Olympic Basketball: Quarter-finals the aim for Iran’s Tokyo Olympic bound basketball team

Ramin Tabatabaei, the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Basketball Federation (IRIBF), has set reaching the quarter-finals as the men’s team’s goal at the Tokyo Olympics. Iran has qualified for the Olympic basketball tournament for just the third time, following their exploits at last year’s World Cup.

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Despite losing all three group games including an eight-point defeat to eventual winners Spain Iran finished as the highest-ranked Asian team at the tournament. They beat Angola and the Philippines in the classification round to achieve that feat and Olympic qualification, edging out China on points difference. Twelve teams are due to compete in two groups in Japan, with the top four in each advancing to the knockout rounds.

“Our first goal is to advance to the next phase since we want to be among the world’s top eight teams,” Tabatabaei said, speaking to the Tehran Times.

In the Tokyo Olympic qualification which was held last year, we showed an outstanding performance against Spain, Puerto Rico, Tunisia, Angola, and the Philippines. We were the best Asian side in the tournament which was held in China. 

In Tokyo, Iran will have a chance to defend its credibility and we want to qualify for the next stage for the first time. Mehran Shahin tab was the head coach for Iran at the World Cup, and he has a good chance of retaining the role at the Tokyo Olympic. An IRIBF Technical Committee will choose the head coach, according to Tabatabaei.

Iran’s basketball team last reached the Olympics in Beijing 2008, losing all five games and finishing 11th out of 12 teams. Iran’s participation at next summer’s Olympics is a divisive issue and there have been calls for the nation to be banned following the execution of wrestler Navid Afkari.

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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was among the organizations to call for clemency before Afkari accused of stabbing a security guard to death and being involved in demonstrations against the country’s regime in 2018 was killed.

Afkari had demanded he was labored into making a false confession. Human Rights Watch said the case was part of a systematic pattern in which Iranian authorities disregard torture allegations and use coerced confessions in trial proceedings. IOC vice-president John Coates hinted an Olympic ban for Iran was unlikely as this execution didn’t relate to a sporting event” and numerous other nations competing at the Olympics also still have the death penalty.

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Olympic Swimming: Tokyo Olympic venues for swimming and hockey among the latest set to be opened to the public

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has confirmed three more venues due to be used during the Olympic 2020 and Paralympic Games will be open to the public before the rescheduled events. Public opening dates have been revealed for the Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre, the Oi Hockey Stadium, and the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, all of which have already been made available for use by sports federations.

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The Oi Hockey Stadium is due to open its doors to members of the public from tomorrow, with the Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre following on October 1. The public is set to be granted access to the Tokyo Aquatics Centre for experiences and tours from October 30.

Sports federations will be able to use the center from October 25, the day after the planned grand Opening Ceremony of the venue. Tokyo Olympic has warned the public use of the venues “may be suspended in the future” depending on the COVID-19 pandemic. Infection control measures will be in place, while organizers have said restrictions on the number of entrants may need to be implemented in response to the coronavirus crisis.

“The venues will be open to the public to the extent that public usage does not interfere with the delivery of and preparations for the Games,” Tokyo Olympic supposed in a statement.

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Venues will open for public use successively, once discussions with the relevant organizations have decided and safety measures for temporary overlays have been implemented. Other venues to have been opened for the public in recent months include the Sea Forest Waterway and the Yumenoshima Park Archery Field.

The Sea Forest Waterway, the venue for rowing at the Games, had been opened for use by sports federations from August 22 and for use by “non-sports-related groups” from September 7.

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Olympic Opening Ceremony: Bach and new Japanese Prime Minister hold talks on postponed Tokyo Olympics

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach have discussed how to ensure the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games are a “success” in a 15-minute phone call.

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According to Japan’s Foreign Ministry, it was the first call between the two since Suga, who succeeded Shinzō Abe after he resigned due to ill health, took office a week ago. Suga received a majority in both houses to confirm his new position as leader of the country, having previously been elected leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, which Abe was previously in charge of.

Bach and Suga reaffirmed their commitment to making the Games “safe and secure” for both athletes and spectators, according to Kyodo News. The IOC and the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee have agreed to a simplifying of the Games due to the financial impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the call, Bach congratulated Suga on taking office and stated that the Tokyo Games would be a “historic” event that could bring hope to the Japanese people, according to the Foreign Ministry. Suga then assured Bach, saying that his Government was working hard to keep the COVID-19 virus under control and discussing ways to stop the pandemic affecting the Games with the Organizing Committee.

“Bach said he hoped to visit Japan when it was safe to do so, with the call ending with both sides agreeing that a “strong message” needed to be sent to athletes across the world with the hosting of the Games.”

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The IOC President is hoping to speak to Suga in person at the end of October. Suga also met with Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike today for the first time since taking office and the two agreed to cooperate regarding the Games, pushed back to 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

We share the view that collaboration between the central government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will contribute to the national attention, Koike told reporters after the meeting. The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to take place from July 23 to August 8, 2021, with the Paralympics following shortly after from August 24 to September 5.

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Olympic Basketball: Late NBA season could rule stars out of Tokyo Olympics

The National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner Adam Silver has thrown further doubt that the league’s players will compete at the Tokyo Olympics after stating that their participation at the Games could be limited. Despite the 2020-2021 season having a tentative start date of December 1, Silver has now said his “best guess” would be that the league will restart in January.

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2019-2020 NBA season is ongoing – with the NBA Finals set to start on September 30 and potentially end as late as October 13. Based off the tentative start for the 2020-2021 season in December, the NBA Finals for that year were expected to start in June 2021, but now that could come at the same time as the Olympics.

“There are a lot of countless US players, and we may be up in contradiction of a scenario where the top 15 NBA players aren’t rival in the Olympics, but other great American players are competing,” Silver told CNN yesterday.

Many NBA players participate in the Olympics from other countries. That’s something we’re going to have to work through. I just say, these are highly unique and unusual circumstances – I think, just as it is for the Olympic Movement, it is for us as well. We’re just successful to have to sort of find a way to meld and net those two competing considerations. Although a schedule has not yet been released, Silver has said that the goal is to start the next season in January with a standard 82-game schedule and playoffs.

A normal NBA season starts in late October with the NBA Finals running through to mid-June, with a push back possibly moving into the same period as the Tokyo Olympic Games. Tentatively, these are due to start in April according to provisional plans, ending in June. Currently, the Conference Finals – featuring the top four teams in the NBA – are playing the final set of playoff games before the NBA Finals begin next week.

It is a factor in our planning, added Silver, speaking about the Olympics. It would be tough for us to decide in January based on the Olympics happening on schedule when that’s so unclear. Basketball Australia is one of the national governing bodies expressing their concern over the thought of losing their top players for the Games but has also stated nothing can be done until the NBA confirms its position.

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“We are continually monitoring the status of leagues at home and abroad where our Australian athletes are playing including the NBA,” said Basketball Australia high performance and national team’s general manager Jan Stirling.

As numerous of our US-based athletes have spoken directly to Basketball Australia or through the media in new times, they are very much looking forward to representing Australia at the Tokyo Olympics. Until there is confirmation from the NBA on exact timings for the 2020-2021 season, we aren’t in a position to have discussions with athletes and officials who are on NBA contracts around their availability.

Australia’s men’s team will be seeking their first Olympic medal in the sport and will look to rely on NBA stars Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs, Joe Ingles of Utah Jazz, and Ben Simmons of Philadephia 76ers in their bid, having finished fourth at the Basketball World Cup last year.

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Olympic Athletics: Bach says phased return of sport a cause for “confidence” regarding Tokyo Olympic

The return of some sporting events amid the coronavirus pandemic should lead to confidence in our preparations for Tokyo Olympic, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has said. In an open letter to the Olympic Movement, following on from one written in April, Bach gave an update on plans going forward and stated he was thankful that sport was back in some form, paying tribute to those who made it possible.

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“The very optimistic greeting of these events proves that not only athletes and sports organizations but also the public at large have been desire for the return of sport as an essential part of our lives,” Bach supposed.

We also see that sport can be organized safely, even under the ongoing restrictions. This should give all of us confidence in our preparations for future events, including the Tokyo Olympic Games. Despite his optimism, Bach stressed the need to continue to act responsibly when planning and scheduling sports events.

Many due to take place in 2020 have been postponed or canceled due to ongoing travel restrictions, limits on large gatherings, and concern for the safety of athletes and personnel. The Olympic and Paralympic Games are the most high-profile example – postponed from 2020 to 2021 in March.

“In our preparation and scheduling, we all have great accountability, not only for our own stakeholders but for the entire game community,” added Bach.

From knowledge, we know that every mishap that touches one of us affects all of us and has the possible to undo the great progress we have made together in the past few months. In this setting, we are monitoring the potential of innovative testing methods for the safe organization of events. In addition to the already existing test methods, there are several so-called rapid tests already on the market or under development. 

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When used in mixture with other virus countermeasures, such fast tests give us a significant additional tool to ensure a safe setting for everyone complicated. Bach also mentioned hopeful signals coming from scientists which suggest a vaccine for COVID-19 could be advanced as early as the end of the year.

On the other hand, we have to realize that even testing methods and vaccines are not the ‘silver bullet’ that will solve all our problems.  We just do not yet know the full influence of any potential inoculation, but altogether, there are good reasons for cautious hopefulness. The IOC will continue to study these developments closely. 

We are also evaluating what consequences they would have for the organization of sports events, ranging from the need to change certain rules of our respective organizations to medical, economic, social, and logistical aspects. To this end, we continue to collaborate closely with the World Health Organization, public authorities, medical and technical experts, as well as medicinal companies. 

We are also drawing from the experience of those sports organizations that have recently organized successful events. We of course will share any visions with all those worried among you, so that all of us in the Olympic Movement can advantage.

Coronavirus cases have declined in Japan over the last month, but given the global nature of the Olympics, the health situation abroad may be as important in determining whether or not the Games can go ahead. Much of Europe is experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 and the prevalence of the virus rates remain high in much of the Americas, as well as India.

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A coronavirus countermeasures taskforce, formed of officials from the Japanese Government, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee, is assessing possible scenarios and measures that could allow the Olympics to run as predictable from July 23 to August 8, 2021.

The Paralympics is then arranged to follow from August 24 to September 5. A system for allowing athletes to be exempt from travel restrictions is expected to be approved this week, while Japan’s Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto recently said Tokyo 2020 should be held next year “at any cost”.

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Olympic Tables Tennis: Japanese table tennis player and Olympic medal hope Harimoto returns to competition

Japanese table tennis player and Olympic medal hope Tomokazu Harimoto played in his first competition since the suspension of sport. The 17-year-old played in a spectator-less one-day exhibition at Ota City General Gymnasium in Tokyo. 

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He featured alongside several other medals hopes for next year’s Olympic Games in the Japanese capital, including Ishikawa Kasumi and Niwa Koki, with competitors taking each other on in cross-gender contests.

Tomokazu played Ishikawa, who was part of the team which earned an Olympic silver medal at London 2012 and a bronze medal in Rio 2016. Most of the players had not competed since the Qatar Open in March, with sport then suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was my first match in half a year and I was nervous from start to finish,” said Tomokazu, according to the Olympic Channel.

In practice, everyone hits everything hard but it doesn’t work that way in matches. Practice alone isn’t enough. It’s comforting to be able to hit live balls again. I got rid of more than half the concerns that had built up in the last six months.

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Tomokazu earned a silver medal in the men’s singles and mixed team events at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires. He also claimed the singles title at the 2018 International Table Tennis Federation World Tour Grand Finals in Incheon. 

It was announced in January that Tomokazu would be part of Japan’s national table tennis squad for the Tokyo Olympic. He will have to wait another year, however, with the Olympics postponed until July 23 to August 8, 2021, due to the pandemic.  

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Olympic Boxing: Britain’s McCormack and Price top boxing world rankings as Tokyo Olympic countdown continues

Britain’s Lauren Price and Pat McCormack have been ranked as the number one boxer in their weight divisions as the countdown continues to the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic Games. The latest update to the world rankings has placed seven members of the GB Boxing team in the top five in their weight class.

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GB Boxing says the rise of Price and McCormack reflects their achievements over the past two years, with both boxers having secured a medal at every major tournament they have taken part in during the period. Price is the reigning world champion in the women’s middleweight division and has not lost a bout since November 2018. Price has secured gold medals at the Minsk 2019 European Games and the World Championships in the same year, as well as triumphing at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. The latter event does not count towards the International Boxing Association world rankings.

“I have won just about everything over the last couple of years and to now be ranked number one in the world is a great achievement,” Price said.

It is something I am very proud of. The only thing left is the Olympics so I am completely focused on Tokyo next year and aiming to complete my set of medals. McCormack tops the men’s welterweight rankings after winning gold at Minsk 2019, as well as silver at the 2019 World Championships in Russia. A clash of heads in the second round of the final saw him sustain a cut, which led to the contest being stopped. The judges ultimately scored the contest 4:0 in favor of his Russian opponent Andrey Zamkovoy.

“I have had a good few years and it’s great that the rankings reflect this,” McCormack said.

I was gutted to lose the world final, particularly given the way it happened with the clash of heads, but I am focused on Tokyo now. Knowing that I am ranked number one in the world is a big confidence boost that will help to push me on. Featherweight Peter McGrail is ranked third in the world rankings, after securing bronze medals at both the World Championships and European Games last year.

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Ben Whittaker is ranked third in the light-heavyweight division following a silver medal at the European Games and bronze at the World Championships. Flyweight Galal Yafai and heavyweight Cheavon Clarke are ranked fifth in their respective weight classes, while women’s featherweight Karriss Artingstall has risen to fifth in her weight class after the European Championship silver and World Championship bronze medals.

McGrail and Yafai are already assured of places at Tokyo Olympic after qualifying for the Games before the suspension of the European Olympic qualifier earlier this year.

“The boxers have performed very well over the last two years and it is satisfying to see their achievements being recognized in the world rankings,” said Rob McCracken, GB Boxing’s performance director.

Elite international boxing is extremely competitive and getting harder all the time. To have so many boxers ranked in the top five in the world is a fantastic achievement by the boxers and all of the staff at GB Boxing, especially the coaches who do a superb job working with the boxer’s day-in-day-out in the gym and in taking them to competitions all over the world.

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Olympic Athletics: Van Niekerk “comfortable and confident” over Olympic title defense after return to competition

Wayde van Niekerk revealed he is comfortable and confident about defending his 400 meters title at next year’s Olympic 2020 Games in Tokyo. The South African, who set the 400m world record of 43.03sec when he earned Olympic gold in Rio 2016, competed in his first international race in more than three years this week.

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He won the men’s one-lap race at a European Tour meeting in Switzerland in 45.58. Van Niekerk had been recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury picked up in 2017, and suffered another setback earlier this year when he tested positive for COVID-19. 

“It was a good ice breaker, considering the circumstances I’ve had to go through the last few months, not being able to be as consistent as I’d like to be,” he supposed, as reported by The Citizen. 

It has been a bit of a roller coaster year, but I feel comfortable and confident for the upcoming season and the Olympic 2020 Games. I still have enough time to get myself ready for the Games, so it’s just about putting in the correct work and making sure I’m investing in the right areas for me to be ready. For now, it’s time to get back to the drawing board and start sharpening up the edges.

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Despite the encouraging return to competition, Van Niekerk decided to withdraw from the Diamond League meeting in Rome, which took place yesterday. Instead, he refunded to South Africa from his European camp to focus on the 2021 season.

Van Niekerk is a two-time world champion in the 400m, triumphing in 2015 and 2017, and also earned a world silver medal in the 200m at the latter rivalry in London.  The 28-year-old is set to compete at his second Olympic Games at Tokyo Olympic, now suspended to July 23 to August 8 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. He acted as a flag-bearer for South Africa at the Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony.

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Olympic Athletics: Japan to allow foreign athletes to enter the country to aid Tokyo Olympic preparations

Overseas athletes will now be allowable to enter Japan before the Tokyo Olympics, in a change the Japanese Government hopes will help the arrangements of home stars. It is predictable that the B. League and the V-League Japan’s top local basketball and volleyball competitions will be among the first to license foreign players ahead of their time openers in October.

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Rendering to Kyodo News, this decision was made to help Japanese players get the best groundwork likely before Tokyo Olympic, by allowing the highest level of competition in their leagues. In the V-League, teams are permitted to have a maximum of one foreign player outdoor of Asia, while in the B. League, six of the ten number leaders were from abroad.

These included American Davante Gardner leading the points per game table, and his compatriot Jack Cooley who scored more rebounds per game than any other player. Other sports expected to allow foreign players include the nation’s table tennis T-League, rugby’s Top League, and professional golf.

These changes were made contempt the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games to 2021 and paused generous activity worldwide. Operating bodies and sports associations will be asked to be responsible for implementing COVID-19 prevention measures.

Foreign athletes will be required to provide results of multiple COVID-19 tests before sendoff their countries and upon arrival in Japan. They will also need to isolation for 14 days after arriving in Japan and will have to submit their movement plans within the country.

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The Government is reportedly using the readmission of foreign athletes as a way of testing the effectiveness of immigration control procedures ahead of the postponed Olympics and Paralympics. Japan currently denies entry to residents from dozens of countries but this presents a clear problem with Tokyo Olympic imminent.

Japan’s football top flight, the J-League, and the Nippon Expert Baseball league have both been using foreign athletes in their rivalries but only those who were in the country before the Government barred the entry of foreign nationals.

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Olympic Swimming: Australian Swimming Championships to replicate Tokyo Olympic morning finals

The Australian Swimming Championships in 2021 are set to follow a similar format to the Tokyo Olympics, with finals taking place in the morning. Scheduled to be hosted from April 14 to 18 in Gold Coast, the event is the planned return of the competition after the 2020 Championships were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Action will follow the Age Championships, featuring junior swimmers and Para-swimmers, which is slated to run from April 5 to 12. It is set to be the first national event held in the city since the 2018 Hancock Prospecting Australian Swimming Trials before the Commonwealth Games hosted in Gold Coast that year.

With the addition of morning finals, Olympic hopefuls can replicate the preparation they will need to compete in early races at Tokyo Olympic. There are 37 planned finals in swimming at Tokyo Olympic, and all are scheduled for morning sessions to align with the American audience. This was requested by broadcaster NBC, one of the biggest networks in the United States and currently the rights holders for the Games.

Morning sessions will start at 10.30 am in Tokyo, compared to the Rio 2016 Games where the earliest sessions would begin at 1 pm local time. Tokyo Olympic has now been re-arranged for next year as a result of the pandemic.

“We know this has been a tough year for swimmers all around the country with so much uncertainty and opportunities for racing being limited but we hope this announcement will give all athletes around Australia something to work towards and look forward to,” said Swimming Australia chief executive Leigh Russell.

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The Championships will also act as a selection event for the World Junior Championships and the Oceania Championships. We acknowledge that it is still very challenging for our athletes in Victoria with ongoing restrictions in pools, added Russell.

We will continue to work with Swimming Victoria to ensure that swimmers will not be disadvantaged in qualifying and will be in a position to provide more clarity in the coming weeks. Currently, Victoria is deemed to be the state in Australia most affected by the virus, with its Parliament shutting today due to a security guard testing positive. 

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