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Usain Bolt returns; 5 track and field events to watch Saturday

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Usain Bolt embarks on his latest-ever start to an Olympic season with his first competition since Aug. 29 at a meet at the Cayman Islands on Saturday night.

Bolt, last seen in race form sweeping the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the 2015 World Championships, makes his 2016 debut in a low-key meet against largely low-key competition.

On the other side of the world, several more Olympic and World medalists, including Bolt rival Justin Gatlin, gather in Shanghai for the second Diamond League meet of the year.

Start lists are hyperlinked for the Cayman Invitational men’s 100m and the Shanghai Diamond League meet.

Here’s the Shanghai and Bolt schedule Saturday (all times Eastern):

4:55 a.m. — Women’s high jump
5:50 — Women’s discus
5:51 — Men’s shot put
6:22 — Women’s long jump
6:45 — Men’s pole vault
6:55 — Men’s high jump
7:04 — Men’s 400m hurdles
7:12 — Women’s 1500m
7:25 — Men’s 100m
7:35 — Women’s 400m
7:40 — Men’s long jump
7:43 — Men’s 800m
7:52 — Women’s 3000m steeplechase
7:55 — Men’s javelin
8:11 — Women’s 200m
8:20 — Men’s 5000m
8:44 — Men’s 110m hurdles
8:40 p.m. — Usain Bolt in Cayman 100m

Here are five events to watch:

Shanghai women’s discus — 5:50 a.m.

Every women’s track event in Shanghai lacks either the Olympic favorite or top American, but the discus checks both boxes.

The field includes Olympic champion Sandra Perković of Croatia, World champion Denia Caballero of Cuba and American record holder Gia Lewis-Smallwood.

It will be an early test for Lewis-Smallwood, who broke the American record in 2014 but struggled in 2015, finishing 11th at Worlds, reportedly while injured.

Shanghai men’s 100m — 7:25 a.m.

Gatlin races his third 100m of the year against Mike Rodgers and Isiah Young, who finished third and fourth at the 2015 U.S. Championships (with Gatlin not in that field).

Plus, Qatar’s Femi Ogunode, who broke 10 seconds in his last two races of 2015 in September and his first two races this year in April, including a 9.91 that’s the fastest in the world for 2016.

But only Gatlin is an Olympic medal favorite in this group. He severely rolled an ankle last fall, then ran 9.90 on April 16 (with too much tailwind to be a legal time) and 10.02 last Sunday into a slight headwind.

On May 15, 2015, Gatlin ran 9.74, a time that would have beaten Bolt at the World Championships in August. He does not appear to be near that form this spring, but there’s plenty of time to reach it before the Olympic Trials and the Rio Games.

Shanghai men’s 800m — 7:43 a.m.

David Rudisha is the reigning Olympic and World champion and world-record holder, but the Kenyan is not the unstoppable force he was four years ago.

Rudisha went more than one year between races in 2013 and 2014 due to a right knee injury he first noticed in Central Park. Yes, he won the 2015 World title, but Rudisha received incredible fortune by not having to face any prior Olympic or World medalists in the final.

In Shanghai, Rudisha gets U.S. champion and 2013 World silver medalist Nick Symmonds, who last raced Aug. 8, according to Tilastopaja.org.

Shanghai 110m hurdles — 8:44 a.m.

The climax event of the meet includes the five fastest men’s hurdlers this year and three Americans who own Olympic or World titles.

There’s 2011 World champion Jason Richardson, 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder Aries Merritt and 2013 World champion David Oliver.

Plus, Jamaicans Omar McLeod and Hansle Parchment and Spain’s Orlando Ortega, the top three men this year.

McLeod prevailed in the Diamond League opener in Doha last week, with Merritt taking sixth in his first Diamond League race since a Sept. 1 kidney transplant.

Cayman men’s 100m — 8:40 p.m.

There is one man scheduled for this race who will keep Bolt somewhat honest. That’s countryman Kemar Bailey-Cole, whom you may remember Bolt controversially beat with identical times at this meet three years ago.

Bolt is 8-0 against Bailey-Cole all time, according to Tilastopaja. Bolt’s all-time best record against one sprinter is 22-0 against Churandy Martina of the Netherlands, according to the website.

Bolt’s first races in 2004, 2008 and 2012 all came in March or April, according to Tilastopaja, but he was set back by a reported ankle injury this winter.

In 2012, Bolt’s first 100m came May 5, when he ran 9.82, but given an injury-slowed last couple of years, don’t expect him to go that fast on Saturday.

“Most of my friends, we have a bet on how fast I’m going to run,” Bolt said in a press conference Friday, via audio obtained from Cayman 27. “I have 9.91, so we’ll see how that goes.”

VIDEO: Race against Bolt’s world record with ‘BeatBot’

IOC group proposes Olympic ‘host’ can be multiple countries

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International Olympic Committee members will decide next month whether to tweak the definition of an Olympic host to make it clear that it does not necessarily refer to a single city but can also mean multiple cities, regions and even countries, IOC President Thomas Bach said Wednesday.

“It’s not an encouragement to spread the Games out as much as possible,” Bach said in announcing the IOC’s executive board approved the measure. “It may be preferable to have a region as a signatory or an additional signatory of the host city contract rather than just a city, and therefore, we wanted to enjoy this flexibility. This, on the other hand, does not change our vision, our request and our focus on having not only an Olympic Village, but to have an Olympic center.”

It’s one of six proposed changes by a working group chaired by Australian IOC member John Coates to examine the bid process. Another is to make the timing of Olympic host city elections more flexible. Typically, hosts are elected seven years before the Games, though two years ago an exception was made in the double awarding of the 2024 and 2028 Games to Paris and Los Angeles.

Bach repeated that the proposals are “to avoid producing too many losers as we had it in the past candidature procedures.”

The IOC previously said in 2014, in announcing Agenda 2020, that it “will allow events held outside the host city or, in exceptional cases, outside the host country, notably for reasons of geography and sustainability.”

This shift manifests in Stockholm’s 2026 Winter Olympic bid plan to have sliding sports in Sigulda, Latvia, home of the nearest existing track for bobsled, luge and skeleton, rather than building a costly new track in Sweden.

IOC members will vote to choose the 2026 Winter Games host next month. The finalists are Stockholm and a joint Italian bid of Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, after five other potential candidates were dropped for various reasons.

There is precedent for events held far from the Olympic host city. In 1956, Melbourne held the Summer Games and had equestrian events in Stockholm due to quarantine laws in Australia. Similarly, equestrian at the 2008 Beijing Games was held in Hong Kong.

Soccer matches are often held in cities across the host country. Recent Winter Olympics have had mountain events in a different city or area than arena events.

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IOC board recommends AIBA suspension, boxing stays in Olympics

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The International Olympic Committee executive board recommended that AIBA has its recognition as boxing’s international federation suspended but that the sport remains on the Olympic program at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

An IOC decision on the recommendation will be made next month. The IOC created a group to organize 2020 Olympic boxing qualifying and competition if AIBA will not be allowed to run it.

“We want to ensure that the athletes can live their dream and participate in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 while drawing the necessary consequences for AIBA,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in a press release. “At the same time, we offer a pathway back to lifting the suspension, but there needs to be further fundamental change.”

The IOC said in October that boxing’s place in the Olympics was “under threat” after being introduced at the 1904 St. Louis Games and held at every Games since except Stockholm 1912.

In November, the IOC ordered an inquiry into AIBA, which has been in financial turmoil, faced claims of fixed bouts at the Rio Games and elected a president linked to organized crime.

That president, Uzbek Gafur Rakhimov, stepped aside in March to let an interim leader take charge but said he was not resigning. Rakhimov is on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list for suspected links to an organized crime group in former Soviet Union republics involved in heroin trafficking. He denies any wrongdoing.

“Serious governance issues remain, including breaches of the Olympic Charter and the IOC Code of Ethics regarding good governance and ethics, leading to serious reputational, legal and financial risks for the IOC, the Olympic Movement and its stakeholders,” the inquiry committee concluded. “AIBA has been unable to demonstrate a sustainable and fair management of refereeing and judging processes and decisions, increasing the lack of confidence that athletes can have in fair competitions.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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