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U.S. Olympic basketball teams to stay on cruise ships in Rio

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Rio de Janeiro’s renovated port area should be hopping — or “hooping” — during the Olympics.

The United States men’s and women’s basketball teams will be staying on a cruise ship in the port. A second and much larger liner will be anchored alongside during the games and provide lodging for what officials term the “Olympic Family.”

The NBA is also expected to set up a “hospitality house” in the port area.

“We’ll have two cruise ships in the port,” Nilo Sergio Felix, secretary of the Rio de Janeiro state tourism office, told The Associated Press. “There will be one with the basketball players and the other for Olympic people. These are the only two we expect.”

The ship housing the basketball stars will be the relatively small “Silver Cloud” operated by Silversea Cruises, which bills itself as the “Leader in Luxury Cruising.”

The company lists the ship’s capacity at 296 with a tonnage at 16,800. Its last cruise is in the Mediterranean in June before heading for the Olympics.

Craig Miller, a spokesman for USA Basketball, the national governing body, declined to confirm where the two basketball teams would stay. He listed security as a reason for not disclosing the location, but said the men’s team stopped staying in the Olympic Village beginning with the 1992 Olympics — the first appearance of “The Dream Team.”

“We don’t stay in the village because we don’t feel it’s the best way to prepare for competition,” Miller told the AP. “The players have a long professional season and they want to spend as much time as possible with family and friends.”

Miller said it was always difficult during the Olympics to find lodging for the large American basketball delegation. The United States teams stayed in hotels in London and Beijing, and on a cruise ship in Athens in 2004 — the Queen Mary 2.

He said USA Basketball picks up the costs of the lodging, an expense that would be covered primarily by games organizers if players stayed in the village.

Miller said tall players have the same problem no matter where they stay.

“You face the issue in a hotel, or you would face it in a village; the beds aren’t made for 7-foot (2.13-meter) players,” he said. “These guys live on the road and they figure out ways to sleep. Sometimes I’ve seen them put their luggage at the end of the bed so their feet can rest there.”

Rio’s new port area, centered on Praca Maua, is the most visible sign of change that Olympic organizers promised to bring to Rio. The centerpiece at the port is the Museum of Tomorrow, a science museum designed by the futuristic architect Santiago Calatrava.

The port is situated on heavily polluted Guanabara Bay, which will host Olympic sailing. Sadly, it’s a reminder of a broken promise by organizers to cleanse the fetid waters.

“From a legacy perspective, I think this was a missed opportunity to reach the goal that was supposed to be achieved,” Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes said Thursday, referring to Olympic bid pledges to drastically cut the amount of raw sewage flowing into the bay.

The port area is remote from the basketball venues at the Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca and the northern cluster in Deodoro, where some women’s games will be played. Travel could take more than an hour depending on traffic, a problem that should be improved when the Olympic lanes — set aside only for Olympic traffic — start operating in late July.

The NBA is also expected to run a hospitality venue in the port, probably in one of the abandoned warehouses that have been used for exhibitions by companies like Nike.

An NBA spokeswoman declined to specify the plans, saying they would be released shortly.

The “Olympic Family” will stay on the cruise ship “Getaway” operated by Norwegian Cruise Lines. The company listed the capacity at 4,000 guests and tonnage of 145,655. It’s one of the world’s largest cruise ships.

Rio organizers confirmed the ship’s presence. They said 90 percent of the ship would be reserved for the “Olympic Family,” a term that takes in sponsors, national Olympic committees, sports federations and other guests of the Switzerland-based International Olympic Committee.

Rio officials said the remaining 10 percent of the cabins would be sold in tour packages by the Brazilian operator Tam Viagens.

A company spokeswoman for Norwegian Cruise Lines declined to give information, saying it was bound by contract not to disclose details.

VIDEO: Rio 2016 Olympic venues time lapse

World Alpine Skiing Championships on for 2021 after request to delay rejected

Alpine Skiing World Championships
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GENEVA (AP) — A request by the organizers of next year’s skiing world championships in Italy to postpone the event by one year was rejected Thursday by the International Ski Federation.

FIS ruled that the event will go ahead from Feb. 9-21, 2021, in Cortina d’Ampezzo — the highlight of an Alpine season that faces challenges to find safe protocols for international travel and attending races in Europe, North America and China.

The Veneto region of northern Italy was hit hard by the coronavirus and the season-ending World Cup races in Cortina in mid-March were canceled. That week-long event was to be a test for the 2021 worlds.

“The last month of efforts to come to this solution demonstrates the strong collaborative spirit of the ski family and stakeholders.” FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper said.

Organizers in Italy have said they expect losses of about 30 million euros ($34 million) if the worlds are also canceled. They asked for a postponement to March 2022, which would be only weeks after the Beijing Olympics.

“But we will be ready in any case and we will show that these world championships can change the history of a region despite the current difficulties,” Alessandro Benetton, president of the Cortina organizing committee, said in a statement.

Italian racer Sofia Goggia, the 2018 Olympic downhill champion, said she was “happy for Cortina because it will host the first major international event after the coronavirus epidemic.”

Cortina, which hosted the 1956 Olympics, will co-host the 2026 Winter Games with Milan and use the worlds as a showcase for the resort.

The women’s World Cup downhill on the Olympia delle Tofane course each January is one of the most scenic in the sport with a signature jump between tall outcrops of jagged rock.

The Dolomites venue was awarded the 2021 worlds by FIS after missing out as a candidate four straight times from 2013-19.

MORE: Anna Veith retires, leaves Austrian Alpine skiing in unfamiliar territory

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Russia track and field athlete clearance frozen due to unpaid fine

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MONACO (AP) — The program allowing Russian track athletes to compete internationally will be frozen because the country’s federation failed to pay a fine on time, World Athletics said Thursday.

The Russian track federation, known as RusAF, owes a $5 million fine and another $1.31 million in costs for various doping-related work and legal wrangles. World Athletics said RusAF missed Wednesday’s deadline to pay.

World Athletics said it would freeze the work of the Doping Review Board, which vets Russian athletes who want the “authorized neutral athlete” status that allows them to compete internationally, and its taskforce monitoring RusAF’s anti-doping reforms.

World Athletics said both bodies will be “put on hold” until its council meets to discuss the situation at the end of July.

“RusAF is letting its athletes down badly,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “We have done as much as we can to expedite our ANA process and support RusAF with its reinstatement plan, but seemingly to no avail.”

RusAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko earlier told the Tass state news agency that his federation’s finances were damaged by the coronavirus pandemic and that it had asked for more time to pay.

World Athletics’ statement didn’t directly address that issue, but said Russia hadn’t indicated when it would pay.

Russia was fined $10 million by World Athletics in March, with $5 million suspended for two years, after the federation admitted to breaking anti-doping rules and obstructing an investigation.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said fake documents were used under the previous management to give an athlete an alibi for missing a doping test.

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