Thomas Bach

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach says rumors about the Tokyo Games being canceled or postponed are damaging thousands of athletes preparing to compete. Rick Rycroft/Associated Press, file

OLYMPICS

IOC president Thomas Bach hit back at the continuing speculation about whether the Tokyo Olympics may be canceled or postponed again, saying Wednesday that such talk is damaging for the thousands of athletes preparing to take part this year.

The International Olympic Committee and organizers in Japan have repeatedly insisted there is no Plan B for the Tokyo Games, which were already postponed by one year during the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, Japan’s government quickly and firmly dismissed a report that it had concluded the games would have be canceled. However, talk about whether the games can go ahead refuses to go away.

“All these speculations are hurting the athletes in their preparations,” Bach said after a monthly meeting of the IOC executive board.

The Tokyo Games are scheduled to open on July 23, with 11,000 athletes competing in 33 sports.

Bach noted that athletes don’t need more distractions as they already have “to overcome the challenges in their daily training and competitions with all the restrictions they are facing.”

“We want not to destroy any Olympic dream of any athlete,” the IOC leader said.

The Times of London’s report last week quoted an anonymous senior official in Japan suggesting the country could focus on hosting in 2032. That’s the next available Summer Games after Paris hosts in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028.

“I want to say `good luck’ if you would have to discuss this with an athlete who is preparing for the Olympic Games 2021,” Bach said Thursday.

Asked about vaccination programs, Bach repeated that athletes and workers at the Olympics are advised to be inoculated but it would not be mandatory to enter Japan.

“We are not in favor of athletes jumping the queue,” he said.

The 206 national Olympic bodies have been urged by the IOC to liaise with their governments about the place of sports in vaccination programs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also affected the other major gathering of Olympic officials this year.

The IOC’s annual meeting, where Bach is set to be re-elected unopposed as president, will now take place online instead of in a conference hall in Athens.

Bach said the virtual meeting will keep its March 10-12 dates, and Athens will host the annual meeting in 2025. That is when the next president will be elected after Bach reaches the limit of 12 years leading the Olympic body.

TENNIS

ANDY MURRAY has entered a lower-tier challenger tournament in Italy next month after withdrawing from the Australian Open with the coronavirus.
Murray is listed to play an indoor tournament in Biella starting Feb. 15, the Italian Tennis Federation said Wednesday. The tournament has $160,000 in prize money.

Murray tested positive for COVID-19 shortly before he was due to board a charter flight to Melbourne, where he had been given a wild-card entry.

Murray is a former No. 1 who is currently ranked 123rd as he works his way back from hip issues that led to two operations.

He last played a challenger event in August 2019 in Mallorca, Spain, while recovering from his hip problems.

MATCH-FIXING: Two Russian tennis players were banned from the sport for life on Wednesday for match-fixing, including incidents when they played together as doubles partners.

The International Tennis Integrity Agency said Alija Merdeeva was found guilty of two counts of match-fixing. Sofia Dmitrieva was found guilty on six counts of match-fixing and was also charged with failing to cooperate with an investigation.

The case focused on “multiple incidents,” the ITIA said, including two matches they played together as doubles partners. The ITIA didn’t say which tournaments were affected.

Merdeeva and Dmitrieva toured the world playing low-level pro tournaments, often in Africa, Turkey and Eastern Europe. Merdeeva’s highest ranking was 928th in the world and Dmitrieva’s was 1,191st, though they both achieved slightly more success in doubles.

AUTO RACING

INDYCAR: Ed Jones will return to IndyCar after a one-year absence for a second stint driving for Dale Coyne Racing. Jones was named Wednesday as driver of the No. 18 Honda entered by Coyne with Jimmy Vasser and James Sullivan. The car will be sponsored for a fourth consecutive season by SealMaster Pavement Products.

Jones replaces Santino Ferrucci, who announced a move to NASCAR in the second-tier Xfinity Series when he could not complete a deal for 2021.

A British citizen born in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, who currently lives in Miami, Jones was sidelined all of 2020 because of COVID-19 travel restrictions. Jones was IndyCar’s rookie of the year in 2017 when he drove for Coyne and finished third in the Indianapolis 500.

The strong rookie season helped Jones land a promotion to Chip Ganassi Racing for one season, and he then ran the street and road course events for Ed Carpenter Racing in 2019.

HORSE RACING

KENTUCKY DERBY: Louisville’s citywide celebration leading into the Kentucky Derby will return this year, but its top events will look very different without spectators.

Kentucky Derby Festival organizers announced that the annual fireworks bonanza Thunder Over Louisville and the accompanying air show will not take place at the city’s Waterfront Park. Instead, the events will be presented with a mix of taped and live segments, in order to keep people from gathering in large groups.

The fireworks annually draw hundreds of thousands to the Louisville and southern Indiana river fronts.

The Pegasus Parade will also look different without a traditional procession down Broadway in downtown Louisville. Festival officials said details are being finalized, but the parade “is taking a new approach with a tribute to the parade that will bring the event to the community. ”

The annual festival, which begins two weeks before the running of the Kentucky Derby, was canceled last year as the race was postponed to September due to the pandemic.

BASKETBALL

WNBA: Kayla McBride told WSlam! that she would be signing with the Minnesota Lynx once free agents can officially ink deals Monday.

McBride has played her entire career for the Las Vegas franchise after getting drafted third in 2014 when the team was in San Antonio.


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