Air conditioning in athletes village hit by Rio budget cuts

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The 10,500 athletes at next year’s Olympics will feel first-hand the deep budget cuts buffeting the Rio de Janeiro Games: they won’t have air conditioning in their bedrooms unless someone pays for it.

Charging for air conditioning is part of what games organizers call finding “fat” and cutting it.

Mario Andrada, spokesman for the Rio Games, said in an interview that organizers have found up to 2 billion reals ($520 million) that needed to be cut as part of balancing the operating budget of 7.4 billion reals ($1.9 billion).

Asked specifically about the need for AC in the bedrooms, Andrada replied: “We don’t think it’s going to be critical (to have air conditioning) there.”

Though the games take place in the South American winter — Aug. 5-21, 2016 — it could still be hot. This year on Aug. 19 the temperature soared to 35.4 degrees C (95.7 degrees F).

Andrada said national federations might pay for some athletes, though it’s unclear if poorer federations could handle the added costs.

Rio Olympic organizers are being hit by a deep recession, a steep fall in the value of the local currency against the dollar, and 10 percent inflation. There is also a spreading corruption scandal involving state-run oil giant Petrobras that has been part of triggering impeachment proceedings against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

This wasn’t the mood in 2009 when Rio won the bid, setting off wild celebrations on Copacabana beach.

“We are discussing with our partners, especially the IOC, what kind of levels of service we can reduce,” Andrada said.

Rio officials say most of the cuts involve “behind-the-scenes” facilities, unseen on television or by ticket-paying customers. This could involve organizers buying cheaper products and services, reducing signage, or using more temporary structures.

“It (cutting) hasn’t been painful so far,” Andrada said. “It will be painful from now on because we need to finish the process.”

The games were to have 5,000 employees when they open in eight months. That’s been scaled back by 500.

“Some of them are going to be unhappy,” Andrada said. “That’s normal.”

The cuts will be welcomed by those asking why Brazil, with poor schools, under-funded hospitals and high taxes, has spent more than $20 billion to organize last year’s World Cup and the Olympics.

The image of thrift suits International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who has tried to change a perception the games are too expensive and benefit only a few.

In a reply to an email, the IOC congratulated organizers “for working toward a balanced budget.”

The IOC contributes about $1.5 billion to the operating budget.

Fernando Meirelles, the famous Brazilian filmmaker of “City of God” who is working on the opening ceremony, accepts the austerity.

“A country that doesn’t have basic sanitation can’t spend the fortune that was spent in London or Beijing,” he said.

Andrada said the cuts would not affect the sports themselves.

“As long as we don’t compromise the games, the quality of the competitions, the experience of the public — then we have to look for efficiencies,” he said.

The operating budget is for running the games themselves with income from the IOC, marketing, tickets sales and local sponsorship sales.

A separate capital budget of about 39 billion reals ($10 billion), a mix of public and private money, is being used to build sports venues, roads and other facilities needed to stage the games.

Andrada said a $700 million “contingency fund” backed by the federal government in the original bid document could still be used as a bailout.

The IOC requires host countries to make up for any budget shortfalls.

“We haven’t been told that they (government) won’t put up the money,” Andrada said. “The $700 million is a commitment the government made in the contract, so it’s for the government to decide.”

Unrelated to budget cuts, Andrada said organizers had yet to sign a contract with a private energy company to supply electricity for the games, meaning that power may come only from temporary generators.

“We do have a concrete plan,” Andrada said. “The plan is being executed but we haven’t got the final solution for the problem.”

Andrada termed using only generators the “B Plan” and said the responsibility to provide energy belonged to the national government.

The IOC said “we expect the Brazilian organizers to deliver” on energy provision.

Andrada acknowledged delays were tied to Brazil’s bureaucracy, particularly with the politics and corruption scandals upstaging the Olympics.

“This is a problem that should have been fixed a while ago,” he said. “We will have energy. Don’t get scared.”

VIDEO: Aerial footage of Rio Olympic park progress

U.S. women’s basketball team, statistically greatest ever, rolls to FIBA World Cup title

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The revamped U.S. women’s basketball team may have been the greatest of all time.

The Americans completed, statistically, their most dominant global championship ever by routing China 83-61 in the FIBA World Cup final on Saturday in Sydney — giving them 60 consecutive wins between the Olympics and worlds dating to 2006.

It marked the largest margin of victory in a World Cup final since the event converted from a fully round-robin format in 1983.

For the tournament, the U.S. drubbed its opponents by an average of 40.75 points per game, beating its previous record between the Olympics and worlds of 37.625 points from the 2008 Beijing Games. It was just off the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s Dream Team’s legendary margin 43.8 points per game. This U.S. team scored 98.75 points per game, its largest at worlds since 1994.

“We came here on a mission, a business trip,” tournament MVP A’ja Wilson said in a post-game press conference before turning to coach Cheryl Reeve. “We played pretty good, I think, coach.”

Since the U.S. won a seventh consecutive Olympic title in Tokyo, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles retired. Tina Charles ceded her national team spot to younger players. Brittney Griner was detained in Russia (and still is). Diana Taurasi suffered a WNBA season-ending quad injury that ruled her out of World Cup participation (who knows if the 40-year-old Taurasi will play for the U.S. again).

Not only that, but Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, implementing a new up-tempo system.

“There was probably great concern, and maybe around the world they kind of looked at it and said, ‘Hey, now is the time to get the USA,'” Reeve said Saturday.

The U.S. response was encapsulated by power forward Alyssa Thomas, the oldest player on the roster at age 30 who made the U.S. team for the first time in her career, started every game and was called the team’s glue and MVP going into the final.

Wilson and Tokyo Olympic MVP Breanna Stewart were the leaders. Guard Kelsey Plum, a Tokyo Olympic 3×3 player, blossomed this past WNBA season and was third in the league’s MVP voting. She averaged the most minutes on the team, scored 15.8 points per game and had 17 in the final.

“The depth of talent that we have was on display,” Reeve said. “What I am most pleased about was the trust and buy-in.”

For the first time since 1994, no player on the U.S. roster was over the age of 30, creating a scary thought for the 2024 Paris Olympics: the Americans could get even better.

“When you say best-ever, I’m always really cautious with that, because, obviously, there are great teams,” Reeve said when asked specifically about the team’s defense. “This group was really hard to play against.”

Earlier Saturday, 41-year-old Australian legend Lauren Jackson turned back the clock with a 30-point performance off the bench in her final game as an Opal, a 95-65 victory over Canada for the bronze. Jackson, who came out of a six-year retirement and played her first major tournament since the 2012 Olympics, had her best scoring performance since the 2008 Olympics.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. women’s basketball team won its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headlined a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, included neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team had nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 60 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The U.S. beat China in the final, while host Australia took bronze to send 41-year-old Lauren Jackson into retirement.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), wasn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule, Results

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA 88, Serbia 55 Quarterfinals
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada 79, Puerto Rico 60 Quarterfinals
4 a.m. China 85, France 71 Quarterfinals
6:30 a.m. Australia 86, Belgium 69 Quarterfinals
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. USA 83, Canada 43 Semifinals
5:30 a.m. China 61, Australia 59 Semifinals
11 p.m. Australia 95, Canada 65 Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. USA 83, China 61 Gold-Medal Game