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.
Blue Jays: What happens now with Mark Shapiro’s contract? – Jays Journal
Mark Shapiro, the President and CEO of the Blue Jays, is only under contract until the end of the 2020 season. What happens now for him in Toronto?
There will be a lot of complicated variables for MLB executives to navigate over the coming weeks and even months, and I imagine things will be very much in limbo until we have some answers about the future of baseball in 2020.
That’s the unfortunate reality for the players, the fans, and for the front offices across the game, but there could be another interesting factor to deal with at some point this year. The Blue Jays were set to enter the season with Mark Shapiro working under the final year of his current contract as President and CEO, and the two sides had yet to work out an extension.
According to the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, there were talks around the idea back in October, but it didn’t sound like anything was particularly close at the time. We do know that Ross Atkins, the Blue Jays GM, is under contract until after the 2021 season, and he has been closely tied to Shapiro throughout his career in baseball, including being hired by Shapiro to come to Toronto. All along I personally expected that Shapiro would be extended until the end of 2021, and all parties could re-evaluate at the end of the 2020 campaign to see where things were at with the front office.
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Fast forward to today, and we’re now facing the very real threat that there may not be any baseball in 2020. That’s a terribly depressing thought for a number of reasons, but it could also be relevant when it comes to the Blue Jays’ situation with Shapiro. For the purposes of this thought train, let’s assume there will be no baseball this season.
Without having any inside information whatsoever, I would still be surprised to see Shapiro leave with Atkins under contract for another year. The Blue Jays could decide to move on to a different front office group and fire Atkins with a year left on his contract this fall, but it’s hard to see them making that decision now, especially without a 2020 campaign to evaluate their work. After focusing on building a homegrown core and rebuilding the roster for the last few years, Atkins and company went out and acquired some real help this winter including Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark, Chase Anderson, and more. On paper it was an exciting winter for the Blue Jays, and it would be hard to justify moving on from the front office team without getting to see the fruits of their work.
All that said, Shapiro has been linked to other positions in the past, even in other sports. It’s hard to know what could be on the table for the 53-year-old until a decision has been made either way, he has downplayed any rumours of that sort, and has repeatedly stated he is interested in seeing the job through.
“I’ve been clear and consistent about enjoying where I am and wanting to be here. From a competitive perspective, I want to finish the job. That’s incredibly important to me.”
Once again, my assumption is that if there’s no baseball this year, the Blue Jays and Shapiro will be interested in at least a one year extension to his current deal. Without getting a chance to see what this current group can do, it’s pretty hard for anyone to make a decision about the future at the moment.
As I said at the beginning, I don’t expect it will be a priority for the immediate future for the Blue Jays or for Shapiro, but we’ll see if and how that changes as the suspension of play continues. Hopefully there will still be baseball this season, but one way or another the decision on Shapiro’s future is coming later this year.
How the field will likely look for a November Masters – Golf Channel
While many questions remain about what a Masters might look like in November, one area where we have some clarity is what the field will look like.
Augusta National Golf Club announced Monday that this year’s tournament has new “intended dates” of Nov. 9-15. But part of that announcement included language from club chairman Fred Ridley about who will be invited down Magnolia Lane this fall.
“We want to emphasize that our future plans are incumbent upon favorable counsel and direction from health officials,” Ridley wrote. “Provided that occurs and we can conduct the 2020 Masters, we intend to invite those professionals and amateurs who would have qualified for our original April date.”
Masters qualification was already winding down when global competition ground to a halt last month, with only two remaining pathways to an invite: win one of four remaining full-point PGA Tour events, all of which have since been canceled, or sit inside the top 50 of the Official World Golf Rankings on March 30.
But 92 players had already qualified for this year’s Masters, a larger number than some fields in recent years even with those 11th-hour avenues removed. Eighty-seven players participated each of the last two years, while the field grew to 93 in 2017. The Masters has not had a field size over 100 since 1966, when 103 players participated.
If the tournament committee opted to make the final top-50 cutoff based on what the world rankings looked like when they were frozen on March 20, four more players who were not otherwise exempt would be invited: No. 44 Collin Morikawa, No. 45 Scottie Scheffler, No. 47 Christiaan Bezuidenhout and No. 49 Graeme McDowell. That could potentially swell the field to 96, though winners of tournaments should competition resume this summer will earn invites to the 2021 event.
“We would not be adding players to the field between now and the November event,” an Augusta National spokesperson told GolfChannel.com. “Those would be picked up by the 2021 tournament, per our usual qualifications.”
There are 19 Masters qualifying criteria, although lucky No. 19 is the final OWGR cutoff that had not yet come to pass. Here’s a look at how all 92 players for this year’s field qualified, with players who gained entry via multiple criteria listed only by the first way by which they qualified:
1. Masters champions (lifetime exemption): Angel Cabrera, Fred Couples, Sergio Garcia, Trevor Immelman, Zach Johnson, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Phil Mickelson, Larry Mize, Jose Maria Olazabal, Patrick Reed, Charl Schwartzel, Adam Scott, Vijay Singh, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Mike Weir, Danny Willett, Tiger Woods
2. U.S. Open champions (last five years): Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Gary Woodland
3. Open champions (last five years): Shane Lowry, Francesco Molinari, Henrik Stenson
4. PGA champions (last five years): Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jimmy Walker
5. Players champions (last three years): Si Woo Kim, Rory McIlroy, Webb Simpson
6. Current Olympic gold medalist (one year): N/A
7. Current U.S. Amateur winner and runner-up: James Augenstein (a), Andy Ogletree (a)
8. Current British Amateur champion: James Sugrue (a)
9. Current Asia-Pacific Amateur champion: Yuxin Lin (a)
10. Current Latin America Amateur champion: Abel Gallegos (a)
11. Current U.S. Mid-Amateur champion: Lukas Michel (a)
12. Top 12 and ties from 2019 Masters: Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Justin Harding, Matt Kuchar, Ian Poulter, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele
13. Top 4 and ties from 2019 U.S. Open: Justin Rose, Chez Reavie
14. Top 4 and ties from 2019 Open: Tommy Fleetwood, Lee Westwood
15. Top 4 and ties from 2019 PGA Championship: Matt Wallace
16. Individual winners of PGA Tour events that offer full FedExCup points: Cameron Champ, Tyler Duncan, Dylan Frittelli, Lanto Griffin, Tyrrell Hatton, Max Homa, Sungjae Im, Sung Kang, Andrew Landry, Nate Lashley, Marc Leishman, Sebastian Munoz, Kevin Na, Joaquin Niemann, C.T. Pan, J.T. Poston, Cameron Smith, Nick Taylor, Brendon Todd, Matthew Wolff
17. Qualifiers for 2019 Tour Championship: Abraham Ancer, Paul Casey, Corey Conners, Bryson DeChambeau, Lucas Glover, Charles Howell III, Kevin Kisner, Jason Kokrak, Hideki Matsuyama, Louis Oosthuizen, Brandt Snedeker
18. Top 50 from final Official World Golf Ranking of 2019: Byeong-Hun An, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Adam Hadwin, Billy Horschel, Shugo Imahira, Jazz Janewattananond, Victor Perez, Andrew Putnam, Erik van Rooyen, Bernd Wiesberger
Straschnitzki on Humboldt anniversary: ‘You just want to be there for your teammates’ – Sportsnet.ca
There’s a good chance Ryan Straschnitzki will mark today’s second anniversary of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash by playing hockey.
Well, a version every young Canadian hockey player thrived on in basements and hotel hallways along the way.
“I love playing mini-sticks with my little brother,” said Straschnitzki, 20, from his home in Airdrie, just outside Calgary.
“I have a long hallway in my basement and decided to get my (sledge hockey) sled and started shooting the ball. I love ripping balls and foam pucks at Connor.”
Does he let the eight-year-old win?
“Oh God no,” he chuckled.
“I like the competition, and we both have fun doing it.”
It’s just another in a series of steps Michelle and Tom Straschnitzki might not have fathomed seeing after receiving the call two years ago, informing them of the crash at a rural Saskatchewan intersection near Nipawin.
It left their son paralyzed from the chest down in the collision that cost 16 teammates, coaches and support staff their lives. Thirteen others were injured, sparking a stirring wave of support thrown towards the tiny Saskatchewan town from around the world.
In the days and weeks following the accident, one of the first goals set by Straschnitzki was making the national sledge hockey team.
With the help of former Team Canada member Chris Cederstrand, that dream is still very much alive. He was recently named to the Alberta provincial team, and was looking forward to his first Nationals in May before they were cancelled due to COVID-19.
His chief goal continues to be walking, which is something he took great strides towards in November when he had experimental spinal surgery in Thailand. He continues to work on his mobility with the help of an epidural stimulator implanted to send electrical currents to trigger nerves and move limbs.
“It’s still a work I progress but it is getting stronger,” he said.
“After I use the device I have planted inside of me walking became easier. The muscles become more accustomed to using that motion, and flexing a certain way to make the step happen. Hopefully one day I can take assisted walking to the next level and maybe even walk some day.”
Before COVID-19 he spent four or five days a week on the ice with his sled, but has been forced to do all his training in his basement, which has been renovated to accommodate his life in a wheelchair.
“It’s going really well,” said the ever-optimistic defenceman.
“I’m still learning a lot of stuff about this injury. Unfortunately my synaptic rehab clinic closed down (due to COVID-19), so I’ve been trying to do physio here. For me being a high level para I think it’s important to work on my core balance. I have this stimulation bike where I attach stim pads to my leg and it flexes the muscles to keep my muscles intact for my legs.”
Much like the endless support his team received from coast to coast following the crash, Straschnitzki has continued to get help from various sources including his teammates, who stay in touch regularly via a team text chat. The exchanges intensified as Monday’s anniversary approached.
“It’s just another day, but at the same time you remember what happened and you just want to be there for your teammates and families,” he said.
“Part of the recovery process is just being there for the guys you were with that were involved as well.”
For the first year, Straschnitzki wasn’t keen on talking much about what he saw, heard and experienced that cold, awful night. But with the influence of friends, family members and teammates he’s started seeing a counsellor.
“I’ve been there a few times and spent hours just chatting, which I’ve never done before,” said Straschnitzki, a fixture outside the dressing rooms after Flames games where he’s forged relationships with everyone from Sean Monahan, Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie to Connor McDavid, Tyler Seguin and Ryan O’Reilly.
“I’ve never been one to talk about what I’m feeling or thinking. At the same time it was nice to get things off my chest. Some guys want to keep it on the down low and keep it quiet, and others who want to talk to other guys about it. I was conscious through part of it (that night). It’s awful and I hope it never happens again.”
He also hopes to never have to deal with the hatred he saw late last month after it was announced his family had launched a $13-million lawsuit naming both drivers, amongst others, as defendants. He revealed he and his family were immediately subjected to online vitriol, which included death threats.
“I’m not sure what that’s all about, but there have been people who have reached out and maybe not said the nicest comments,” said Straschnitzki, whose family is following in the footsteps of several other families affected by the crash.
“There have been a few people that have tried to call the house, and we had the police driving by our house at night just to make sure. I’m not looking out for any altercations, but I’m looking out for my family and I don’t want this to affect them or me in any way.
“You have to understand the process of going through something like this. I probably wouldn’t have pursued it if I wasn’t this injured. We’re not actually going after the family (or team driver Glen Doerksen), it’s more for his insurance company. But people just think how greedy I am and I’ve got a bunch of comments about that.
“It was pretty tough. I’m not one to seek too much media attention – I’m just kind of looking out for myself. The cost of living in a wheelchair yearly is immensely huge. It’s not easy and I think any help I can get is what I need.
“I just ignore it and keep doing what I’m doing. The true supporters and people I’m close with always stick by my side and I’m not worried about anyone outside that group.”
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