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U.S., China predicted to top Tokyo Olympic medal standings six months out

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TOKYO (AP) — The Tokyo Olympics open in exactly six months, and the United States and China are picked to finish 1-2 in the overall medal count and the gold-medal count.

That’s the easy part in a forecast done by Gracenote Sports about which countries will win the most Olympic medals. Gracenote supplies analysis for leagues around the world and has had a solid track record forecasting recent Olympics.

The United States and China are easy to handle. The tough part is figuring out how to deal with Russia.

Russia is facing a four-year Olympic ban for manipulating doping data. It has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport with a ruling expected in several months.

The sanctions imposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency forbid the use of the Russian team name, flag, or anthem. However, some Russian athletes are still expected to compete as neutrals — as they did in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Of course, no one knows how many.

All of this really fouls up Gracenote’s calculations.

First, a look at the United States and China with the Olympics opening on July 24.

Gracenote, which forecasts medals based on performances in major events since the last Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, has the United States leading the overall medal count with 117, and the gold-medal count with 47.

China is picked to win 87 overall and 43 gold.

Russia is next with 66 overall and 25 gold, followed by host nation Japan with 65 overall and 30 gold.

Japan is expected to take advantage of the host-nation advantage, which happens at every Olympics. It won a national record of 41 overall medals four years ago in Rio de Janeiro, and 12 gold. Its medals return this time should be a vast improvement, partly due to success in new sports, or returning sports like baseball and softball.

Russia is the headache.

“It remains to be seen how many of the 66 medalists (from Russia) currently forecast by Gracenote will be allowed to compete,” Simon Gleave, the head of sports analysis at Gracenote, wrote in an analysis.

Of course, the absence of any potential Russian medal winner opens a chance for somebody else. Gracenote says the United States will benefit the most if no Russian athletes compete. Gracenote figures the United States would win nine more medals, and Italy would be next with a gain of six.

Gracenote’s prediction record is decent.

In Rio de Janeiro, Gracenote picked the order of the top three countries correctly, and picked eight of the top 10 medal-winning countries. In PyeongChang in 2018 it correctly picked Norway to win a record number of medals and finish ahead of No. 2 Germany.

It also picked the top four countries correctly in PyeongChang, and in the correct order. Its predictions for seven of the top 10 countries were within one or two medals of their final totals.

Following the United States, China, Russia, and Japan, the next six countries in Tokyo in the order of overall medals are predicted to be: Australia (44), Great Britain (42), Netherlands (41), France (37), Germany (35) and Italy (32).

The second 10: South Korea (26), Hungary (23), Canada (22), New Zealand (21), Brazil (21), Turkey (18), Spain (18), Poland (18), Ukraine (16), Kenya (15).

And the third 10: Sweden (14), Serbia (13), India (12), Cuba (11), Taiwan (11), Kazakhstan (11), North Korea (10), Georgia (10), Jamaica (10), Iran (9).

The countries with the largest improvement in overall medals are expected to be: Japan (24), Netherlands (22), China (17), Australia (15), Russia (11), India (10), Turkey (10), Taiwan (8), Hungary (8), South Korea (5), Hong Kong (5), Ukraine (5).

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MORE: What you need to know about the Tokyo Olympics, six months out

Cardboard bed frames for Tokyo Olympic athletes

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TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo Olympic athletes beware — particularly larger ones.

The bed frames in the Athletes Village at this year’s Olympics will be made of cardboard. Sturdy cardboard.

“Those beds can stand up to 200 kilograms,” explained Takashi Kitajima, the general manager of the Athletes Village, speaking through an interpreter.

That’s about 440 pounds, and surely no Olympic athlete weighs that much.

“They are stronger than wooden beds,” Kitajima added.

He also took into account the possibility of a wild room celebration after, say, a gold-medal victory.

“Of course, wood and cardboard would each break if you jumped on them,” he said.

The single bed frames will be recycled into paper products after the games. The mattress components — the mattresses are not made of cardboard — will be recycled into plastic products.

The mattress is broken up into three distinct sections, and the firmness of each can be adjusted.

The idea was to use materials that could be remade after the Olympics and Paralympics. But the cardboard frames and supports should give the rooms a spartan look.

Organizers showed off the beds and a few other furnishings on Thursday at their headquarters. The entire Athletes Village complex will be completed in June. The Olympics open on July 24 followed by the Paralympics on Aug. 25.

“The organizing committee was thinking about recyclable items, and the bed was one of the ideas,” Kitajima explained, crediting local Olympic sponsor Airweave Inc. for the execution.

Organizers say this is the first time that the beds and bedding in the Athletes Village have been made of renewable materials.

The Athletes Village being built alongside Tokyo Bay will comprise 18,000 beds for the Olympics and be composed to 21 apartment towers. Even more building construction is being planned in the next several years.

Real estate ads say the units will be sold off afterward, or rented, with sale prices starting from about 54 million yen — or about $500,000 — and soaring to three or four times that much. Some fear the apartments will flood the market, possibly impacting property values.

The units will be sold off by various real estate companies. Ads suggest many of the units will be slightly larger than a typical apartment in Tokyo, which is about 60-70 square meters — or 650-750 square feet.

MORE: 20 Olympic sports events to watch in 2020 (before the Tokyo Games)

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Japan sports legends to start Tokyo Olympic torch relay in Fukushima

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Members of Japan’s 2011 Women’s World Cup champion team will be the first torchbearers once the Tokyo Olympic torch relay hits Japan on March 26.

Members of the team, which beat the U.S. in a shootout in the final to become the first Asian team to win a World Cup, will pass the flame at J-Village National Training Centre in Fukushima.

“The fighting spirit the team displayed during the World Cup inspired many of the people struggling in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake, which had struck the country earlier that year,” according to Tokyo 2020.

As previously announced, the 121-day relay starts in the tsunami-affected prefecture of Fukushima, after the Olympic flame arrives from its ceremonial lighting in Olympia, Greece, on March 12.

Japanese Olympic gold medalists Mizuki Noguchi (marathon), Tadahiro Nomura (judo) and Saori Yoshida (wrestling) will be among the torchbearers for the Tokyo 2020 torch relay’s first eight days in Greece.

The Olympic Flame will spend eight days in Greece before being flown to Japan leading to the July 24 Opening Ceremony.

The relay will visit all 47 prefectures of Japan with emphasis on the area affected by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Around 98 percent of Japan’s population live within one hour by car or train of the route.

With the motto “Hope Lights Our Way,” it will visit the three prefectures most affected by the tsunami and earthquake (Fukushima (March 26-28), Iwate (June 17-19) and Miyagi (June 20-22)) for three days each.

More than 18,000 people died or went missing after a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organizers have been eager to use the Games as a symbol of recovery from the 2011 disaster that hit Japan’s northeastern region including Fukushima, 150 miles north of Tokyo, where entire communities fled after meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.

In March 2017, Tokyo 2020 confirmed that some baseball and softball games will be held in Fukushima. That includes the very first competition of the Games, a softball game two days before the Opening Ceremony.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

MORE: Tokyo Olympic torch relay schedule unveiled

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