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

Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.

Oleksandr Abramenko, Ukraine’s top Winter Olympian, tears knee, career in question

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Aerials skier Oleksandr Abramenko, who won both of Ukraine’s medals over the last two Winter Olympics, is out for the season after a knee ligament tear and said he might not return to competition at all, according to Ukrainian media.

Abramenko, 34, won gold at the 2018 Olympics — Ukraine’s second-ever individual Winter Olympic title after figure skater Oksana Baiul in 1994 — and silver last year.

He competed once this season, placing 10th at a World Cup in Finland on Dec. 4, and then flew with the Ukrainian national team to stay in Utah ahead of World Cups in Canada in January and at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City this weekend. The area also hosted many Ukraine winter sports athletes this past summer.

Abramenko missed the competition in Canada two weeks ago due to injury and then wasn’t on the start list for today’s aerials event in Park City. He is set to miss the world championships later this month in Georgia (the country, not the state).

Abramenko said he needs surgery, followed by a nine-month rehabilitation process, similar to an operation on his other knee six years ago, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster. He said he will see how the recovery goes and determine whether to return to the sport at age 35, according to the report.

Abramenko is already the oldest Olympic men’s aerials medalist and come the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games will be older than all but one male aerialist in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org.

At last year’s Olympics, Abramenko, Ukraine’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, was hugged after the aerials final by Russian Ilya Burov, who finished one spot behind Abramenko for a bronze medal. A week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

A week after that, Abramenko posed for a photo sitting on a mattress in a Kyiv parking garage with his wife and 2-year-old son published by The New York Times.

“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko texted, according to the newspaper. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

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