AP

IOC: Tokyo most prepared Olympic host, but heat a growing worry

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TOKYO (AP) — IOC President Thomas Bach and other International Olympic Committee members are calling Tokyo the best prepared host city in memory.

Still, there are obstacles ahead for the 2020 Games, though small by the standards of the corruption-plagued Rio Olympics.

John Coates, head of an IOC inspection team, wrapped three days of meetings in Tokyo on Wednesday and said the city’s summer heat is a growing worry.

Organizers are proposing to start the marathon between 5:30-6 a.m., and have moved up morning rugby matches by 90 minutes to play in the cooler air. Mountain biking will be contested later in the afternoon for the same reason.

Organizers are also struggling to keep the 600 billion yen (about $5.3 billion) operating budget balanced with heat-related solutions driving up costs.

This is the privately-funded budget for running the Games themselves and separate from billions more that governments are spending to prepare the city.

“The organizing committee and the people of Japan remain on track to deliver spectacular Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Coates said.

Yoshiro Mori, the president of organizing committee, was sitting alongside and was cautious about the plaudits.

“We should not be overconfident about such praise,” he said through an interpreter. “We still should buckle down very firmly … They praise us, they give us a good report card. But in addition to that I want to be better.”

This summer’s scorching Tokyo heat nudged 40 degrees C (104 degrees F) several times and is running up costs and concerns.

Coates said an IOC panel had studied the problem and called this summer “abnormal.”

“It will continue to be at the front of our minds for us and the organizers,” Coates said. “We will do everything possible to insure that they (athletes) are not competing at risk — or watching at risk.”

Coates said organizers are preparing more cooling light-water sprays, reflective pavement for the running courses and more shade for fans.

“It’s those sorts of things,” Coates said. “There’s a list of about 20 precautions they think we should take, and they’re not going to be free.”

Coates said those and other costs were stressing the operating budget. The third version of that budget will be presented Dec. 21.

“My confidence is that there will be a balanced subject, subject to there being nothing massively untoward,” Coates said.

Several months ago, Coates contrasted Tokyo with Rio.

“In Rio we didn’t know who was paying what — if at all,” he said.

Tokyo’s privately funded operating budget of $5.3 billion derives income from the IOC, domestic sponsorship sales, merchandise sales and ticket sales.

The largest chunk of income is from domestic sponsorship sales, which have reached about $3 billion. Coates and Bach said the enthusiasm of Japanese companies had helped smash all records.

Still, Coates said about $100 million more was needed to meet budget requirements.

Coates said he was hopeful “there won’t be any drain on the public purse.”

Despite the wealth of private money, public money is still the backbone of the Tokyo Olympics.

The national government’s Board of Audit spelled out total Olympic costs in a 178-page report published in October. It forecasts total spending to prepare the Olympics at about $20 billion. That includes the private operating budget.

The rest comes from the national government, Tokyo city government and other local governments — meaning about 75 percent of the funding is taxpayer money.

This reality contrasts sharply with Tokyo’s winning bid in 2013, which projected overall Olympics costs of 829 billion yen ($7.3 billion).

Tokyo organizers and the IOC dispute what are — and what are not — Olympic costs. It’s complicated. Some projects might have been built without the Olympics and are not clearly related. Others are driven directly by the requirements of hosting the Games.

Stung by criticism of forcing cities to build white elephant venues, the IOC is saying the upcoming Olympics in Paris (2024) and Los Angeles (2028) will rely heavily on existing venues. The same is true for the two bids for the 2026 Winter Olympics: Stockholm, Sweden, and the Italian bid of Milan-Cortina.

The outlier is the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The Chinese capital spent at least $40 billion on the 2008 Summer Olympics. Bach and the IOC cautioned China to keep the costs down.

Also, the Tokyo city government said a 51-year-old man died Wednesday after falling from the 12th floor of a building under construction at the athletes village in the bay area of Tokyo. He was Japanese, but his name has not been released.

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Simone Biles, her name sparkling, extends 6-year win streak

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Simone Biles has long stood out for her gymnastics, but on Saturday she competed with her last name sparkling in silver beads on her World Champions Centre leotard for the first time. The gym’s other athletes had “WCC” on the back.

Biles lived up to the billing, extending her six-year win streak to 19 straight all-arounds, capturing the U.S. Classic, a tune-up for next month’s U.S. Championships.

Biles, the four-time Rio Olympic champion, scored 60 points in Louisville at the meet where she made her comeback last year after nearly two years off from competition. She prevailed by a comfortable 2.1 points over Riley McCusker, her largest margin of victory of her four U.S. Classic titles.

“I’m very satisfied,” she said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “I’m a little sad that I went out of bounds on floor [exercise], but overall I feel like there are improvements to be made.”

Full results are here.

Biles is prepping for nationals in Kansas City in three weeks, when she eyes a sixth U.S. all-around title to tie Clara Schroth Lomady‘s record from the AAU era in the 1940s and ’50s.

Then come the world championships in October in Stuttgart, Germany. Biles could win a fifth all-around to move one shy of Kohei Uchimura‘s record.

The world’s other top gymnasts may be her countrywomen.

Biles was outscored on balance beam on Saturday by 2018 World teammates Kara Eaker and McCusker and beaten on uneven bars by 2017 World all-around champion Morgan HurdSunisa Lee, Grace McCallum and McCusker. Biles swept all the gold medals at last year’s nationals.

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Geraint Thomas struggles; Julian Alaphilippe ups Tour de France lead

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LA MONGIE, France (AP) — When the team of Geraint Thomas was in its pomp at the Tour de France, a time trial followed by a big mountain stage would have been playgrounds for Sky — now in new colors as Ineos — to take cycling’s greatest race by the scruff of the neck and leave everyone else fighting for second place.

Not this year.

Thomas, the defending champion, cracked on Saturday on the Tour’s first encounter with a climb to above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet), exposing unprecedented weaknesses in his team that has won six Tours in the past seven years.

The time trial on Friday and the climb up to the legendary Tourmalet pass on Saturday seemed primed for Thomas to reel in Julian Alaphilippe, the yellow jersey-holder from France who is setting the Tour alight with his punchy riding and determination to keep the race lead, filling French fans’ heads with dreams of a first homegrown winner since 1985.

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings

But instead, Thomas has seen Alaphilippe only get further and further away. In two days, the Frenchman has put 50 seconds of extra daylight between him and the Welshman. His lead — up to 2 minutes, 2 seconds — is becoming large enough to start realistically envisioning Alaphilippe in yellow in Paris next weekend as the first French winner since Bernard Hinault.

Fueling the ecstasy of delirious crowds that lined Saturday’s steep uphill finish, French rider Thibaut Pinot won Stage 14, putting him back in the picture to fight for the podium after he lost mountains of time on Stage 10.

Thomas rightly pointed out that the Tour is far from done, with six more ascents to above 2,000 meters still to come.

But his inability to stay with Pinot, Alaphilippe and other title contenders at the top of the Tourmalet — he was eighth, 36 seconds behind Pinot — was a mini-earthquake for the Tour dominated by his British team since 2012 — with champions Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and, in 2018, Thomas.

“Not the best day. I just didn’t feel quite on it from the start. I was quite weak,” Thomas said.

“At the end I knew I just had to pace it. I didn’t really attempt to follow when they kicked. I just thought I should ride my own pace rather than follow them and blow up on the steepest bit at the end. It’s disappointing. I just tried to limit the damage.”

Having taken cycling to a new level since 2012 with its vast budget and attention to the minutest of details, the team run by David Brailsford has been hit both by misfortune and by the inevitability that, eventually, other teams would start to close the gap.

A horror crash in training for four-time winner Froome, now recovering from career-threatening broken bones, robbed the team of its ace. Thomas’ own preparations were hampered by a crash at the Tour of Switzerland last month.

And Egan Bernal, being groomed by Brailsford to succeed Froome and Thomas, looks increasingly unable to compete for the title this year. Bernal was fifth on the Tourmalet and is fourth overall, 3 minutes behind Alaphilippe.

Pinot, now sixth overall and 3:12 behind Alaphilippe, is showing remarkable grit in bouncing back from his Stage 10 misfortune, when he was part of a group that got separated from other title contenders in crosswinds.

“I have this rage inside me, because in my opinion it was an injustice,” said Pinot, a podium finisher in 2014.

“Since the start of the Tour I had this stage in the back of my mind. The Tourmalet, it’s mythical,” said Pinot, who has three career stage wins at the Tour.

French President Emmanuel Macron, on hand at the top of the Tourmalet to see Pinot win and Alaphilippe extend his lead, gushed about the “two fantastic riders.”

“They attack and they have heart,” Macron said.

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

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