Olympic organizers defend virus measures as Japan cases surge

At the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Rebeca Andrade of Brazil wearing a protective face mask looks on. Japan hit a record number of new virus cases on Thursday as Tokyo Olympics organizers dismissed any link to the nationwide surge. (Reuters)
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Updated 29 July 2021

Olympic organizers defend virus measures as Japan cases surge

  • Olympic organisers reported 24 new infections among Games participants, the highest yet, bringing the total number to 193
  • International Olympic Committee spokesman said there was nothing to suggest a link between the Games and the rising figures in Japan

TOKYO: Japan hit a record number of new virus cases on Thursday as Tokyo Olympics organizers defended their Covid-19 counter-measures and dismissed any link to the nationwide surge.
Olympic organizers reported 24 new infections among Games participants, the highest yet, bringing the total number to 193, including athletes, media and Olympic employees and contractors.
Meanwhile nationwide infections topped 10,000 for the first time, Japanese media said, with Tokyo reporting a record 3,865 cases.
Reports also said the government would expand a state of emergency to four more regions, and extend the emergency currently in place in Tokyo until August 31.
International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said there was nothing to suggest a link between the Games and the rising figures in Japan.
“As far as I’m aware there’s not a single case of an infection spreading to the Tokyo population from the athletes or Olympic movement,” he told reporters.
“We have the most tested community probably anywhere... in the world, on top of that you have some of the toughest lockdown restrictions in the athlete’s village,” he added.
Organizers also insisted the Games is not putting additional pressure on Japan’s medical system, as experts warn the rising number of cases could lead to a health care crisis.
Only two people associated with the Games are in hospital, they said, and half of all those needing care are being looked after by their own medical teams.
“Of 310,000 screening tests, the rate of positivity is 0.02 percent,” Adams added.
Of the Olympic participants reported positive, 109 are residents of Japan, with the rest coming from abroad.
The comments come with rising concern in Tokyo and beyond about a rapid rise in new infections, spurred by the more contagious Delta variant.
Tokyo is already under a virus state of emergency that shortens restaurant and bar opening hours and bans them from selling alcohol, and three neighboring regions are now expected to impose the same measure.
But experts say the limits do not appear to be working, and have warned people not to drop their guard.
“The current situation is the worst ever,” a top government adviser on the virus warned, according to national broadcaster NHK.
Shigeru Omi, a former top WHO official, said the government and Olympic organizers had the “responsibility to do everything they can... to prevent infections and a breakdown in medical services.”
And the chairman of the Tokyo Medical Association Haruo Ozaki urged the government to “send an effective, strong message,” warning that emergency measures were no longer enough.
Osaki said infections among Olympians and among the Japanese population were “different issues,” but said the Games were having an “indirect impact.”
“People find it hard to think about self-restraint when we’re having this festival,” he said.
Tokyo’s Governor Yuriko Koike however insisted the Games was helping people heed calls to avoid non-essential outings.
“It’s significantly lifting the numbers of people staying at home” and watching on television, she told reporters.
Japan has seen a comparatively small virus outbreak, with around 15,000 deaths despite avoiding harsh lockdowns, but only around a quarter of the population is fully vaccinated.
Strict measures have been imposed for the Games, including a ban on spectators at almost all events and regular testing for Olympic participants.
Japanese media said Thursday the government would expand the state of emergency to three regions around Tokyo and Osaka, in western Japan.
The emergency measures in place in Tokyo and southern Okinawa had been due to end August 22, but will now last until August 31 in the capital and other affected regions, they said.

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Salah strike helps Liverpool to top of the table with palace win

Updated 3 min 20 sec ago

Salah strike helps Liverpool to top of the table with palace win

LONDON: Martin Odegaard scored his first goal since his permanent switch to Arsenal on Saturday to further ease the pressure on Mikel Arteta as Sadio Mane helped fire Liverpool to the top of the Premier League.
Defending champions Manchester City dropped two points at home to Southampton after a 0-0 stalemate while struggling Wolves lost their fourth match in five against 10-man Brentford.
Arsenal were rock bottom of the table before last week’s fixtures but wins against Norwich and now Burnley lifted them to the relative comfort of 12th spot before the late kick-off between Aston Villa and Everton.
Odegaard, who signed from Real Madrid last month after spending part of last season at the Emirates on loan, broke the deadlock in the 30th minute, curling home a free-kick to give the visitors a 1-0 lead at Turf Moor.
Arsenal breathed a sigh of relief when VAR overturned a penalty awarded to Burnley in the second half after Matej Vydra tumbled to the turf following a challenge by goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.
Liverpool forward Mane continued his eye-catching run against Crystal Palace, netting in his ninth league match in a row against the London side to send Jurgen Klopp’s men top of the table with a 3-0 win.
Mohamed Salah’s glancing header from Konstantinos Tsimikas’ corner was kept out by goalkeeper Vicente Guaita but Mane pounced to lash home his 100th goal for Liverpool in all competitions.
Salah doubled the Reds’ lead in the 78th minute before Naby Keita sealed the win with a sweetly struck volley.
Liverpool, champions in 2020, have made an impressive start to the season, scoring 12 goals in their opening five games and conceding just once.
Manchester City will rue their inability to beat Southampton at the Etihad after consecutive 5-0 home wins.
It could have been worse for them after referee Jon Moss pointed to the spot when Kyle Walker bundled into the back of Adam Armstrong in the area, showing the England international a red card.
But the incident was reviewed by VAR and Moss eventually decided to overturn both decisions.
The build-up to City’s match was dominated by a row over attendance levels at the Etihad, with manager Pep Guardiola urging fans to fill empty seats in comments that irritated some supporters.
But fans were frustrated by battling Southampton, who kept City’s attackers at bay despite relentless pressure.
The home side thought they had snatched victory in the dying minutes after goalkeeper Alex McCarthy saved a Phil Foden header and Raheem Sterling tucked in the rebound but the flag was raised.
Watford beat Norwich 3-1 to condemn the newly promoted Canaries to their fifth consecutive defeat.
Watford took the lead in the 17th minute through Emmanuel Dennis but Teemu Pukki equalized before half time. Ismaila Sarr put the visitors back in front in the 63rd minute and scored again with 10 minutes to go.
In the early kick-off, Ivan Toney scored a goal and created another as 10-man Brentford beat Wolves 2-0 to maintain their impressive start to their first Premier League campaign.
The 25-year-old striker won and converted a penalty before setting up Bryan Mbeumo as the Bees prevailed at Molineux despite Shandon Baptiste’s red card in the second half.
Tottenham host Chelsea on Sunday while Cristiano Ronaldo’s Manchester United travel to West Ham.

New Zealand Cricket silent on security threat ending Pakistan tour

Updated 18 September 2021

New Zealand Cricket silent on security threat ending Pakistan tour

  • The foreign ministry in Wellington says the country’s cricket board makes its own security decisions for foreign tours
  • New Zealand Cricket had said on Friday it was abandoning the Pakistan tour following its government’s ‘security alert’

WELLINGTON: New Zealand Cricket officials on Saturday threw a veil of secrecy over the security threat that forced the abrupt cancelation of their Pakistan tour.
According to Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Pakistan leader Imran Khan that the team feared an attack outside the stadium.
The cancelation is a huge setback for Pakistan, which has been trying to revive tours by foreign sides after home internationals were suspended in the aftermath of a terror attack on the Sri Lankan side in 2009.
The announcement on Friday that the series had been called off came just as the first one-day international was due to start at Rawalpindi Stadium, 10 kilometers (six miles) from the team hotel in Islamabad.
In a brief public statement, Ardern said the New Zealand government supported the cancelation as “player safety has to be paramount.”
The foreign ministry, which has been in contact with New Zealand Cricket, said there was an “ongoing and significant threat from terrorism throughout Pakistan” but would not comment on specific security concerns.
“New Zealand Cricket makes its own security decisions and has its own security arrangements in place for all international tours,” a ministry spokesman said.
When New Zealand Cricket first announced it was abandoning the Pakistan tour, it said the decision followed “a New Zealand government security alert” and advice from its own security advisers.
The side previously cut short a tour in 2002 after a suicide bombing outside their team hotel in Karachi killed 14 people, including 11 French naval engineers.
A New Zealand Cricket official told AFP no further comment was planned “at this juncture” and would not say if the security threat that caused the cancelation had been passed to the Pakistan Cricket Board or any other cricket-playing nation.
The England and Wales Cricket Board has said it will decide in the next 48 hours whether to withdraw from a tour planned for next month, while the West Indies and Australia are also scheduled to tour in the next six months.
Pakistan’s interior minister Ahmad was adamant there was “no threat to cricket in Pakistan, there was no threat to New Zealand and there is no threat to England.”
New Zealand were in Pakistan for the first time since 2003 and were due to play three ODIs, followed by five Twenty20 matches.
 


Guardiola defends his plea for ‘more fans’ at Man City game

Updated 17 September 2021

Guardiola defends his plea for ‘more fans’ at Man City game

  • A clash has broken out between City’s esteemed manager and a section of the team’s followers after Guardiola’s plea for “more people” to attend City’s Premier League home match against Southampton
  • The attendance against Leipzig was 38,062 and the Etihad’s capacity is about 55,000

MANCHESTER: For Pep Guardiola, it was a rallying cry ahead of what he expects to be a tough game.
For some Manchester City supporters, it was an ill-timed comment that questioned the loyalty of the club’s fan base.
A clash has broken out between City’s esteemed manager and a section of the team’s followers after Guardiola’s plea for “more people” to attend City’s Premier League home match against Southampton on Saturday — three days after a hard-fought 6-3 win over Leipzig in the Champions League at Etihad Stadium.
The attendance against Leipzig was 38,062. The Etihad’s capacity is about 55,000.
One of the people unhappy with Guardiola’s remarks was Kevin Parker, general secretary of City’s official supporters’ club, who accused the Spaniard of failing to understand the difficulties of attending games on a midweek evening and playing into the hands of opposition teams’ fans who often taunt City for not having capacity crowds at some matches.
“He’s absolutely the best coach in the world but, in the nicest possible way, I think maybe he should stick to that,” said Parker, who described Guardiola’s comments were “disappointing and uncalled for.”
Guardiola responded to Parker on Friday in a news conference ahead of the Southampton game, saying he would “definitely not” be apologizing for his comments and that there had been a “misunderstanding.”
“Don’t misunderstand or put words in my mouth that I didn’t say,” Guardiola said. “That’s what I don’t like. I never will be a problem for my fans. If I am a problem for my fans, I will step aside. Not a problem for me.”
Guardiola said he had seen his players look “exhausted” in the locker room after the end-to-end game against Leipzig and quickly realized they would need fans to get behind them against Southampton, given the quick turnaround of the games and Southampton’s pressing game and energetic style.
“When you play in the Champion League, it’s so demanding on your physicality, and mentally, when they (Southampton) have a long week to prepare the game,” Guardiola said. “So that’s why we need to be all together — the players, the supporters, everyone, to help us to do our best. I know exactly our fans will be there tomorrow to support, and hopefully Mr. Parker can come to watch us.
“Mr. Parker,” Guardiola added, should “review his comments.”
City has struggled to fill the Etihad for some home games in the Champions League, especially in the first one of each season’s group stage. It has led to some rivals fans using the nickname “the Emptyhad.”
There are some reasons given for the lower European attendances — some fans’ disaffection with the tournament organizer, UEFA, for what they perceive as unfair sanctions handed to, or affecting, City in the Champions League; City being involved in games in so many competitions that fans pick and choose matches; the pandemic affecting fans’ finances; a digital ticketing system that doesn’t allow fans to transfer tickets to others if they can’t attend a midweek game.
The fan bases of City’s main rivals in English soccer, including Manchester United and Liverpool, are far bigger globally.
“We are who we are. We are proud of who we are,” Guardiola said. “I know the history, I learned about the history of this club when it was in the lower division, and what it means to travel and follow the team. I respect it a lot.”
City has had near-capacity crowds for its first two home matches of the Premier League season — 5-0 wins over Norwich and Arsenal.


Juventus reports 210 million euros in losses amid pandemic

Updated 17 September 2021

Juventus reports 210 million euros in losses amid pandemic

  • Revenue from player registration rights (transfer market) dropped 129 million euros from 2019-20
  • Ticket sales fell more than 41 million euros from the year before

TURIN, Italy: Juventus reported a loss of 210 million euros ($250 million) for the 2020-21 financial year on Friday, attributed mainly to the pandemic’s effect on the transfer market and ticket sales.
Revenue from player registration rights (transfer market) dropped 129 million euros (more than $150 million) from 2019-20, while ticket sales fell more than 41 million euros ($48 million) from the year before.
While the drops were offset in part by a rise in TV rights income, overall losses were still more than twice as much as in 2019-20.
Meanwhile, Juventus said it was still clinging to the European Super League project promoted by club president Andrea Agnelli, despite the quick collapse of the plan unveiled in April when nine of the 12 teams involved withdrew after a public backlash.
“As at today, it is not possible to predict with certainty the outcome and future development of the Super League project, of the legitimacy of which Juventus remains confident,” the team said.
Juventus’ legal case with fellow Super League rebels Real Madrid and Barcelona challenging what they say is UEFA’s monopoly control of competitions is with the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. A deadline for submissions to the court is next month.


New Zealand PM told Khan cricket team would face attack outside hotel – interior minister

Updated 17 September 2021

New Zealand PM told Khan cricket team would face attack outside hotel – interior minister

  • Sheikh Rashid Ahmed describes New Zealand’s decision as part of a ‘conspiracy’ against Pakistan
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she fully supports the decision of her country’s cricket authorities

ISLAMABAD: New Zealand’s prime minister informed her Pakistani counterpart on Friday her government had received intelligence that her country’s cricket team would be attacked if it left the hotel to play its first match in Pakistan, Federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told a news conference in Islamabad.
Ahmed briefed the media only a few hours after New Zealand Cricket (NZC) announced it was abandoning its series with Pakistan “following a New Zealand government security alert.”
The visiting team was to face Pakistan today at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium in the first of three one-day internationals (ODIs). The Black Cap squad, which returned to Pakistan for the first time since 2003, was staying at an Islamabad hotel guarded by a heavy contingent of police.
“We spoke to Prime Minister Iman Khan in Tajikistan and alerted him about the situation,” said the interior minister. “He then called New Zealand Prime Minister [Jacinda Ardern] and gave her guarantee there was no security issue here. However, she said her government had received information that her country’s team would come under attack if it went out to the stadium.”
He said the decision was made at a time when Pakistan was playing a crucial role in establishing peace in the region.
“The tour has been cancelled on the basis of a conspiracy,” he continued. “To undermine Pakistan’s efforts for peace in the region, hidden hands conspired for the cancellation of the tour.”
Ahmed said New Zealand had no solid evidence that its cricket team was under threat in Pakistan.
“The security team sent by Kiwis had checked all the arrangements well before the arrival of the team and found no issue,” he added. “Pakistan also offered to organize matches without audience, but it was all in vain.”
According to Reuters, New Zealand’s prime minister said she fully supported the decision to pull out the team from Pakistan since safety of the players was paramount.
“When I spoke with the Prime Minister of Pakistan I conveyed our thanks for taking care of the New Zealand Cricket team,” Ardern said in a statement. “I know how disappointing it will be for everyone that the game hasn’t gone ahead, but we totally support the decision that’s been made. Player safety has to be paramount.”
Pakistan’s interior minister, however, said his country had taken solid measures to protect the visiting team.
“The Pakistan army, security forces, and 4,000 police personnel were deployed for the Kiwis’ security,” he told the news conference. “Our strong intelligence agencies did not have any threat alert or information.”
Asked who was behind the conspiracy to undermine international cricket in Pakistan, Ahmed said he was representing a responsible state and would not name anyone.
Responding to social media speculations, however, British High Commissioner to Pakistan Christian Turner said in a Twitter post it was not right to blame his country’s diplomatic mission in Islamabad for New Zealand’s decision.
“Speculation that British High Commission was involved in PakvsNZ tour being called off are untrue; this was a decision for the New Zealand authorities & taken independently,” he wrote.


Discussing England cricket team’s forthcoming tour to Pakistan, the interior minister said all arrangements were complete and there was no security threat to any visiting team.
“I was informed that England team is also thinking along the similar lines [as New Zealand] and will decide [the fate of the tour] in the next 48 hours,” he said. “I want to make it clear to them there is no security threat in Pakistan for any team.”
Earlier in the day, NZC announced its decision to call off the Pakistan tour in a statement.
“Following an escalation in the New Zealand Government threat levels for Pakistan, and advice from NZC security advisers on the ground, it has been decided the BLACKCAPS will not continue with the tour,” NZC said. “Arrangements are now being made for the team’s departure.”
NZC chief executive David White said “we believe this is the only responsible option.”
New Zealand Cricket Players Association chief executive Heath Mills echoed White’s sentiments.
“We’ve been across this process throughout and are fully supportive of the decision,” he said.