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‘No solution today’ for Tokyo Olympics as Bach announces re-election bid

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Thomas Bach admits there is no ‘solution’ at this point to the challenges posed by coronavirus to the postponed Tokyo Olympics © AFP/File / Fabrice COFFRINI

Lausanne, Switzerland, Jul 17 – Thomas Bach said Friday he will stand in 2021 for a second term as president of the International Olympic Committee, admitting however there is “no solution today” to the challenges posed by coronavirus to the postponed Tokyo Games.

The 66-year-old German was elected for an eight-year term as Olympic chief in September 2013, taking over from Belgian Jacques Rogge. Bach will be eligible for a second and final four-year term.

Speaking at an IOC Session held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bach said: “If you, the IOC members, want, I am ready to run for a second term as IOC president and to continue to serve you and this Olympic movement we all love so much for another four years.”

The IOC presidential elections are slated to take place in Athens in June 2021.

Bach, who won gold for West Germany in the foil fencing team event at the 1976 Olympics, claimed a large number of IOC members had recently approached him asking if he would seek re-election.

“I am grateful and deeply touched by the many words of encouragement and confidence,” Bach said.

Turning to the Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed in March until July 2021, Bach expressed hope that they could be “a unique milestone for the entire world”.

“They will be the first worldwide gathering after coronavirus.”

But Bach warned that the unprecedented health situation meant multiple scenarios were being considered in planning the format for Tokyo.

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“There is no solution today, it is too much (to be) expected,” he said.

Bach said the scenario of holding the Games without spectators was one that had been examined, although he stressed that he was opposed to the idea.

“It’s one of the scenarios we have to look in to because the debate has to do with travel restrictions and quarantine.

“It’s too early to tell (if there will be no spectators). It’s not what we want. We want stadia full of enthusiastic fans.”

Tokyo 2020 organisers said Friday they had secured all the venues needed to hold the Olympics next summer, clearing a major hurdle to hosting the event.

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They added that refunds for ticketholders unable to attend the rescheduled games will begin in late 2020.

– Influential –

Bach was elected an IOC member at the age of 37 and went on to play a series of influential roles within the organisation before being elected its ninth president.

Under his reign as IOC chief, Bach has had to grapple with several political challenges, and has notably overseen the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and the 2016 Rio Summer Games, both perceived as the most troublesome in recent years.

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He has also been a key player in the ongoing Russian doping saga, although the IOC came in for criticism from some quarters for not issuing Moscow with a blanket ban over its state-sponsored doping system.

Thomas Bach said he wanted Olympic venues like the National Stadium in Tokyo to be full of spectators © AFP/File / Philip FONG

Bach also came under fire for reinstating the Russian National Olympic Committee after the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics despite failed drugs tests there.

He is credited, however, with having put in place the Olympic Agenda 2020, reforms aimed at cutting costs and streamlining bidding processes to better attract potential host cities.

But the German lawyer and businessman could well have his biggest challenge ahead of him, in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Beijing scheduled to host the 2022 Winter Olympics just six months after the proposed Tokyo Games.

The IOC Session also saw Sebastian Coe, the head of World Athletics, voted in as an IOC member after being turned down several times.

Coe, the two-time Olympic 1,500 metres champion for Britain who became head of track and field’s world governing body in 2015, was blocked from membership as recently as December over a conflict of interest.

But Coe changed his role at the marketing company he is currently running as managing director to a passive position, thus paving the way to IOC membership.

Coe’s belated entry into the IOC club is significant because he has been mentioned as a potential future president of the Olympic movement.

“Thank you to all of you who voted for our sport, our federation today,” said Coe.

“I look forward, our whole sport looks forward, to working even more closely with all of you in reforming and building all sports because at this time, of all times, the need for community in elite sport to thrive and flourish is probably never more important.”

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As Coe signed his IOC oath, Bach let slip a telling greeting: “Finally, welcome!”

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Europe beckons for South African rugby after Kiwi snub

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jul 20World Cup-winning Springbok Schalk Brits believes the future of South African rugby lies in Europe after New Zealand said there was no room for sides from the republic in Super Rugby.

“All of this jet lag and flying across different time zones just does not work,” said the hooker who retired after the triumphant 2019 World Cup campaign.

“We have got so many South Africans playing in Europe and it would be awesome to see them in action here for European clubs.”

With New Zealand favouring a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition, South Africa Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux will address the media Tuesday about the way forward.

There has been no rugby in South Africa since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, which claimed 5,033 lives by late Sunday, the most in an African country.

Here, AFP Sport looks at the possibilities for the world champions Springboks and Super Rugby teams the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.

Rugby Championship

There has been speculation that the six-round annual tournament will be cut to four matches with New Zealand and Australia playing in South Africa only every second year.

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That would be a huge blow for SA Rugby coffers as the century-old rivalry with the All Blacks makes them a huge drawcard.

South Africa might consider abandoning the Championship and pursuing a suggestion by former All Blacks Justin Marshall and Jeff Wilson for three-Test tours between the great rivals.

“British and Irish Lions tours are so successful because we look forward to them,” noted another ex-All Black, John Kirwan. The same could be said of an All Blacks-Springboks series.

‘Seven Nations’

Should South African franchises move north, would the Springboks follow suit and apply to join England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales in a ‘Seven Nations’ championship?

Having the world champions on board would surely excite the organisers and costs would be greatly reduced if the Springboks played their three away matches on consecutive weekends.

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England, Ireland, France and Wales, in particular, would bring freshness for rugby followers, who have not rushed to the turnstiles for Championship visits by Australia and Argentina.

Ask the SA Rugby treasurer for his ‘dream’ line-up and he would surely say a multi-Test tour by the All Blacks and participation in the ‘Seven Nations’.

Super Rugby

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Although not official yet, the reality is that New Zealand want to play some Australian sides and the Pacific Islands in a new competition while excluding South Africa and Argentina.

The original version, a Super 10 between 1993 and 1995, was a superb competition, but constant tinkering and expansion has led to waning interest in a difficult-to-follow event.

Even those supporting the Golden Lions of South Africa could not have derived too much satisfaction from a 94-7 thrashing of Japanese visitors the Sunwolves three years ago.

South Africa sides often battled with time differences in Australasia — New Zealand is 11 hours ahead of the republic — and were weary after four-match tours.

‘Pro16’

Pro14 chief executive Martin Anayi says he would welcome Super Rugby ‘rejects’ the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers into an expanded edition.

“The tournament works well but could be even better if we added some South African teams,” he said, referring to a competition that also includes Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh teams.

But there may be no room for the two current South African Pro14 participants, the Cheetahs and Kings, who have experienced very different fortunes.

While the Cheetahs have been competitive, the Kings won just four of 55 matches in three seasons with some of the losing margins embarrassing.

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Currie Cup

The domestic competition has survived constant format changes to remain the vital ‘nursery’ from which Springboks emerge.

First staged in 1892, it was the bedrock of South African rugby until the dawn of professionalism after the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

As Test and Super Rugby fixtures took up an increasing amount of the season, the Currie Cup often battled for calendar space.

But it survived and this year could feature the four Super Rugby sides plus the Cheetahs, Kings, Griquas and Pumas, if play is possible amid the coronavirus.

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Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19

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Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19

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Kenya’s coronavirus cases rise to 13,771 after 418 more infections

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By NATION REPORTER

Kenya on Monday reported 418 more Covid-19 infections, raising the country’s tally to 13,771 since the virus was first confirmed on March 13.

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Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rashid Aman also reported four more deaths, raising the toll to 238. He rectified an earlier report about 19 deaths in a single day, which would have been the highest number ever recorded in Kenya.

The 418 new patients were found following the testing of 2,474 samples in the last 24 hours.

Four hundred and eight of them were Kenyans and 10 foreigners while male patients numbered 263 and female patients 155.

Dr Aman also announced that 494 patients had been discharged, raising the country’s total number of recoveries to 5,616.

Of the recovered patients, 465 were under home care and the rest in hospitals.

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