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Less than half of Rio Olympic tickets sold so far

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — With five months to go before the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian organizers are struggling to sell tickets for South America’s first Games. Don’t worry, says the IOC president, the locals will buy up tickets at the last minute.

On a day when Rio organizers provided reassurances over the Zika outbreak, venue delays, doping legislation, metro construction and other issues, Rio organizing committee spokesman Mario Andrada said only about 47 percent of the 7.5 million tickets on offer have been sold so far.

The revenue from ticket sales stands at $194 million, or 74 percent of the total target, he said.

Tickets for “premier events” and the Aug. 5 Opening Ceremony at the Maracana Stadium are essentially sold out, Andrada said.

Most tickets for the foreign market have been sold, he added, leaving domestic sales as the main priority.

“We are going to increase the ability for people to buy tickets,” Andrada said. “We plan to set up electronic ticket sales kiosks across the city.”

For the 2012 London Olympics, British organizers sold 8.2 million out of 8.5 million tickets. They raised 659 million pounds (nearly $1 billion) in ticket sales from the Olympics and Paralympics.

Ticket prices for the Rio Olympics range from 40 reals ($10) to a high of 4,600 reals ($1,170) for the opening ceremony. The average ticket price is 70 reals ($18) or less.

Amid a severe economic downturn, Brazil’s minimum monthly wage is 880 reals ($220) and the unemployment rate is running at about 10 percent.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach shrugged off the slow pace of ticket sales, saying it was part of the Brazilian way of doing things.

“I have no concerns at all there,” he said at a news conference following a two-day IOC executive board meeting. “Brazilians, they do not buy tickets at such an early stage, as the British or the Germans. There is no concern at all. We had comparable figures before Athens and other Olympic Games.”

“I have no doubt that when the time comes, these numbers will increase,” he said.

Rio organizers gave one of their final detailed progress reports to the IOC board, as Brazil faces severe economic and political crises. The board approved Rio’s balanced operating budget of about $1.8 billion.

Brazil is mired in its worst recession since the 1930s, President Dilma Rousseff is fighting impeachment and the country is dealing with a vast corruption scandal centered on state-controlled oil-and-gas giant Petrobras.

“Given this crisis, the achievements made by the organizing committee and the Brazilians are even more remarkable,” Bach said after giving a glowing assessment of Rio’s final preparations.

Brazil is also the epicenter of the spread of Zika, the mosquito-borne virus that has been linked to a rise in cases of babies born with abnormally small heads.

Rio organizers told the IOC they are following the guidance of the World Health Organization, which has declared the Zika outbreak a global health emergency but has said the Olympics should be safe during Brazil’s winter.

Andrada said there had been no discussion about the advice issued last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which said pregnant women should consider not going to Brazil and that their male sexual partners use condoms after the trip or abstain from sex during the pregnancy.

Bach said the IOC considers the WHO its “partner” on the Zika issue.

Andrada said athletes will have air conditioning in their rooms in the village and will be advised to keep the windows closed to keep any mosquitoes out.

“Zika is a moving target,” he said. “It’s a global tragedy, especially for women and pregnant woman. But from a broader Games perspective, the WHO believes it will not be a major factor.”

Rio has been seeking to save $500 million to balance its budget, but Nuzman insisted the quality of the Games would not be hurt by the economic pinch.

“The Games will not be affected by any cuts,” he said. “There are no cuts that impact the Games, the athletes or the field of play. We are not cost cutting. We are organizing a balanced budget. The most important thing is that we will have absolutely fantastic Games in spectacular venues.”

Nuzman said 90-95 percent of the venues are finished. Delays on the velodrome will be overcome, he said, and the track cycling venue will be ready for a test event in late April.

On other issues, Nuzman said:

— a key subway line extension connecting the Copacabana and Ipanema beach areas to the western suburb of Barra da Tijuca, where the main Olympic Park is located, will be completed in time for the Games. He said the state governor had given assurances that the 10.3 billion Brazilian real ($2 billion) project will be ready.

— a presidential decree will be enacted on March 15 to meet the March 18 deadline set by the World Anti-Doping Agency for Brazil to meet its global rules. If Brazil fails to comply, doping samples during the Games could have to be sent outside Brazil for analysis.

— Rio will do monthly testing until April of the polluted waterways that will host Olympic sailing and rowing competitions. The testing will increase to twice a week after April and then will be conducted on a daily basis during the Games.

MORE: Brazil lowers Olympic medal target to reach top 10 in Rio

2020 Tour de France standings

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2020 Tour de France results for the yellow jersey, green jersey, white jersey and polka-dot jersey …

Overall (Yellow Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 87:20:05
2. Primoz Roglic (SLO) — +:59
3. Richie Porte (AUS) — +3:30
4. Mikel Landa (ESP) — +5:58
5. Enric Mas (ESP) — +6:07
6. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) — +6:47
7. Tom Dumoulin (NED) — +7:48
8. Rigberto Uran (COL) — +8:02
9. Adam Yates (GBR) — +9:25
10. Damiano Caruso (ITA) — +14:03
13. Richard Carapaz (ECU) — +25:53
15. Sepp Kuss (USA) — +42:20
17. Nairo Quintana (COL) — +1:03:07
29. Thibaut Pinot (FRA) — +1:59:54
36. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) — +2:19:11
DNF. Egan Bernal (COL)

Sprinters (Green Jersey)
1. Sam Bennett (IRL) — 380 points
2. Peter Sagan (SVK) — 284
3. Matteo Trentin (ITA) — 260
4. Bryan Coquard (FRA) — 181
5. Wout van Aert (BEL) — 174

Climbers (Polka-Dot Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 82 points
2. Richard Carapaz (ECU) — 74
3. Primoz Roglic (SLO) — 67
4. Marc Hirschi (SUI) — 62
5. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) — 51

Young Rider (White Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 87:20:13
2. Enric Mas (ESP) — +6:07
3. Valentin Madouas (FRA) — +1:42:43
4. Dani Martinez (COL) — +1:55:12
5. Lennard Kamna (GER) — +2:15:39

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TOUR DE FRANCE: TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage | Favorites, Predictions

Tadej Pogacar, Slovenia win Tour de France for the ages

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A Tour de France that almost didn’t happen ended up among the most exciting in the race’s 117-year history.

Tadej Pogacar, a 21-year-old Slovenian, rode into Paris on Sunday as the first man in more than 60 years to pedal in the yellow jersey for the first time on the final day of a Tour.

Let’s get the achievements out of the way: Pogacar is the first Slovenian to win the Tour, finishing with the other overall leaders behind stage winner Sam Bennett on the Champs-Elysees.

“Even if I would come second or last, it wouldn’t matter, it would be still nice to be here,” Pogacar said. “This is just the top of the top. I cannot describe this feeling with the words.”

He is the second-youngest winner in race history, after Henri Cornet in 1904. (Cornet won after the first four finishers were disqualified for unspecified cheating. The 19-year-old Frenchman rode 21 miles with a flat tire during the last stage after spectators reportedly threw nails on the road.)

Pogacar is the first man to win a Tour in his debut since Frenchman Laurent Fignon in 1983.

And he’s part of a historic one-two for Slovenia, a nation with the population of Houston.

Countryman Primoz Roglic, who wore the yellow jersey for nearly two weeks before ceding it after Saturday’s epic time trial, embraced Pogacar after a tearful defeat Saturday and again during Sunday’s stage.

Tasmanian Richie Porte, who moved from fourth place to third on Saturday, made his first Tour podium in his 10th start, a record according to ProCyclingStats.com. The age range on the Paris gloaming podium — more than 13 years — is reportedly the largest in Tour history.

TOUR DE FRANCE: Standings | TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage

Three men on a Tour de France podium in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe, each for the first time. Hasn’t been done since 2007, arguably the first Tour of a new era.

This Tour feels similarly guard-changing.

It barely got off, delayed two months by the coronavirus pandemic. Two days before the start, France’s prime minister said the virus was “gaining ground” in the nation and announced new “red zones” in the country, including parts of the Tour route.

Testing protocols meant that if any team had two members (cyclists or staff) test positive before the start or on either rest day, the whole team would be thrown out.

It never came to that. Yet the Tour finishes without 2019 champion, Colombian Egan Bernal, who last year became the first South American winner and, at the time, the youngest in more than 100 years.

Bernal abandoned last Wednesday after struggling in the mountains. His standings plummet signaled the end, at least for now, of the Ineos Grenadiers dynasty after five straight Tour titles dating to Chris Froome and the Team Sky days.

Jumbo-Visma became the new dominant team. The leader Roglic was ushered up climbs by several Jumbo men, including Sepp Kuss, the most promising American male cyclist in several years.

What a story Roglic was shaping up to be. A junior champion ski jumper, he was concussed in a training crash on the eve of what would have been his World Cup debut in 2007. Roglic never made it to the World Cup before quitting and taking up cycling years later.

As Roglic recovered from that spill in Planica, Pogacar had his sights on the Rog Ljubljana cycling club about 60 miles east. Little Tadej wanted to follow older brother Tilen into bike racing, but the club didn’t have a bike small enough.

The following spring, they found one. Pogacar was off and pedaling. In 2018, at age 18, he was offered a contract and then signed with UAE Team Emirates, his first World Tour team. The next year, Pogacar finished third at the Vuelta a Espana won by Roglic, becoming the youngest Grand Tour podium finisher since 1974.

Pogacar was initially slated to support another rider, Fabio Aru, for UAE Emirates at this year’s Tour. But his continued ascent propelled him into a team leader role.

Bernal and Roglic entered the Tour as co-favorites. After that, Pogacar was among a group of podium contenders but perhaps with the highest ceiling.

He stayed with the favorites for much of the Tour, save losing 81 seconds on the seventh stage, caught on the wrong end of a split after a crash in front of him.

“I’m not worried,” Pogacar said that day. “We will try another day.”

The next day, actually. He reeled back half of the lost time, putting him within striking distance of Roglic going into Saturday’s 22-mile time trial, the so-called “race of truth.”

Pogacar put in a performance in the time trial that reminded of Greg LeMond‘s epic finale in 1989. Pogacar won the stage by 81 seconds, greater than the margin separating second place from eighth place. Roglic was a disappointing fifth on the day, but he could have finished second and still lost all of his 57-second lead to Pogacar.

Pogacar turns 22 on Monday, but that might not add much to the celebration.

“Sorry,” he said, “but I’m not really a fan of my birthdays.”

MORE: USA Cycling names Olympic team finalists

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