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Could the Greek Olympic team cease to exist?

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The Greek Olympic Committee (HOC) said Thursday that budget cuts to the program could lead to the “disintegration of Greek sport” as soon as the new year after an 80 percent cut is put into effect in 2013.

“Greek sport will simply disappear unless the plans are revised,” HOC vice president Sakis Vassiliadis said. “We feel we have the obligation to our athletes, coaches, staff and more importantly young aspiring athletes to try and change the situation and that is what we are doing with our proposals.”

According to the HOC, which referred to the cuts as a “brutal attack,” the sports federations will begin to shut down unless proposals that include a request of $76 million in funding from state-run betting company OPAP, $11 million from staff reductions, and a $25 million grant for the federations are accepted.

The cuts are a surprise to no one due to the economic crisis that Greece has faced in recent years. The national sports budget has been cut by 50 percent year-over-year since 2010 and the sports federation has ceased operations twice in twelve months to protest the enormous cutbacks they’ve faced since 2008.

“At Beijing in 2008 we had 156 athletes, at London 2012 there were 103,” Vassiliadis told Reuters. “I fear we could see as few as 25 in Rio if the situation is not changed.”

Phil Dalhausser, Nick Lucena meet Olympic qualification

Phil Dalhausser, Nick Lucena
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Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, who weren’t partners this time last year, mathematically qualified for the Rio Olympics this week.

Dalhausser, a 2008 Olympic champion with Todd Rogers, and Lucena, who has never competed in an Olympics, played their 12th international tournament together, meeting the FIVB minimum to be eligible for the Games.

Dalhausser and Lucena, both 36, and the pair of two-time Olympian Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson are assured of being the top two U.S. men’s teams in Olympic qualifying standings come the June 13 qualifying deadline.

Dalhausser and Lucena and Gibb and Patterson are expected to be officially named to the U.S. Olympic team shortly after that deadline. A nation can qualify no more than two pairs per gender to the Olympics.

This time last year, Dalhausser was playing with fellow two-time Olympian Sean Rosenthal. They paired up after neither earned medals with different partners at the London Olympics.

Dalhausser and Rosenthal were the world’s most successful pair in 2013 and 2014, winning six FIVB World Tour events. But their partnership changed after Dalhausser suffered an oblique injury last May 28.

They played one more tournament together, losing in the round of 16, and announced their breakup on July 27.

“I think if he doesn’t have that oblique injury, we’re out playing, and we’re back to where we’ve been the last two years, as the No. 1 team in the world,” Rosenthal said in July, according to Redbull.com. “When we weren’t injured, we were the best team in the world. We’ve had to deal with some injuries, and I don’t think either of us have had to do that our whole career, so that put a little more pressure on us: ‘Why aren’t they winning all the time? Why aren’t they the best team in the world?’ When we’re healthy, we were.”

Dalhausser turned to Lucena, with whom he began his career in 2003 before joining Rogers full-time in 2006.

Dalhausser and Lucena finished first or second in eight of their first nine FIVB tournaments since reuniting.

They were eliminated from this week’s event in Moscow by Italians Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai, the same pair that upset Dalhausser and Rogers in the London Olympic round of 16.

Dalhausser and Lucena and Gibb and Patterson are Olympic medal contenders, along with Brazilian World champions Alison and Bruno and other pairs from Brazil, Latvia and the Netherlands.

On the women’s side, three-time Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and 2012 silver medalist April Ross are assured of finishing as the top American pair in Olympic qualifying. Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat will likely clinch the second spot in two weeks.

MORE: Walsh Jennings, Ross win Cincinnati Open

Nearly 150 health experts ask WHO to consider moving, delaying Olympics

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LONDON (AP) — Health experts on Friday urged the World Health Organization to consider whether the Rio de Janeiro Olympics should be postponed or moved because of the Zika outbreak.

The 150 experts — including a former White House science adviser — issued an open letter to the U.N. health agency, calling for the Games to be delayed or relocated “in the name of public health.”

The letter cited recent scientific evidence that the Zika virus causes severe birth defects, most notably babies born with abnormally small heads. In adults, it can cause neurological problems, including a rare syndrome that can be fatal or result in temporary paralysis. The authors also noted that despite increased efforts to wipe out the mosquitoes that spread Zika, cases in Rio have gone up rather than down.

Several public health academics have previously warned that having hundreds of thousands of people head to the Aug. 5-21 Games in Brazil will inevitably lead to the births of more brain-damaged babies and speed up the virus’ global spread.

WHO declared the Zika epidemic to be a global emergency in February and in its latest assessment this week, said it “does not see an overall decline in the outbreak.”

“The fire is already burning, but that is not a rationale not to do anything about the Olympics,” said Amir Attaran, a professor at the University of Ottawa and one of the letter’s authors. “It is not the time now to throw more gasoline onto the fire.”

WHO has already advised pregnant women not to travel to Rio and says other travelers should avoid poor and overcrowded parts of the city. WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said earlier this month that the U.N. health agency is increasingly worried about Zika but stopped short of recommending the Rio Olympics be moved or postponed. Chan, who is not of child-bearing age, noted that she herself would be going to the Games.

Among the letter’s signatories are experts from more than two dozen countries in fields including public health, bioethics and pediatrics. The letter also noted a potential conflict of interest, highlighting the decades-long collaboration between WHO and the International Olympic Committee.

The authors said that partnership “was last affirmed in 2010 at an event where the Director-General of WHO and president of the IOC signed a memorandum of understanding, which is secret because neither has disclosed it.”

They also pointed to a group that WHO established to help cities not only with health advice, but to potentially help them bid for major events including the Olympics.

“WHO cannot credibly assess the public health risks of Zika and the Olympics when it sets neutrality aside,” the letter stated.

WHO did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

In an email to the AP, the IOC said it would “always consult the WHO for guidance and advice on health matters.”

Concerns over Zika have prompted USA Swimming to move its pre-Olympic training camp from Puerto Rico to Atlanta and Major League Baseball also scrapped a series of games that were going to be held in San Juan.

No Olympic Games have ever been moved from their host city due to medical concerns, but in 2003, FIFA decided to switch the Women’s World Cup soccer tournament from China to the United States on short notice due to the threat posed by the respiratory virus SARS.

MORE: WHO increasingly worried about Rio, but Olympics OK to go on