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Ready or Not: Rio Olympics open doors at Athletes Village

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Ready or not, the Rio Olympics are opening their doors.

The Games begin in just over two weeks, but the Athletes Village opens officially on Sunday, meaning 10,500 athletes and another 7,000 staff members will start trickling into the luxurious layout, with the pace picking up daily until the Aug. 5 opening ceremony at the Maracana Stadium.

The 31-building compound should pamper the world’s best. It’s set among tennis courts, soccer fields, seven swimming pools – with mountains and the sea as a backdrop – and topped off by a massive dining-kitchen compound that’s as large as three football fields.

“I want to help all the athletes have a wonderful welcome to Brazil,” said Priscilla Antonello, a residence center deputy manager whose job is to help athletes find their accommodations.

Will she be star-struck by so many Olympians?

“I couldn’t be in this job if I behaved like that,” she replied Saturday, standing on the 13th floor of one of buildings, gazing out over cycling paths, bubbling fountains and lots of green.

She already knows which countries will be where, but she’s not allowed to say.

Some delegations had already arrived on Saturday, easy to spot with banners or flags hanging off the sides of buildings.

Slovenia had the best banner. In green and white it says: “I Feel sLOVEenia.” The LOVE portion was set off in white type, making sure the message got across.

Another read: “All for Denmark.”

Banners or flags from Canada, Britain, Portugal, Finland and Sweden were among those spotted. A tiny red and yellow Chinese flag was pinned near the top of one of the compounds.

Everything about the village is massive, though fairly standard for recent Summer Olympics.

Organizers say the compound has:

– 10,160 rooms; 18,000 beds; seven laundries; an enormous, hospital-like clinic; a massive gym.

In addition, organizers are providing 450,000 condoms, three times more than London did four years ago. Among them will be 100,000 female condoms.

Organizers said this is to encourage safe sex. Many had considered that increased supply to be due to Brazil’s outbreak of the Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects.

Asked about it on Saturday, deputy chief medical officer Marcelo Patricio replied: “No, it’s not.”

Then there’s the dining-kitchen area, a sprawling tent where officials expect to serve about 60,000 meals daily to Olympians and staff – and perhaps another 10,000 daily to the hired help.

“The hardest part is knowing how much to prepare,” said Flavia Albuquerque, who oversees Rio’s food and beverage service. “We want them to eat anything they want to.”

That will be easy. The choices are nearly infinite. Diners will choose from different buffets – Brazilian, Asian, International, and Pasta and Pizza. Then there’s a casual dining area that will feature barbeque.

“The casual area might be the most popular,” Albuquerque said.

There will be lots of dirty plates, but none to wash. The plates will be biodegradable, made of corn and sugar cane.

Brazilians figure their food will be a hit: rice, black beans, farofa (flour from toasted cassava often sprinkled on top of food) and meat. And Brazil’s exotic juice will be popular: caju, acai, carambola, caqui, goiaba and maracuja, often squeezed into juices – sucos in Portuguese.

Billionaire real estate developer Carlos Carvalho might have the only problem.

He aims to sell the 3,604 apartments after the Olympics – some in the range of 2.3 million ($700,000). Carvalho’s company Carvalho Hosken has declined to say how many have been sold, but reports say only between 6-10 percent.

The project is a victim of Brazil’s deep recession, the worst since the 1930s.

Carvalho Hosken earlier said the project’s total cost was about $1.5 billion, including construction, land acquisition and other development costs.

MORE: Rio unveils largest athletes village in Olympic history

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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