Tokyo bay
AP

Tokyo to ‘screen off’ bacteria for Olympic swimming in bay

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TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo Olympic organizers said Friday that a system of layered screens would be used to keep bacteria levels within “agreed limits” for triathlon and marathon swimming in heavily trafficked Tokyo Bay.

Organizers acknowledged a year ago that levels of E. Coli were up to 20 times above acceptable levels set by international sports federations, and fecal coliform bacteria were seven times over the limit.

Hidemasa Nakamura, executive director of sports and games delivery, said a triple-layer screen of polyester fiber was tested in July and August on dates corresponding to the Olympics and Paralympics in two years.

“The triple-layer screen was proven effective in controlling E. coli bacteria and other bacteria,” Nakamura said through an interpreter.

He said the international federations that govern marathon swimming and triathlon had seen the test results.

“They agreed the test results were quite favorable,” Nakamura said.

Plans would seem to call for the screens to encircle the area for marathon swimming and triathlon.

The Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 were plagued with severe water pollution, from rowing events to open-water swimming to sailing.

Tokyo’s challenge for the 2020 Games seems smaller. But a core problem in both places stems from holding outdoor water events in the heart of the city rather in cleaner waters away from the urban area.

In Rio de Janeiro, television rights holders pushed for sailing to be held in heavily polluted Guanabara Bay, partly because of the picturesque backdrop and appealing camera angles.

Nakamura said something similar in explaining why the Odaiba Marine Park, in the heart of Tokyo Bay, was chosen.

“I think it’s very important for us to hold this event in the middle of Tokyo with the ocean water and the skyscrapers and the urban background of Tokyo,” Nakamura said. “That will show how Tokyo is a city where we have the modern structures and well as the ocean.”

The Odaiba Marine Park sits at the foot of Tokyo’s famous Rainbow Bridge. A half dozen signs around the small beach say “No Swimming” allowed. On a recent day, one small child was wading in shallow water, but no one else ventured into the sea along the 200-meter (yard) stretch of beach.

However, over the summer the public was allowed to swim for about a week under a program called “Odaiba Plage” — a takeoff on Paris. The park for decades has held many national open-water swimming competitions.

Nakamura said the no-swimming signs were there because life guards are not on duty, and not because of water pollution.

“Some kind of underwater screens would be used during the Olympics and Paralympics,” he said, noting the exact configurations could change as the city and organizers experimented.

Dangerous water-borne viruses were a large concern in Rio, but Tokyo organizers indicated that sports federations seemed concerned only with monitoring bacteria.

Nakamura and an official from the Tokyo city government said they were confident the screens would keep athletes healthy.

Some rowers and sailors got ill in Rio, but it was often difficult to link the dirty water to the outbreaks. Local sailors seemed to build up immunity to the dirty water.

“We will continue to work with the IOC and the international federations on this point,” Nakamura said. “We will continue to work to ensure the safety of the athletes against bacteria.”

MORE: Tokyo Olympics to use facial recognition system

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Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir retire from ice dance competition

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Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the most decorated Olympic figure skaters in history, announced their retirement late Tuesday. They’re done competing in ice dance, and their upcoming Canadian tour will be their last together.

“After 22 years, it feels like the right time to step away from the sport,” Virtue said in a video. “This is so personal and emotional for both of us.”

“It just feels for us like it’s the right time to say goodbye while we’re still loving and enjoying the sport as much as we always have been,” Moir said. “This is my first selfie video, and I’m not going to cry. What a beautiful ride it’s been.”

The news was expected.

Virtue and Moir last competed in PyeongChang, earning golds in ice dance and the team event to bring their total to five medals (three golds) and break the record for most Olympic medals in the sport (buoyed by the addition of the team event in 2014).

“It definitely feels like [this is our last Olympics],” Moir said on TODAY in PyeongChang, hours after their ice dance gold. “If it is, this is a great way for us to go out. … It feels right. It feels like a good end.”

Virtue, 30, and Moir 32, teamed in elementary school. Moir, a hockey player, followed brother Danny into dance, pairing with his first partner at 8 and then with Virtue and 9.

Virtue hit the ice at age 6 because she didn’t want to be the only one in her class who couldn’t skate during a field trip. When she was 7, she was paired with Moir through Moir’s aunt Carol, who coached both as singles skaters. Two years in, Virtue attended Canada’s National Ballet School for a summer before choosing to stick with skating.

That decision ultimately led to one of the greatest careers in Canadian sports history.

They earned a junior world title in 2006, the first of eight Canadian titles in 2008 and, in 2010, the biggest of all — home gold at the Vancouver Winter Games despite Moir messing up the steps at the end of their free dance. They faced the wrong way in their final pose.

“Scott just said thank you to me and just said look around us, take this in,” Virtue said on NBC as the final couples skated.

“I had to be positive because I messed up,” Moir later joked.

Virtue and Moir developed a rivalry with American training partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White, with whom they traded world titles in the Sochi Olympic cycle. In Russia, the Americans edged the Canadians for the title by 4.53 points.

Moir waited until the arena emptied, returned to the rink and kissed the ice. Many thought it was a goodbye to the Olympics.

Two years later, they announced a comeback, saying they still had the fire and wanted to take advantage of one more chance to go to the Games. They won all but one of their competitions in those last two seasons, including the Olympics by a slim .79 of a point over French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.

Now they join the other Canadian champions of their generation — Patrick ChanKaetlyn Osmond and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford — in leaving the competitive arena for good.

“We spent 22 years coasting around the outside of the rink, hanging out together, making programs, trying to just soak up our sporting experiences,” Virtue said. “We still can’t believe people care.”

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MORE: Keegan Messing explains decision to hold up Japanese flag

Keegan Messing ‘glad’ to have held Japanese flag for Yuzuru Hanyu

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Yuzuru Hanyu heard Japan’s national anthem at the medal ceremony for his season-debut event on Saturday. But didn’t see a flag.

That’s when the bronze medalist, Keegan Messing of Canada, “took initiative” and unfurled the Japanese flag so Hanyu could honor it at the Autumn Classic in Ontario.

While there were plenty of fans of the Japanese skater in the crowd holding their own flags, none were hoisted above the ice like in some competitions.

Messing took it upon himself to hold up the Japanese flag that was hanging from a flagpole behind the medal podium.

Messing explained his decision following the interaction:

That was just actually instinct, honestly. When they said that we’re gonna play the anthem for the winner, I looked out and I realized there was no flag ready. A couple of the spectators had a flag but so I decided to hold up a flag because if I were in that place, I would’ve liked to have a flag presented at that time. That’s why I did it. I felt like that’s what I would’ve wanted so I went ahead and took initiative and I did it. I’m very happy I did. It felt good to do. I’m glad.

Hanyu is next expected to compete on the Grand Prix circuit, again in Canada in October and at NHK Trophy in Japan in November.

Messing’s assignments are Skate America in October and Cup of China in November.

The next time Hanyu’s and Messing’s paths could cross is at December’s Grand Prix Final, should they both qualify.

MORE: Yuzuru Hanyu wins Autumn Classic

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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