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IOC takes four weeks to assess virus impact on Tokyo Olympics

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The IOC and Japanese officials will take up to four weeks to assess the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the Olympics, including a possible postponement to a later start, but cancellation is not on the agenda.

“The IOC will, in full coordination and partnership with the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, the Japanese authorities and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, start detailed discussions to complete its assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including the scenario of postponement,” according to an IOC press release. “The IOC is confident that it will have finalized these discussions within the next four weeks, and greatly appreciates the solidarity and partnership of the [National Olympic Committees] and [International Federations] in supporting the athletes and adapting Games planning.

“The IOC EB [Executive Board] emphasized that a cancellation of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would not solve any of the problems or help anybody.”

The IOC has a task force, including the World Health Organization, which has said it is too early to make a decision with four months until the July 24 Opening Ceremony.

IOC President Thomas Bach wrote in a Sunday letter to the global athlete community that, “human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games.”

“The IOC wants to be part of the solution,” Bach wrote. “Therefore we have made it our leading principle to safeguard the health of everyone involved, and to contribute to containing the virus. I wish, and we all are working for this, that the hope so many athletes, NOCs and IFs from all five continents have expressed will be fulfilled: that at the end of this dark tunnel we are all going through together, not knowing how long it is, the Olympic flame will be a light at the end of this tunnel.”

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee leaders said Friday the IOC is polling National Olympic Committees on the impacts on athletes’ training.

“Rest assured we are making your concerns clearly known to them,” USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland and Chair Susanne Lyons said in a statement. “The USOPC will be leaders in providing accurate advice and honest feedback, and be unfailing advocates of the athletes and their safety, and the necessity of a fair platform for the Games. You have our promise.”

Hirshland and USOPC Athletes’ Advisory Council Chair Han Xiao responded to the IOC’s Sunday announcement in a joint statement.

“The progress reflected in today’s IOC update to the global athlete community is an important step in providing clarity, but our athlete community continues to face enormous ambiguity surrounding the 2020 Games in Tokyo,” it read. “Having spent countless hours communicating with IOC leadership, our peers around the world, our NGBs and the athletes we serve, we know the difficult obstacles ahead and we are all appreciative that the IOC has heard our concerns and needs, and is working to address them as quickly as possible. Every day counts. We remain steadfast in our recommendation that Team USA athletes continue to heed the advice of public health officials and prioritize their health and wellness over all else. At the same time we are eager to continue to explore alternatives to ensure all athletes have a robust and fulfilling Olympic and Paralympic experience, regardless of when that can safely occur. Together we will find solutions that keep the spirit of the Games alive.”

The IOC said last week it would work with International Federations to make changes to Olympic qualifying, which has been impacted by global sporting events being postponed and canceled into April and May. Any sport qualifying process revisions would be published by the beginning of April, the IOC said last week.

An increase in the number of overall athletes allowed for a sport will be considered on a case-by-case basis under exceptional circumstances.

So far, 57 percent of athletes are qualified for the Olympics, according to the IOC.

“On the one hand, there are significant improvements in Japan where the people are warmly welcoming the Olympic Flame,” according to the IOC’s release Sunday. “This could strengthen the IOC’s confidence in the Japanese hosts that the IOC could, with certain safety restrictions, organize Olympic Games in the country whilst respecting its principle of safeguarding the health of everyone involved. On the other hand, there is a dramatic increase in cases and new outbreaks of COVID-19 in different countries on different continents.”

The IOC said there are “many, many challenges” in planning for different Olympic scenarios.

“A number of critical venues needed for the Games could potentially not be available anymore,” according to the release. “The situations with millions of nights already booked in hotels is extremely difficult to handle, and the international sports calendar for at least 33 Olympic sports would have to be adapted.”

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MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

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

Eddy Alvarez
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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.

MORE: The meet where Kathleen Ledecky became Katie Ledecky

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