Tokyo Olympic organizers and the International Olympic Committee said Friday there is no "Plan B" for the 2020 Games, which open in just over five months and have been jolted by the outbreak of a virus in neighboring China.
The coronavirus has infected almost 64,000 people globally with almost 1,400 deaths in China, but only one in Japan where fear is rising with so much attention focused on the outbreak.
"Certainly the advice we're received externally from the WHO (World Health Organization) is that there's no case for any contingency plans or cancelling the games or moving the games," John Coates, the head of an IOC inspection team, said to wrap up a two-day visit that was dominated by the virus issue.
Coates and Tokyo Olympic organizers took 11 questions at a news conference on Friday. All 11 were about the virus, or the presence of Chinese athletes in 19 remaining test events in Japan, or about Chinese fans, or repeated questions seeking reassurance the games will go ahead as planned.
A Japanese reporter asked Tokyo organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori if, given the fact the games are going ahead, would there be any "organizational changes" in how the games are run.
"No, at this stage, no. We are not thinking of any such possibility," said Mori, a former Japanese prime minister, speaking in Japanese.
Mori, Coates and CEO Toshiro Muto looked glum sitting at a head table taking essentially the same question over and over.
"We can confirm that Tokyo 2020 remains on track," Coates said in his opening statement.
Coates was asked by a CNN reporter if he was 100% confident that the Tokyo Olympics would go on as scheduled and open on July 24.
"Yes," he replied.
Coates talked positively about keeping a close watch on Chinese athletes, and talked optimistically about their eventual presence in Tokyo, where they would probably field a team of 600 athletes — one of the largest delegations.
"We continue also to monitor, particularly the Chinese that will be coming here," Coates said. "You'll find that the Chinese teams are mostly out of China. That's the athletes and officials."
He didn't offer any specific numbers.
Others away from the Olympic circle are uncertain what course the virus outbreak will take.
"Frankly speaking, there is no guarantee that the outbreak will come to an end before the Olympics because we have no scientific basis to be able to say that," Shigeru Omi, a former regional director of the WHO and an infectious disease expert from Japan, said Thursday.
"So it is meaningless to predict a timing when it may come to an end," he added. "We should assume that the virus has already been spreading in Japan. People should understand that we cannot only rely on border controls to prevent the spread of the disease."
Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, told The Associated Press in an email: "I don't think anyone right now can confidently predict the state of affairs come late summer."
"One slight word of caution," he added. "Influenza is regarded as a winter infection in the northern hemisphere. But when we encountered a new strain in 2009-10 — pandemic strain, or swine flu — we did see cases in the summer months."
That is not particularly good news, where many talk of the hot, humid Tokyo summer taking its toll on the virus.
The AP requested but was declined an interview with Dr. Richard Budgett, the IOC's medical and scientific director who was in Tokyo for the meetings.
The dynamic growth of the Olympics makes any schedule change difficult.
About 73% of the IOC's $5.7 billion revenue in a four-year Olympic cycle comes from broadcasting rights from networks like NBC and NHK in Japan. Moving the Olympics back even two months would clash in North America with a full plate of sports broadcasts: NFL, NBA, baseball, and college football.
There is also the matter of millions of tickets sold, flights and hotels booked, and $3 billion in local sponsorship sold in Japan with advertisers expecting some results for their expenditure.
A reporter for the Chinese news agency Xinhua asked if Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba — a major Olympic sponsor — would be free to come to the Olympics despite the fact he is from one of the two provinces has been the most severely affected by the virus.
"Depends where he'll be holidaying before he comes here," Coates said, cracking one of the few jokes of the night. "Whoever it is has to comply with the rules of the Japanese (immigration) authorities."
Jayson Tatum didn't want to smile. But sometimes the moment calls for it.
The Celtics were trailing 124-123 in the final minute of overtime in their back-and-forth slugfest with the Clippers and Tatum found himself defended by Landry Shamet and Montrezl Harrell. Tatum hesitated, sidestepped Shamet, then spun around Harrell for a layup. As the crowd cheered around him, Tatum led out a loud yell, flexing his arms.
The play didn't win the game and gave Tatum just two of the 39 points he scored in Boston's thrilling 141-133 double-overtime win on Thursday night. But it's the latest sign that the first-time All-Star is getting more comfortable as a go-to player.
"I did get a little excited," Tatum said. "I try to be as calm as I can and try to keep a poker face and move on to the next play. But basketball is a game of emotions and the crowd was into it."
Marcus Smart added 31 points and Gordon Hayward finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Kemba Walker had 19 points and nine rebounds. Tatum and Smart combined for 16 of Boston's 27 points in the overtime periods.
The Celtics have won seven straight at home and eight of their last nine overall.
The Clippers played most of the game without Paul George, who left in the second quarter with a left hamstring strain. Lou Williams led Los Angeles with 35 points. Kawhi Leonard had 28 points and 11 rebounds, and Harrell finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds.
George played 15 minutes, scoring four points on 2-of-7 shooting before heading to the locker room.
The first meeting between the teams on Nov. 20 was also decided in overtime. The Clippers held on for a 107-104 win.
The Celtics took a 134-130 lead in the second OT on a driving layup by Smart and another by Tatum.
"He's more assertive," Leonard said of Tatum. "They are trusting him and he is trusting himself."
Harrell got a dunk on the Clippers' next trip up the floor. But Hayward responded with a 3 to increase Boston's lead to 137-132.
Tatum was called for an offensive foul, but Hayward blocked a runner by Williams off his body to force the turnover with 55 seconds left.
Hayward hit four free throws in the final minute to help close it out.
Tatum said he left the court feeling relief.
"I'm just happy we won," he said. "That would have been tough playing that hard as a team and not coming out with a victory."
The All-Star break comes at a perfect time for both teams as they try to get healthy.
Clippers guard Patrick Beverley missed his fourth straight game with a sore right groin. The Celtics played without Jaylen Brown, who has a left calf contusion.
Smart started in place of Brown and scored the Celtics' first 10 points, digging them out of an early 7-0 deficit. Smart and Tatum combined for 24 of Boston's 30 first-quarter points. It helped offset a 15-point opening period by Leonard.
Boston limited Leonard to two points in the second quarter but had no answers on the inside for Harrell, who had 16 points in the first half on 5-of-5 shooting from the field.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he likes his team's position heading into the break.
"We're good," Rivers said. "We've had a first half of the season where basically we've had more starting lineups than anybody in the league. Our record's pretty solid. We gotta get healthy. That's the key for us. We gotta get healthy."
Clippers: Had a 65-19 advantage in bench scoring.
Celtics: Tatum and Smart had all 13 of Boston's points in the first overtime.
BACK AND FORTH
A 3-pointer by Marcus Morris gave the Clippers a 122-118 lead in the first extra period. But the Celtics responded and took a 125-124 lead when Tatum split a pair of defenders for a layup with 53.8 seconds left.
Leonard missed a short jumper and Tatum scored again off feed from Walker with 24.8 seconds remaining.
Landry Shamet tied it again with a 3-pointer, giving the Celtics the ball back with 21 seconds left. Tatum got off a 27-footer but came up empty.
CELTICS TO RETIRE GARNETT'S JERSEY
During the game's first timeout, the Celtics surprised fans with a video presentation to announce Kevin Garnett's No. 5 will be retired during the 2020-21 season. It will hang in the open space next to the No. 34 of teammate Paul Pierce, who alongside Garnett led Boston to its most recent title in 2008.
Pierce's jersey was retired by the Celtics in 2018. Garnett, in his first year in eligibility for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, is expected to be on the list of finalists when it it is unveiled during NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago.
Dozens of trophies, balls and cups sit on two worn, wooden shelves in the small home in a Buenos Aires suburb of Mara Gómez, who is poised to become the first transgender woman to play professional soccer in Argentina.
Tall and athletic, Gómez looks at the mementos from her arduous journey in soccer and life, and smiles. "When I started I was so bad. I'd kick the ball at the goal and it would go anywhere."
Gómez spent years playing in local women's leagues in Buenos Aires province before being signed recently by Villa San Carlos in the first division. Now the 22-year-old forward is awaiting the Argentine Soccer Federation's decision whether to authorize the signing in a soccer-mad country that has produced some of the world's greatest stars, from Lionel Messi to Maradona.
Besides soccer fame, Argentina has also become a regional leader in transgender rights. In 2012, it gave people the freedom to change their legal and physical gender without having to undergo judicial, psychiatric and medical procedures.
The federation's decision on Gómez could come in days, and in the run-up her cellphone pings constantly with messages from people reaching out to her. While many support her bid to play professional soccer, others contend it is unfair to the non-transgender women in the league.
"The rights of transgender athletes and the social demands to integrate them into competitions challenge and seriously threaten the rights of women in sports," said Juan Manuel Herbella, a former soccer player who is a sports doctor. "Athletes who were born men, if they maintain their base conditions, start with an enormous advantage."
Juan Cruz Vitale, the Villa San Carlos coach, rejects the idea that Gómez would have an unfair advantage.
The coach said she caught his eye with her speed and her scoring in two straight tournaments. But, he said, "If we talk of strength, I have at least five or six girls who are stronger than her. On that side I don't see that there is an advantage."
Amid the controversy, Gómez recalls how at age 10 she began to ask questions. "I realized that I wanted to be a woman because I liked men and I wanted them to see me in another way."
She said at 13 she told her mother, Caroline, that she was going to lose her only son. She told her: "I want to be a woman and if you don't accept it, I am going to leave home."
Though her mother accepted her, Gómez said she was tormented by discrimination after assuming the gender she identifies with and was on the brink of taking her own life. Then, she found soccer. She started playing in a vacant lot in front of her house next to her neighbors.
"I used it as a therapy — me trying to accept myself," she told The Associated Press in the house in the suburb of La Plata she shares with her mother and four younger sisters. "There was a mound of emotions that were making me psychologically unwell. I realized that when I play soccer this mound disappeared."
On her journey she says she has suffered discrimination and complaints about her participation.
One of her worst days came during a lightning tournament. "They put me on defense but I didn't know how to play well. I put a goal in my own net. When the first half ended I found out the other team had complained that I shouldn't play because I put them at a disadvantage. They considered my sexuality a disadvantage for them even though I was playing so poorly."
Gómez learned to live with the insults from fans and the complaints when at age 18, backed by the law, she got her new identity card.
"Now I had the identity that I saw myself as having. This gave me the confidence to be who I am," said Gómez, who has a soccer ball tattooed on her leg and keeps her long hair tied back when she plays.
The requests for interviews she has been getting recently have forced her to alter her routine of soccer training and working shifts as a manicurist and hair-straightener, which she does to make a living while studying nursing.
Villa San Carlos is in last place in the current first division tournament and is fighting to not descend a division.
Argentina's soccer federation has no regulations about transgender athletes, so doubt remains about what it will say amid the debate over whether transgender women should play in professional women's leagues.
The federation declined AP requests to comment on Gómez's case.
"On the field, you can have speed and strength, but that doesn't help you if you don't know how to play football," Gómez said. "I always hold up the example of Messi ... He measures 1.6 meters (5 foot, 7 inches) and is the best player in the world."
She models her play on that of Darío Benedetto, formerly with Argentina's Boca Juniors and now with France's Olympique de Marseille, and Florencia Bonsegundo, who plays with Valencia in Spain.
Some specialists have said that a higher level of testosterone in some transgender women gives them greater muscular power and an advantage in women's leagues.
The soccer federation's decision will take into considerations the rules set out by the International Olympic Committee for transgender athletes. In the case of male-to-female transgender athletes they will need to demonstrate that their testosterone level has been below a certain cutoff point for at least one year before their first competition.
Gómez said she dreams of playing with Boca Juniors, her favorite team, and on the Argentine national team. She says she also hopes she serves as an inspiration for other transgender people who in spite of recent advances still suffer violence and discrimination.
"We have to continue changing society so we are seen as people," she said.
Tokyo Olympic organizers reiterated their message on Thursday at the start of two days of meetings with the International Olympic Committee: the Summer Games will not be waylaid by the coronavirus that is spreading from neighboring China.
"I would like to make it clear again that we are not considering a cancellation or postponement of the games. Let me make that clear," Yoshiro Mori, the president of the organizing committee, said, speaking through an interpreter to dozens of top IOC officials who are gathered in Tokyo.
The Olympics open in just over five months, and the torch relay begins next month in Japan — a clear signal the games are almost here.
Although there have been no deaths in Japan attributed to the virus, Tokyo and IOC officials are clearly jittery. Sitting among the officials this time was Dr. Richard Budgett, the IOC's medical and scientific director.
Last week Toshiro Muto, the CEO of the Tokyo organizing committee, said he was "seriously worried that the spread of the infectious disease could throw cold water on the momentum toward the games."
He backed down a day later and said he was confident the games would go forward, which is the message this time.
The virus on Wednesday forced the cancellation of a popular Formula One race set for April in Shanghai, which draws more than 100,000 over a race weekend.
It has wiped the indoor world track and field championships in Nanjing, golf tournaments, soccer matches, and almost all sports in China including Olympic qualifying events. It is also keeping Chinese athletes from traveling to qualify, which could put their presence in Tokyo in jeopardy.
Saburo Kawabuchi, a former Olympian and the so-called mayor of the Olympic Village that will house 11,000 athletes and thousands more staff members, suggested Tokyo's hot and humid summer would stop the virus.
"The biggest concern is the coronavirus and the infection," he said, speaking in Japanese. "Currently we don't have any clue when this issue will be resolved. Based on various pieces of information we receive, it seems that this virus is not as strong as the influenza virus. The virus is susceptible to humidity and heat. In Japan, we have the rainy season which could defeat the virus."
John Coates, an IOC member who heads the regular inspection visits to Tokyo, said he expected to receive reports on the virus from the Japanese government, the Tokyo city government, and local organizers in order to see the "necessary precautions that are being taken."
Mohammad Arif Hossain and Mohammad Iqramul Alam Asif emerged champions jointly in the annual sports competition of Sir AF Rahman Hall of Dhaka University held at the university central playground on Wednesday
Obaidur Mia and Mehedi Hasab Chowdhury finished runner-up jointly.
Vice-Chancellor of Dhaka University Prof. Dr. Md. Akhtaruzzaman inaugurated the competition as chief guest in the morning.
After the competition, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Administration) of Dhaka University Prof. Dr. Muhammad Samad distributed prizes among the winners as chief guest.
Provost of the FR Hall Prof. Dr. K. M. Saiful Islam Khan,President of DU Athletics Committee Prof. Dr. Md. Nizamul Hoque Bhuiyan, Advisor of Physical Education Centre Prof. Dr. Asim Sarkar, Director (Acting) of the Centre Md. Shahjahan Ali, house tutors and students of the hall were also present on this occasion.