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Japan considering ban on all Olympic spectators as authorities prepare state of emergency for Tokyo – The Globe and Mail

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A man takes a photograph of the Olympic Rings at Akarenga Park, in Yokohama, Japan, on June 30, 2021.

Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images

Japan is considering banning all spectators from the Olympics, several sources told Reuters on Wednesday, with authorities expected to declare a state of emergency for Tokyo to contain coronavirus infections 16 days before the Games begin.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said his government would decide on new measures to stop the spread of the virus on Thursday. Those measures are expected to determine whether spectators can attend Olympic events.

Medical experts have said for weeks that having no spectators at the Olympics would be the least risky option amid widespread public concern that the Games will fuel new surges of coronavirus infections.

Organizers have already banned overseas spectators and set a cap on domestic spectators at 50 per cent of capacity, up to 10,000 people, to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Officials have been wrestling with the question for months but a ruling party setback in a Tokyo assembly election on Sunday, which some allies of Suga attributed to public anger over the Games, had forced the change of tack, sources said.

“Politically speaking, having no spectators is now unavoidable,” a ruling party source told Reuters.

Japan will hold a parliamentary election later this year and the government’s insistence that the Games – postponed last year as the virus was spreading around the world – should go ahead this year could cost it at the ballot box.

The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee said restrictions on spectators would be based on the content of Japan’s coronavirus state of emergency or other relevant measures.

‘SAFE OLYMPICS’

Speaking after Suga made his comments, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said the host city would continue to prepare for “a safe Olympics” even under a fresh state of emergency.

Japan has not experienced the kind of explosive COVID-19 outbreaks seen in many other countries but has had more than 800,000 cases and 14,800 deaths.

Authorities have struggled to stamp out persistent clusters of infections, particularly in and around Tokyo, which reported 920 new daily cases on Wednesday, the highest since May 13.

A slow vaccine rollout has meant only a quarter of Japan’s population has had at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot.

Suga told reporters a decision on virus restrictions would be made on Thursday after talks with health experts. He vowed to respond to Tokyo’s rising cases.

Koike said she expected Suga’s government to tighten coronavirus restrictions.

The Sankei daily, citing government sources, said the government was preparing to declare a state of emergency for Tokyo to contain the virus. The Nikkei newspaper later said the new emergency would last until Aug. 22.

That could mean a ban on spectators at Olympic events as restrictions already in place in the city would be strengthened beyond an original end-date of July 11. Sankei said a “quasi emergency” in place in three prefectures neighbouring Tokyo, which will host some Olympic events, would be extended.

The Games begin on July 23 and end on Aug. 8.

‘DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES’

The government will meet International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and Tokyo organizers on Thursday or Friday to discuss the question of spectators.

Top government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said this week Suga had raised the possibility of holding the Games without spectators.

Earlier on Wednesday Toshiro Muto, the chief executive of the organizing committee, said organizers were striving to ensure safety for everyone with effective public health measures against COVID-19.

Muto, addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva by a recorded video, added: “Through the successful hosting of the Tokyo 2020 Games, we hope to show the world that people have the right to live healthier and happier lives, even in difficult circumstances.”

Shigeru Omi, the government’s top health adviser, told a parliamentary health committee it was important to reduce the number of Olympic officials and others attending events as much as possible.

Early July to September was “one of the most important periods” in combatting the coronavirus in Japan, he said.

“We have been saying that it’s preferable that the events be held without spectators,” Omi said.

“We are asking many people to take steps to prevent further spread of the infection. Images of spectators would be sending out a contradictory message.”

Tokyo authorities have also decided to move most of the torch relay, set to reach the capital on Friday, off public roads. Torch-lighting ceremonies without spectators will be held instead.

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Tokyo 2020: Canada wins first medal after swimming to silver in women's 4×100 freestyle relay – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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The Canadian Press


Published Saturday, July 24, 2021 10:55PM EDT


Last Updated Saturday, July 24, 2021 10:55PM EDT

TOKYO — Canada has its first medal of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after the women’s 4×100 freestyle relay team raced to silver.

Penny Oleksiak and Kayla Sanchez of Toronto, Margaret Mac Neil of London, Ont., and Rebecca Smith of Red Deer, Alta., finished in a time of three minutes 32.78 seconds as Canada picked up a medal in the event for a second straight Games.

Australia won gold in a world-record time of 3:29.69, while the United States finished third in 3:32.81.

Oleksiak swam the anchor leg and narrowly beat out American Simone Manuel at the wall.

Canada’s women are looking to duplicate the success they had in the pool at the 2016 Rio Games, where they picked up six medals.

Earlier on Sunday, Mac Neil also advanced to Monday morning’s 100-metre butterfly final. The 21-year-old world champion in the event posted the sixth-fastest time in the semifinals.

An hour after qualifying for the butterfly final, Mac Neil drew into the relay lineup for Taylor Ruck who swam the heat for Canada. The women posted the third-fastest time in the preliminaries.

Sanchez led off the final followed by Mac Neil and Smith with Oleksiak bringing the team home.

Oleksiak and Ruck won a pair of freestyle relay bronze medals as 16-year-olds in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.

They teamed with Sandrine Mainville and Chantal Van Landeghem in the 4 x 100 to win Canada’s first medal of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Oleksiak also swam the anchor leg in Rio.

Canada’s women aim for the podium in all three relays in Tokyo after earning three bronze at the world championship in Gwangju, South Korea two years ago.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2021.

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The Edmonton Oilers select big German defender Luca Munzenberger at #90 overall – Edmonton Journal

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The Edmonton Oilers trading down on Day #1 of the NHL draft was converted not 24 hours later into Defenceman Luca Munzenbeger.

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Gotta love the name! Munzenberger is an 18-year old out of Dusseldorf, Germany. He has a late (November) 2002 birth date.

He’s a big, left-handed shot at 6’3, 194 LBS.

Munzenberger spent the majority of 2020-21 with Kolner Junghaie of the DNL U20. In 6 games he went 1-2-3 and served as Team Captain. His time in junior versus pro left open the door for him to play in college. Munzenberger also played for Team Germany at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton (0-0-0 in 5GP). More on that in a minute…

Munzenberger is considered to be an excellent PK man, but possesses a big shot which makes him a threat from the point as well. Scouts say he has a soft set of hands and makes an effective first-pass out of his own zone. Those who have seen him play, namely amateur scout Brock Otten, describe the kid as a “suffocating physical defender” with a mean streak. He’s an above-average skater for his size with a massive stride and a big wingspan. He’s effective at clearing the slot and his reach helps him get to pucks ahead of attackers. In my own viewing of his highlights from the WJC’s, Munzenberger closes quickly and effectively on the opposition along the walls. The foot-speed, reach and size are visibly key tools in his ability to break up the cycle.

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A side note from that tournament that may indicate the quality of his intangibles: Munzenberger was in COVID quarantine at the very beginning ot the WJ’s, but emerged from that status prior to Christmas and rebounded with a strong performance. That would seem to speak to the kid’s resilience. The young man in a foreign country responded to a stressful situation and considerable uncertainty extremely well.

Draft analyst Steve Kournianos says of him: “A big bodied vacuum cleaner on defence… He has ideal size but the mobility and agility to cover faster players… He plays a mean, physical brand of hockey and can be considered a throwback… He has soft hands and delivers clean passes to any area in the offensive zone, but what makes Munzenberger dangerous is his lethal shot — he owns a bomb of a shot, not only for its velocity but for the sheer power he generates with little backswing. His wrister is just as nasty.”

It is fair to consider this pick as somewhat “off the board”. Elite Prospects had him at #214. No other service had him listed at all. One wonders if fellow countryman Leon Draisaitl had and offered any insight on the player to the Oilers draft team? He and his father surely know of every sharp prospect in that nation.

Munzenberger is committed to NCAA University of Vermont in 2022-23 which offers another interesting tidbit. Todd Woodcroft is the coach of that program, the brother of Bakersfield Condors bench boss Jay Woodcroft.  So, there may well be some added insight from that connection.

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Montreal Canadiens select Joe Vrbetic with 214th pick – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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After a very long day, the Montreal Canadiens final picks are finally upon us, with 214th overall being up first. The Habs acquired this pick after trading out of an earlier round, and with this pick the team selected Joe Vrbetic from OHL’s North Bay Battalion.

Elite Prospects

Unfortunately like many other prospects in the OHL, Vrbetic was not able to play this year due to the Covid pandemic. In his last full season he posted a 4.23 goals against, an .881 save percentage along with a 14-25-1 record on a dreadful North Bay team that won just 17 out of 62 games.

The Habs have the penultimate pick in the draft at 223rd overall this year coming up.

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