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Start of Tokyo Olympics just 500 days away

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TOKYO (AP) — Tick tock, tick tock. The Tokyo Olympic clock has hit 500 days to go.

Organizers marked the milestone on Tuesday, unveiling the stylized pictogram figures for next year’s Tokyo Olympics. The pictogram system was first used extensively in 1964 when the Japanese capital lasted hosted the Summer Olympics — just 19 years after the end of World War II.

A picture system to illustrate sports events was used in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and 12 years later in London. Other Olympics sporadically used some drawings for the same purpose.

But the ’64 Olympics originated the standardized symbols that have become familiar in every Olympics since then.

Japanese athletes posed with the pictograms and their designer, Masaaki Hiromura. Organizers also toured regions that will host Olympic events, including the area north of Tokyo that was devastated by a 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and resulting damage to nearby nuclear reactors.

The ’64 Tokyo Olympics came up with the pictograms, partly because the games were the first in Asia and held in a country where the language was inaccessible to many international visitors.

Unlike other recent Olympics, construction projects are largely on schedule. The new National Stadium, the centerpiece of the games, is to be completed by the by the end of the year at a cost estimated at $1.25 billion.

That’s not to say these Olympics are problem free.

Costs continue to rise, although local organizers and the IOC say they are cutting costs — or at least slowing the rise.

As an example, last month organizers said the cost of the opening and closing ceremonies had risen by 40 percent compared with the forecast in 2013 when Tokyo was awarded the games.

Overall, Tokyo is spending at least $20 billion to host the Olympics. About 75 percent of this is public money, although costs are difficult to track with arguments over what are — and what are not — Olympic expenses. That figure is about three times larger than the bid forecast in 2013.

Tsunekazu Takeda, the president of the Japanese Olympic Committee and a powerful International Olympic Committee member, is also being investigated in a vote-buying scandal that may have helped Tokyo land the Olympics.

Takeda has denied wrongdoing and has not resigned from any of his positions with the IOC or in Japan.

He is up for re-election to the Japanese Olympic Committee this summer and could face pressure to step aside.

Jennifer Valente takes silver in world cycling championship scratch race

Jennifer Valente
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Jennifer Valente won the first medal for the U.S. team in the world track cycling championships Wednesday in Berlin, finishing second behind Dutch cyclist Kirsten Wild in the scratch race.

Wild won the mass-start event for the third time, having taken gold in 2015 and 2018, and her seventh world championship in all track cycling disciplines. She also took silver in the 2016 world championship road race.

Valente also joined Chloé Dygert, Emma White and Lily Williams in women’s team pursuit qualifying, posting the fastest time of the day and easily qualifying for the semifinals on Thursday. The U.S. team has been in transition with the retirement of Sarah Hammer and the death of Kelly Catlin, who committed suicide in March. Hammer, Catlin, Dygert and Valente took silver in the 2016 Olympics.

READ: Dygert aims for road and track double in Tokyo

The Netherlands took two of the three gold medals on Wednesday’s program, beating Britain to win the men’s team sprint. Germany beat Australia to win the women’s team sprint.

READ: Track cycling broadcast and streaming schedule

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Tokyo organizers, IOC going ahead as planned with Olympics

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TOKYO (AP) — A spokesman for the Japanese government on Wednesday said the International Olympic Committee and local organizers are going as planned with the Tokyo Olympics.

The comments from spokesman Yoshihide Suga follow the assertion by IOC veteran Dick Pound that organizers face a three-month window to decide the fate of the Games.

READ: Pound cites time needed to ramp up operations

The Olympics are set to open on July 24 with 11,000 athletes. The Paralympics open Aug. 25 with 4,400.

Also Wednesday, Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto abruptly called a news conference to address Pound’s comments.

“Our basic thoughts are that we will go ahead with the Olympic and Paralympic Games as scheduled,” Muto said, speaking in Japanese. “For the time being, the situation of the coronavirus infection is, admittedly, difficult to predict, but we will take measures such that we’ll have a safe Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

Muto added: ““That the end of May is the time limit, we have never thought of this or heard of such a comment. So when we asked about this, we received a response saying that is not the position of the IOC.”

Muto also allowed for the possibility of downsizing the Olympic torch relay but insisted it will not be canceled.

Pound told the Associated Press that the fast-spreading virus could cancel the Olympics. Suga says Pound’s opinion does not reflect the official view of the IOC, which has repeatedly said there are no plans to cancel or postpone the Tokyo Games.

“With regard to this member’s comment, the IOC has responded that this is not their official position, and that IOC is proceeding with preparations toward the games as scheduled,” Suga said, speaking in Japanese at his daily news conference.

Pound is a former IOC vice-president and a member since 1978, and was the founding president of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

He also represented Canada as a swimmer at the Olympics.

In a telephone interview from Montreal, Pound said the IOC has a three-month window to decide, and suggested other options like moving events of postponing seemed less likely.

“In and around that time,” he said, “I’d say folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo or now?”‘

If the IOC decides the games cannot go forward as scheduled in Tokyo, “you’re probably looking at a cancellation,” said Pound, who added that he was not commenting on behalf of the IOC.

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