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Tokyo Olympics remain on track amid coronavirus outbreak in China

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TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo Olympic organizers and the International Olympic Committee said Friday there is no “Plan B” for the 2020 Games, which open in just over five months and have been jolted by the outbreak of a virus in neighboring China.

The coronavirus has infected almost 64,000 people globally with almost 1,400 deaths in China, but only one in Japan where fear is rising with so much attention focused on the outbreak.

“Certainly the advice we’re received externally from the WHO (World Health Organization) is that there’s no case for any contingency plans or cancelling the Games or moving the Games,” John Coates, the head of an IOC inspection team, said to wrap up a two-day visit that was dominated by the virus issue.

Coates and Tokyo Olympic organizers took 11 questions at a news conference on Friday. All 11 were about the virus, or the presence of Chinese athletes in 19 remaining test events in Japan, or about Chinese fans, or repeated questions seeking reassurance the games will go ahead as planned.

A Japanese reporter asked Tokyo organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori if, given the fact the Games are going ahead, would there be any “organizational changes” in how the Games are run.

“No, at this stage, no. We are not thinking of any such possibility,” said Mori, a former Japanese prime minister, speaking in Japanese.

Mori, Coates and CEO Toshiro Muto looked glum sitting at a head table taking essentially the same question over and over.

“We can confirm that Tokyo 2020 remains on track,” Coates said in his opening statement.

Coates was asked by a CNN reporter if he was 100% confident that the Tokyo Olympics would go on as scheduled and open on July 24.

“Yes,” he replied.

Coates talked positively about keeping a close watch on Chinese athletes, and talked optimistically about their eventual presence in Tokyo, where they would probably field a team of 600 athletes — one of the largest delegations.

“We continue also to monitor, particularly the Chinese that will be coming here,” Coates said. “You’ll find that the Chinese teams are mostly out of China. That’s the athletes and officials.”

He didn’t offer any specific numbers.

Others away from the Olympic circle are uncertain what course the virus outbreak will take.

“Frankly speaking, there is no guarantee that the outbreak will come to an end before the Olympics because we have no scientific basis to be able to say that,” Shigeru Omi, a former regional director of the WHO and an infectious disease expert from Japan, said Thursday.

“So it is meaningless to predict a timing when it may come to an end,” he added. “We should assume that the virus has already been spreading in Japan. People should understand that we cannot only rely on border controls to prevent the spread of the disease.”

Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, told The Associated Press in an email: “I don’t think anyone right now can confidently predict the state of affairs come late summer.”

“One slight word of caution,” he added. “Influenza is regarded as a winter infection in the northern hemisphere. But when we encountered a new strain in 2009-10 — pandemic strain, or swine flu — we did see cases in the summer months.”

That is not particularly good news, where many talk of the hot, humid Tokyo summer taking its toll on the virus.

The AP requested but was declined an interview with Dr. Richard Budgett, the IOC’s medical and scientific director who was in Tokyo for the meetings.

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Eddy Alvarez, Olympic short track medalist, to play for Miami Marlins

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Eddy Alvarez realized his MLB dream, six years after earning a Winter Olympic medal, and during a global pandemic that affected his club more than any other U.S. professional sports franchise.

Alvarez, a 2014 U.S. Olympic short track speed skating medalist, is being added to the Miami Marlins roster for Tuesday’s restart of their abbreviated season, president of baseball operations Mike Hill said Monday, according to Marlins beat reporters.

The 30-year-old was among a group added after as many as 18 Marlins tested positive for the coronavirus last week, forcing the club to cancel seven games.

Alvarez is believed to be the first U.S. Winter Olympian to become a Major League Baseball player.

He may be the second Olympic medalist in a sport other than baseball to make it to the majors, joining Jim Thorpe. (Michael Jordan tried to do so with the Chicago White Sox, playing Double-A in 1994, but returned to the Chicago Bulls in 1995.)

Alvarez, a Miami native, played baseball in high school and at Salt Lake Community College before focusing on short track in 2012 for a 2014 Olympic run.

He came back from missing the 2010 Olympic team and surgeries on both knees, reportedly leaving him immobile and bedpan dependent for four to six weeks, to make the Sochi Winter Games. Eddy the Jet earned a silver medal in the 5000m relay.

Then Alvarez returned to baseball after three years away. He signed a minor-league contract with the Chicago White Sox in June 2014. He worked his way through the minors between that franchise and the Marlins system.

Alvarez was a Kannapolis Intimidator, a New Orleans Baby Cake and a Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.

Now, he’s a big leaguer.

“It definitely was a chance, picking up a kid who hasn’t played in three years who is starting at the age of 24,” Alvarez said in 2014. “It’s not your typical story, but I play like a 17-year-old kid. I’m running around everywhere. I’m diving around everywhere. I’m full of life. I definitely see my progression moving at a rapid pace.”

MORE: What Olympic baseball, softball return looks like in 2021

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Katie Ledecky balances glass of chocolate milk on her head while swimming

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Katie Ledecky will always remember Aug. 3 as the date she won her first Olympic gold medal, at age 15 in 2012.

Now, she can also associate it with the time she created another kind of buzz on social media.

The five-time Olympic champion posted video of her swimming the length of a pool while balancing a glass of chocolate milk on her head. Barely any, if any, milk spilled into the pool.

Ledecky swam as part of a new got milk? ad campaign.

“Hoooowww nervous were you when you did this?!” fellow Olympic champion and training partner Simone Manuel asked Ledecky on Instagram.

“I have never braced my core so hard,” Ledecky wrote. “It’s a great drill!”

“Try doing it breaststroke,” British Olympic 100m breaststroke champion and world-record holder Adam Peaty wrote.

“Is it wrong of me to think this is even more impressive than a few of your WR’s?!!!” wrote 1992 Olympic champion Summer Sanders.

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