Tokyo, Jul 24 (AP/UNB) — Gold, silver, and bronze Olympic medals were to get their first public viewing on Wednesday as Tokyo organizers marked exactly a year until the games open.
Fans, sponsors and politicians were celebrating the day around the Japanese capital, displaying placards and clocks showing 365 days to go until the opening ceremony on July 24, 2020.
A fencing gold medalist at the 1976 Olympics, IOC President Thomas Bach showed off his skills in a demonstration with school children. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was also scheduled to take part during the day-long festival.
Tokyo is spending about $20 billion to prepare the city to host the games, though exact Olympic spending is disputed and difficult to track. Five of the eight new venues are already finished, and the centerpiece, the $1.25 billion National Stadium, is to open by the end of the year.
"The excitement is growing," John Coates, who heads the IOC inspection team for Tokyo, said. "You've seen the unprecedented level of interest in ticket sales."
Ticket demand by Japanese residents appears to be a least 10 times above supply — maybe more — with demand also surging abroad. A recent law banning unauthorized ticket resales in Japan is sure to be tested despite glaring loopholes.
Organizers are also preparing for Tokyo's typically hot summer weather, though this summer has been wet and cool. Traffic and subway congestion is also a concern, as is earthquake preparedness.
"This year Tokyo is chilly rather than hot," Yoshiro Mori, the president of the organizing committee, said. "It's quite different from what we experienced last year."
Mori said Japanese Emperor Naurhito had accepted a role "as honorary patron" of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. He will be expected to announce the opening of both the Olympics and Paralympics.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike was asked a few days ago to justify spending billions on the Olympics. Organizers have been under pressure to cut costs, and they say they have cut billions by using existing venues. Tokyo is building eight new venues, but using 35 "temporary" or older venues.
Koike described the Olympics and Paralympics as an "accelerator" to get things done, though research shows that the Olympic deadlines drive up costs. And Tokyo is famous for building things — with or without the Olympics.
"I'd like the legacy of the 2020 Games to be something more intangible, a new way of thinking for people and for society," she said. Koike described the Paralympics, which open Aug. 25, 2020, as a "springboard" to make the city more accessible to people with disabilities.
The goals for next year are more modest than they were in 1964 when the Tokyo Olympics showcased bullet trains, futuristic designs, and a new expressway to document Japan's recovery following World War II.
A group of anti-Olympic activists, many from outside Japan, have held small protests and other events in recent days under the Japanese title "Hangorin no Kai" — which translates roughly to No Olympics. They oppose Olympic spending, which they say cuts into budgets for local housing and environmental issues. They also call for more money to rebuild Fukushima prefecture located northeast of Tokyo.
"For us, the Olympics are a disaster," Misako Ichimura, a spokeswoman for the anti-Olympic group, said on Tuesday. She said the billions spent on the Olympics should be used instead in to rebuild Fukushima, which was devastated by a 2011 earthquake, tsunami and the meltdown of three nuclear reactors.
"The Olympics is scary entertainment for us," she added.
Tokyo organizers have shattered records for local sponsorship revenue, which has passed $3 billion — about three times more than any previous Olympics.
IOC President Bach has repeatedly described Tokyo preparations as "the best" in history. But there have been glitches and scandals.
Tsunekazu Takeda, the head of the Japanese Olympic Committee, was forced to quit earlier this year when he was implicated in a vote-buying scheme to land the games. He has denied wrongdoing, but acknowledged he signed off on about $2 million that French investigators allege went to buy votes.
The 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics are implicated in the same kind of vote-buying bribery.
Tokyo organizers were also forced to redesign their logo when the original draft faced charges of plagiarism, and an international labor union has alleged work-safety violations at Olympic venues, largely regarding migrant labor.
A futuristic design for the new stadium by the-late British architect Zaha Hadid was scrapped when costs soared to $2 billion. Japanese architect Kengo Kuma was chosen instead with a design focused on wood lattice and greenery.
Nimes, July 23 (AP/UNB) — Crashing is becoming a bad habit for defending Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas.
After hitting the ground twice over the past two weeks, the Welshman fell off his bike one more time on Tuesday as a heat wave engulfed the race ahead of grueling days in the Alps when the Tour will reach its climax.
Once again, Thomas was lucky enough to escape with bruises and scratches, but the timing of his crash in the rural hinterland of the antique Roman city of Nimes was unfortunate. Although Thomas quickly got back on his bike and did not lose time, crashes always have a lingering effect on riders' bodies. It's generally after 48 hours that the soreness reaches its peak, and that's when he will be fighting in high altitude with rivals trying to take him off his perch.
Lagging 1 minute, 35 seconds behind race leader Julian Alaphilippe with the race now going into its five last stages, Thomas was caught off guard under a scorching sun about 40 kilometers into the stage won by Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan.
The peloton was not riding at full speed, but Thomas was surprised.
"I just had one hand on the bars, and the gears jumped and jammed and I got thrown off my bike on a corner," he said. "I knew the race wasn't on so I just got back into the group. It's just frustrating. It was such a freak thing."
Danish rider Jakob Fuglsang, who stood ninth overall, was not as lucky and was forced to abandon the Tour with a left hand injury after falling late in the stage as the peloton pedaled past the picturesque town of Uzes.
Thomas, a former track specialist who transformed into a Tour de France contender after years spent working in support of four-time champion Chris Froome, has always been prone to crashing. Just last month, his preparation for the Tour was cut short by a spill during a race in Switzerland.
But he has also shown in the past that he can soldier on in pain. Six years ago when riding the Tour as Froome's loyal teammate, Thomas fell off his bike on a Corsican road in the opening stage and broke his pelvis. But he kept racing for 3,000 kilometers to reach the finish.
He will need to be at the top of his form on Thursday for the start of an Alpine trilogy of stages including six climbs over 2,000 meters. This is when the race — the most exciting in the last decade — will be decided before Sunday's ceremonial ride to Paris.
Sixteen stages out of 21 have been completed, but the suspense remains intact, with six riders separated by little more than 2 minutes. Behind Alaphilippe and Thomas, Steven Kruijswijk remained third, 1:47 off the pace and 3 seconds ahead of Thibaut Pinot. Thomas' Ineos teammate Egan Bernal lags 2:02 behind and Emmanuel Buchmann has a 2:14 deficit.
Bernal, a Colombian and one of the best pure climbers in the Tour, played down Thomas' crash and said the race in the Alps will suit him more than the Pyrenees, where both Ineos leaders conceded time to Pinot.
"He crashed but with no consequence and I don't think he'll suffer from it in the coming days," Bernal said. "We're approaching the Alps. The climbs there are longer and steeper. They're more of the Colombian style of climbing. I'm ready and I feel good."
Ewan said he suffered from the heat throughout the stage — temperatures soared as high as 40 degrees Celsius (40 F) — but it did not slow him down in the finale. The Australian Tour debutant edged Elia Viviani and Dylan Groenewegen to post his second stage win following his maiden success in Toulouse last week.
Earlier, riders tried to cool down with bottles of cold water against the backs of their necks as they pedaled on the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge set against a dramatic landscape of rocks, trees and water. Alexis Gougeard, Lukasz Wisniowski, Stephane Rossetto, Paul Ourselin and Lars Bak organized the day's breakaway and had a maximum lead of 2 minutes.
After the group was caught two kilometers from the finish, Viviani was set up by his teammates and launched the sprint about 200 meters from the line but could not resist Ewan's comeback.
"To be honest, I felt so bad today during the day. I think the heat really got to me," Ewan said. "I was really suffering but I had extra motivation today because my daughter and wife are here. I'm so happy I could win for them."
Des Moines, July 23 (AP/UNB) — Sometimes after a particularly grueling workout, sprinter Justin Gatlin will turn to his younger training partners and inquire: "Are you sore, too?"
It's just an age check. He doesn't feel 37 except on rare occasions. Like at big races when he sees so much youth on the starting line and not the familiar faces from years gone by.
Missing, of course, is his biggest rival, Usain Bolt, the Jamaican standout who rewrote the record book before saying goodbye to track nearly two years ago.
Arriving on the scene, a slew of 20-somethings such as Americans Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles who present another challenge for Gatlin , the defending 100-meter world champion.
"I don't think about age. I don't think about being old," said Gatlin, who will compete in the 100 at the U.S. championships this week in Des Moines, Iowa. "I just feel like a time traveler in a way. I'm still here, still running, still putting down good times, still training really well. Just staying focused on what the goal is."
And that goal is to show the kids he's still young at heart. At a Diamond League race in Monaco on July 12 , Gatlin won the 100 in 9.91 seconds, holding off Lyles by 0.01 seconds.
"These young athletes, they make me feel young," said Gatlin , who doesn't consider the Tokyo Olympics next summer his finish line as he contemplates racing through the 2021 world championships in Eugene, Oregon. "They're running super-fast times that I ran before so it gives me a target. It gives me a sounding board to know where I have to be and how I'm going to have to compete."
Throughout his career, Gatlin has been a polarizing figure. With his doping past — his four-year suspension ended in 2010 — Gatlin's been booed (like the night he beat Bolt for gold at the '17 world championships in London) and hounded (he gestured toward a heckler bothering his mom in the stands during the medal ceremony at the '15 worlds in Beijing). He's never let it bother him.
Instead, he lets his performances do most of his talking.
"I'm an enigma," Gatlin said. "I've had my dark times and I've gone through an area where normally someone who's been away from the sport or had a ban would never come back from. ... I defied those odds to a point where I think that it made people uncomfortable because not only did I come back, but I came back better."
He said the younger generation doesn't judge him. An up-and-coming sprinter once joked with Gatlin that he happened to be in first grade when Gatlin won the 100-meter title at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
"Those kinds of things always shock me, how time really works. But it still doesn't make me feel old," said Gatlin, whose best 100 time is 9.74 seconds in Doha on May 15, 2015. "I've gained so many more followers just off of the respect of me working hard, me climbing, keep fighting for it no matter my age, no matter how many times I lost to Usain. It was all about staying the course, which was my course, and not veering from and trying to be something that everyone wanted me to be. I just wanted to be Justin."
Gatlin surprised the track world at worlds in '17 by beating Bolt in Bolt's final major 100 race. Gatlin also edged Coleman, who came in second that night with Bolt taking third.
Not having Bolt at the world championships this fall in Doha remains hard to fathom for Gatlin. They've had so many epic races over the years, like at worlds in '15 when Bolt eclipsed Gatlin at the line.
But this thought keeps Gatlin working: The next Bolt is out there. It could be Lyles. Or Coleman. It could be Andre De Grasse of Canada or Matthew Boling, the teen from Texas who is headed to Georgia for college and who became a viral sensation this spring when he ran a wind-aided 9.98 in the 100 (Bolt's world record is 9.58).
It could be anyone.
"Track and field is a beautiful, beautiful novel with many, many unique chapters," Gatlin said. "I'm excited about what's going to come after and how it's going to be unique and maybe bigger and better than a Usain Bolt."
At nationals this week, Gatlin's plan is modest. He will run a round of the 100 — he already has an automatic spot to worlds — and see how he feels. If he feels good, he may chase after the title. If not, he won't. Gatlin is planning to skip the 200 as he tries to get his hips and hamstrings feeling 100%.
To keep his legs fresh at 37, Gatlin has learned to take rest days. To keep his mind fresh at 37, he works out with younger training partners who bring new energy and ideas.
"That," Gatlin said, "is really what keeps me young."
Moscow, July 23 (AP/UNB) — Boxer Maxim Dadashev died Tuesday, two days after suffering a brain injury in a fight in Maryland. He was 28.
The Russian Boxing Federation said Dadashev suffered a brain swelling in Friday's light-welterweight fight with Subriel Matias at the Theater at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland. He underwent surgery but his heart stopped Tuesday, the federation said.
Dadashev was hospitalized at UM Prince George's Hospital Center shortly after the fight, which was stopped by his corner following the 11th round after Dadashev took numerous shots to the head.
Footage from the fight shows Dadashev shaking his head in his corner as his trainer, Buddy McGirt, pleads with him to stop the fight, telling him: "You're getting hit too much, Max. Please, Max, please let me do this."
Shortly after, the referee stopped the bout at McGirt's request.
The Russian Boxing Federation's secretary general, Umar Kremlev, said the federation would investigate whether anyone was at fault for Dadashev's death.
"We need to know the truth about what happened," Kremlev wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "I believe that some human factors intervened, that there was some kind of violation."
He added the federation would give Dadashev's family financial support.
Both fighters were 13-0 before the bout, which offered the winner the right to challenge IBF titleholder Josh Taylor. Dadashev had been viewed as a rising star after beating two former world lightweight champions, Darleys Perez and Antonio DeMarco, last year. Before Friday's fight, he had won 11 of his 13 fights by way of knockout.
He was originally from the Russian city of St. Petersburg but had fought exclusively in the United States since turning pro in 2016.
"He was a very kind person who fought until the very end," Dadashev's wife, Elizaveta Apushkina, said in a statement issued by the hospital. "Our son will continue (to) be raised to be a great man like his father. Lastly, I would like to thank everyone that cared for Maxim during his final days."
The Russian embassy in the U.S. said in a statement on Facebook it is "ready to provide any necessary assistance for (Dadashev's) repatriation to Russia."
New Rochelle, July 23 (AP/UNB) — Professional Ultimate Frisbee players need to have second jobs to make ends meet. Marques Brownlee's day job just happens to be more lucrative than most.
Brownlee, who plays for the New York Empire in the American Ultimate Disc League, is a tech YouTuber. His channel has 8.9 million subscribers, and he makes hundreds of thousands of dollars a year reviewing products and interviewing tech giants like Bill Gates and Elon Musk. His videos average almost 1 million views per day.
In his YouTube bio, Brownlee refers to himself as a geek, tech head and internet personality — but not an athlete. He rarely mentions the sport — usually referred to as just Ultimate — in his videos, but he blocks off ample time for his athletic pursuits. His double life is clearly delineated on his calendar, which he keeps down to the hour, months in advance. YouTube on weekdays. Ultimate on the weekends.
"A lot of the companies I work with, they're not returning my calls or emails on weekends," Brownlee told The Associated Press after a recent playoff win for New York. "So weekends are weekends for Ultimate."
His YouTube career has allowed him to meet fans around the world. And when he's on the field, his day job is the reason he gets recognized.
At a game in Washington, an opponent, Joe Richards, lined up to guard him. Before play restarted, Richards leaned over to say something.
"I started playing Ultimate because of you," Richards said.
Brownlee said he's accustomed to that sort of interaction. He feels a responsibility to use his celebrity to promote Ultimate — a game similar to football that uses a plastic disc instead of an oblong ball.
"We're not really doing it for the salary," he said. "This is a promotional thing for the sport."
So far, however, the league hasn't done much to leverage Brownlee's fame.
"I'm not going to say it hasn't been a thought," team owner Barbara Thomas said. "He is a professional player for the New York Empire. That is my requirement for him: to show up at games ready to play Ultimate. I know people think I'm crazy, but I'm not going to change my philosophy."
Brownlee didn't even play in undefeated New York's playoff win over Toronto on Sunday at its home field, a tiny football stadium in suburban Westchester County that's also used by Monroe College.
Brownlee's extreme long-shot goal would be to play in the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee has recognized Ultimate, but the sport didn't make the shortlist for inclusion in the 2024 Games in Paris, leaving 2028 in Los Angeles as the next possibility.
"That's the dream for the sport," Brownlee said. "Just to share the airtime with all the other sports so that it gets the respect that it deserves."
Brownlee's start in Ultimate was as matter-of-fact as his launch on YouTube — he just signed up. The sport originated in 1968 at his high school, Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey, and he joined the team with only a Frisbee camp under his belt.
While at that same high school, he frequented YouTube for product reviews, but he found the content unsatisfying and realized there was a deficiency in the market. In 2010, at age 16 and with no formal training, he posted his first video, under the username MKBHD.
Four years later, he topped 1 million subscribers.
"Proudest moment on YouTube," he said of the milestone. "It's kind of mind-blowing. I couldn't imagine that many people listening to what you say."
His celebrity has also brought him into contact with mainstream athletes. Kobe Bryant interviewed Brownlee in 2015 for the then-Lakers star's shoe launch. Even then, Brownlee tried to work Ultimate into the conversation.
"(Bryant) just said, like, 'cool,'" Brownlee said with a laugh.
Brownlee's teammates don't quite know what to make of his off-the-field stardom.
"We're all flabbergasted by the success he's been having right now," Empire player Conor Kline said. "Marques is a great guy. Despite having a great on-camera personality, he's a little more timid in real life than you might expect from him. But I think over the years, he's really opened up. He's got a heart of gold. He's a competitor."