Tokyo 2020

Tokyo wins 2020 Olympics over Istanbul, Madrid

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The Games of the 32nd Olympiad will be in Tokyo.

The Japanese capital won a final-round vote over Istanbul and will host an Olympics for the second time in 2020. Tokyo also held the Games in 1964. Tokyo, which billed its bid as “a safe pair of hands,” won with 60 votes to Istanbul’s 36 from International Olympic Committee members.

“The Games of the 32nd Olympiad in 2020 are awarded to the city of … ,” IOC president Jacques Rogge said as he opened the envelope in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “Tokyo.”

Japan last hosted an Olympics in 1998 when Nagano had the Winter Games. Turkey had never hosted the Olympics. Istanbul was trying for the fifth time. The other finalist, Madrid, was eliminated in the first round of voting.

Tokyo also won the first round of voting with 42 votes, but did not get more than half the votes, so a second round had to be held between Tokyo and the second-place city. Istanbul and Madrid tied for second place with 26 each, so there was a tiebreaking vote between the two to see which would advance. That vote was won by Istanbul, which got 49 votes to Madrid’s 45.

“Tokyo presented a very strong technical bid from the outset — and it needed to in competition with two such high-caliber bids from Istanbul and Madrid,” Rogge, whose 12-year tenure in office ends Tuesday, said in an IOC press release. “All three cities were capable of staging excellent Games in 2020, but in the end it was Tokyo’s bid that resonated the most with the IOC membership, inviting us to ‘discover tomorrow’ by delivering a well-organised and safe Games that will reinforce the Olympic values while demonstrating the benefits of sport to a new generation.”

Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of New York, similar to the time difference for the Beijing Games in 2008, which was 12 hours.

“Tokyo is one of the world’s most fascinating cities, and will provide a spectacular setting for the 2020 Olympic Games,” NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus said in a statement. “Tokyo is particularly special to NBC as our rich Olympic heritage began there with the 1964 Olympic Games. We are excited to return in 2020 … to broadcast what will be our 17th Olympic Games overall and 11th consecutive, and to bring the stories and performances of the world’s greatest athletes home to American viewers.”

It is interesting that the tiebreaking vote was so close since, essentially, it was determined by the pro-Tokyo voters. If the Tokyo supporters were under a consensus as to which bid would be a preferred final-round opponent, it was not apparent in that slim four-vote margin.

Madrid’s elimination could be seen as a positive for Paris and Rome, two cities showing interest in the 2024 Olympics. Asia will hold back-to-back Games in 2018 and 2020, with Pyeongchang, South Korea, hosting the 2018 Winter Games.

The U.S. has been gauging interest in a possible 2024 bid and is expected to pick a city, if it chooses a bid, by the end of next year.

Tokyo’s win could be seen as a positive for baseball and softball, which is competing with squash and wrestling for one open spot in the 2020 and 2024 Olympics. Baseball and softball are very popular in Japan. That vote comes Sunday.

Sunday’s sport vote previews: Baseball-softball | Squash | Wrestling

Tokyo, the second of the three cities to make final presentations to the IOC on Saturday, spoke amid the backdrop of a slogan, “discover tomorrow.”

The Japanese imperial family made a rare appearance at an event such as an IOC session. Princess Takamado led the presentation.

“This may be the first time a member our family has addressed you, but the imperial family of Japan has always been active in sports,” she said.

Paralympian Mami Sato delivered an emotional speech, telling the story of how she was “saved by sport” after losing her right leg due to cancer at 19 years old. The 2011 tsunami and earthquake damaged her hometown, and she said she didn’t know for six days if the rest of her family was alive.

Tokyo 2020 also mentioned its clean record free of doping, illegal betting and match fixing. It mentioned three values — celebration, innovation and delivery — that add up to one word, “opportunity.”

Tokyo came in third place in the voting for 2016 but said it bettered its bid with a new Olympic stadium plan, where “every athlete can have a seat” for the opening ceremony. It said the Olympic village is bigger and in a better place, with a bed for every athlete.

“We have kept the best and improved the rest,” said a smiling Masato Mizuno, CEO of the bid committee.

Japanese TV presenter Christel Takigawa spoke of Tokyo’s “selfless hospitality,” which dates to its ancestors, mentioning that $30 million in lost money was turned into police last year.

“If you lose something, you will almost certainly get it back,” Takigawa said.

In the question-and-answer session, it was asked about the recent leak of radiation-contaminated water at the Fukushima nuclear plant, 155 miles north of Tokyo. It marked the fifth and largest leak from the plant damaged by the 2011 tsunami.

“Let me assure you the situation is under control,” Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said. “It has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo.”

Istanbul was the first city to present to the IOC as rain pounded Buenos Aires on Saturday morning. It brought at least a dozen young athletes, potential 2020 Olympians, with it to the Buenos Aires Hilton. It emphasized the country’s youth and its melting pot of culture.

Çağla Büyükakçay, 23, the first Turkish woman to compete in a Grand Slam tennis tournament, said nearly half of Turkey’s population is under the age of 25.

“This is a new bid for a new Turkey,” bid leader Hasan Arat said.

Istanbul’s bid was about bridging together Asia and Europe. It hoped to bring the Olympics to a predominantly Muslim country for the first time, in the city’s fifth attempt to get the Games.

“No budget blowouts” and “no negative headlines,” were promised by Istanbul, which had plenty of issues this summer. More than 30 of its track and field athletes were suspended for positive drug tests. Outside sport, anti-government protests and the current civil war in neighboring Syria are concerning.

Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said he flew 16 hours overnight from the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, to speak in Buenos Aires on Saturday.

“From Istanbul, the city of tolerance, we want to send a message as warm and sincere as the Olympic flame,” he said, calling Istanbul an “8,000-year city of tolerance and peace.”

Istanbul was pressed on doping during a question-and-answer session with IOC members. It emphasized zero tolerance, conveying a message that it was cleaning up.

“There is no gain without pain,” Turkey’s Olympic committee president Ugur Erdener said, adding that it didn’t establish an organized anti-doping organization in the country until two years ago.

Madrid, making its third straight attempt to win the Games, was the last city to make its presentation. It lined up an all-star team of athletes for its bid, including Lakers center Pau Gasol, who gave a speech.

Gasol spoke after a 77-second video where the phrase “makes sense” was said 10 times among a group of athletes that included soccer stars Andres IniestaIker CasillasSergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo (who is Portuguese but plays for Real Madrid) and Spanish national team coach Vicente del Bosque, tennis player Rafael Nadal and gymnast Gervasio Deferr.

“Even though I played many important finals in my career, I’m honored and a little bit nervous at the same time,” Gasol said. “What’s left for me to talk about that you haven’t already heard?”

Gasol told a story of a phone call he received in the middle of the night months ago. He didn’t listen to the voicemail until the morning. It was the Crown Prince of Spain who called, asking Gasol to help with the bid.

“Madrid 2020 understands that sport is a human right, and that every kid in the world deserves a chance to play,” Gasol went on to say. “You will find no greater partner for the next seven years than the people of Spain.”

Madrid’s delegation, decked out in red, quoted the previous IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch, who unsuccessfully lobbied for Madrid to get the 2016 Games and passed away seven months after Rio won the vote.

Madrid boasted that 80 percent of the venues were already in place, that it was a “no risk” bid.

Of Spain’s struggling economy, Crown Prince Felipe said, “I don’t see this as a threat to Olympism.”

Tony Azevedo retires after 5 Olympics in water polo

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 14:  Tony Azevedo of the USA in action during the USA vs Italy Waterpolo group match at Julio de Lamare Aquatics Centre on August 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
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Tony Azevedo is ending one of the greatest water polo careers in U.S. history, retiring after a record five Olympics at age 35.

Azevedo, the first American to play in five Olympic water polo tournaments, said it was a tough decision but a necessary one to spend time with his family — wife Sara and two kids, according to the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram.

“The traveling and everything for them would be too much,” said Azevedo, who has a 3-year-old boy and a girl born after the Rio Olympics. “It’s time.”

Azevedo was a teenage prodigy dubbed the “Kobe Bryant of water polo.” A ball boy at the 1996 Olympics, Azevedo made a list of about 13 goals as a “slow, fat, chubby kid” who wanted to start on his high school team.

He reached all of those goals except for one — a gold medal. Azevedo made his Olympic debut out of high school in 2000 and then helped lead the U.S. to silver at Beijing 2008, his lone Olympic or world championships medal in 13 combined appearances. He led the U.S. in goals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

“If anyone asks, am I going to miss the swimming? No. Am I going to miss the games? No. Are you going to miss the Olympics? No,” Azevedo said. “I’m going to miss those days of grinding with your teammates.”

Azevedo was one of the top U.S. stories of the Rio Olympics, since he was born in the Brazilian city and lived there for 23 days before moving to Southern California. Azevedo, whose father was a Brazilian national team member, played for a Sao Paulo club team for much of the past Olympic cycle.

The U.S. went 2-3 in Rio, failing to advance out of group play.

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Five takeaways from World Alpine Skiing Championships

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Five thoughts after an unpredictable world alpine skiing championships, looking ahead to the Olympics … 

1. Expect Mikaela Shiffrin to be busier in PyeongChang

Shiffrin chose not to enter the super-G or super combined in the first week at worlds, in order to maximize her medal potential in the giant slalom and slalom in the final weekend. It paid off with silver and gold medals.

It seems unlikely that Shiffrin adopts the same, two-race slate in PyeongChang. The 2018 Olympic schedule has the giant slalom and slalom in the first week, followed by the speed events of super-G, downhill and super combined.

Consider also Shiffrin’s mindset going into St. Moritz.

“Right now, I’m going with [only giant slalom and slalom] because I just don’t think that I have quite enough experience in speed [events] to be able to count on winning a medal in those events yet,” she said. “But by the time we go to South Korea next year, maybe I could. I might be in a position where I can at least be in contention for medals in giant slalom, slalom, combined, super-G and maybe even downhill, only because nobody’s ever skied on that track before.”

The women get their first look at the 2018 Olympic venue with World Cup races in two weeks, a downhill and super-G. Shiffrin said before worlds that she planned to travel to South Korea for training but to leave before the races start. She wanted to prioritize the following week’s World Cup giant slalom and slalom in Squaw Valley, Calif.

What’s for sure is we can learn plenty about Shiffrin’s Olympic potential in speed events this weekend. She’s set to race at the World Cup stop in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, which is made up of two combineds and a super-G.

If Shiffrin enters all three events, it will bring her career World Cup start total in downhill, super-G and combined up to 10 races. Her best finish in her first seven starts was fourth in a super-G last month.

“I have a lot of goals there,” Shiffrin said of speed events after bagging her third straight slalom world title Saturday. “Hopefully, some day, I’d like to win in super-G and downhill, but I think it’ll take some time before I can do that consistently. It’s definitely a long road from here. I still feel like I just started.”

2. Lindsey Vonn must heal

Vonn made it clear at worlds that she wasn’t 100 percent recovered from breaking her right upper arm in a Nov. 10 training crash. Her right hand movement was so limited that she couldn’t put her hair in a ponytail, let alone comfortably grip a ski pole at 75 miles per hour.

After skiing out of the opening super-G, troubled by that hand, she duct-taped her glove to her ski pole, placed fifth in the super combined and third in the downhill. She said the bronze medal felt like gold given her latest injury comeback.

Vonn became the oldest woman to earn a world championships medal. In PyeongChang, she can become the oldest woman to earn an Olympic Alpine medal.

Vonn’s biggest hurdle is her own health. A smooth finish to the season, regardless of wins, and a normal offseason is key.

“I want to be in a position at the Olympics where I’m at my top form not just struggling to kind of make it back into the mix,” Vonn said, according to The Associated Press. “It’s a different ballgame when I’m prepared.”

3. U.S. lacks young stars

Worlds went about to form for the entire U.S. team. Shiffrin and Vonn were the only medalists. No man placed in the top 10 for the first time since 1997.

Injuries and, especially, aging are the concerns.

Four-time Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso, out since November 2015 hip surgery, was on the team but didn’t enter any events. The top U.S. men on the World Cup in recent seasons, Ted Ligety and Steven Nyman, went out with season-ending injuries in January. Bode Miller, who has trained but not raced this season, was in the NBC Sports commentary booth.

All of them are 32 years and older. Maybe some summon one last Olympic medal surge next year, but what about after that?

Shiffrin is the only American younger than age 28 who owns a World Cup victory. U.S. men earned Youth Olympic and junior worlds gold medals last year, but they look destined for 2022.

4. Marcel Hirscher approaches Austrian legends

Hirscher was the best skier in St. Moritz, despite reportedly spending days in bed before his first race. He earned two golds and missed a third by .01 in the super combined.

Only Tony Sailer owns more individual world titles among Austrian men. Hirscher is en route to his sixth straight World Cup overall title this season, which no man from any country has accomplished.

He’s at 43 World Cup wins, 11 shy of the Austrian men’s mark held by Hermann Maier. At 27 years old, Hirscher ought to eclipse it.

But Hirscher’s résumé has a gaping hole — no Olympic gold medal. He was upset in the Sochi Olympic slalom by countryman Mario Matt. And there’s no certainty Hirscher will be a favorite in PyeongChang.

For years, he was the world’s second-best giant slalom skier behind the now-injured Ligety, who could reclaim the throne next season, though that is a tall order.

In slalom, young Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen has been neck and neck with Hirscher but had a poor worlds.

The super combined is the most unpredictable event, but even there Frenchman Alexis Pinturault has won six of the 11 World Cup races since 2013.

5. Surprises in St. Moritz

Most races provided surprise medalists.

In all five men’s events, either the gold or silver medalist had not won a World Cup race in at least two years (or, in three cases, never made a World Cup podium). Women’s medalists in downhill, super-G, giant slalom and the super combined had never won a World Cup race.

New names were going to emerge regardless, considering the list of recent stars not racing (retired Tina Maze, Ligety, Miller, Aksel Lund Svindal) and those who did compete but were slowed or forced out by injury (Vonn, Anna Veith, Gut).

More surprises could be in store in PyeongChang given, as Shiffrin said, it’s a new track for everybody.

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