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Tokyo marks 1,000 days until 2020 Olympics

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TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo marked 1,000 days until the 2020 Olympics on Saturday with a ceremony that included a demonstration of new sports that will debut at the Summer Games.

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike and kabuki actor Ebizo Ichikawa were among the dignitaries attending the festivities in the Nihonbashi district in downtown Tokyo.

“The Olympic Games has the power to bring dreams to children and cultivate a peaceful society,” said Tsunekazu Takeda, president of the Japanese Olympic Committee. “The success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is necessary so that sport can contribute to foster a better society and world peace.”

Four floats numbered 1-0-0-0 were carried through the streets to a main stage where a countdown display was unveiled. Organizers said 15,000 people attended Saturday’s event.

In an effort to give the games a more youthful and urban appeal, the IOC has added several new sports to the program.

Saturday’s event included demonstrations of three of those sports: 3×3 basketball, skateboarding and BMX freestyle cycling.

Sports climbing, surfing, baseball and softball, and karate are the other new sports added to the program. Karate and the combined sports of baseball and softball were added because of their popularity in Japan.

Tokyo’s preparations so far have won high praise from the International Olympic Committee.

“Of course there are still a lot of things that need to be done over the next three years and we must achieve them successfully,” said Toshiro Muto, CEO of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee.

While Tokyo organizers are eager to showcase their progress, the preparations have not been without difficulties.

In a bid to reduce costs, some sports venues originally included in Tokyo’s compact bid, have been moved to existing facilities in neighboring prefectures, some as far as two hours away by train.

The IOC is calling for further cuts of $1 billion from a $12 billion budget.

Meanwhile, the building of the new national stadium, which will host the opening and closing ceremonies and track and field, has been plagued by a series of problems and delays.

The initial design by the late Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid had risen to $2.65 billion, more than twice the original forecast.

The Japanese government decided to scrap that plan and approved a new project totaling nearly $1.5 billion. Officials say construction will be completed by November 2019.

More recently, a water quality survey during the summer at the triathlon venue in Tokyo Bay found E.coli at concentrations up to 21 times the levels permitted by the sport’s governing body, a surprise for a country known for cleanliness.

This raised concerns among athletes but organizers insist the water will be clean and safe.

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Skylar Diggins-Smith has the opportunity to fill USA Basketball’s need

Skylar Diggins
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Skylar Diggins-Smith said making the U.S. Olympic team is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is her second chance.

An ACL tear derailed her Rio 2016 hopes. That happened in a WNBA game on June 28, 2015.

Though Diggins-Smith was among 25 Olympic finalists named in January 2016, she didn’t return to game action until that May, four weeks after the 12-woman Olympic team was chosen.

The 27-year-old guard said she’s played for USA Basketball for 12 years, since before her standout Notre Dame career that led to her current stint with the Dallas Wings (formerly Tulsa Shock).

“This is the most clear my mind has been,” with USA Basketball, Diggins-Smith said from training camp in Seattle on Tuesday, ahead of a Thursday exhibition against China at Key Arena (10 p.m. ET, usab.com/live).

Signs point to Diggins-Smith making her major international tournament debut at September’s FIBA World Cup, the quadrennial world championship event.

Though Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi‘s surprising returns crowd the backcourt, the other Olympic gold medalist guard, Lindsay Whalen, retired from the national team.

Diggins-Smith’s play last season, her first full campaign back from the ACL tear, boosts her case. She made the All-WNBA First Team.

She also made the first team in 2014. That year, Diggins-Smith was among the final cuts for the world championship team less than a week before the tournament.

“Every time I come to USA Basketball, I think you have a tendency to kind of overthink,” Diggins-Smith said Tuesday. “You just want to do the right thing, don’t really want to make mistakes. … You want to do the right thing, and you press a little bit.”

USA Basketball has stressed finding its next stalwart point guard following five-time Olympian Teresa Edwards, three-time Olympian Dawn Staley (now the U.S. head coach) and the 37-year-old Bird, eyeing her fifth Olympics in 2020.

“Give me three guards that have separated themselves from everyone else in the WNBA to put themselves at the same level as Sue, Diana, Lindsay Whalen,” then-U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said after the Olympic team was named in April 2016. “You really start to look around and, you go, that is a huge question that has to be answered.”

“Obviously, there’s a need,” Staley said in February, listing point guards other than Bird at that camp.

The first name Staley mentioned was Diggins-Smith, for what it’s worth.

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USA Track and Field to honor 1968 Olympic team on 50th anniversary

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USA Track and Field begins a campaign this week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Olympic team.

Members of the Mexico City Games team, one of the greatest track and field teams in history, will be honored at high-profile events the remainder of the year.

The campaign, “1968-2018: Celebrating Athletic Achievement and Courage,” culminates with a “Night of Legends” reunion in December at the USATF Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio, also attended by current U.S. stars.

The 1968 Olympic team is most remembered for Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who took gold and bronze in the 200m and were sent home after raising their black-gloved fists in a human rights salute during the national anthem.

The team also included gold medalists Bob Beamon (long jump), Dick Fosbury (high jump), Al Oerter (discus), Wyomia Tyus and Jim Hines (100m), Lee Evans (400m), Madeline Manning Mims (800m), Willie Davenport (110m hurdles), Bob Seagren (pole vault), Randy Matson (shot put), Bill Toomey (decathlon) and the men’s and women’s 4x100m and men’s 4x400m.

“The legacy of the greatest track & field team to ever be assembled is still felt 50 years later,” USATF CEO Max Siegel said in a press release. “These Olympians persevered through athletic challenges and social injustices, maintaining their composure and dignity when others may have fallen. It is USATF’s honor to pay homage to their achievements and bring the team together for an epic celebration at our Annual Meeting.”

U.S. track and field athletes will compete at two meets on NBC Sports and NBC Sports Gold this weekend — the Drake Relays and Penn Relays.

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WATCH: NBC Olympics documentary on 1968 Olympics