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A virus rages, a flame goes out: Tokyo Games reset for 2021 – CTV News

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TOKYO —
Not even the Summer Olympics could withstand the force of the coronavirus. After weeks of hedging, the IOC took the unprecedented step of postponing the world’s biggest sporting event, a global extravaganza that’s been cemented into the calendar for more than a century.

The Tokyo Games, slated for 11,000 athletes from more than 200 countries and at a reported cost of $28 billion, had been scheduled to start July 24. They will now be pushed into 2021 on dates to be determined.

They will still be called the 2020 Olympics — a symbolic gesture that the International Olympic Committee hopes will allow the games to “stand as a beacon of hope,” as it stated in delivering the news Tuesday.

“I don’t think anybody was really prepared for this virus happening,” said American sprinter Noah Lyles, who had been primed to be one of the world’s breakout stars in Tokyo. “You look over the history of the Olympics and see that it’s usually war that’s stopped the Olympics from happening.”

Only World War I and World War II have forced the Olympics to be cancelled; they were scrubbed in 1916, 1940 and 1944.

Now, a microscopic virus that is wreaking havoc with daily life around the planet, to say nothing of its sports schedule, has accomplished what no other virus (Zika in 2016), act of terrorism (the killing of Israelis in Munich in 1972), boycott (1980 and 1984), threat of war (frequent) or actual world war itself has managed to do: postpone the games and push them into an odd-numbered year.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The global pandemic has sickened at least 420,000 people and killed more than 18,000 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Four-time Olympic hockey champion Hayley Wickenheiser, the first IOC member to criticize the body’s long-held, dug-in refusal to change the dates, called the postponement the “message athletes deserved to hear.”

“To all the athletes: take a breath, regroup, take care of yourself and your families. Your time will come,” she wrote on Twitter.

When will that time be?

Nobody knows yet. It was a big part of the reason the IOC refused to announce a postponement that was becoming more inevitable with each passing day. Major sports organizations, including World Athletics and the gymnastics, track and swimming federations in the United States, were calling for a delay. So were major countries, including Canada, Brazil and Australia.

Even more compellingly, athletes were raising their voices. They were speaking to the unfairness of not being able to train, fearful that a trip out of the house could put them, or someone in their hometown, in jeopardy. And what of their competitors, some living halfway around the world, who might not have as many restrictions, and could be getting a leg up? There were fears about the eroding anti-doping protocols caused by virus-related restrictions and qualifying procedures that were disintegrating before their eyes.

“A bittersweet victory for athletes,” one group, Global Athlete, called the decision. “On one hand, their Olympic dreams have been put on hold. On the other hand, athletes have shown their power when they work together as a collective.”

With IOC President Thomas Bach guiding the process, the committee had said as recently as Sunday that it might take up to four weeks for an announcement to come. It took two days.

But make no mistake, there are still weeks of difficult planning ahead.

Many of Tokyo’s arenas, stadiums and hotels are under contract for a games held from July 24 to Aug. 9. Remaking those arrangements is doable, but will come at a cost. There are also considerations beyond the top-line price tag. Among them: The $1 billion-plus the IOC was to receive from broadcast partner NBC; the millions in smaller athlete endorsement contracts that are now in limbo; the budgets of the individual national Olympic committees; the availability of the 80,000 volunteers who signed up to help.

“People are having a problem calling off weddings, and calling off little tournaments, so imagine with all the billions of dollars that’s gone into this,” five-time Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings told The Associated Press. “They have a grieving process to go through. They have so many moving parts to think about.”

There’s also the matter of the international sports schedule. Nearly all 33 sports on the Olympic program have key events, including world championships, on the docket for 2021. Hayward Field at the University of Oregon was rebuilt and expanded at the cost of around $200 million to hold next year’s track and field world championships. Now that event will likely be rescheduled.

“Of course there’s going to be challenges,” said Paul Doyle, an agent who represents about 50 Olympic athletes. “At the same time, this is what had to happen.”

It came together during a meeting Tuesday among Bach, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a handful of other executives from the IOC and Japan’s organizing committee.

Among the first casualties of the IOC’s impeccably curated timeline was the torch relay. Organizers were planning to start the journey through the host country in the northeast prefecture of Fukushima on Thursday, albeit with no fans and no torchbearer. Instead, the flame will be stored and displayed, with its next move to be determined later.

Just one of hundreds of difficult changes the IOC leaders have to make in the upcoming weeks and months.

But the most difficult decision is behind them.

The unspoken irony in it all is that when Japan was awarded the games in 2013, it came on the strength of a campaign in which it positioned itself as “the safe pair of hands.” It was a time when the world was still emerging from the Great Recession, and the Olympic movement was especially sensitive to the runaway expenses the Summer Games were incurring.

Japan, like every host before it, had trouble sticking to the budget. Nevertheless, seven years later, and through no fault of its own — in fact, Japan is one of the countries that appears to be avoiding the worst of the coronavirus — Tokyo residents are watching their grand plans for 2020 implode.

So, onto 2021. As far as the Olympic world — and perhaps the world at large — is concerned, it can’t get here soon enough.

——

Also contributing: Stephen Wade and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Pat Graham in Denver, Paul Newberry in Atlanta, Graham Dunbar in Geneva, Janie McCauley in San Francisco and Jimmy Golen in Boston.

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Senators who tested positive for coronavirus have recovered, coach says – NHL.com

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The six members of the Ottawa Senators organization who tested positive for the coronavirus, including two players, have recovered, according to coach D.J. Smith.

“Everyone’s doing good,” he said Wednesday. “The good thing is that everyone that had [the coronavirus] didn’t have horrible symptoms, you know, what we’re seeing on TV and in some of the people that have really struggled. Some guys didn’t feel well. But being athletes, they all got through it.

“And they’re all on the other side of it now. … I think it’s important that you see this disease doesn’t spare anyone … actors and actresses, rich, poor, you’ve got to make sure that you stay safe, and I’m really glad that everyone that was involved in our organization and on that plane (during a three-game trip through California from March 7-11) is now doing well.

“But certainly, a scary time. … It hit us, but at the same point, probably saved a lot of us too. … We probably got a little bit of a jump on this.”

The Senators played in the last NHL game before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, a 3-2 loss at the Los Angeles Kings on March 11.

“Guys were aware that an NBA player tested positive that afternoon, or right around 5:00, but us being out on the West [Coast], we were ahead of it,” said Smith, who is in his first season as an NHL coach. “And there was some question whether we were going to play. … It certainly was a different atmosphere than any other game I’ve been a part of. We just waited for direction from the League.”

The Senators are 25-34-12 and in seventh place in the Atlantic Division, but Smith said he’s optimistic they will finish strong if the season resumes and go into the offseason feeling good about themselves, especially off their play at Canadian Tire Centre, where Ottawa is 18-13-6.

“I’m hopeful that we can get out of the house and get back to work and get joking with the guys,” Smith said. “We want to finish on the right note and finish with the message of how we’re going to work right to the very end, to the very last buzzer, and give the fans what they deserve. I think this season at home, they got to see how hard we played, and we wanted to play right to the end tough. So certainly, I want to get back.

“But we’ll just listen to the guidance from the NHL. We’re going to play hockey at some point, it’s just a matter of when.”

The Senators have not identified the players who tested positive for coronavirus.

Smith said he’s looking forward to watching players like 20-year-old forward Brady Tkachuk, 23-year-old defenseman Thomas Chabot and 23-year-old center Colin White continue to develop when Ottawa begins playing again.

The Senators will have to return with a positive mindset, he said, in order to improve and get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs; they have not qualified for the postseason since 2016-17, when they lost to the eventual champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in overtime of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

“Our mentality has to change,” Smith said. “It’s time for us to take a step, and how big a step that is, we’re going to find out. But we want to take a step, certainly mentally, and that’s with the Tkachuks and Chabots and Whites and these guys, so that when you watch the best teams in the League, the Washington Capitals, the Boston Bruins, when they come to the arena they expect to win every night.

“There’s a difference between expecting and knowing that you can win every night, and in time with as many good young players that we have and all the draft picks we have, we’re going to be one of those teams. Everyone wants it to be sooner than later.”

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Tom Brady goes there with Howard Stern, re Belichick – Toronto Sun

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Now former Patriots QB dishes for more than two hours

Tom Brady guested for more than two hours Wednesday on Howard Stern’s unsensored SiriusXM Radio show.

And, yes, the no-holds-barred host went far down every audacious and raunchy road with his questions for the star NFL quarterback — from how often he has sex with his supermodel wife Giselle Bundchen (enough, Brady said) to whether he has suffered concussions in football (multiple, Brady said).

Mostly, though, Stern kept drilling deep down into the relationship the new Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting passer had with his now former head coach in New England, Bill Belichick.

Brady — who revealed he had been a huge fan of Stern for years — obliged throughout with thoughtful, revealing answers to almost every one of Stern’s questions, no matter how probing, playful or crass.

The 42-year-old granted Stern a level of access and on-the-record frankness every NFL reporter this century has dreamed of.

Among Brady’s top revelations about his departure from Foxboro:

On whether he ever asked Belichick to pull a lazy or failing receiver out of the lineup:

“I (could) definitely express my opinion to say, ‘If you put him out there, I’m not going to throw him the ball because the whole team is trusting me to do what’s right by the team. So you can’t put someone out there that I don’t believe in — because if I don’t believe in him, then it’s worthless for the team.’

“Fortunately for me, coach Belichick always saw it the same way as me, which is why I think we have such a great connection … I think that’s why I was a great fit for that system, because we saw the process of winning very much the same way.

“Rarely did I ever need to go up to a guy and say, ‘Listen, you’re f—ing the team.’ He would know that from someone else before I would ever need to get to him.”

On whether he sensed Belichick was ever resentful that his successes in New England always were seen as joint successes with Brady — and whether he thought, “F— Belichick. I’m the reason for our success here”:

“I think it’s a pretty s–tty argument, actually, that people would say that.”

Brady said he would not have been as successful in New England if Belichick weren’t his head coach.

“But I feel the same in, in vice versa as well. To have him allowed me to be the best that I could be. So I’m grateful for that. And very much believe that he feels the same about me, because we have expressed that to each other.”

On whether Brady resents Belichick for not making him a Patriot for life:

“No. Absolutely not.”

Because moving on to Tampa Bay is a chance, he said, “to experience something that’s very different. There are ways for me to grow and evolve in a different way that I haven’t had the opportunity to do — that aren’t right or wrong, but just right for me.”

On whether not retiring as a Patriot might affect his legacy:

“I never cared about legacy. I couldn’t give a s–t about it … It was because it was just time (to leave) … I accomplished everything I could in two decades with an incredible organization, and an incredible group of people. And that will never change, and no one can take that away from me … or us.”

On rumours Belichick wanted to bring in a new quarterback in recent years, perhaps, in part, to prove he could continue the Patriots’ winning ways without Brady — and whether Brady viewed that as disloyalty to him, and whether it influenced his decision to leave:

“I think he has a lot of loyalty. He and I have had a lot of conversations that nobody has ever been privy to, and nor should they be. So many wrong assumptions were made about our relationship, or about how he felt about me. I know genuinely how he feels about me. Now I’m not going to respond to every rumour or assumption that’s made, other than what his responsibility as coach is to try to get the best player for the team not only in the short term but in the long-term as well. So what I could control is trying to be the best I could be in both of those situations also. So I got into unchartered territory as an athlete because I started to break the mould of what so many other athletes had experienced. I got to the point where I was an old — or an older athlete — and he’s starting to plan for the future, which is what his responsibility is. And I don’t fault him for that. That’s what he should be doing. That’s what every coach should be doing … I recognized that. We talked about it.”

On when he decided when he wanted to move on from New England:

“I don’t think there was every a final, final decision. But I would say I probably knew before the start of last season that it was my last year. And I knew that our time was coming to an end.”

On saying goodbye to Patriots owner Robert Kraft in person a few weeks ago and together calling Belichick to likewise inform him:

“Yeah, I was crying. I’m a very emotional person.”

On why he didn’t have more in-depth talks with the Las Vegas Raiders:

They could probably speak to that more than me … There were probably a lot of different teams that were interested in me, I would say.”

He would not elaborate on how many teams, or which others.

JoKryk@postmedia.com

@JohnKryk

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Lafreniere on what he can bring to a team; Byfield talks Malkin comparisons – TSN

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The NHL released their final rankings for 2020 NHL Entry Draft Wednesday and Alexis Lafreniere and Quinton Byfield were first and second among North American skaters.

The two talked about the upcoming draft on Wednesday after the rankings were unveiled.

Alexis Lafreniere

On his excitement for the Draft:

“Growing up it’s the dream of every hockey player. To see how close we are right now it’s exciting. It’s really fun, I think we’re all excited for the draft. The team that’s going to draft me, I’m going to be really happy to join them and try to have as much success as I can.”

On his skills and being ranked No. 1:

“I’m a leader and I always want to win. When the game’s on the line I can make a difference and I think that’s a strong asset that I have. For sure there are some other really good players in the draft so it’s really special to be (ranked) No. 1 for sure.”

On the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic situation:

“It’s a pretty weird situation that we’re in right now but I think everyone is doing their best to stay fit and personally I train at home. It’s not the same but I’ll try to stay fit and spend time with my family that I don’t see really often during the season. I try to spend as much time as I can with my family and try to train as hard as I can.”

Quinton Byfield

On how he’d describe his game:

“It was definitely a big year for me. I think I’d describe myself as a hockey player as a big, two-way forward that tries to play a 200-foot game … I think the strongest part of my game is definitely my skating for a big guy. I try to use that to my advantage and find my teammates in the offensive zone and set them up.”

On comparisons to a current NHL player:

“I’ve definitely drawn a couple comparisons out there. I think Evgeni Malkin, that’s just an honour to be compared to that guy. He’s a (future) Hall of Famer. I’m definitely watching as many Penguins games as possible just to see what he does on the ice and how he plays. He’s a big 200-foot centre and the amazing offensive ability he has and how he plays is just unbelievable. I definitely watch him quite a bit and try and mold my game after him.”

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