Cuba dominates Puerto Rico

Cuba's opening match of the tournament was a straight set victory over Puerto Rico 3-0 (25-18, 25-14, 25-19) on Friday night at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, Canada.

 

Marlon Yant and Miguel Lopez finished with 13 and 10 points for Cuba. Pelegrín Vargas had 10 for Puerto Rico.

 

"Today’s game was pretty good. We played our game,” said Cuba’s coach Nicolas Vives. “I think we can play better than we played today. Tomorrow we go against Canada which has a great team. We’re going to be playing point by point and we’re going to fight until the end.

 

Puerto Rican Maurice Torres regretted the many mistakes committed by his team and blamed them for the loss.

 

"We just made way too many errors” Torres said. “You can compete as much as you can until you start making errors like we did. That’s what changed the entire match.”

 

Livan Rodriguez Osoria, captain of Cuba: "We’re going to be ready for tomorrow which will define the qualification for Tokyo. We are ready for tomorrow’s game. We can’t wait to play against Canada. They’re a great team and we’ll be ready for them."

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FIVE OLYMPIC VACANCIES AT STAKE AS FIVE CONTINENTAL QUALIFIERS SET FOR KICK-OFF

The five vacancies in the men’s volleyball tournament of the 2020 Olympic Games that are still available are about to be contested at various venues on all five continents over the next few days and the line-up for Tokyo 2020 should be finalized by January 12.
The winners of the five continental qualification tournaments will claim the last five tickets (one per continental confederation) to Tokyo and will join hosts Japan, as well as the teams of Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Poland, Russia and USA who advanced through the intercontinental qualifiers in August, in the quest for the most coveted medals in the sports world.
CEV qualification tournament
European squads will be the first to get into action, as their eight-team qualifier gets underway on Sunday, January 5, at the Max-Schmeling-Halle in Berlin. The participants are split into two round-robin pools to be played over four consecutive days on the way to the January 9 semifinals, matching the pool winners against the pool runners-up, and the big final on January 10 to decide the quota.
Hosts Germany have played at the Olympics twice as East Germany, once as Germany and another two times after the reunification, most recently finishing fifth at London 2012. Their best result is the Munich 1972 silver for GDR. Germany’s toughest opposition in Pool A is likely to be presented by Slovenia, a team that never made it to the Olympics, but claimed silver medals at two of the three most recent European Championships, in 2015 and 2019. Also in that pool are Belgium, looking for their second Olympic appearance, after the eighth place way back in 1968, and the Czech Republic, who have never been to the Olympics as such, but showcase one silver (1964) and one bronze (1968) medals out of their five appearances in the first five Olympic tournaments through 1980 as Czechoslovakia.
Reigning 2019 European champions Serbia, gold medallists at Sydney 2000 and bronze medallists at Atlanta 1996 as Serbia and Montenegro, are aiming at their seventh Olympic participation overall. They and the team of France, who played at four editions of the Games and finished ninth in 2016, seem to be the big favourites to make the semis from Pool B, but they will have to face the strong challenge of Bulgaria, silver medallists at Moscow 1980 and looking for their ninth trip to the Olympics, and the Netherlands, Atlanta 1996 champions and Barcelona 1992 runners-up, attempting to register their seventh appearance at the Games.
AVC qualification tournament
Asian teams will be the next to join the race to Tokyo 2020, as the AVC qualification tournament kicks off in Jiangmen on January 7 in the same format as the one of CEV – eight teams, divided into two round-robin pools leading up to crossed semifinals and a final – to stamp one Olympic visa on January 12.
In Pool A, hosts China, most recently finishing fifth at home at Beijing 2008, are targeting their third Olympic appearance, in the company of reigning 2019 Asian champions Iran, who finished fifth at Rio 2016, their only Olympic participation so far, as well as Kazakhstan and Chinese Taipei, who have never made it to the Games as such.
2019 Asian Championship runners-up Australia, who ranked eighth at home at Sydney 2000 and played at two more editions of the Games afterwards, lead the way in Pool B, with eight-time Olympic participants Korea as their main contender. India and Qatar will also start the Jiangmen tournament in Pool B, hoping to book Olympic tickets for the first time in history. 
CAVB qualification tournament
A single round-robin tournament with five participating teams will produce the single African representative at Tokyo 2020. Egyptian capital Cairo will host the CAVB qualification battles over five consecutive days, from January 7 through 11.
Tournament hosts Egypt represented their continent at the most recent edition of the Games, in Rio, where they placed ninth. It was their best result out of four Olympic appearances. Tunisia, the African nation with most Olympic experience and reigning 2019 continental champion, have a good shot at booking their seventh trip to the Games. The ninth place at Los Angeles 1984 is their best standing so far. In 1992, Algeria crossed the Mediterranean to finish 12th at the Barcelona Olympics. Now they are aiming at their second Olympic appearance. The squads of Ghana and African championship runners-up Cameroon will also take their chances at claiming their first ever Olympic visa.
CSV qualification tournament
With both South American standouts, Brazil and Argentina, having already booked their Tokyo 2020 tickets, this year’s edition of the Olympic Games will mark the first time in history when the continent will be represented by three men’s teams. In a single round-robin qualifier from January 10 through 12 in Santiago, Chile, four teams will compete for the rare honour to accompany the two South American powerhouses to the Olympics.
Venezuela are, in fact, the only other team from the continent that have ever appeared at the Games. They did so in 2008 when they finished ninth in Beijing and will try to do it again in 2020 in Tokyo. None of their three opponents in Santiago – Colombia, Peru and hosts Chile – have ever qualified for the Olympics, so the fans may expect fierce battles at Arena Monticello. 
NORCECA qualification tournament
The North American qualifier is the last of the five to get underway, also as a single round-robin tournament with four teams from January 10 through 12. Vancouver, Canada will host the event with the iconic Pacific Coliseum as the arena of the matches.
Hosts Canada will aim to secure their fifth Olympic appearance. At Rio 2016, the Maple Leafs ranked fifth, while their best result came at Los Angeles 1984, when they finished fourth. Montreal 1976 bronze medallists Cuba, who are after their eighth trip to the Olympics and hoping to do better than the 11th place in the Rio 2016 final standings, are another serious contender for a spot at Tokyo 2020. Mexico, who shared that 11th position with Cuba at their second participation in the Games, and Puerto Rico, who are targeting their first appearance at the Olympics, are the other two squads in the line-up for the NORCECA vacancy.
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Authorities call on athletes to elevate Cuba in Tokyo-2020 Games

Roberto Leon Richards, president of the Cuban Olympic Committee, and Osvaldo Vento, president of the National Sports Institute (INDER), congratulated the Cuban athletes, who are focusing their work on the Tokyo-2020 Olympics, for the new year.

On his Twitter account, Richards congratulated the athletes, coaches and the Cuban sports movement, to whom he sent a big hug, convinced that the Olympic event in Tokyo, Japan, will be another scenario of victories for them.

For his part, the INDER president recalled a statement by the historic leader of the Revolution, Fidel Castro, on the occasion of the 61st anniversary of that heoric deed.

'Let's remember Fidel as a permanent motivation for the commitments to come. He insisted that sports encourage the people, entertain the people, excite the people and make the people happy. Congratulations,' Vento twitted.

To date, Cuba has 26 qualified athletes for the Tokyo-2020 Olympic Games in boating (4), cycling (1), artistic gymnastics (2), wrestling (2), modern pentathlon (2), shooting (5) and track and field (10).

According to the Cuban Sports Institute, the number of athletes for the Olympic Games must exceed 100 and Cuban athletes are expected to attend qualifying events from January 5 and May 24, 2020.

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French World Cup winner Mbappe wants to play at Tokyo 2020

France's World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe has revealed that he wants to play for this country at next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo.

But the 21-year-old, considered the best young player in the world, admitted that it would be up to his club Paris Saint-Germain whether he was allowed to take part or not.

"Playing in the Olympics, I don't control everything," he told France Football magazine. 

"Of course I want to go, but if my club, which is my employer, doesn't want me to go, I won't force a clash.

"We'll soon talk about it,"

Mbappe has already reassured French national coach Didier Deschamps that taking part at Tokyo 2020 would not be at the expense of playing in Euro 2020, due to take place across Europe next summer.

"The coach was adamant that it would never be to the detriment of the Euro," Mbappe said. 

"I reassured him by telling him that I also wanted to play in the Euro, and he said: 'So it's up to you to deal with the people it concerns'."

Euro 2020 is due to take place between June 12 and July 2 and will be followed by the football tournament at Tokyo 2020, which is scheduled to start on July 23 - four days before the official opening of the Olympic Games - and finish with the final on August 8.

A decision on whether Kylian Mbappe is allowed to play for France at Tokyo 2020 is likely to rest with his club side, Paris Saint-Germain, who paid  €180 million for him ©Getty Images
A decision on whether Kylian Mbappe is allowed to play for France at Tokyo 2020 is likely to rest with his club side, Paris Saint-Germain, who paid €180 million for him ©Getty Images

That day is the official start of the new 2020-2021 Ligue 1 season and Paris Saint-Germain may be reluctant to let a player they paid €180 million (£154 million/$201 million) for miss their opening match.

The Olympic Games is an under-23 tournament with each side allowed three overage players.

France qualified for Tokyo 2020 by reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Italy and San Marino this year.

At the time, Mbappe responded to the team's qualification by posting a message with a "TOKYO 2020" on Twitter accompanied by a flashing emoticon and a French flag.

Mbappe became the second teenager, after Pelé, to score in a World Cup Final when he hit one of France's goals in their 4-2 victory over Croatia at Russia 2018, one of four he scored during the tournament.

Even if he does not make it to Tokyo 2020 Mbappe insisted that will not be the end of his Olympic dream.

"If I don't manage to go in 2020, I'll still have 2024 left, in Paris," he told France Football

"I'd really like to do the Olympics at least once in my career."

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Cuban Boxer Andy Cruz to seek Olympic title in Tokyo 2020

The results obtained this year by Cuba's best boxer, Andy Cruz, have encouraged him to seek the dream of becoming an Olympic champion in 2020.

After winning the title at the recently held Playa Giron Tournament, Cruz is focusing on the Olympic qualifying event, 'because it is the goal and it is time to train with rigor,' he noted.

The qualifier is scheduled for March in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Cruz will fight against strong rivals in the region, despite his excellent performance at the Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru, during the summer.

'I can tell you that I train regardless of the rival and his quality. The strategy of my coach, Chirino Alvarez, is what is really important, although, of course, I benefit from other important pieces of advice from Cuban experts,' he pointed out.

'My look is in Japan. I will get there step by step,' Cruz stressed.

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Abe hails completion of National Stadium as Tokyo 2020 centrepiece unveiled

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe celebrated the completion of the National Stadium in Tokyo at a ceremony formally unveiling the centrepiece of next year's Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Abe praised the efforts of those involved in the project for the 60,000 stadium, which hit early difficulties after he scrapped initial plans in 2015 because of spiralling costs.

It meant construction began 14 months later than scheduled and the venue was unable to host matches at this year's Rugby World Cup as planned.

The original design by the late Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid was discarded following public outcry and was replaced by a design from Kengo Kuma.

The stadium, built at a final cost of ¥157 billion (£1.2 billion/$1.4 billion/€1.3 billion), will be the main venue for Tokyo 2020.

"For this National Stadium, which will be the symbol of Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, I assume there must have been many difficulties for the process of its construction,” Abe said.

"The design was changed during the process.

"It is purely the result of everyone’s ‘All Japan’ contribution and hard work, so that we finally celebrate today."

The new arena, constructed on the site of the National Stadium originally built in 1958 and which staged the 1964 Olympics, features countermeasures designed to combat the expected high temperatures in the Japanese capital during the the time of the Games.

According to Tokyo 2020, natural winds channelled into the stadium from the eaves and terraces will circulate airflow and discharge heat and moisture generated from the field and spectators.

It is claimed this will reduce temperatures inside the stadium, while 185 airflow-creating fans and a mist-cooling system will also help cool athletes and spectators.

The stadium - which will host Olympic and Paralympic ceremonies, as well as athletics - features a plant-covered facade designed to maintain harmony with the natural landscape of the neighboring Meiji Jingu Gaien area.

The eaves of the distinctive roof are made of wood gathered from the country's 47 prefectures.

The stadium was handed over to the Japan Sport Council (JSC) last month and the first public event will be held there next week.

The first sporting event to be staged at the venue will be the final of the Emperor's Cup football tournament on New Year's Day.

"We are very pleased that construction of the Olympic Stadium - a key symbol of the Tokyo 2020 Games - has now been completed; it makes us realise just how close we are getting to the start of the Games," said Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshirō Mutō.

"We appreciate the support of everyone involved in its construction, including the National Government, the JSC and so many others."

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Tokyo roads to be paved with heat-shielding material to help reduce temperatures during Olympic marathon races

Alleviating the extreme heat concerns at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games remains a key priority for organisers according to Takeo Hirata, the Japanese Government's coordinator for the Games.

In a blog published in the Japan Times Hirata claims the efforts to combat the summer heat in Japan have been a primary concern since Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Buenos Aires in 2013.

Fears for the impact of extreme heat in Japan next year have been heightened by a heatwave suffocating the country in recent weeks, which has seen 57 people die and more than 18,000 admitted to hospital.

"Upon my return from Argentina, I was asked by the Prime Minister’s office to lead the National Government’s preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Games," Hirata wrote.

"Initially, my primary concern was Tokyo’s summer heat and humidity that would impact all participants - athletes, staff and spectators. 

"This challenge would call on the best of Japanese expertise, innovation and imagination to bring out the best in the athletes competing in very challenging conditions. 

"It would also showcase the determination and methods of the world-famous Japanese management and production styles."

Japanese residents have used umbrellas to help shield themselves from the heat as temperatures soared beyond 30 Celsius, causing tens of deaths and thousands of people to be taken to hospital ©Getty Images
Japanese residents have used umbrellas to help shield themselves from the heat as temperatures soared beyond 30 Celsius, causing tens of deaths and thousands of people to be taken to hospital ©Getty Images

Hirata explained he had three initial questions - how technology could mitigate heat and humidity, what information needed to be made available to foreign visitors about the summer weather and how the needs of people with disabilities could be met.

"I vividly recall meeting the director general of the road division at the land, infrastructure, transport and tourism ministry in 2013 to share my concerns about the intense summer heat and to seek new ideas to make conditions better for athletes," Hirata wrote.

"We concurred that something had to be done; our agreement led to the development of heat-shielding material on the roads for the marathon events."

Since then the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee have been investigating extreme heat countermeasures, with the latest efforts including roads being painted with a special coating that is expected to suppress temperature rises by as much as eight celsius.

A Tokyo 2020 cooling project has been launched which includes cool spaces at venues and spectators being allowed to take their own bottled water to events, something that has been prohibited at previous Olympic Games due to security and sponsorship concerns.

"Two years later in 2015, a portion of Aoyama-dori was paved with a special coating that reflects infrared rays," Hirata added. 

"Toshihiko Seko, a 1984 Los Angeles Olympic marathon runner, and wheelchair marathoner Nobukazu Hanaoka participated in the test on an intensely hot and humid day. 

"The results showed that the temperature of the specially coated road surface was 10 percent lower than that of the uncoated surfaces and thus lightened the burden on athletes."

The countermeasures for the Olympic and Paralympic Games have seen plans put in place to ensure trees along the marathon route do not get trimmed back, but are instead left to provide shade for spectators.

The marathon events have also been brought forward to a 6am start after temperatures were recorded at 31 Celsius at 6am in Tokyo.

Tokyo 2020 is implementing a range of heat countermeasures ©Tokyo 2020
Tokyo 2020 is implementing a range of heat countermeasures ©Tokyo 2020

Buildings along the marathon route have been requested to open their air-conditioned ground floors to spectators on event days, while the Organising Committee has produced leaflets to advise tourists of heat-induced illnesses and symptoms, and how to react if they occur.

Hirata, a professor at Waseda University Graduate School of Sports Sciences, revealed heat alerts and emergency situations have been set up for distribution by mobile phone.

"We should be prepared for new technologies to provide ongoing and perpetually updated information to visitors, to participants and to the thousands of leaders, staff and volunteers," he wrote in the Japan Times. 

"Imagine real-time monitoring of street surface temperatures via embedded sensors providing the athletic teams and the medical teams with early-warning information. 

"Japanese technology will again take the world stage in creating tools for communications via phones and computers."

Hirata claimed that an NET119 emergency call system has also been introduced to enable people with hearing and speaking disabilities to call an ambulance via touch-screen operations on smart phones and other devices.

"We will continue to promote and enhance measures to inform and remind disabled people and organisers of events about heat illness prevention and care through the distribution of printed materials," he wrote. 

"Taking simple precautions – wearing light summer clothing, drinking ample fluids and avoiding long exposure to direct sunlight - will help ensure that athletes and spectators will safely enjoy the Games. 

"Our hope is that not only the organisers but citizens and residents as well will lend a hand to anyone who needs assistance. 

"It is our earnest hope that our efforts will demonstrate that everyone can enjoy sports even in midsummer and thus set a precedent for the sites of future Olympic and Paralympic Games."

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