Olympic torch relay visits Acropolis, 1896 Olympic Stadium (photos, video)

Leave a comment

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The Olympic flame was handed to organizers of the Rio de Janeiro Games in Athens on Wednesday, 100 days before the Opening Ceremony in Brazil.

Dressed as a high priestess, actress Katerina Lehou led the brief ceremony at the Panatheniac Stadium, a horseshoe-shaped marble venue where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896.

Lehou, who lit the flame in Ancient Olympia last week, used a torch to light a cauldron inside the Athens stadium.

The flame, placed in a lantern, was handed over to Greek Olympic Committee president Spyros Kapralos, who, in turn, passed it to Rio Games organizing head Carlos Nuzman.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who is fighting impeachment over allegations of erroneous budget figures, declined an invitation to visit Greece for the lighting ceremony and start of the Olympic torch’s six-day journey around Greece.

During the Aug. 5-21 Games, Nuzman said, Brazilians would come together in celebration.

“Our mission, dear friends, is bigger than Brazil itself. We represent all the peoples of South America,” he told a crowd of several thousand Athenians.

In a highlight of the Greek torch relay, the flame made a symbolic stop Tuesday at a United Nations-run refugee camp in Athens. The torch was carried by Syrian refugee Ibrahim Al-Hussein.

It also visited the Parthenon atop the Acropolis, carried by three-time Greek Olympic champion weightlifter Pyrros Dimas.

After Wednesday’s ceremony, the flame will travel to Switzerland, where it will visit the United Nations building in Geneva and the Olympic Museum in Lausanne.

The flame will reach Brazil next Tuesday, starting in the capital of Brasilia. Organizers say it will reach most of the vast country’s 200 million population, covering 20,000 kilometers (12,000 miles) by road and 16,000 kilometers (10,000 miles) by air to reach hundreds of cities and towns in a giant effort involving 12,000 torchbearers.

The torch will reach Rio’s Maracana Stadium for the Opening Ceremony on Aug. 5.

“We will take the Olympic experience to every corner of our country, to every state capital,” Nuzman said. “When you arrive in Rio there will plenty of music, poetry and excitement. … Rio is ready to deliver history.”

VIDEO: Nike Greece ad uses vacated Athens 2004 Olympic venues

Images via the AP:

Pyrros Dimas

Panathenaic Stadium

Panathenaic Stadium

Panathenaic Stadium

U.S. Open mulls no fans, group flights, coronavirus tests as decision looms

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Charter flights to ferry U.S. Open tennis players and limited entourages from Europe, South America and the Middle East to New York. Negative COVID-19 tests before traveling. Centralized housing. Daily temperature checks.

No spectators. Fewer on-court officials. No locker-room access on practice days.

All are among the scenarios being considered for the 2020 U.S. Open — if it is held at all amid the coronavirus pandemic — and described to The Associated Press by a high-ranking official at the Grand Slam tournament.

“All of this is still fluid,” Stacey Allaster, the U.S. Tennis Association’s chief executive for professional tennis, said in a telephone interview Saturday. “We have made no decisions at all.”

With that caveat, Allaster added that if the USTA board does decide to go forward with the Open, she expects it to be held at its usual site and in its usual spot on the calendar. The main draw is scheduled to start Aug. 31.

“We continue to be, I would say, 150% focused on staging a safe environment for conducting a U.S. Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on our dates. It’s all I wake up — our team wakes up — thinking about,” Allaster said. “The idea of an alternative venue, an alternative date … we’ve got a responsibility to explore it, but it doesn’t have a lot of momentum.”

An announcement should come from “mid-June to end of June,” Allaster said.

All sanctioned competition has been suspended by the ATP, WTA and International Tennis Federation since March and is on hold until late July.

The French Open was postponed from May to September; Wimbledon was canceled for the first time since 1945.

There is no established COVID-19 protocol for tennis, a global sport with several governing bodies.

“Everybody would agree to the fundamental principles, I’m sure: protecting the health of participants, following the local laws and minimizing the risk of the transmission of the virus,” said Stuart Miller, who is overseeing the ITF’s return-to-tennis policy. “But then you have to get down into the specific details.”

One such detail: The USTA wants to add locker rooms — including at indoor courts that housed hundreds of temporary hospital beds at the height of New York’s coronavirus outbreak — and improve air filtration in existing spaces. Also being considered: no locker-room access until just before a match. So if anyone goes to Flushing Meadows just to train, Allaster said, “You come, you practice, and return to the hotel.”

The USTA presented its operational plan to a medical advisory group Friday; now that will be discussed with city, state and federal government officials.

MORE: Olympic tennis: Key questions for Tokyo Games in 2021

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Jamaican bobsledders want to return to the Olympics, so they’re pushing a Mini Cooper

Jamaica Bobsled
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Jamaican bobsled team’s push for the next Winter Olympics took a detour to the roads of Great Britain.

Numerous British media outlets reported in the last week on Shanwayne Stephens and Nimroy Turgott, who have been pushing cars, including a Mini Cooper, in Peterborough.

“We had to come up with our own ways of replicating the sort of pushing we need to do [in bobsledding amid the coronavirus pandemic],” Stephens, a reported British resident since age 11, said, according to Reuters. “So that’s why we thought: why not go out and push the car?

“We do get some funny looks. We’ve had people run over, thinking the car’s broken down, trying to help us bump-start the car. When we tell them we’re the Jamaica bobsleigh team, the direction is totally different, and they’re very excited.”

The Jamaican bobsled team rose to fame with its Olympic debut at the 1988 Calgary Winter Games, inspiring the 1993 Disney film, “Cool Runnings.” At least one Jamaican men’s sled competed in every Olympics from 1988 through 2002, then again in 2014, with a best finish of 14th.

A Jamaican women’s sled debuted at the Olympics in 2018, driven by 2014 U.S. Olympian Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian. A Jamaican men’s sled just missed qualifying for PyeongChang by one spot in world rankings.

Stephens, a driver, is 51st and 56th in the current world rankings for the four-person and two-man events, respectively.

He competed in lower-level international races last season with a best finish of sixth in a four-person race that had seven sleds. One of Stephens’ push athletes was Carrie Russell, a 2018 Olympian in the two-woman event and former sprinter who won a world title in the 4x100m in 2013.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Sam Clayton, Jamaica’s first bobsled driver, was ‘a pioneer of pioneers’