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Coronavirus forces Olympic soccer and boxing qualifiers to move

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Olympic qualifying events in two sports were moved from the Chinese city of Wuhan on Wednesday because of an outbreak of a deadly viral illness.

A four-nation Asian qualifying group for the women’s soccer tournament was switched from the city at the center of the health scare to Nanjing.

The Asia-Oceania boxing qualifying tournament scheduled for Feb. 3-14 in Wuhan was cancelled. No new plans were announced.

The decisions followed Chinese health authorities telling people in Wuhan to avoid crowds and public gatherings.

The Asian Football Confederation said the round-robin group — featuring host China, Australia, Taiwan and Thailand — will be played on Feb. 3-9, retaining the same dates, in Nanjing.

More than 500 people have been infected and at least 17 killed since the outbreak emerged last month. The illness comes from a newly identified type of coronavirus.

Cases have also been reported in the United States, Japan, South Korea and Thailand. All involve people from Wuhan or who recently traveled there.

In the soccer qualifiers in China, two teams advance to a four-nation playoff round in March. That will decide which two teams from Asia join host Japan at the Tokyo Olympics.

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Table tennis joins video review revolution

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Video review will be used in table tennis at the Tokyo Olympics for players to challenge umpire decisions.

A combination of ball-tracking technology, similar to tennis, and review of slow-motion replays, as in top-level soccer, will be introduced at the Olympic Games and other major events this year, the International Table Tennis Federation said on Tuesday.

“We felt it was important to implement a new technology that will ensure a fair competition for all the athletes, empowering them to challenge any decision made by the umpire,” the governing body’s chief executive, Steve Dainton, said in a statement.

Players will use Table Tennis Review (TTR) to check if the ball touched the net or the table edge, struck a player’s body, or if a service was legal.

The system was tested in December at the world tour finals event in Zhengzhou, China. The technology was provided by Chinese firm RigourTech.

“We received very positive feedback from the players and we anticipate a major improvement in terms of the viewers’ experience,” Dainton said.

The ITTF aims to cut the time spent “between the player’s call to review and the final decision.”

REVIEW: ITTF examples of system’s use

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How the Olympics expanded in the 2010s

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The Summer and Winter Olympics each continued to grow through the decade, with a host of new events and sports added to the programs.

In 2018, PyeongChang had 102 events, up from 86 eight years earlier in Vancouver.

The IOC had put the brakes on growth of the Summer Games, dropping sports from the program as new ones came in. The 2012 Olympics in London had 302 events, the same as the 2008 Games. In Rio, the program grew only slightly to 306. Next year in Tokyo, though, the Games will expand to 339 events.

READ: All the new sports and events in 2020

Most of the new events fall into a few categories.

MIXED TEAMS 

Figure skating’s team event and mixed relays in both biathlon and luge joined the Olympics in Sochi.

Four years later, Alpine skiing also got a mixed team event, and curling added a mixed doubles competition.

The Summer Games have added mixed swimming relays.

WOMEN’S EVENTS

Women’s boxing joined the Olympics in 2012. After years of wrangling with the IOC, women’s ski jumping made its Olympic debut in 2014.

MODERN SPORTS

The snowboarding revolution that started in 1998 continued with slopestyle making its debut in 2014. The same year, freestyle skiing rapidly expanded, adding its own slopestyle events while finally getting into the Olympic halfpipe. Add parallel slaloms in snowboarding, and the splashy snow sports accounted for all of the new 2014 events except for women’s ski jumping and the new mixed events.

Snowboarding expanded yet again in 2018 with big air, though the parallel slaloms were dropped. Another modern event of sorts was added to the program that year with the long-track speedskating mass start, resembling the chaos of short-track races.

The Summer Olympics will finally catch the modern wave with surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing making their debuts in 2020. BMX will also add a freestyle event.

Another sport bidding for the 2024 Games is breakdancing, which peaked as a U.S. craze a few decades ago but has seen a rise in global competition, including the 2018 Youth Olympics.

TEAM SPORTS 

Rugby sevens debuted in 2016. Baseball and softball will return from Olympic exile in 2020, when 3×3 basketball will be played for the first time.

The other sports added to the Olympics since 2008 are golf (2016) and karate (2020).

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