Rio Olympic committee CEO: Zika virus not among top 10 concerns

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WASHINGTON (AP) – The chief organizer of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics says security is his top concern, well ahead of the Zika virus.

Sidney Levy, CEO of the Rio Organizing Committee, said Tuesday that keeping athletes and visitors safe from terrorism and other crime is his No. 1 top priority. He called the biggest fear “lone wolf” attackers.

“Differently from Zika, security’s at the top of my list – the very top of my list,” Levy said at a Council of the Americas event. “We should never forget that these days we live in a society that’s very in danger.”

The plan is to have 85,000 security personnel on the streets. Levy said the 2013 visit of Pope Francis and the 2014 World Cup were tests for Brazil.

Francisco Dornelles, Rio’s acting governor, warned on Monday that budget shortfalls could compromise security and transit at the games. Levy said intelligence officials from 100 different countries are in Brazil monitoring potential threats.

Zika, a virus linked to birth defects, has drawn widespread international concern. Levy stressed he does not worry about the virus and said none of the people working for him has contracted Zika. He pointed to expected cooler temperatures during the Olympics in his attempt to assuage fears.

“If I have to write on a piece of paper my top 10 worries today, Zika wouldn’t be there,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s not a public health issue. It is a public health issue. But we are going into the winter months in Rio and if you see every statistic of last year’s mosquitos’ proliferation in the summer and in the winter, it goes very high up in February and reaches the peak, which is the height of the summer. It starts going down, down, down. Right now it’s almost zero.”

Levy said Rio organizers did not expect this level of concern over Zika, and he acknowledged that more people around the world are worried about it than Brazilians are. Several high-profile athletes cited it as their reason for withdrawing from the Olympics.

“We thought that there were too many people here in the States talking about Zika and this is too much. This is too much. Too many negative comments,” Levy said. “I think it was good for them to hear other voices.”

Levy was less optimistic about water pollution, saying Rio “failed” on its promise to clean 80 percent of it by the Olympics, which are set for Aug. 5-21. He said four of the five sites on the Guanabara Bay are tested daily for bacteria and will not pose any problems and left open the possibility of moving the other.

“The fifth area is closer to the shore and we’re testing that and depending on the rain and the wind sometimes good, sometimes not so good,” Levy said. “If closer to the games we see that this is not good enough, we’re going to change the location to further down the sea. We’re very committed to not put at risk any athlete during the competition.”

The Associated Press has reported that Guanabara Bay has shown astronomically high level of viruses for which the state is not testing.

Another issue is the political turmoil in the country. Levy is unsure about the upcoming vote to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, which likely will take place in August.

“We do pray for the impeachment vote to happen before the games,” Levy said. “If that prayer is not answered, we hope that (will) happen after the games. We asked the president personally about that, but he can’t control his congress and senate. We’re going to have to manage whatever happens. It would be ideal of that to happen before the Olympics.”

Levy said the subway is almost ready and that the light rail is having its soft opening. Because those modes of transportation are new and Brazil has never hosted an event of this magnitude.

“Security is, of course, part of the core of the agenda,” Levy said. “But I would say today the main issue for me is the combination of all that: How to make all that work simultaneously on the very first day. …. First day everybody’s watching. It’s going to have to work. That’s what worries me.”

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U.S. men’s gymnastics team named for world championships

Asher Hong
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Asher Hong, Colt Walker and world pommel horse champion Stephen Nedoroscik were named to the last three spots on the U.S. men’s gymnastics team for the world championships that start in three weeks.

Brody Malone and Donnell Whittenburg earned the first spots on the team by placing first and second in the all-around at August’s U.S. Championships.

Hong, Walker and Nedoroscik were chosen by a committee after two days of selection camp competition in Colorado Springs this week. Malone and Whittenburg did not compete at the camp.

Hong, 18, will become the youngest U.S. man to compete at worlds since Danell Leyva in 2009. He nearly earned a spot on the team at the U.S. Championships, but erred on his 12th and final routine of that meet to drop from second to third in the all-around. At this week’s camp, Hong had the lowest all-around total of the four men competing on all six apparatuses, but selectors still chose him over Tokyo Olympians Yul Moldauer and Shane Wiskus.

Walker, a Stanford junior, will make his world championships debut. He would have placed second at nationals in August if a bonus system for attempting difficult skills wasn’t in place. With that bonus system not in place at the selection camp, he had the highest all-around total. The bonus system is not used at international meets such as world championships.

Nedoroscik rebounded from missing the Tokyo Olympic team to become the first American to win a world title on pommel horse last fall. Though he is the lone active U.S. male gymnast with a global gold medal, he was in danger of missing this five-man team because of struggles on the horse at the U.S. Championships. Nedoroscik, who does not compete on the other five apparatuses, put up his best horse routine of the season on the last day of the selection camp Wednesday.

Moldauer, who tweeted that he was sick all last week, was named the traveling alternate for worlds in Liverpool, Great Britain. It would be the first time that Moldauer, who was fourth in the all-around at last fall’s worlds, does not compete at worlds since 2015.

Though the U.S. has not made the team podium at an Olympics or worlds since 2014, it is boosted this year by the absence of Olympic champion Russia, whose athletes are banned indefinitely due to the war in Ukraine. In recent years, the U.S. has been among the nations in the second tier behind China, Japan and Russia, including in Tokyo, where the Americans were fifth.

The U.S. women’s world team of five will be announced after a selection camp in two weeks. Tokyo Olympians Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles are in contention.

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Paris 2024 Olympic marathon route unveiled

Paris 2024 Olympic Marathon
Paris 2024
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The 2024 Olympic marathon route will take runners from Paris to Versailles and back.

The route announcement was made on the 233rd anniversary of one of the early, significant events of the French Revolution: the Women’s March on Versailles — “to pay tribute to the thousands of women who started their march at city hall to Versailles to take up their grievances to the king and ask for bread,” Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet said.

Last December, organizers announced the marathons will start at Hôtel de Ville (city hall, opposite Notre-Dame off the Seine River) and end at Les Invalides, a complex of museums and monuments one mile southeast of the Eiffel Tower.

On Wednesday, the rest of the route was unveiled — traversing the banks of the Seine west to the Palace of Versailles and then back east, passing the Eiffel Tower before the finish.

The men’s and women’s marathons will be on the last two days of the Games at 8 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET). It will be the first time that the women’s marathon is held on the last day of the Games after the men’s marathon traditionally occupied that slot.

A mass public marathon will also be held on the Olympic marathon route. The date has not been announced.

The full list of highlights among the marathon course:

• Hôtel de ville de Paris (start)
• Bourse de commerce
• Palais Brongniart
• Opéra Garnier
• Place Vendôme
• Jardin des Tuileries
• The Louvre
• Place de la Concorde
• The bridges of Paris
(Pont de l’Alma; Alexandre III;
Iéna; and more)
• Grand Palais
• Palais de Tokyo
• Jardins du Trocadéro
• Maison de la Radio
• Manufacture et Musées
nationaux de Sèvres
• Forêt domaniale
des Fausses-Reposes
• Monuments Pershing –
Lafayette
• Château de Versailles
• Forêt domaniale de Meudon
• Parc André Citroën
• Eiffel Tower
• Musée Rodin
• Esplanade des Invalides (finish)

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