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Tokyo 2020: 48 hours that rocked the Olympics – CNN

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At the headquarters of the World Health Organization, the ever-growing numbers of those infected by the coronavirus outbreak caused alarm for International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach.
The previous bullishness over staging the Games later this year that had been shown by Bach, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Tokyo 2020 organizers showed its first cracks as the number Olympic nations affected by the global pandemic began to soar.
Bach’s eyes were drawn to the data from Africa as the continent became the latest to feel the full force of the pandemic.
That Sunday morning, the former German fencer called an emergency meeting of the IOC’s executive board for later that day.
The meeting was to be made up of Bach, four vice-presidents and 10 other members, including the former pole vaulter Sergey Bubka and Kirsty Coventry, Africa’s most decorated swimmer with seven Olympic medals and now the sports minister in her native South Africa.
After being subjected to accusations that it had buried its head in the sand while virtually every other major sporting event was called off, the IOC was now actively discussing postponement.
Bach had already spoken with Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori, a man who had the ear of Abe. All parties made it clear that cancellation was not an option but the dreaded P word — postponement — was now very much on the table.
By the end of the executive board meeting, Bach learned “new alarming information” that the virus had spread to islands in Oceania, with a raft of travel restrictions imposed in many of the Olympic nations.
The Olympic cauldron is lit during the 'Flame of Recovery' special exhibition at Aquamarine Park a day after the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The blows kept coming thick and fast. Bach received a letter from World Athletics President Sebastian Coe, with whom the IOC chief goes back many years.
“I write to you to request that the Games be moved,” said Coe. “No one wants to see the Olympic Games postponed but, as I have said publicly, we cannot hold the event at all costs, certainly not at the cost of athlete safety, and a decision on the Olympic Games must become very obvious very quickly.
“I believe that time has come and we owe it to our athletes to give them respite where we can.”

Stranded in New Mexico

The domino effect gathered more momentum when Canada became the first nation to officially withdraw its teams from Tokyo 2020, notifying the world of its intention in a statement entitled “Postpone Today Conquer Tomorrow.”
The next day Australia followed suit saying it had told its athletes to prepare for a 2021 Games, while British athletes training abroad were called home by the UK Foreign Office.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach (L) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands prior to their meeting at Abe's official residence in Tokyo on March 13, 2015. International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach (L) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands prior to their meeting at Abe's official residence in Tokyo on March 13, 2015.
For two-time Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee, it meant an abrupt end to a training camp that had been scheduled to run until the end of April in New Mexico.
For the triathlete and his brother Jonny, twice a medalist at the past two Games behind him, there was no choice but to book a flight home for the following day.
Until that point, they had trained as though the Games were going ahead, the thinking being that a deserted training base might be a safer location.
“That was the best place to train but we were balancing it with the worry that if we stay another week we might not be able to get home for three or even six months,” Alistair Brownlee, the son of doctors working to help combat in the coronavirus outbreak, told CNN.
Earlier that Monday morning in Europe, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had called on G20 leaders to address the global pandemic’s acceleration.
It was at this point that the IOC made the first formative steps to postpone the Games, forewarning that such a position would be taken in the call scheduled between Bach and Abe at 11 a.m. Lausanne time on Tuesday.
Before that the US, arguably the world’s most powerful Olympic nation, played its hand, saying a postponement was the only option.
Even before the call between Bach and Abe had begun, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that that Japanese prime minster was proposing a postponement of the Games — unthinkable barely a few weeks ago — until 2021.

Political corruption scandal

The IOC is in a sense a private members’ club — albeit one overseeing the world’s biggest sporting event — but postponement wasn’t a decision it could afford to take unilaterally.
The IOC was concerned that if it pulled the plug, it would be considered in breach of contract, effectively putting the organization’s head on the block in terms of the financial impact, which one of the world’s leading sports lawyers John Mehrzad argued could “run into the billions with TV rights, suppliers rights, economic loss of hotels, the list goes on.”
And what of the Japanese government’s obligations? Mehrzad makes the point that the wider ramifications of the postponement are only just beginning to play out.
“It’s unfathomable to not think that financial and legal implications are at the forefront for the IOC and Japan in this,” he added. “This is going to be so messy and difficult, these are crippling figures.”
People wearing face masks chat next to the Olympic Rings on March 13, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. People wearing face masks chat next to the Olympic Rings on March 13, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan.
For Abe, there are also political consequences.
Olympic Games often provide a moment to bring together a nation, but after Tuesday’s conversation with Bach, the Japanese prime minister knew postponement had become the only option, however potentially damaging politically, financially and legally.
Alistair Brownlee received the news in New Mexico before he dashed to the airport.
“I was really disappointed but there was relief too,” Brownlee told CNN Sport. “For me, the shift of a year doesn’t make too much difference although logically I’ll be a year older so it might be harder.
“But it’s hard for the younger athletes building for say eight years to a first Games. If that had happened to me at London 2012 [his first Games and first gold] that would have had a massive effect. With two Olympics, it leaves me in a better place to deal with it.”
For some athletes injured, the announcement proved a blessing, for others preparing for life away from the Games post-2020 it left tougher choices.
A woman in a face mask walks past a display showing the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games logo in Tokyo on March 24, 2020.A woman in a face mask walks past a display showing the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games logo in Tokyo on March 24, 2020.

‘Huge jigsaw puzzle’

Bach and the IOC now face a potential logistical nightmare in rearranging the Games.
“This is like a huge jigsaw puzzle — every piece has to fit,” said Bach on Tuesday. “If you take out one piece, the whole puzzle is destroyed. Everything has to come together.
“We have no blueprint but we are confident we can put a beautiful jigsaw puzzle together and have a wonderful Olympic Games.”
When they officially announced the postponement, Bach and Abe said that the “Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present.”
The Olympic flame might continue to burn, but Bach has had a tough job firefighting over the last few days.
Asked on Wednesday whether he personally had any regrets about the handling of the crisis and therefore subsequently considered resigning from his position, Bach said simply: “No.”

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Greatest Moments of NHL Season … So Far: first round, matchup 5 – NHL.com

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The 2019-20 NHL season had many incredible moments before it paused March 12 because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus, and now fans can decide which one was the best.

The Greatest Moments of the NHL season … So Far have been placed into a bracket of 64 entries, and fans will vote on one matchup per day, ultimately deciding the greatest moment up until this point.

Fans can vote on Twitter and Instagram each day from noon until 10 a.m. ET the next day. Each day the winner of that matchup will be revealed, and a new set of moments will go head-to-head.

Though fans will have the ultimate say, two NHL.com staff members will weigh in on each matchup to give his or her opinion on which one should advance to the next round.

In the matchup on Thursday, Pekka Rinne scoring a goalie goal for the Nashville Predators defeated the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl.

The matchup Friday pits a special reward for a young Minnesota Wild fan on Oct. 27, against Cale Makar setting a Colorado Avalanche record for most goals in a season by a rookie defenseman in a 5-3 win against the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 18.

Adam Kimelman, deputy managing editor

As someone who’s gone to sporting events for 35 years, I’ve never caught a foul ball at a baseball game let alone a puck that flew into the crowd. If I did, I’m not sure I would have shared with anyone. Certainly not as an 11-year-old. Which is why what Emily Wiltzius did that night in Minnesota was so impressive, getting two pucks and without a second thought giving each one to younger kids around her. It was especially cool to see the way the Wild, led by Jason Zucker, rewarded her for her kindness. As a parent, it also serves as a wonderful teaching moment that if you do good things, people are watching and you can be rewarded.

Nick Cotsonika, columnist

It’s not just that Makar set the Avalanche record for most goals in a season by a rookie defenseman. It’s that he reached 11 goals in 40 games, less than half a season’s worth (the previous record holder, John-Michael Liles, needed 79 games in 2003-04). It’s that he did it in a 5-3 win against the St. Louis Blues, the defending Stanley Cup champions and leaders in the Western Conference at the time. And it’s that he showed the awareness, poise and skill that has made him a leading contender for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the League’s top rookie. He noticed the defenders were tired, took advantage of the opportunity to find open ice, and scored on a wrist shot through a screen.

Video: STL@COL: Makar scores to set franchise rookie mark

Tweet from @NHL: Pekka Rinne’s goalie goal moves on! 👏Who are you taking today: a patient young @mnwild fan or Cale Makar’s (@Cmakar16) team record-setting season? VOTE ������

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Report: Trump hopes to have fans back at sports games by end of summer – Sportsnet.ca

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U.S. President Donald Trump told major-league sports commissioners on a call Saturday afternoon that he hoped to have fans back in stadiums and arenas by August and September, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Adrian Wojnarowski.

Trump reportedly also said he believes the NFL season “should start on time in September.”

The call included 13 league commissioners, among them the NHL’s Gary Bettman, NBA’s Adam Silver, MLB’s Rob Manfred and NFL’s Roger Goodell.

White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere tweeted a statement following the completion of Trump’s call.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom told reporters later Saturday that he doesn’t anticipate sports being played with fans in the stands by September in his state, contrary to Trump’s reported comments.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the plan for the call was “to discuss charitable contributions and how the leagues would help those dealing with coronavirus.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought most of the sports world to a halt for the last three weeks, as only White’s UFC and MacMahon’s WWE are the only organizations still hosting events.

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Kobe, Duncan, Garnett headline 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class – TSN

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Kobe Bryant was already immortal. Now he’s officially a Hall of Famer as well.

And he’s got plenty of elite company in the 2020 class.

Bryant and fellow NBA greats Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett headlined a nine-person group announced Saturday as this year’s class of enshrinees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

They all got into the Hall in their first year of eligibility, as did WNBA great Tamika Catchings. Two-time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich finally got his call, as did longtime Baylor women’s coach Kim Mulkey, 1,000-game winner Barbara Stevens of Bentley and three-time Final Four coach Eddie Sutton.

They were the eight finalists who were announced in February, and the panel of 24 voters who were tasked to decide who merited selection wound up choosing them all. Also headed to the Hall this year: former FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann, selected as a direct-elect by the international committee.

“He was the head of FIBA and this was a way to honour him,” Colangelo said. “It was a special thing done through that committee.”

Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, about three weeks before the Hall of Fame said — as if there was going to be any doubt — that he was a finalist. Duncan and Garnett were also widely perceived to be locks to be part of this class; they were both 15-time NBA All-Stars, and Bryant was an 18-time selection.

Bryant was also a five-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, just as Duncan was with the San Antonio Spurs.

“This is an incredibly special class, for many reasons,” Hall of Fame Chairman and enshrinee Jerry Colangelo said.

Catchings was a 10-time WNBA All-Star and four-time Olympic gold medallist . Tomjanovich, who had overwhelming support from NBA peers who couldn’t understand why it took so long for his selection, was a five-time All-Star as a player, guided Houston to back-to-back titles and took the 2000 U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal.

Mulkey has three NCAA titles as a coach, won two others as a player and had Baylor in position to vie for another championship this season had the global coronavirus pandemic not forced the shutdown of virtually every sport around the globe. Stevens has coached for 43 years and is a five-time Division II coach of the year. Sutton won more than 800 games in nearly four decades, and Baumann was one of the most powerful voices in international basketball until his death in 2018.

The enshrinement ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts, is scheduled for Aug. 29. Should the pandemic force a delay, there is a tentative plan for an October ceremony as well.

For this year, largely because of the star power of this class, the Hall chose to enact a one-year suspension of direct elections from the Veteran’s, Women’s Veteran’s, Early African-American Pioneers and Contributors categories.

With Bryant, Duncan and Garnett as perhaps the top NBA trio to ever enter simultaneously, the Hall wanted to make sure that no enshrinee would be overlooked.

“We didn’t need to water it down,” Colangelo said. “Next year is another year for many.”

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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