Rio Olympics six months out: Brazil’s preparations

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A look at the storylines regarding Brazil’s preparations to host the first Olympics in South America in six months:

Zika Virus

Government health officials offered assurances that the Games will be safe from Zika and that only pregnant women are at risk from the mosquito-borne virus with its epicenter in Brazil.

“Athletes should come to the Olympic Games,” said organizers medical director Dr. Joao Grangeiro, adding that organizers are following guidelines of the World Health Organization, which calls the spread of the virus an “extraordinary event and public health threat.”

“They [athletes] are not at risk,” Grangeiro said, promising the mosquito count will fall in August during Brazil’s winter.

“We will have Summer Games, but for us it’s winter time,” he said. “We will not have an epidemic or pandemic situation. We can’t say we won’t have any cases [during the Games], but we see this as a minimal risk.”

More on Zika here.

Rio’s Water

Independent testing of Guanabara Bay conducted by the AP over the last year shows disease-causing viruses linked to human sewage at levels thousands of times above what would be considered alarming in the U.S. or Europe. The tests include the venue for sailing, but also Rio’s Olympic venues for rowing, canoeing, open-water swimming and triathlon.

About 1,600 athletes will compete in these venues during the Olympics, and hundreds more during the subsequent Paralympics.

Experts say athletes will be competing in the viral equivalent of raw sewage with exposure to dangerous health risks almost certain. Many sailors have described the conditions as “sailing in a toilet” or an “open sewer.”

More on Rio’s water here.

SIX MONTHS OUT: Burning Questions | Team USA Roster | Rio Schedule Highlights | Key Qualifying, Trials Dates | Records Watch | Brazil’s Preparations

Budget

Brazil was booming when it was awarded the Games in 2009. Now it’s buffeted by the worst recession since the 1930s. The currency has plunged almost 50 percent against the dollar, and inflation is over 10 percent and rising. In addition, President Dilma Rousseff is facing impeachment, partly driven by a billion-dollar bribery scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras.

Hit by cash-flow problems, Rio is reducing the use of unpaid volunteers. Transportation is being rejigged. Few competition results will be available on paper, and Olympic sponsor Panasonic has stepped in to give unprecedented financial help to run the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

Organizers backed away from plans to have athletes pay for air conditioning in their rooms, but rooms in the Olympic Village won’t have TVs.

“We are looking into each and every budget item,” Christophe Dubi, the Olympic Games Executive Director, told the AP in January. “I think this is setting a new benchmark. The result is heading in the right direction. They [organizers] have found efficiencies, and I wouldn’t call it cuts.”

Like many, Dubi believes Rio’s natural beauty will make up for everything else.

“No one is saying that the Olympic experience will be affected. On the contrary, Rio will be magic,” Dubi said.

More on the Games budget here.

2020 French Open women’s singles draw, bracket

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If Serena Williams is to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, she may have to go through her older sister in the fourth round.

Williams, the sixth seed, could play Venus Williams in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday.

Serena opens against countrywoman Kristie Ahn, whom she beat in the first round at the U.S. Open. Serena could then get her U.S. Open quarterfinal opponent, fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, in the second round.

If Venus is to reach the fourth round, she must potentially get past U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka beat Serena in the U.S. Open semifinals, ending the American’s latest bid to tie Margaret Court‘s major titles record.

Venus lost in the French Open first round the last two years.

The French Open top seed is 2018 champion Simona Halep, who could play 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the third round.

Coco Gauff, the rising 16-year-old American, gets 2019 semifinalist Jo Konta of Great Britain in the first round in the same quarter of the draw as Halep.

The field lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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2020 French Open men’s singles draw, bracket

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Rafael Nadal was put into the same half of the French Open draw as fellow 2018 and 2019 finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, with top-ranked Novak Djokovic catching a break.

Nadal, trying to tie Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, could play sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals before a potential clash with Thiem, who just won the U.S. Open.

Djokovic, who is undefeated in 2020 save being defaulted out of the U.S. Open, could play No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy in the quarterfinals before a possible semifinal with Russian Daniil Medvedev.

Medvedev is the fourth seed but is 0-3 at the French Open. Another possible Djokovic semifinal opponent is fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who reached the fourth round last year.

The most anticipated first-round matchup is between three-time major champion Andy Murray and 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka. In Murray’s most recent French Open match, he lost in five sets to Wawrinka in the 2017 semifinals.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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