IOC president Thomas Bach looks to Tokyo Olympics, tasks they entail

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IOC President Thomas Bach said the Tokyo Olympics will be optimized and simplified in 2021, but the athlete experience will not be compromised.

“We will make sure the athletes will have this stage to shine, to which they are used in the Olympic Games, which they would have enjoyed from now on, from today on in Tokyo 2020,” Bach told NBC Olympics primetime host Mike Tirico on Thursday, one year out from the Opening Ceremony.

Bach was asked about several key topics pertaining to the first postponed Olympics in modern history.

Could the Olympics be held without fans?

“This is clearly what we do not want,” he said. “It’s too early to speculate, but, again, the Olympic spirit would be at its best with full stadia.”

Where do you stand on the topic of perhaps needing a significant medical advancement or vaccine to hold the Olympics?

“We remain committed to this one overarching principle we have established already before the postponement — this means to organize the Olympic Games only by safeguarding the safety and the health of all people involved in the Olympic Games,” Bach said, noting close cooperation with experts, including the World Health Organization. “We will address the circumstances as they may arise.”

If the Olympics can’t be held in 2021, will they be postponed, or will they be canceled?

“This is speculation right now,” Bach said. “We are well-advised, and I would also like to ask the public, a little bit, not to speculate too much with the ifs and whens and how, because in many countries in the world, you do not know under which circumstances you can leave your house tomorrow or whether you can leave it at all.

“It’s really too much expected from us and the organizing committee to know today all the details of the biggest and most complex event in the world.”

Where do we stand on discussions regarding athlete demonstrations at the Olympics?

“It is important to emphasize that the athletes have manyfold opportunities to express themselves — in press conferences, in interviews, in social media, in team meetings, in conversations with their fellow athletes in the Olympic Village and so on,” Bach said. “Rule 50 [of the Olympic Charter, prohibiting “protests and demonstrations”] relates only to the field of play and the ceremonies.

“We want to see how, in a dignified and non-divisive ways, maybe new formats can be found for the athletes to show their support for one of the key messages of the Olympic Games, which is non-discrimination. The Olympic Games themselves are maybe one of the most powerful demonstrations of non-discrimination. … Everybody is being equal. Everybody is equally treated, respecting the same rules. I think this is really a powerful symbol of non-discrimination.”

Lastly, Bach looked ahead to the Opening Ceremony in exactly one year.

“This Opening Ceremony will first of all send the message which Olympic Games are always sending: this is the unity of humanity in all our diversity,” he said, sitting in front of an Olympic Flag and the torch Muhammad Ali used to light the 1996 Olympic cauldron. “But in Tokyo, it will be more. It will be a message of solidarity and a message of hope.”

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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Conseslus Kipruto tests positive for coronavirus, canceling world-record bid

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Conseslus Kipruto, the Olympic and world 3000m steeplechase champion, tested positive for the coronavirus without symptoms, which will keep him from a world-record chase on Friday, according to his social media.

The Kenyan was to race in the first in-person Diamond League meet of the year in Monaco on Friday.

“Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities,” was posted. “Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League.

“I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well.”

Kipruto, 25, is the 14th-fastest steepler in history with a personal best of 8:00.12. The world record is 7:53.63, set by Kenyan-born Qatari Saif Saaeed Shaheen in 2004.

Last year, Kipruto won the world title by .01, extending a streak of a Kenyan or Kenyan-born man winning every Olympic or world title in the event since the 1988 Seoul Games. He was sidelined by a stress fracture in his left foot until opening his season extremely late on Aug. 24.

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Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities. Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League on August 14th. I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well. Wish to thank Monaco for all the work they have done and I wish them and my colleagues a wonderful competition. Athletics is back and I will be back as well. Anyone willing to organise a steeple once I can be cleared? @diamondleaguemonaco #nike #quarantine #WR #Kenya

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