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Leaks, electrical outages found in Rio Olympic athletes village

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Australia’s Olympic team leader is keeping the delegation’s 700 athletes or staff out of the Athletes Village for at least two days, citing electrical and plumbing problems in the sprawling complex less than two weeks before the start of the games in Rio de Janeiro.

“Electricity and water is not a good combination,” Kitty Chiller told reporters Sunday, when the village was set to be officially opened for athletes.

Chiller said this was her fifth Olympics, and she came down hard on village preparations.

“I have never experienced a village in this state – or lack of state – of readiness at this point in time,” she said.

The 31-building village is expected to house 18,000 athletes and officials at the height of the games. It was not clear how many athletes were housed in the village on Sunday.

This is the latest problem for the games, which have been hit by concern about the Zika virus, security threats, water pollution and severe budget cuts.

Chiller and Australian team spokesman Mike Tancred described a wide array of plumbing, electrical and cleaning issues at the Village. Tancred said 10 of the 31 buildings were determined to be inhabitable.

“We’re having plumbing problems, we’ve got leaking pipes,” Tancred told AP. “We’ve got electrical problems. We’ve got cleaning problems. We’ve got lighting problems in some of the stairwells. We did a stress test on Saturday, turned on the taps and flushed the toilets, and water came flooding down the walls.”

Chiller listed the same problems, and added more.

“There was a strong smell of gas in some apartments and there was ‘shorting’ in the electrical wiring,” she said. “We have been living in nearby hotels because the village is simply not safe or ready.”

Chiller said six Australian athletes due to arrive Monday and 50 on Tuesday would temporarily stay in hotels or other accommodation. She said she hopes they can move into the village quickly, and sounded encouraged.

“I am reasonably confident that we will be able enter the village on Wednesday,” she said.

She described other amenities in the village as among the best.

“This is one of the most beautiful villages I’ve ever been in,” she said. “It looks spectacular. There are just teething issues in some of the service inside the building.”

Several teams are hiring tradesmen to fix the problems, and some may look for compensation from organizers.

Italian team leader Carlo Mornati said his national Olympic committee, CONI, had been hiring workmen to carry out repairs for days.

“Among these unfinished areas are also a few apartments in block 20, the one to be used by Italy, and where manual workers, electricians, plumbers and bricklayers – hired by CONI officials there as a matter of urgency – have been working over the past few days so that the athletes’ accommodation can be brought up to normal conditions as soon as possible,” he said in a statement.

The U.S. Olympic Committee acknowledged there were small problems.

“As is the case with every games, we’re working with the local organizers to address minor issues and make sure the village is ready for Team USA athletes,” spokesman Patrick Sandusky told the AP.

The International Olympic Committee and local organizers held emergency talks Sunday and said athletes with unfinished rooms would “be placed in the best available accommodation in other buildings,” estimating that fixing the problems “will take another few days.”

Local reports said about 5 percent of the 3,600 apartments had gas, water and electrical faults, and some were without toilet fixtures.

Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes took a shot at the Australians at the opening on Sunday.

“This is an incredible village, more beautiful and better than Sydney,” he said, referring to the 2000 Olympics in Australia. He said he was tempted to put “a kangaroo jumping outside” to make them happy.

The village contains tennis courts, soccer fields, seven swimming pools with mountains and the sea as a backdrop.

The apartments are to be sold after the Olympics with some prices reaching $700,000. The development cost about $1.5 billion, built by Brazilian billionaire Carlos Carvalho.

New Zealand team leader Rob Waddell said he was disappointed the village wasn’t quite ready “and it hasn’t been easy.”

“Our team has had to get stuck in to get the job done,” Waddell said. “It’s been fair to say there has been more work than we anticipated with the building … but we’ve got it to a space now that it will be just fine for athletes when they turn up.”

New Zealand’s Olympic rowing champion Mahe Drysdale, who said he was the first athlete from any country to enter the village, added facilities were in need of a few “finishing touches.”

“Already taken ownership of the Village being the very first athlete from any country to arrive and get through the gates,” Drysdale said on Instagram. “All is good.

“Few finishing touches still to be made but when you arrive at 5am on opening day, you can’t expect it to be perfect.”

MORE: Ready or Not: Rio Olympics open doors at Athletes Village

Rafael Nadal can tie Roger Federer’s Slam record with 13th French Open

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For all of the many qualities contributing to Rafael Nadal’s unprecedented superiority at the French Open — the bullwhip of a high-bouncing lefty forehand, the reflex returns, the cover-every-corner athleticism, the endless energy and grit — there’s one element that stands above all the rest.

According to the opponent Nadal beat in the last two finals in Paris, anyway.

“You go into the match knowing that even your best tennis, even if you play it over three, four hours, might not be enough. I mean, if you do it, you maybe have a little chance, but you have to go to your limit on every single rally, every single point,” Dominic Thiem, who won the U.S. Open less than two weeks ago, told The Associated Press.

“That makes it not easy to go into the match,” Thiem said. “And that’s the mental part, I guess.”

When main-draw competition begins Sunday at Roland Garros, Thiem and every other player in the men’s bracket will be pursuing Nadal as the 34-year-old from Spain pursues history.

If Nadal manages to claim a 13th French Open championship — extending his own record for the most singles trophies won by anyone at any major tennis tournament — he would, more significantly, also collect his 20th Grand Slam title overall, tying Roger Federer’s record for a man.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Nadal’s tally elsewhere: four U.S. Opens, two Wimbledons, one Australian Open.

He spoke Friday in Paris about what “probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros” — a lack of matches in 2020; a new brand of tennis balls (“super slow, heavy”); cooler weather and plenty of rain in the forecast.

“But you know what?” Nadal said. “I am here to fight and to play with the highest intensity possible.”

Asked recently about the possibility of catching the 39-year-old Federer, out for the rest of the season after a pair of operations on his right knee, Nadal expressed a sentiment he’s uttered before.

Climbing the Grand Slam list, Nadal said, is “not an obsession at all.”

“I know that you put a lot of attention on all of this,” he replied when the topic was raised last week at the Italian Open, Nadal’s first tournament since February because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Of course I would love to finish my career with 25, but (that’s) something that probably will not happen. I’m going to keep fighting to produce chances, and then when I finish my career, let’s see, no?” he said. “I just want to keep enjoying tennis. And that’s it. If I am playing well, I know I normally have my chances. If not, going to be impossible. That’s it.”

There is, of course, another great of the game playing during this era and, like Nadal, gaining on Federer.

That would be No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic, who had won five of seven major titles to raise his total to 17 before being disqualified at the U.S. Open for accidentally hitting a line judge with a ball while walking to a changeover.

In this oddest of years, the Grand Slam season will drawing to a close in France; the clay-court major was postponed from May until now because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Roland Garros is the last Slam, the last opportunity of this season. So we all know who the main favorite is there: Obviously, it’s Nadal. And everything that he has achieved there, losing maybe a couple matches in his entire career on that court … is probably the most impressive record that anybody has on any court,” Djokovic said. “So, yeah, of course you would put him right there in front as a favorite to win it.”

For the record: Nadal has won 93 of 95 matches in the French Open and his last 21 in a row.

So what makes him so dominant there?

“He’s an unbelievably great tennis player. Probably on clay, a little bit better than on the other surfaces,” Thiem said. “He’s left-handed, which makes it very uncomfortable. And then his forehand, the topspin on the clay, it’s cruel to play.”

Thiem takes notes and hopes to emulate aspects of Nadal’s game.

So do others.

In Rome, for example, two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep and one of her coaches, Artemon Apostu-Efremov, caught one of Nadal’s training sessions.

“We were watching the way he hits the ball, the acceleration, the energy he has on the court and the way he practices 100%. It’s always an inspiration,” Apostu-Efremov said.

“This dedication on the court and focus on court,” he said, “it’s something that, for sure, could be transferred to Simona.”

Nadal wound up losing his third match in Italy, which is neither ideal form nor the sort of prep work he is accustomed to ahead of Roland Garros.

Still, Nadal at the French Open is unlike anyone else, anywhere else.

“Regardless of how he feels, I’m sure he’ll find a way,” said Stefanos Tsitsipas, a 2019 Australian Open semifinalist seeded No. 5 in Paris. “He always finds a way, every single year. Clay is his surface. I’m sure he’s going to do well.”

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Skate America will not have fans

Skate America
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Skate America, the top annual international figure skating competition held in the U.S., will not have spectators in Las Vegas from Oct. 23-25.

U.S. Figure Skating said the restriction was “due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in strict accordance with the Nevada Gaming Control Board guidelines.”

Skate America is the first top-level event of the season, kicking off the six-stop Grand Prix Series leading up to December’s Grand Prix Final, which is scheduled this season for Beijing.

The series has already been modified to restrict fields to skaters from the host country or to the event closest to their training location.

Grand Prix fields have not been announced, though two-time world champion Nathan Chen said last month he hoped to go for a fourth straight Skate America title.

Chen trains in California. Most, if not all, top U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada, which means they will compete in Skate America or Skate Canada if they participate in the Grand Prix Series at all.

Two-time U.S. women’s champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough to compete on the Grand Prix until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

Skaters are limited to one Grand Prix start this season. In past seasons, they’ve typically competed twice.

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