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Tokyo Olympics Games will go ahead even under state of emergency

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The Tokyo Olympics will go ahead even if the city is under a state of emergency due to COVID-19, a top Olympic official said on Friday, underscoring the challenges facing organisers of the pandemic-hit Games.

With just nine weeks until the Games get underway, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) sought to calm fears in Japan that the event would present a burden to a medical system already under strain from the pandemic at the end of a three-day virtual meeting to discuss preparations.

In a boost for the Olympics, which was postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was announced that French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country will host the 2024 Games, plans to attend the opening ceremony in Tokyo.

The global sporting event faces mounting opposition from the public, and in a Reuters company survey released on Friday nearly 70% of respondents said they wanted a cancellation or further postponement.

Asked whether the Olympics would go ahead even if Tokyo is under a state of emergency, the IOC Vice President John Coates, who oversees the preparations, said: “Absolutely yes.”

He added that “all of the plans we have in place to protect the safety and security of the athletes and the people of Japan are based on the worst possible circumstances.”

Coates, who spoke at a news conference at the end of the meeting, said that more than 80% of residents of the Olympic Village would be vaccinated ahead of July 23, when the Olympics start.

He added that additional medical personnel would be part of the foreign Olympic delegations to support the medical operations and the implementation of the COVID-19 countermeasures at the Games.

Japan has vaccinated just 4.1% of its population, according to Reuters’ global tracker, the lowest rate among the world’s wealthy countries and only about a half of its medical staff have completed their inoculations.

In contrast to some other Group of Seven (G7) nations that are beginning to end pandemic-busting lockdown measures, much of Japan remains under emergency curbs amid a fourth wave of infections.

PUBLIC OPPOSITION

Coates said he hoped that public acceptance of the Games would rise as more people get vaccinated.

“But if it doesn’t, then our position is that we just have to make sure that we get on with our job. Our job is to ensure the Games are safe for all of the participants, and all the people of Japan,” he said.

To minimise risk of infections, organisers have cut the number of people coming to participate in the Olympics as part of foreign delegations to 78,000 from about 180,000, Seiko Hashimoto, who runs the organising committee, told reporters.

She said that the Olympics would rely on 230 doctors and 300 nurses a day, about 50,000-60,000 coronavirus tests would be carried out daily and that the organisers have secured about 80% of the medical staff they need.

“We want to make sure we secure medical personnel in a way that will not burden local medical services,” said Hashimoto.

The Canadian swimming team became the latest delegation to pull out of a pre-Olympic training camp in Japan ahead of the Games due to coronavirus fears.

Plans for some 50 training camps in Japan have been scrapped, the majority due to concerns over the pandemic.

The U.S. track and field team also cancelled its training camp in the eastern prefecture of Chiba last week, while dozens of Japanese towns have abandoned plans to host athletes.

(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Additional reporting by Ju-min Park and Ritsuko Ando and Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Kim Coghill/Peter Rutherford/Toby Davis)

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CFL to return in August

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The Canadian Football League (CFL), which saw its entire 2020 campaign wiped out by the COVID-19 outbreak, said on Monday its board of governors voted unanimously to kick off a shortened 14-game season in August.

The CFL, whose biggest source of revenue comes from ticket sales rather than TV deals like those enjoyed by larger U.S.-based leagues, also said fans will be able to return to the stands in line with provincial guidelines.

“This is an exciting day for Canadian football and for Canada itself,” CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a news release.

“I want to thank our fans, players, coaches, and partners for their incredible support and patience as we’ve worked together towards this day.”

The season will begin Aug. 5 while the Grey Cup championship game will be played Dec. 12 in Hamilton, Ontario.

The full schedule will be released on Tuesday along with each of the league’s nine team’s plan for distributing tickets to season ticket holders and, where government restrictions on stadium capacity allow, ticket sales to the general public.

After first delaying its 2020 season, the CFL decided to scrap it entirely following a last-ditch effort to secure financing from the Canadian government to stage a shortened campaign that would have been held entirely in Manitoba was turned down.

The CFL had previously said it would only move forward with a 2021 season if it could secure the government approvals for its plans to keep players and coaches safe and the green light to allow a “significant” number of fans to attend games.

“We are on track to receive all of the necessary health and safety approvals, thanks to our tireless medical advisers and staff, and the dedicated government officials who have been working with them,” said Ambrosie.

“And while the outlook for fans in the stands varies from province to province, we are confident that process is also on the right track.”

 

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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Mixed Martial Arts-Door is open for YouTube’s Paul brothers in MMA

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Logan and Jake Paul would make great Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters, Bellator president Scott Coker has said as he targets exhibition matches featuring the YouTube personalities such as the former’s boxing bout against Floyd Mayweather.

Logan Paul went the distance, surviving eight rounds against unbeaten (50-0) five-division world boxing champion Mayweather in an exhibition on Sunday at Miami’s Hard Rock stadium.

USA Today reported the fight brought in one million pay per view buys with $50 million generated from sales in the United States.

It was only the second fight of Paul’s career, while his brother Jake has fought in three professional boxing matches, beating former MMA fighter Ben Askren in April.

Critics have labelled the bouts a sideshow due to the lack of sporting credibility of the duo, who made their names as social media personalities and have millions of subscribers on YouTube.

However, Coker told Reuters the brothers have impressive physiques and the door is open for them to move into MMA.

“I met with Logan Paul about two years ago and I’ve spoken to Jake Paul’s manager and Jake on a zoom call recently… The one thing I said was hey, if you want to do MMA we would love to promote you guys,” the 58-year-old said in a Zoom interview.

“These guys are young, athletic, strong and you saw the fight on Sunday night these guys they came and did their work.

“Mayweather couldn’t finish him and I know he tried, I heard he wanted to knock this kid out so bad,” he added.

“When I heard both had high school wrestling backgrounds in Ohio, which is a prominent wrestling state in the U.S., it really made me interested in pursuing them in some super fights in Mixed Martial Arts – and that door is continually open.”

HEADLINE FIGHT

Bellator, owned by Viacom, is gearing up for a busy month of events, starting with Bellator 260 on Friday with the headline fight between reigning welterweight world champion Douglas Lima and the undefeated Yaroslav Amosov.

However, super fights and exhibitions are where Coker is targeting a younger audience.

“My 14-year-old niece, I told her I was going to the Logan Paul fight and she thought that was the greatest thing,” he said.

“She asked me who he was fighting and I said Floyd Mayweather and she said ‘who’s that?’ – I thought wow, she doesn’t know boxing, she doesn’t know MMA, she’s just a 14-year-old girl on the internet doing what they do.”

As the sporting world gears up for the delayed Tokyo Olympics starting in July, Coker believes MMA will feature in future Games.

“When you think about mixed martial arts, what you’re talking about is boxing, wrestling, judo, taekwondo, karate – those are all Olympic sports,” he said.

“Why wouldn’t mixed martial arts eventually get into the Olympics because six out of the seven disciplines MMA is known to use really is already there.

“There’d be a lot of details to work out but to me I think it will happen, it’s just a matter of time.”

 

(Reporting by Christian Radnedge,; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Montreal will host the 2024 world figure skating championships

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Montreal will host the 2024 world figure skating championships, the International Skating Union (ISU) said on Wednesday, after the 2020 event Canada was to host was cancelled due to COVID-19.

The championships will return to Montreal from March 18-24, marking the 11th time Canada has staged the event.

“Skate Canada has a proven track record of holding successful ISU events and we are looking forward to bringing the world’s best skaters to the fantastic Canadian city of Montreal,” said Debra Armstrong, CEO of Skate Canada, in a statement.

 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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