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Olympic coronavirus guidelines to be set for each event, official says

Olympic coronavirus guidelines are being drawn up for each separate sports competition, a Tokyo 2020 senior official said at a briefing held on Friday.

Olympic organisers have released coronavirus prevention measures, which have been criticised by some critics as insufficient.

The once-delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are scheduled to start on July 23, even as concerns mount that holding the sporting event amid a pandemic would lead to an outbreak of coronavirus cases.

Olympics: Virus outbreaks at Olympic hotels sow frustration, stoke infection fears

Coronavirus outbreaks involving Olympic teams in Japan have turned small-town hotels into facilities on the frontline of the pandemic battle, charged with implementing complex health measures to protect elite athletes and a fearful public.

Infections have hit at least seven teams arriving in Japan barely a week out from the July 23 opening ceremony and after host city Tokyo reported its highest daily tally of new COVID-19 infections since late January.

Health experts and hotel staff say the outbreaks underscore the risks of holding the world’s largest sports event during the middle of a global pandemic in a largely unvaccinated country.

In one example, 49 members of Brazil’s judo team are being kept in isolation after eight COVID-19 cases were discovered among the staff at a hotel where they are staying in Hamamatsu, southwest of Tokyo.

None of the judokas have tested positive but frustration over their isolation is mounting as health officials work to contain the outbreak.

“People from the city’s public health centre are tracking down close contacts here,” a staff member at the Hamanako hotel who did not want to be identified told Reuters. “There are dozens of regular guests as well but we’re getting cancellations now.”

The staff member said athletes are using designated lifts and those who work with them are prioritised for COVID-19 testing. Meals are held in the dining area in separate spaces and the athletes are staying on separate floors.

City official Yoshinobu Sawada said teams were required to sign formal agreements to follow coronavirus protocols on eating, movement and transportation restrictions. The infected hotel staff have been moved to quarantine centres.

Other outbreaks among athletes include members of Olympic delegations from Uganda, Serbia, Israel and several other nations either testing positive or isolating in their hotels after being designated as close contacts.

The organising committee did not immediately respond to Reuters’ questions seeking comment.

COMPLEX, COSTLY MEASURES
Games organisers tell hotels to report people with a high temperature during Olympic team check-ins and say organisers and public health centres will handle outbreaks or suspected cases, according to documents the organisers sent to hotels.

Hotels need to provide room service or food delivery to athletes in isolation, and run different hours or separate spaces for meals between Olympic guests and regular guests.

The documents say organisers will not cover costs for hotels to equip rooms with acrylic piders or provide separate dining spaces for the athletes.

Tokyo 2020 playbooks for athletes and sports federations call for attendees to physically distance themselves from others, to wear masks, and to get tested daily.

Those playbooks are working and being enforced, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has said, and there was “zero” risk of Games participants infecting residents..

Tokyo entered its fourth state of emergency earlier this week amid a rebound in cases that pushed Games organisers to ban spectators from nearly all venues. More than 1,300 new cases were reported on Thursday, the most in six months.

Most people in Japan think the Games should not go ahead and only 18% are fully vaccinated.

UNVACCINATED CLEANING STAFF
Six hotel officials spoken to by Reuters were mostly worried about separating athletes from regular guests as well as the safety of their staff.

Azusa Takeuchi from the Lake Biwa Otsu Prince Hotel, which is hosting 53 members of New Zealand’s rowing team, said staff were taking COVID-19 tests every four days, wearing masks and providing contact-free services.

Similar measures were in place at the Ebina Vista Hotel on the outskirts of Tokyo, according to an Olympic official staying there, who said he was housed on the seventh floor but not permitted to use a lift.

“There are guards at each floor 24/7 preventing us from using them. Instead we are allowed to go from hotel restaurant to our rooms and back using only external evacuation stairs,” said the official, who did not want to be identified.

Other measures, confirmed by the hotel, include breakfast for the athletes served before 6:30 a.m. at the restaurant or through meal boxes delivered to hotel rooms.

Koichi Tsuchiya, the hotel manager, said he worried about his staff.

“I’m scared someone from the cleaning staff would get infected. People entering guest rooms are scared,” said Tsuchiya, adding that some staff were not vaccinated. “This is making us nervous.”

Tsuchiya also worried about his visitors.

“Travel agents brief the athletes before arrival: you can’t do this, this is not allowed, that is banned. I’m sure the athletes are extremely stressed,” he said.

“As staff, we’re doing our best to help them relax. But this is the situation we’re in, so the infection countermeasures are the priority.”

Pooja Rani strikes gold; silver for Mary Kom, Lalbuatsaihi at Asian Boxing Championships

Defending champion Pooja Rani (75kg) notched up a second successive gold with a comprehensive victory even as the seasoned M C Mary Kom (51kg) signed off with a silver medal at the Asian Boxing Championships on Sunday.

The Olympic-bound Pooja (75 kg), who was competing in her first bout of the tournament after getting a bye and a walkover earlier, dismantled Mavluda Movlonova of Uzbekistan with a clinical performance.

She also earned USD 10,000 for her marvellous one-bout show in which Movlonova was simply out of sorts, unable to keep pace with the Indian’s intensity.

However, six-time world champion Mary Kom (51kg) and tournament debutant Lalbuatsaihi (64kg) signed off with silver medals after both lost intense final bouts.

The Olympic-bound Mary Kom went down in a split 2-3 verdict to Nazym Kyzaibay of Kazakhstan. It was the Manipuri superstar’s seventh medal in the tournament, the first being a gold that came way back in the 2003 edition. Her tournament record now stands at five gold and two silver medals.

Lalbuatsaihi lost 2-3 as well but after giving her Kazakh rival Milana Safronova a fight to remember.

Both the Indians ended with prize money of USD 5,000 each.

Lalbuatsaihi came into the Indian team as a late replacement for the seasoned Pwilao Basumatary, whose passport had expired. The Mizo boxer exhausted her rival with her counter-attacks but lost momentum in the final round to end second best.

Earlier, up against an opponent 11 years younger to her, the 38-year-old Mary Kom made an impressive start and clinched the opening round comfortably by relying on her sharp counter-attacks.

The pace picked up in the second round and both the boxers showed aggressive intent. The Kazakh drew level at this point with her jabs landing perfectly.

Mary Kom fought back in the final three minutes but that was not enough to get the judges’ nod.

Kyzaibay is a two-time world champion and a six-time national champion. All gold-winners got prize money of USD 10,000 each.

On Monday, Amit Panghal (52kg), Shiva Thapa (64kg) and Sanjeet (91kg) will fight it out in the men’s finals.

Panghal will square off against reigning Olympic and world champion Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan. It will be a repeat of the 2019 world championship final in which the Indian had lost to settle for silver.

Thapa will be up against Mongolia’s Baatarsukh Chinzorig, who is the Asian Games silver-medallist.

Sanjeet will take on Kazakh legend Vassiliy Levit, who is chasing his fourth gold at the continental showpiece.

Eight other Indians — the Olympic-bound trio of Simranjit Kaur (60kg), Vikas Krishan (69kg), and Lovlina Borgohain (69kg), and Jaismine (57kg), Sakshi Chaudhary (64kg), Monika (48kg), Saweety (81kg) and Varinder Singh (60kg) — secured bronze medals after semifinal losses.

They also got a prize money of USD 2,500 each for their third-place finishes.

India score late winner to keep QF hopes alive in Olympic women’s hockey

Navneet Kaur scored a late winner as the Indian women’s hockey team kept its quarterfinals hopes alive in the Olympics with a 1-0 win over Ireland in a must-win penultimate pool match here on Friday.

After goal-less three quarters, which India completely dominated but failed to breach the Irish defence led by goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran, Navneet finally found the back of the net in the 57th minute to bring smiles on the Indian faces.

Needing a win to keep their hopes alive after three consecutive losses, India had to wait anxiously for 57 minutes despite being the dominant team on display and creating innumerable scoring opportunities.

India had chances galore from the opening whistle and got as many as 14 penalty corners but failed to utilise even a single one of them.

But a moment of brilliance from skipper Rani Rampal, who created the opportunity for Navneet, rescued India from an early exit from the Games. Navneet was at the right place at the right time to tap the ball in.

India will now need to win their final Pool A match against South Africa on Saturday and hope for Ireland to face defeat at the hands of Great Britain to seal their quarterfinal berth.

The top four teams from each pool qualify for the knockout stage.

India started aggressively and penetrated Ireland circle innumerable times but, as has been the case in the tournament so far, the forward line lacked finishing.

While India dominated the first two quarters, they failed to convert their dominance into goals. India’s dominance can be gauged from the fact that they earned as many 10 penalty corners in the first two quarters but wasted all.

India got their first first penalty corner in the eight minute and two minutes later they secured two more set pieces after Navneet’s reverse shot was saved by Ireland goalkeeper McFerran.

India got two penalty corners a minute from the end of first quarter but the script was the same.

Ireland came out attacking in the second quarter and dominated the early exchanges of the session. They secured a penalty corner in the 18th minute which yielded no result.

In the 22nd minute, Lalremsiami was denied by an onrushing McFerran from one-on-one situation.

Ireland had two chances in the second quarter — first in the form of a penalty corner and then from open play — but on both occasion India goalkeeper Savita came to her side’s rescue.

India’s frustrating wait continued as a minute before half time they wasted as many as five penalty corners.

Soon after the change of ends India got three more penalty corners but the finishing was lacking.

Minutes later, Ireland got a penalty corner which India defended stoutly.

In the 39th minute, Sharmila Devi made a brilliant solo run from the midfield and upon entering the circle tried a reverse stick hit which was kept away by McFerran.

India secured their 14th and final penalty corner soon but again made a mess of the chance.

But the Indians didn’t give up and continued to attack and minutes from the final hooter Navneet saved her side from early elimination, much to the relief of chief coach Sjoerd Marijne.

In Video: Tokyo Olympics 2020: India beats Ireland in women’s hockey, stays alive in quarterfinals race

Tokyo Games: Neeraj Chopra qualifies for javelin throw final with superb first throw, Shivpal Singh out

Medal contender Neeraj Chopra became the first Indian javelin thrower to enter the finals of the Olympic Games with a stunning throw of 86.65m in his opening attempt that put him on top of the qualification round here on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old kept India’s hopes of an elusive Olympic medal from athletics alive by earning a direct entry into the finals to be held on Saturday as he sent the spear well past the qualifying mark of 83.50m in his first attempt.

However, Shivpal Singh, failed to make the final cut with a below-par best throw of 76.40m, which he came up in his first attempt, to finish a lowly 12th in the Group B qualification which featured 16 athletes.

Competing in his first Olympics, Chopra took just a few seconds to make the final round. He topped the Group A contest as well as the two qualifications rounds.

A farmer’s son from Khandra village near Panipat in Haryana who took up athletics to shed flab, Chopra left the javelin arena after his first throw.

“I am at my first Olympic Games, and I feel very good. In warm-up my performance wasn’t so good, but then (in the qualifying round) my first throw had a good angle, and was a perfect throw,” Chopra said after his event.

Chopra is, however, under no illusion that the final will be a totally different contest where the world’s best will go for podium finish.

“It will be a different feeling (in the finals), since it is my first time in the Olympics. Physically we (all) train hard, and are ready, but I also need to prepare mentally.

“I will need to focus on the throw, and try to repeat this (performance) with a higher score,” said the youngster who came into the Olympics with the fourth best throw (88.07m) this year.

Chopra’s performance on Saturday will go down as one of the best performances by an Indian in the Olympics, as he finished ahead of gold medal favourite and 2017 world champion Johannes Vetter of Germany.

Vetter, who had earlier said that Chopra will find it tough to beat him in the Olympics, struggled in his first two throws before crossing the automatic qualification mark with a 85.64m final throw.

The 28-year-old towering German, who came into the Olympics after having seven monster throws of over 90m between April and June, was lying at a dangerous seventh position after his first two throws but eventually qualified for the final at second overall behind Chopra.

“It was a bit tough today for me. It is hot, takes some time to the right timing, the right positions and the right rhythm. It is what it is right now. I have to analyse it and try to give my best on Saturday (in the final),” Vetter said.

Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem, who had won a bronze medal when Chopra clinched gold in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, topped Group B to earn an automatic qualification to the finals with a second round throw of 85.16m.

He qualified for the finals at overall third behind Chopra and Vetter.

Those who touch 83.50m mark or the 12 best performers qualify for the final on Saturday. Some top performers this season made early exits.

Poland’s Marcin Krukowski (PB & SB 89.55m) and 2012 Olympics champion and 2016 Rio Games bronze-medallist Trinidad & Tobago’s Keshorn Walcott (PB 90.16m, SB 89.12m) failed to qualify for the final with best throws of 74.65m and 79.33m respectively.

Latvia’s 2014 under-20 World champion Gatis Cakss (PB & SB 87.57m) — fifth best performer this season — and reigning world champion Anderson Peters of Grenada had poor throws of 78.73m and 80.42m respectively to fail to make the final cut.

Only Chopra and Vetter remain among the top-five performers this season.

Finland’s Lassi Etelatalo (84.50m), 2017 world championships silver medallist Jakub Vadlejch (84.93m) of Czech Republic and Julian Weber (84.41m) of Germany were the others to advance to the final as automatic qualifiers.

The Indian athletics contingent, including Athletics Federation of India (AFI) president Adille Sumariwalla and Klaus Bartonietz, the bio-mechanics expert in charge of Chopra, were cheering from the almost empty stands.

This was Chopra’s seventh best throw and third best of the season 2021.

The earlier six best throws are 88.07m (March 2021; Indian GP-3), 88.06m (2018, Asian Games), 87.87m (January 2020; ACNW Meeting in South Africa), 87.80m (March 2021; Federation Cup), 87.43m (May 2018, Doha Diamond League) and 86.79 (June 2021; Kuortane Games in Finland).

The reigning Asian Games and Commonwealth Games gold medallist had been short of preparations in the run-up to the Olympics with just three international events, out of which only one — Kuortane Games in Finland — was of top-class level where Vetter took the gold and he finished third

The 26-year-old Shivpal, who has a season’s best of 81.63m and personal best of 86.23m (in 2019), began with a 76.40m and then came up with disappointing efforts of 74.80m and 74.81m in the next two throws to finish 12th in Group B and 27th overall out of 32 competitors.

In Video: Tokyo Olympics 2020: Neeraj Chopra qualifies for javelin throw final with first attempt of 86.65m

Airbnb asked to drop Olympic ties over China rights issues

Airbnb Inc. is being asked to drop its sponsorship connections to next year’s Beijing’s Winter Olympics by a coalition of 150 human-rights campaigners. The coalition is headed by groups that oppose rights violations in China including the detention of Muslim Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region.

Airbnb is one of the International Olympic Committee’s leading 15 sponsors. Included in the group are companies like Coca-Cola, Samsung, Visa, Toyota, Alibaba, Panasonic, Intel, and Procter and Gamble.

Airbnb, the home-sharing business, is being targeted because of repeated claims about the “social responsibility” it practices in its business model.

Associated Press received the open letter sent on Tuesday to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. The letter argues that Airbnb is trying to drive tourism in China at the expense of Uyghurs and Tibetans who cannot travel freely in the country.

“Airbnb is also glossing over China’s horrifying human rights record and normalizing to the public what is recognized under international law as a deeply restrictive environment,” the letter said.

“Airbnb should not be encouraging a wider tourist industry to be supported and allowed to flourish at the expense of Uyghur and Tibetan rights.”

The top 15 sponsors paid the IOC about $1 billion in cash or services in the last complete, four-year Olympic cycle, to be associated with the games. Airbnb signed up in November of 2019.

Rights groups are trying to pressure IOC sponsors and are pushing for a diplomatic boycott of the games – or even a hard boycott – to call attention to alleged abuses against Uyghurs, Tibetans, and residents of Hong Kong.

The Beijing Winter Olympics open on Feb. 4, 2022.

China says “political motives” underlie the boycott effort. The Chinese describe the detention camps in Xinjiang as vocational centers.

“China firmly rejects the politicization of sports and opposes using human rights issues to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said earlier this month. He said an effort at a boycott “is doomed to failure.”

Rights groups have met with the IOC and have been told the Olympic body must stay politically “neutral.” They have been told by the IOC that China has given “assurances” about human rights conditions.

Activists say the IOC has declined to make the documents public, which makes it impossible to know what has been promised and if China is living up to its pledge.

Mikaela Shiffrin, a two-time Olympic gold-medal skier, spelled out the dilemma for athletes in a recent interview on CNN.

“You certainly don’t want to be put in the position of having to choose between human rights like morality versus being able to do your job, which on the other hand can bring light to some issues or can actually bring hope to the world at a very difficult time,” she said.