Zlatan Ibrahimovic to skip Rio Games, quit international soccer

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NICE, France (AP) — Zlatan Ibrahimovic is ending his international career after the European Championship, meaning he could represent Sweden for the last time on Wednesday.

The 34-year-old striker said Tuesday ahead of Sweden’s final Group E game against Belgium that it would be his last appearance for his country if the team gets eliminated.

“The last game for Sweden in Euro will be my last game with Sweden, so I hope it will not be tomorrow,” he said. “Let’s hope it goes as long as possible.”

Even if Sweden loses and fails to qualify for the knockout stages, Ibrahimovic said he would not be disappointed with such an end to his 15-year international career.

“To finish on a disappointment, never, because I’m very proud to be captain of Sweden and what I achieved. So I want to take this moment and thank all the supporters, because they make it possible for me to achieve what I have achieved,” he said. “For me disappointment doesn’t exist, only proudness and grateful and very thankful.”

He added that he “will not participate in the Olympics” in Rio de Janeiro. He had been named in a provisional Swedish squad.

Ibrahimovic is Sweden’s record scorer with 62 goals and can become its joint sixth most-capped player with 116 appearances on Wednesday. Sweden, which has one point after its opening 1-1 draw against Ireland, still has a chance of qualifying for the round of 16 even though it has yet to register a single shot on target. Its only goal at Euro 2016 was an own goal. The Swedes almost certainly need a win against Belgium to qualify.

Looking ahead to the match, Ibrahimovic said: “We need to play a bit more as a team, need to be better.”

“There’s a lot of pressure on us but we’re still in there, we’ve managed to stay in there and we’ll do everything we can to continue in the tournament,” he said. “I feel good, I really feel 100 percent. Thus far I haven’t really been able to play at my best level.”

Sweden coach Erik Hamren highlighted Ibrahimovic’s contribution to the team and to Swedish soccer in general.

“Our greatest star going is a big loss,” Hamren said. “We have one international player that’s really at the same level as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and that’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic.”

Hamren added that Ibrahimovic had discussed retirement with him in “January or February” but that Ibrahimovic only confirmed it Tuesday.

“I think Sweden do have a bright future in football, but of course if we lose Zlatan Ibrahimovic that will be a huge loss,” Hamren said. “As a goal scorer of course but also as an individual he has really helped Swedish football.”

Ibrahimovic can expect little sympathy from Belgium, at least not on the field.

“Hopefully it will be his last game tomorrow for Sweden,” said Belgium defender Jan Vertonghen, who was a youth player for Ajax during Ibrahimovic’s time there. “Lots of respect for his career, but I’m very selfish tomorrow.”

MORE: James Rodríguez will miss Rio Olympics, reports say

Joel Embiid gains U.S. citizenship, mum on Olympic nationality

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Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid said he is now a U.S. citizen and it’s way too early to think about what nation he would represent at the Olympics.

“I just want to be healthy and win a championship and go from there,” he said, according to The Associated Press.

Embiid, 28, was born in Cameroon and has never competed in a major international tournament. In July, he gained French nationality, a step toward being able to represent that nation at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

In the spring, French media reported that Embiid started the process to become eligible to represent France in international basketball, quoting national team general manager Boris Diaw.

Embiid was second in NBA MVP voting this season behind Serbian Nikola Jokic. He was the All-NBA second team center.

What nation Embiid represents could have a major impact on the Paris Games.

In Tokyo, a French team led by another center, Rudy Gobert, handed the U.S. its first Olympic defeat since 2004. That was in group play. The Americans then beat the French in the gold-medal game 87-82.

That France team had five NBA players to the U.S.’ 12: Nicolas BatumEvan FournierTimothe Luwawu-CabarrotFrank Ntilikina and Gobert.

Anthony Davis, who skipped the Tokyo Olympics, is the lone U.S. center to make an All-NBA team in the last five seasons. In that time, Embiid made four All-NBA second teams and Gobert made three All-NBA third teams.

No Olympic team other than the U.S. has ever had two reigning All-NBA players on its roster.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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LA 2028, Delta unveil first-of-its-kind emblems for Olympics, Paralympics

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Emblems for the 2028 Los Angeles Games that include logos of Delta Air Lines is the first integration of its kind in Olympic and Paralympic history.

Organizers released the latest set of emblems for the LA 2028 Olympics and Paralympics on Thursday, each with a Delta symbol occupying the “A” spot in LA 28.

Two years ago, the LA 2028 logo concept was unveiled with an ever-changing “A” that allowed for infinite possibilities. Many athletes already created their own logos, as has NBC.

“You can make your own,” LA28 chairperson Casey Wasserman said in 2020. “There’s not one way to represent Los Angeles, and there is strength in our diverse cultures. We have to represent the creativity and imagination of Los Angeles, the diversity of our community and the big dreams the Olympic and Paralympic Games provide.”

Also in 2020, Delta was announced as LA 2028’s inaugural founding partner. Becoming the first partner to have an integrated LA 2028 emblem was “extremely important for us,” said Emmakate Young, Delta’s managing director, brand marketing and sponsorships.

“It is a symbol of our partnership with LA, our commitment to the people there, as well as those who come through LA, and a commitment to the Olympics,” she said.

The ever-changing emblem succeeds an angelic bid logo unveiled in February 2016 when the city was going for the 2024 Games, along with the slogan, “Follow the Sun.” In July 2017, the IOC made a historic double awarding of the Olympics and Paralympics — to Paris for 2024 and Los Angeles for 2028.

The U.S. will host its first Olympics and Paralympics since 2002 (and first Summer Games since 1996), ending its longest drought between hosting the Games since the 28-year gap between 1932 and 1960.

Delta began an eight-year Olympic partnership in 2021, becoming the official airline of Team USA and the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Athletes flew to this year’s Winter Games in Beijing on chartered Delta flights and will do so for every Games through at least 2028.

Previously, Delta sponsored the last two Olympics held in the U.S. — the 1996 Atlanta Games and the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.

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