksen at Inter training ground, in ‘excellent shape’ after Euro collapse

  • Inter said Eriksen, 29, paid a visit to the training centre at Appiano Gentile on Wednesday
  • His future at Inter is in the balance due to his pacemaker, as footballers with one fitted cannot play in Italy, unlike in some other countries

ROME: Christian Eriksen on Wednesday met his Inter Milan teammates for the first time since suffering cardiac arrest at Euro 2020, in a visit to the Italian champions’ training ground.
In a statement, Inter said that Eriksen, 29, paid a visit to the training center at Appiano Gentile outside Milan on Wednesday morning.
“The Danish midfielder met the club directors, the coach, teammates and all of the staff present. Eriksen is doing well and is in excellent physical and mental shape,” Inter said.
“He will now follow the recovery program put forward by Danish doctors in Copenhagen, who will also co-ordinate the clinical follow-up. The Inter medical staff will naturally be kept informed and up to date throughout the process.”
Eriksen collapsed toward the end of the first half of Denmark’s opening match at the European Championship against Finland, his life saved by the quick thinking of his teammates and the Danish medical staff.
His future at Inter is in the balance due to his pacemaker, as footballers with one fitted cannot play in Italy, unlike in some other countries.
The tests he is undergoing will eventually determine whether or not he can have it removed, allowing him to stay at Inter.
He is in any case not expected to be back in action for another six months, whether he stays in Italy or finds a new club elsewhere.
He arrived in Milan on Tuesday and reportedly had a conversation with Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta before traveling to the training ground on Wednesday to see his teammates and new coach Simone Inzaghi.


Spain’s top soccer clubs to get cash boost from $3.2 bln La Liga deal

Updated 04 August 2021

Spain’s top soccer clubs to get cash boost from $3.2 bln La Liga deal

  • The deal sparked a bout of transfer speculation in local media as it could help finance eyecatching moves
  • La Liga said on Wednesday it had agreed in principle a "multipronged" deal with CVC

MADRID: Spain’s top soccer clubs including Real Madrid and Barcelona would get lucrative cash infusions under a proposed 2.7 billion euros ($3.2 billion) deal between the country’s top league and a private equity firm.
The deal sparked a bout of transfer speculation in local media, including that it could help finance eyecatching moves such as top France striker Kylian Mbappe joining Real Madrid, though La Liga said the funds would mostly be for investment purposes to which it would have to agree.
La Liga said on Wednesday it had agreed in principle a “multipronged” deal with CVC including the 2.7 billion euros cash infusion in return for 10 percent of its revenue, as well as the creation of a newly formed company housing a range of commercial activities in which CVC would also take a 10 percent stake.
The deal values La Liga at around 24.2 billion euros in total and, if approved, will fund what it called “structural improvements” while offsetting some of the immediate impact from COVID-19, the league said in a statement.
The cash influx would be particularly welcome to Real Madrid and Barcelona which have lately faced unfamiliar constraints on their spending power, but how much of it leaks out into transfer fees and player wages remains to be seen.
Local media reports suggested the injection could help Barca resolve star forward Lionel Messi’s contract situation, while it was also suggested that the cash could prove pivotal in Real’s reported pursuit of Paris St. Germain’s Mbappe.
Importantly the stake sale still requires approval from the league’s executive committee and clubs, whose views have not yet been given. La Liga said the funds would be distributed on the basis of a formula derived from average audiovisual revenues over the last seven years, when La Liga started commercializing rights as a collective — implying the top two would get the biggest chunks.
Barca declined to comment when contacted by Reuters about the deal. Real did not immediately respond to request for comment.
CVC was part of a consortium last year which entered talks to buy a stake in the media business of Italy’s top soccer league, but the deal fell through following objections from some clubs.
La Liga said some 90 percent of the funds raised will be channeled directly to clubs, which would have to use the cash to finance investment programs agreed with the league. It didn’t say how long the CVC deal would last.
Faced with the end of a cycle of rapid growth in the value of TV rights — and pummeled by a year of next to zero ticket sales due to restrictions on crowds — soccer leagues and clubs not just in Spain are scrambling to find alternative sources of revenue.
The failure of an attempt earlier this year by 12 of Europe’s biggest clubs to set up a breakaway Super League ratcheted up pressure on the top clubs.
Under the terms of the deal, La Liga would set up a new company to house commercial elements, such as sponsorship deals, the league’s technology arm La Liga Tech and their joint US venture — including plans to stage a league match in the United States — in which CVC would take a tenth.
It didn’t say what structural improvements it envisaged but these could relate to stadium and training facilities.
Management of the league’s sporting responsibilities and its audiovisual rights business would remain outside the scope of the transaction, La Liga said. “When it comes to the rights strategy and sales, this will continue to be handled by La Liga,” a spokesperson said.
With the boost from the investment, the Spanish league hopes to match or exceed the English Premier League’s business in the next six to seven years, a source close to La Liga added.
For CVC, which used to own Formula One, the deal would add to its interests in sport. It agreed in March to invest 365 million pounds for a share in rugby union’s Six Nations tournament, grouping France, Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and Italy.


UEFA targets FA for discipline over fan chaos at Euro final

Updated 03 August 2021

UEFA targets FA for discipline over fan chaos at Euro final

  • Fans without tickets forced their way into the stadium and there were ugly scenes in the stands
  • European soccer's governing body added that more information "will be made available in due course”

NYON, Switzerland: UEFA opened disciplinary proceedings against the English Football Association on Tuesday over the behavior of some England fans at the European Championship final at Wembley Stadium.
Fans without tickets forced their way into the stadium and there were ugly scenes in the stands during the July 11 game, which Italy won 3-2 on penalties.
“Following an investigation conducted by a UEFA ethics and disciplinary inspector into the events involving supporters which occurred inside and around the stadium during the UEFA Euro 2020 final match between the national teams of Italy and England played on 11 July at Wembley Stadium, London, disciplinary proceedings have been opened against the English Football Association for a potential violation of Article 16(2)(h) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations for a lack of order or discipline by its supporters,” UEFA said.
European soccer’s governing body added that more information “will be made available in due course.”
Fans without tickets broke through security barriers and turnstiles to get in to see England’s first major tournament final in 55 years. England defender Harry Maguire said last month that his father sustained rib injuries during “a stampede” of fans.
The official attendance was around 67,000 of the stadium’s 90,000 capacity, with many seats intended to be left empty to distance fans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The FA itself had described the scenes as ” disgraceful ” and earlier commissioned an independent review.
“We are determined to fully understand what happened outside and then inside Wembley Stadium at the UEFA Euro 2020 final on Sunday 11 July,” the FA said last month.
The FA had vowed to work with law enforcement “to identify those responsible and hold them to account.”