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Rio Olympic, Paralympic ceremonies to be low-budget

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The Opening and Closing Ceremonies for Rio Olympics and Paralympics will be low-budget productions compared to three years ago in London, or in Beijing in 2008.

The austerity reflects the reality of Rio’s Olympics, which open in just over 101/2 months and are caught up in the economic and political upheaval besetting Brazil.

The country is mired in a recession, inflation has reached 10 per cent and there are calls to impeach President Dilma Rousseff.

Fernando Meirelles, the Brazilian filmmaker and part of the creative team, estimated Tuesday that Rio will spend one-tenth what London did on four major ceremonies.

“I would be ashamed to waste what London spent in a country where we need sanitation; where education needs money,” Meirelles told reporters. “So I’m very glad we’re not spending money like crazy.”

London is reported to have spent about 80 million pounds ($104 million at 2012 exchange rates) on the four ceremonies.

Meirelles, who directed the film “City of God,” said the budget for the ceremonies had always been tight, although Rio organizers have clearly been cutting in the last year.

Rio is spending about 39 billion reals ($10 billion) in public and private money to prepare the games.

In a letter obtained last week by The Associated Press, the governing body of swimming FINA complained to organizers and Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes about reduced seating in the swimming arena from 17,000 to 13,000. The water polo venue was also moved to cut costs.

In the letter, former Olympic gold-medal swimmer Alexander Popov said Rio’s swimming preparations were “a step back in relation to previous editions of the Games.” He added that the cuts may have “its repercussion on the athletes.”

Meirelles said “high-tech” was being eliminated from the ceremonies. He listed drones, complex aerial equipment and disappearing stages as items that Rio would do without. The emphasis will be on the basics.

“We don’t have high culture,” Meirelles said. “Of course we have some pianists, some maestros and some orchestras, but that’s not us. We come from the roots. The beauty of Brazil comes from the roots.”

Faced with other needs, Meirelles also questioned the value of Rio’s Games.

“I’m not sure if I would approve an Olympics in Brazil, if this is a priority for us,” he said. “But we’re there, and this is a great opportunity for the country, and we’re going to do the best we can.”

Meirelles divulged little about the ceremonies. He talked about showing a vision of the country “and what I hope it will become.”

VIDEO: Rio Olympic Park progress

World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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