Tokyo 2020 chief dismisses "irresponsible rumours" of Olympics cancellation

Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshirō Mutō has labelled suggestions this year's Olympics and Paralympics could be cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak as "irresponsible rumours" and reiterated his insistence that the Games will go ahead as planned.

Speaking during the latest International Olympic Committee (IOC) project review of Tokyo 2020, Mutō said organisers "would like to make it clear again that we are not considering postponing or cancelling the Games".

Concerns over the impact of the virus, given the official name of COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO), on the Games in the Japanese capital have grown in recent weeks.

But Tokyo 2020 officials have repeatedly stressed the Olympics - due to begin with the Opening Ceremony in 162 days on July 24 - and Paralympics will take place as scheduled.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe promised earlier this month that the country would "respond appropriately" and work closely with the WHO to ensure preparations for Tokyo 2020 are not affected by the virus.

Muto, however, admitted last week that he was "seriously worried that the spread of the infectious disease could throw cold water on the momentum toward the Games".

More than 1,350 people in neighbouring China have been killed by the virus, which originated in Wuhan, while there are thought to be almost 60,000 infections in total.

Japan today confirmed its first death from the virus, while 247 cases have so far been reported in the country.

The outbreak of the virus has caused concern for Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images
The outbreak of the virus has caused concern for Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images

The outbreak has forced the postponement of numerous sporting events, including the Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai and the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Nanjing.

Events in several sports, including Olympic qualifiers, have either been cancelled, postponed or moved out of China because of the virus.

It has also prevented Chinese athletes from travelling to events outside of the nation, which could curtail their presence at Tokyo 2020.

Tokyo 2020 Athletes' Village Mayor Saburo Kawabuchi conceded during the project review meeting that organisers "don’t have any clue when this issue will be resolved".

"The biggest concern is the coronavirus and the infection," he said. 

"Based on various pieces of information we receive, it seems that this virus is not as strong as the influenza virus. 

"The virus is susceptible to humidity and heat. 

"In Japan, we have the rainy season which could defeat the virus."

The meeting is being attended by senior IOC member and Coordination Commission chairman John Coates, while IOC medical and scientific director Richard Budgett is also present.

The IOC is expecting regular updates from organisers and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government regarding the virus so they can see the "necessary precautions that are being taken", Coates said.

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POOLS CONFIRMED FOR TOKYO 2020 OLYMPIC VOLLEYBALL TOURNAMENT

The pool composition for the men's and women’s volleyball tournaments at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games has been confirmed. The 12 qualified teams per gender have been split into two single round robin pools of six, with the top four in the standings of each pool to advance to the quarterfinals.

The teams were assigned to pools in line with the serpentine method, with hosts Japan placed in the first position in Pool A and the remaining squads ordered by their positions in the FIVB World Ranking.

In the women’s tournament, reigning world and European champions and 2016 Olympic silver medallists Serbia, two-time Olympic champions Brazil, as well as the teams of KoreaDominican Republic and Kenya will be in the company of hosts Japan, two-time Olympic gold medallists themselves, in Pool A.
Three-time Olympic champions China will start the defence of their 2016 title in Pool B, where they will compete against back-to-back VNL gold medallists USA, the most decorated team in Olympic history – Russia, 2018 World Championship runners-up Italy, as well as Argentina and Turkey.
2016 Olympic champions China pose with their gold medals on the Rio podium

 

The men’s national team of Japan, 1972 Olympic champions, are also set to go up against the champions of the world in Pool A of their tournament. In addition to 1976 gold medallists Poland, the hosts will face 2016 Olympic silver medallists Italy, as well as CanadaIran and Venezuela.
In Pool B, three-time Olympic champs Brazil will defend their Rio gold playing against three-time podium toppers USA, four-time gold medallists and reigning VNL champions Russia and the teams of ArgentinaFrance and Tunisia.
2016 Olympic gold medallists Brazil triumph with the title at home in Rio
In the quarterfinals, each pool winner will meet the fourth-placed team from the other pool, while a draw will determine the opponents of the second-placed and the third-placed teams which will be from the other pool as well.
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IOC decides to move Tokyo 2020 marathon to Sapporo

The Tokyo 2020 marathon will be held in Sapporo, following a decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), according to media reports this Wednesday.

The organizers of this competition and the Metropolitan Government were instructed to organize the traditional 42 kilometers and 195 meters race, noted the newspaper Nikkan Sports.

The men's and women's events in this speciality will be held in two laps around the centre of Sapporo, and the route has yet to be agreed with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

The Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee and local government expressed their disagreement with the decision that comes just eight months before the Olympic opening ceremony on July 24.

The IOC, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, justified the measure based on concerns over athletes' health, as the average temperature in Sapporo is lower than that of Tokyo during the period of the Games.

Sapporo is located almost 833 kilometers from Tokyo, it is the capital of the mountainous island of Hokkaido in northern Japan, and in 1972 hosted the 11th Winter Olympics.

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Work completed on satellite to orbit Earth during Tokyo 2020

Tokyo 2020 have announced the completion of their satellite which will be sent into space during next year's Olympics and Paralympics.

The project aims to promote the Games while orbiting around Earth.

Called "G-Satellite Go To Space", the device is miniature with measurements of just 10 centimetres x 10cm x 30cm.

It will carry two of Japan's most popular anime characters, Mobile Suite Gundam and Char's Zaku, and set-off after delivery to the International Space Station in April.

A number of cameras on board will record and transmit images, while an electric bulletin board will display messages about Tokyo 2020 in Japanese, English and French.

The front of the satellite will be gold, to represent a gold medal.

Mobile Suite Gundam and Char's Zaku, who are science fiction robots from the television series Mobile Suit Gundam, have been made using special materials and paints to survive space's harsh climate.

Their eyes will glow on a white background in each of the colours of the five Olympic rings during the Games.

A supply ship will deliver the satellite to the International Space Station in March, Tokyo 2020 said.

It will first be passed over to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency on Thursday (December 5).

If successful, it will be the first time in Olympic and Paralympic history that a satellite commissioned for the Games has orbited Earth independently.

The initiative is part of the Tokyo 2020 One Team Project, launched by organisers in August 2017.

Japan's leading creators, innovators and performers were invited to express their own interpretations of the vision for the Tokyo 2020 as part of the initiative.

According to organisers, the project adds no cost to the Tokyo 2020 budget.

Fans will be able to keep track of the satellite using a specially created website.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics will run between July 24 and August 9, with the Paralympics following between August 25 and September 6.

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Tokyo 2020 National Stadium handed over to Japan Sport Council after completion

The new National Stadium in Tokyo, the main venue for next year's Olympic and Paralympic Games, is officially finished and has been handed over to the Japan Sport Council (JSC).

Completion of the 60,000 capacity stadium, due to host the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, as well as athletics, marks a significant milestone for organisers.

Built at a final cost of ¥157 billion (£1.2 billion/$1.4 billion/€1.3 billion), the stadium was turned over to owners JSC following a final inspection today.

It is set to be officially unveiled on December 21, while the first sporting event to be staged there will be the final of the Emperor's Cup football tournament on New Year's Day.

As the centrepiece of Tokyo 2020, the venue caused significant problems for organisers in the build-up to the Olympics and Paralympics.

The Stadium is the second to be approved, after initial plans were scrapped in 2015 by Prime Minister Shinzō Abe due to spiralling costs.

It meant construction began about 14 months later than planned, after the original design by the late Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid was discarded following a public outcry because of ballooning costs.

"We are very pleased that construction of the Olympic Stadium (National 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," Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshirō Mutō said.

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

"We are so looking forward to seeing athletes from all over the world marching into the new stadium at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games on 24 July 2020 and the Paralympic Games on 25 August 2020, when the eyes of the world will be on this iconic symbol of the Tokyo 2020 Games.

"We believe the stadium will become an irreplaceable legacy - a place that will allow people to spend healthy and fulfilling days enjoying sport for another 50 years or even longer.

"With this in mind, we will continue our preparations for hosting the best Games ever."

The new arena, constructed on the site of the National Stadium originally built in 1958 and which staged the 1964 Olympic Games, 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.

Shortly after the completion of the venue last week, it was revealed that skeletal remains of at least 187 people were retrieved from the site of the Stadium before construction work began.

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All 36 boxing officials from Rio 2016 banned from Tokyo 2020 Olympics

All 36 boxing judges and referees from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be banned from officiating at Tokyo 2020 next year, an International Olympic Committee task force has announced.

A number of referees and judges were sent home during the competition after several questionable decisions in Brazil, with some allegations that fights had been fixed.

An investigation by the Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) in 2017 determined that there had been no interference in results, but it recommended that the Rio judges be reconsidered on a “case-by-case” basis.

As a result, officials will be selected from a pool of AIBA certified judges and referees, who have been vetted to make sure they meet the selection criteria, which makes all the Rio judges ineligible for Tokyo.

The task force said, following discussions with athletes, that every fight will display the end-of-round score and include other measures aimed at increasing clarity, transparency and integrity.

Boxing task force chair Morinari Watanabe said: "The main objective of the IOC boxing task force is to ensure the completion of the mission of delivering events, while putting the boxers first, and with transparent and credible sporting results and fair play."

Officials for each match will be selected randomly, while an independent firm supervises the whole process.

After his defeat at the Rio 2016 games, Irish boxer Michael Conlan said in his post-match interview: "I came for gold and I've been cheated. I'll not do another Olympics. I would advise anybody not to compete for the AIBA. I've been robbed of my Olympic dream."

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WBSC and Japan Baseball leaders applaud Premier12 and its growth of international baseball

“Premier12 is extremely important to international baseball, providing the opportunity for teams to compete in a high-level, international event,” said Mr Masatake Yamanaka, President of the Baseball Federation of Japan."

World Baseball and Softball Confederation President Riccardo Fraccari and President of the Baseball Federation of Japan Masatake Yamanaka have lauded the success of the WBSC Premier12 and baseball in Japan overall.

With two days of the WBSC Premier12 Super Round left to play before the medal matches on Sunday, Mr Fraccari and Mr Yamanaka were in agreement about how important the Premier12 is for international baseball and the growth of the sport around the world.

“Premier12 is extremely important to international baseball, providing the opportunity for teams to compete in a high-level, international event,” said Mr Masatake Yamanaka, President of the Baseball Federation of Japan. “As the Sports Director of Samurai Japan, I work on player selection and their preparation, but at the same time, together with NPB, we worked with the Tokyo Dome and ZOZO Marine Stadium to make the event very successful and provide a welcoming experience for each team and their fans who are coming here from all over the world.”

“This second edition of the Premier12 is yet another example of the continuous growth of international baseball,” said WBSC President, Riccardo Fraccari. “For this we must also praise the relationship with all professional leagues around the world; without them an event of this level would not be possible. Next summer, our athletes will be once again representing their countries, this time on the highest sport stage, the Olympic Games. The whole global baseball community is excited about it. Japan has been a wonderful home for international baseball this week and we expect to continue to showcase the best of our sport.”

Baseball was introduced in Japan in 1872 by Horace Wilson, an American Teacher at Ichiban Chugaku (now Tokyo University) who presented the game to its students. Since then, baseball has become one of the most iconic and popular activities in Japan. The NPB is Japan's largest professional sports competition in terms of television ratings and spectators, that’s why baseball is expected to be one of the most important events during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

It is the second time for the WBSC Premier12 to feature in Japan after the 2015 Opening Game and Finals were held here at Sapporo Dome and Tokyo Dome respectively. The top international baseball competition in recent years, the Premier12 is the perfect lead in to what will be the historic return of baseball to the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year.


Efren Navarro: “This is historic for Mexico”

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Clark hit a clutch home run in the ninth inning to tie the game, while Navarro hit the game-winning RBI single in the tenth to send Mexico to the Olympics
Mexico defeated today USA, 3-2, in ten innings in a great team effort. However, the game had two heroes: Matt Clark and Efren Navarro.

“Qualify for the first time for the Olympic Games is historic for Mexico,” said Navarro, who hit the game-winning RBI single in the tenth to send Mexico to the Olympics, during the post-game interview.

“It’s a great honour. I respect a lot USA, they have great prospects that will be soon in the Major Leagues, but tonight was our night.”

“We all grow up dreaming on defending your country and playing in the Olympics. And being the first time for Mexico it’s such an honour for us and for the fans.”

Asked about the game-winning hit, Navarro said: “First we must credit the team. Our pitchers, the lineup, Clark, who homered to keep us in the game. Every at-bat is very important, I just tried to fight, to play for the team and thanks god I could do it.”

“We’re going to the Olympics,” said Clark, who tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a solo dinger. “You can’t put it in words, is such a great achievement as a country, as players, as coaches… everybody that’s involved back home, the fans. It’s going to be an amazing experience for everybody to be able to go there and show the world what we have.”

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Tokyo 2020 President warns men's Olympic marathon in Sapporo will have to be moved from last day

The men's marathon at next year's Olympics is set to be rescheduled so it will no longer be the last athletics event of the Games after it was controversially relocated from Tokyo to Sapporo, it was revealed today.

Tokyo 2020 President Yoshirō Mori warned it would not be possible logistically to hold an event 800 kilometres away from the Japanese capital just a few hours before the Games are to end. 

"It's impossible as there is the Closing Ceremony," Mori said during a meeting today with Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki to discuss moving the marathon and race walks to the city.

"The schedule will change greatly."

One option could be to hold the men and women's marathons on the same day.

The women's race is currently scheduled for August 2. 

The late decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to move the marathon and race walk events has provoked widespread criticism in Japan, led by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike. 

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has been a fierce critic of the IOC plan to move the marathon and race walks from the Japanese capital to Sapporo due to concerns of the heat ©Getty Images
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has been a fierce critic of the IOC plan to move the marathon and race walks from the Japanese capital to Sapporo due to concerns of the heat ©Getty Images

The Japan Association of Athletics Federations (JAAF) are the latest group to hit out at the plan.

"It's extremely regrettable that [the venues] have been changed at this time," Kazunori Asaba, a senior executive with the JAAF and head of its Training Committee, told Japanese agency Kyodo News.

"It's like the athletes who had been training for many years to climb Everest were told just nine months before they would go to a different mountain."

Former elite marathon runner Toshihiko Seko, who had been part of the joint Tokyo 2020-JAAF Committee coordinating the course to be used next year, claimed the decision to move the events was not done to help the athletes. 

"That's not an 'athlete first [plan],'" Seko, winner of the Boston Marathon in 1981 and 1987 and London Marathon in 1986, told Kyodo News.

"We hear that [the temperature] was about 34, 35 degrees when [Mizuki] Noguchi won gold at the Athens Olympics [in 2004]. 

"And there have been many other cases that [Olympics] were held in the heat."

Japan's Mizuki Noguchi won the women's Olympic marathon at Athens 2004 in hot conditions ©Getty Images
Japan's Mizuki Noguchi won the women's Olympic marathon at Athens 2004 in hot conditions ©Getty Images

Having been forced to concede that the marathons will be moved from Tokyo, Seko is now campaigning for the men's race to retain its traditional position as the last event on the athletics programme.

"Hopefully, [the men's race] will be hosted on the final day, then we'll have the podium ceremony before the Closing Ceremony," Seko, who represented Japan in the marathon at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics in Los Angeles and Seoul, said. 

"That's what I think is ideal."

A working group is being formed by the IOC, including representatives from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), to coordinate the arrangements for the Olympic marathon and race walks after they were moved from Tokyo to Sapporo. 

The group's most important task will be to confirm the courses they plan to use.

It has been widely assumed that the marathon course will be based on the annual Hokkaido Marathon. 

But Tadasu Kawano, the director of long distance and marathon at JAAF, has warned the IAAF may seek a different course.

"It's a personal impression," Kawano told Kyodo News, 

"But looking at the trend of the IAAF in recent years, I think there is a higher possibility they would host the races in a circular course."

The annual Hokkaido Marathon could form the basis for the Olympic marathons in Sapporo ©Getty Images
The annual Hokkaido Marathon could form the basis for the Olympic marathons in Sapporo ©Getty Images

Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto today urged Tokyo 2020 to finalise the arrangements quickly.

"We hope the Organising Committee decides the schedule and course soon, and gives attention to reducing the impact on the lives of our citizens as they make arrangements," Akimoto told Kyodo News.

Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto is due to visit Sapporo tomorrow to discuss arrangements. 

Mori promised that the cost of hosting the events will not have not have to be paid by Sapporo.

"The marathon is the showpiece of the Games," Mori told Governor Suzuki during their meeting.

"I'd like to work together. 

"I don't want the expenses to be a burden on Hokkaido."

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