With Olympic test events coming up this summer in rowing, canoeing, sailing and open-water swimming, there still are serious concerns about Rio de Janeiro’s persistent water pollution.
The international sailing federation is considering moving races to the open ocean from reeking Guanabara Bay, which competitors have called “an open sewer” and near where a drug-resistant “super bacteria” was found several months ago.
And in the wake of 50 tons of dead fish being removed from the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, the international rowing federation this week will present a report regarding the potential health risks to athletes, who’ve been advised by some doctors to have Hepatitis A vaccinations before taking to the water.
Clean water was supposed to be one of the major benefits of hosting the Games but government officials have conceded that the decontamination won’t happen in time for the Games, which the mayor of Rio, Eduardo Paes, has called a “lost opportunity.”
The next opportunity for residents of the United States to buy Rio tickets begins on Tuesday, when everything left over from the initial sales phase goes up for grabs. Purchases through the official USOC agent (cosport.com) are first-come, first-served.
Summer in Budapest?
Add Budapest to the list of likely contenders for the 2024 Summer Games.
The Hungarian capital, which last bid in 1960, had planned to go for 2028 but the Agenda 2020 reforms made an earlier run feasible.
Budapest, which is building a 68,000-seat soccer stadium and will host the 2017 world aquatics chamionships in a new complex, already has the new multi-sport Tuskecsarnok Sports Arena plus facilities in Debrecen and Gyor. The city’s municipal assembly will vote late next month on whether to approve the bid.
Canada’s 6-1 beatdown of defending champion Russia at the men’s world ice hockey championships in Prague not only was its first title since 2007, it also was the Canucks’ first triumph over their nemesis in the championship round since the 1959 event, which also was held in the Czech capital.
The Americans, who bounced back to blank the hosts, 3-0, for the bronze after being clocked, 4-0, by the Russians in the semis, made the podium for the second time in three years, which they hadn’t managed since 1952, when the Olympics doubled as the global championships.
Earning medals were Bruins defenseman Torey Krug, former UMass-Lowell goalie Connor Hellebuyck (who made 39 saves in the third-place match), former Boston University forwards Nick Bonino and Charlie Coyle and freshman Jack Eichel, former Boston College and New Hampshire forwards Ben Smith and Steve Moses, Harvard forward Jimmy Vesey and former Yale forward Mark Arcobello and current goaltender Alex Lyon.
The Americans will be grouped with the Canadians, Finns, and Slovaks in next year’s tournament in Russia.
Except for three teams TBD, the groups for the 2018 Olympics in South Korea are settled. The US team again will face Sochi prelim opponents Russia and Slovakia and a qualifier. Defending champ Canada will take on the Czechs, Swiss, and the hosts, while Sweden will meet Finland and two qualifiers.
Change will help US
While USA Gymnastics opposed the reduction of Olympic teams from five members to four for the 2020 Games and beyond, the change figures to help the dominant Americans, who’ll be able to add two specialists to their core squad.
That would mean that an Aly Raisman, who won the floor gold in London, wouldn’t have to worry about training as an all-arounder. The international federation said that cutting one member from each team would create openings for 12 men and 12 women from smaller countries that can’t qualify full teams and would make for stronger event finals.
The rosters, which numbered seven in 1996, were downsized to the traditional six in 2000, then to five for 2012.
The Tokyo organizers have opened the process for adding (or restoring) sports to the Olympic program for 2020, inviting 33 international federations — everything from korfball to boules — to apply.
The organizers, who are targeting sports with youth appeal that will engage both the Japanese population and a global audience, will come up with a short list by June 22 and make a recommendation by the end of September to the IOC, which will make its decision at its session before the Rio Games.
If the Japanese had their way they’d likely vote for baseball and softball (now considered one entity), where they customarily made the podium before the sports were dropped after 2008.
Tokyo’s ever-fluid venue plan now includes changes to the main stadium, which won’t have the planned retractable roof for the Games and which will include temporary seats as part of the capacity of 80,000.
Sink or swim for Phelps
Michael Phelps’s comeback, which began auspiciously with two victories in the Pro Swim Series meet in Arizona, hit a wall at last week’s event in Charlotte, where the Olympic colossus finished third, seventh, ninth, ninth, and 11th in his five events, missing the finals in both the 200-meter freestyle and 200 individual medley.
“Whatever it is I have to figure out, I have to figure out now,” mused Phelps, who said it was just as well that his suspension also kept him out of this summer’s world meet in Russia. Next on his schedule is the Santa Clara event in mid-June followed by three weeks of altitude training in Colorado.
US rugby crushing
Huge breakthrough for the US men’s rugby sevens team that won its first World Series title last weekend at fabled Twickenham in London, crushing Australia, 45-22, in the final after hammering England, 43-12, in the semis.
Dartmouth captain Madison Hughes, who scored two tries in the championship match, was named Player of the Tournament.
The Eagles, who finished sixth in the season’s standings after placing 13th last year, can punch their Olympic ticket by winning the regional qualifier next month in North Carolina, where the top competition will be Canada, whom the Yanks handled by a 29-10 count in London.
Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand, Great Britain, and host Brazil already have qualified for the 12-team field.
The US women, who are tied for fourth in their World Series table, can earn their Rio place at this weekend’s event in Amsterdam.
Solid as a rock
Olympic women’s sculler Gevvie Stone easily earned a return spot for this summer’s world rowing championships in France by winning last week’s selection regatta in New Jersey.
Also qualifying were men’s sculler Willy Cowles, the lightweight men’s double of Andrew Campbell and Joshua Konieczny and the men’s quad of Hans Struzyna, John Madura, Ryan Shelton, and Paul Marcy. All of them can confirm their tickets with solid performances at one of the two remaining World Cup regattas in Europe in June and July.
Return to the jungle
Against the wishes of the international federation, Olympic soccer players will be back in the jungle next summer, playing in Arena da Amazonia, the Manaus stadium that last summer’s World Cup players likened to a soggy steambath. The Rio organizers, who wanted to spread the matches around their soccer-mad country, also will use Cup stadia in Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Salvador, and Belo Horizonte. Manaus is 4,000 kilometers from Rio, nearly four times more distant than Glasgow, the farthest 2012 venue, was from London. While FIFA consented to Manaus for the Cup, its objection was that the shorter Olympic tournament requires closer venues to minimize air travel . . . Cortina d’Ampezzo, which hosted the 1956 Olympics and has been a frequent World Cup skiing venue, will put on the 2021 global Alpine championships after being bypassed four straight times. The Dolomites resort, which was the only applicant this time, will be the first Italian site since Bormio in 2005. St. Moritz will stage the 2017 event, while the Swedish resort of Are is the choice for 2019.
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com; material from Olympic committees, sports federations, interviews and wire services was used in this report.