The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has confirmed no spectators will be allowed to attend events at the upcoming Games in Tokyo.

Japan is still in a state of emergency as it battles with a spike in coronavirus cases and the recent Olympic Games were held mostly behind closed doors as a result.

Similarly, the Paralympians competing in Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Shizuoka will not have the backing of the crowd when the Games start on August 24.

The IPC, along with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG), and the Government of Japan, held a remote meeting on Monday to determine if spectators would be allowed to attend.

"We very much regret that this situation has impacted the Paralympic Games," the Games' organisers said in a statement.

"We sincerely apologise to all ticket buyers who were looking forward to watching the Games at the venues.

"We hope that you understand that these measures are unavoidable and being implemented in order to prevent the spread of infection. Everyone is encouraged to watch the Games at home."

 

New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole will start Monday's MLB clash against the Los Angeles Angels after recovering from coronavirus.

Cole landed on the COVID-19 injured list following a positive test on August 3, having not pitched since the Yankees' showdown with the Tampa Bay Rays on July 29.

But the four-time All-Star will take to the mound against the Angels.

"I'm feeling good, ready to go," Cole said on Sunday. "I'm very much looking forward to it.

"I don't think we'll push the limits by any means because the recovery will be important, but I'm ready to pitch."

In 2021, Cole has a 3.11 ERA through 21 games, with 176 strikeouts and a 10-6 win-loss record.

Cole is tied for fourth this season in shutouts, only behind Anthony DeSclafani of the San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics star Sean Manaea and Philadelphia Phillies ace Zack Wheeler.

Only Wheeler (187) has managed more strikeouts than Cole this season.

The Yankees (65-52) are third in the American League (AL) East, behind the high-flying Rays (71-47) and Boston Red Sox (69-51), while they are two and a half games adrift in the Wild Card race.

"I think we've done a really great job," Cole said. "We're playing good baseball, but we still feel like we can play just a little bit better.

"Now we're just looking for the final piece to push it over the edge and really get white-hot here."

Javier Tebas says it has "hurt" LaLiga to lose Lionel Messi but pinned the blame at the door of Barcelona for refusing to accept a contentious financial arrangement.

LaLiga has struck a €2.7billion (£2.3bn) deal with CVC Capital Partners, one that will see the private equity firm acquire 10 per cent of the commercial business.

In turn, the other 90 per cent of the investment would be used to help cash-strapped clubs across the top two tiers of Spanish football as they cope with the long-term financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Both Madrid and Barca have spoken out against the proposal, while on Wednesday the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) insisted it was "totally illegal."

Madrid and Barca allege the agreement includes all clubs' audiovisual rights for the next 50 years, with Los Blancos taking legal action as they were not properly consulted.

However, the deal will go ahead as planned after a general assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour on Thursday, though Barca and Madrid are two of the four clubs to have opted out of the agreement.

Speaking after the proposal was passed, LaLiga president Tebas was adamant Barca could well have kept hold of Messi – who has now joined Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent – had they signed up.

"I don't know exactly what Barca are doing to lower their wage-bill — with the CVC money they would have had around €40m more," Tebas said.

"It could have been for Messi, or others, to make a more competitive squad. We are hurt by Messi leaving, for sure, but there is no clause in any TV deal which sees us get less money without Messi, although it could hurt companies who are looking to add subscribers and fans of the biggest clubs.

"In LaLiga we've always wanted to have the best players but then Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar left and Messi has now left.

"I'd say it's probably been quite traumatic because for a whole month the president of Barcelona kept saying everything was going well and all of a sudden, one afternoon, the whole transaction went down.

"So it's a real shame that Messi has left but we've worked a lot to ensure our value in broadcasting rights doesn't go down.

"I'm convinced that the fans of Barcelona in Spain will still watch Barcelona as well whether or not Messi is playing for them.

"We signed recently an eight-year contract with ESPN and there was no clause that obliged us to have Messi playing for our league. Who knows in eight years' time who is playing in the Spanish league. They're important, the players, and they help, but they're not essential."

Tebas also hit out at Madrid and Barca for "hampering" the process, suggesting the two giants of Spanish football are instead invested in developing a European Super League.

"Everything that LaLiga do, Real and Barcelona try to block it," Tebas said, as reported via The Athletic. "But we keep growing anyway, and it will continue to grow whether all clubs agree to this deal or not.

"Real and Barca do not want the national leagues to develop and grow stronger. That would not benefit their Super League project. They want most of the money to flow to them.

"Real Madrid have been for eight years hampering our attempts to grow LaLiga's TV revenues, [former Barcelona president Josep Maria] Bartomeu was with them in that too."

According to Tebas, CVC are investing to develop the league, rather than salvage the finances of Spanish clubs.

"CVC were interested because of how we have developed, without help from Madrid or Barca. CVC have not come here to bail us out — they are not here because of the pandemic," he said.

"Only 15 per cent of the money can be used to pay off debts, 70 per cent is for investment in infrastructure. So they are not here to bail out Spanish football, but to help build a stronger league."

England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive Tom Harrison is "very confident" of this year's Ashes series going ahead in Australia.

Joe Root's England side are due to start their bid to regain the urn at The Gabba on December 8, with the fifth and final Test scheduled to begin at Optus Stadium in Perth on January 18.

However, England players have raised concerns about the possibility of their families not being able to join them for the trip due to Australia's tight border controls during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the prospect of lengthy quarantines.

Multi-format players such as Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler face the prospect of four months away from home as the T20 World Cup takes place in the United Arab Emirates and Oman ahead of the Ashes. 

Talks between the ECB and Cricket Australia are ongoing to reach a compromise and Harrison is optimistic that a full-strength England party will make the trip.

"We are working very closely with Cricket Australia (CA) and I had my latest conversation with my counterpart at CA yesterday," Harrison said. "We are speaking every few days on the matter.

"All the right conversations are happening at government level in Australia and we will be using our own diplomatic channels in the UK to ensure the view of the players and the ECB [is heard].

"This is not players asking for anything unreasonable – these are very reasonable requests that we are asking the Australian government to give some leniency, frankly.

"It's going to be important for us to ensure we can give comfort to players that their families are going to be able to be in Australia and that those conditions in which they are quarantined will be reasonable, enabling the players to be at their best in that Test series.

"It's a conversation that's going to take place over the next few weeks but I am very confident we will get to a place where we can fulfil our obligations to tour."

LaLiga's deal with CVC Capital Partners has been labelled "totally illegal" by the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF).

The €2.7billion (£2.3bn) arrangement that was announced last week would see private equity firm CVC acquire 10 per cent of the league's commercial business.

The other 90 per cent of the investment was earmarked to boost cash-strapped clubs in the top two tiers of Spanish football amid the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the deal – which must be approved by two thirds of the 42 clubs involved at Thursday's general assembly – was heavily criticised by Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Madrid and Barca allege the agreement affects all clubs' audiovisual rights for the next 50 years, with Los Blancos threatening to take legal action against LaLiga and president Javier Tebas as they were not properly consulted.

In a long statement released on their official website on Wednesday, the RFEF said it is also totally opposed to the proposal that has been put forward.

The statement read: "This operation, carried out with the absence of the slightest publicity and concurrence in the selection of the successful bidder, has two parts. The one related to the commercialisation of audiovisual rights, on the one hand; and the rest of the LNFP businesses, which make up a heterogeneous group, on the other.

"Regarding the agreements between the LNFP and CVC related to the audiovisual rights of sports clubs and corporations, the RFEF must express its opposition. 

"Not only for legal reasons, which will undoubtedly generate numerous litigation derived from the agreement and may put its own viability in doubt, since it is intended to force some legal institutions to the extreme; but also for economic reasons, since the rights of clubs and SADs are heavily taxed for the next fifty years in exchange for a small amount of money. 

"But the most important thing is that the agreement increases inequality and, in a capital and definitive way, makes a reasonable evolution of the format of professional football competition in Spain impossible. 

"Causing that in practice and in application of the agreement the competition is petrified without the possibility of evolution or can only be modified when a third party outside the sports structure so decides or agrees, a fact that flagrantly violates the law and the European sports model. 

"In addition, forget about the clubs that play non-professional competitions that, at the time of their promotion to professional competition, will see that their income is reduced by CVC's remuneration, without having obtained any benefit from the contribution of that entity."

The RFEF also claims the agreement with CVC does not account for the clubs who will be promoted to LaLiga further down the line, which would see their income reduced if not paid upfront.

"If there are clubs who, with their own rights, wish to indebt themselves voluntarily, they are free to do so, whether at market rates or extortionate ones, but not through a totally illegal agreement which obliges everyone else, via a false attribution on the part of the LNFP of rights it does not own," the statement continued.

"We consider this attempt to bypass the law and create an agreement which is economically dreadful and deplorable in terms of the future of Spanish football while, in contrast, excellent for an investment fund and other possible beneficiaries.

"The RFEF must also warn that it will not allow during these 50 years any reduction in the contribution from audio-visual rights given to the lower tiers of football."

Former hurdles star Edwin Moses questioned the Games going ahead in Tokyo but insisted time will tell as to whether the decision was correct.

Prior to the delayed Games, there was scepticism towards the safety of holding such an event amid a global pandemic, but Tokyo 2020 was completed without major incident.

Moses, a two-time Olympic gold medallist, agreed with the concern throughout Japan – and across the world – as he discussed the unusual competitive conditions.

"I was always very concerned," the former United States athlete told Stats Perform.

"I always wondered whether it was the right decision to expose the Japanese people to tens and thousands of people coming in. I guess we’ll see what the fallout is.

"I would have been compelled to go if I was 25 years old. [The] conditions are not normal for athletes. I can't imagine competing under them."

Paris awaits in 2024 before Los Angeles and Brisbane follow as the next hosts.

But Moses, who set the world record four times in 400 metre hurdles, was unsure as to whether the Olympic model has been too restrictive for a competition that prides itself on inclusivity.

"[It] was talked about trying to move the Olympics to different countries," the 65-year-old continued. "I think the set up and model now means that it will never be somewhere like Africa. They can't afford it.

"I think they're behind the eight ball in terms of moving it around. Right now they've restricted themselves to American, [Asian] and European countries. [The] model is not sustainable to diversify delivery."

Asked whether they can alter this issue and make the model more inclusive, Moses responded: "I don't know. I'm not sure if it was in somewhere like South Africa for example.

"People would want that amount of money spent on it. They've been trying but [I am] not sure theyve found a reasonable solution."

One leading light for the delayed games, however, is the conversations that have opened on mental health.

Simone Biles, who would later take to social media to further inform her audience as to her mental health struggles, made the headlines when she courageously withdrew from artistic gymnastic events before emphatically returning to secure bronze on the beam.

IOC president Thomas Bach praised the athletes for offering "hope" as one of the "most precious gifts" during Sunday's closing ceremony and Moses offered insight into the mental health aspects of being an athlete.

"It's intense," Moses added. "People have no idea what it takes. And in today's world with the commercialism, Simone Biles was expected to win five medals.

"I think it was a combo of physical and mental. Her internal GPS system disconnected from her motor system and she could have been in danger."

Moses, who credited athletes for removing the stigma of mental health by opening up on the topic, concluded: "At a certain level competition is competition and if you are not ready for it it's okay.

"The problem is big athletes are pulling out of events now. Athletes will have had deaths in the family, people ill, all kinds of situations."

IOC president Thomas Bach hailed the athletes of Tokyo 2020 for offering the world "the most precious of gifts" in the form of "hope" before bringing the Games to a close on Sunday.

There was plenty of scepticism throughout Japan, and indeed across the globe, about the practicality of hosting an Olympics in the midst of a pandemic.

Bach and the Olympics organisers remained steadfast in their belief the Games – delayed by a year due to the proliferation of COVID-19 – should go ahead, though, and Tokyo 2020 has played out without major incident over the past two weeks.

Speaking at Sunday's closing ceremony, Bach reiterated the message of solidarity he heeded when opening the 32nd Olympiad a little over two weeks ago.

"Dear athletes, over the last 16 days you have amazed us with your sporting achievements, with your excellence, with your joy and with your tears. You created the magic of these Olympic games Tokyo 2020," he said.

"You were faster, you went higher, you were stronger, because we all stood together in solidarity. 

"You were competing fiercely with each other for Olympic glory and at the same time you were living peacefully together under one roof at the Olympic village. This is a powerful message of solidarity and peace. 

"You inspired us with this unifying power of sport, this is even more remarkable given the many challenges you had to face because of the pandemic. In these difficult times you gave to the world the most precious of gifts. Hope. 

"For the first time since the pandemic began the entire world came together, sport returned to centre stage, billions of people around the globe were united by emotion, sharing moments of joy and inspiration. This gives us hope, this gives us faith in the future, the Olympic games Tokyo 2020 are the Olympic games of hope, solidarity and peace. 

"You the best athletes of the world could only make your Olympic dream come true because Japan prepared the stage for you to shine. You the Japanese people can be extremely proud of what you have achieved. On behalf of all the athletes we say thank you Tokyo, thank you Japan.

"And now I have to mark the end of this most challenging Olympic journey. I declare the Games of the 32nd Olympiad closed."

Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, added: "The athletic events of the past 17 days have inspired us, given us courage, and shown us hopes for the future.

"I would like to express my feelings of gratitude and respect to all the athletes, and to everyone else who overcame so many difficulties to so thoroughly prepare for these Games and deliver their absolute best performances."

It was by no means certain the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics would even go ahead, such was the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

But go ahead they did and now here we stand on the eve of the closing ceremony in the Japanese capital.

They have certainly been a Games like no other and we all hope future Olympics will not be held under such unusual circumstances, and judging the success of Tokyo 2020 is no easy feat given the measures to do so are too arbitrary.

Having said that, here are the highs of the Games and some of the lows, too.

The highs…

WARHOLM AND MCLAUGHLIN HAMMER THE HURDLES

Karsten Warholm revelled in bringing the "wow" factor to the men's 400m hurdles, and rightly so. The Norwegian became the first man to break the 46-second barrier – running an astonishing 45.94 seconds to smash his own world record, five weeks after breaking a benchmark held by Kevin Young for 29 years. A day later, Sydney McLaughlin battered her own world record in the women's race, clocking in at 51.46s.

VAN VLEUTEN'S HEARTWARMING TRIUMPH

Five years ago in Rio, Annemiek van Vleuten was on course for victory in the women's cycling road race until a high-speed crash left her with minor fractures to her spine. To make matters worse, the Dutchwoman made headlines for celebrating what she thought was victory in the same event here in Tokyo – only to realise she had finished second behind runaway winner Anna Kiesenhofer. But finally, her golden moment arrived in the women's time trial – at the age of 38 years and 293 days, she became the third-oldest woman to win Olympic gold for the Netherlands.

SWIMMING STARS PROVE THERE'S LIFE AFTER PHELPS

Michael Phelps is an Olympics legend and no one can lay claim to more than the 23 golds or 28 overall medals he accrued over between 2004 and 2016. But a stellar cast this year proved swimming is in a very strong position. Emma McKeon took home seven medals (including four golds) – the joint-most of any woman at a single Games – while Ariarne Titmus' 200m and 400m free double was memorable, particularly her win over the great Katie Ledecky in the latter race. Caeleb Dressel took five golds to show his potential as Phelps' heir apparent, while Adam Peaty stunned again for Great Britain. It was some week in the pool.

THOMPSON-HERAH DOES THE DOUBLE-DOUBLE

Elaine Thompson-Herah announced herself to the world stage with a 100 and 200m sprint double at Rio 2016 but injuries in the intervening years stemmed her momentum a little. However, she peaked at the perfect time in Tokyo and backed up her double from Brazil – becoming the first woman to repeat on the 100 and 200m. Indeed, only Usain Bolt had ever previously done so.

THE AZZURRI'S GOLDEN HOUR

There was a shock in the men's 100m final where the unheralded Marcell Jacobs started the post-Bolt era with gold. That followed on from countryman Gianmarco Tamberi having minutes earlier shared high jump glory with Mutaz Essa Barshim. There were hugs aplenty as Italy, surely celebrating their greatest night at an Olympics, won two athletics golds at the same Games since Athens in 2004.

NEW EVENTS CATCH THE IMAGINATION

One of the most fascinating aspects of any Olympics is the new sports and categories that get added to the programme. At Tokyo 2020, skateboarding, surfing and climbing have all attracted new and younger audiences to the Games – while the addition of mixed triathlon and the mixed 4x400m track relay have been successes.

BILES' INSPIRATIONAL MESSAGE

On the one hand, the fact we saw so little of Simone Biles and some of the reprehensible bilge aimed her way over the decision to pull out of the women's team event after just one rotation and then miss four individual events can be seen as a negative. But, on the other hand, the fact that she came back to take bronze on the balance beam and use her platform to promote the importance of protecting mental health has to be seen as a high. It takes bravery and courage in her position to speak on such matters. Kudos to you, Simone.

And the lows…

EMPTY STADIUMS AN ENDURING IMAGE

Let's start with the obvious here and something that has been spoken about pretty relentlessly. The absence of fans has had a huge cost on the atmosphere at these Games. Magical moments and career peaks played out in front of huge, empty stadia has undoubtedly been a huge negative. Many will take the fact we got here and managed to hold a Games at all as a positive. And it is. But at times, the whole thing felt a bit… meh.

TENNIS' HEADLINE ACTS FAIL TO DELIVER

With so many of the top male players opting to skip Tokyo, there was a big focus on Novak Djokovic and the next checkmark on his quest for a rare Golden Slam (only Steffi Graf has ever done it). The Serbian fell short, dropping out at the semi-final stage then getting a little stroppy. Big things were also expected of Naomi Osaka – a home hope and the 'face of the Games'. She made it as far as round three before going down to Marketa Vondrousova.

THE TSIMANOUSKAYA SAGA

One of the ugliest stories to emerge from the Games was the story of Belarusian runner Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who refused to board a flight after allegedly being taken to the airport against her will following her public criticism of her team's organisation on social media. Tsimanouskaya competed in only one event and claimed she was entered into a 4x400m relay despite never racing in the discipline, suggesting that was a result of members of the team being considered ineligible due to not completing enough doping tests. The Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation indicated Tsimanouskaya feared for her life upon returning to Minsk. The country is under the authoritarian leadership of president Alexander Lukashenko, whose son Viktor heads the national Olympic committee (NOC). Both men were banned last December from attending Tokyo 2020. The whole thing has been really rather unsavoury.

Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard is isolating after contracting coronavirus, the club announced on Saturday.

United were preparing to face Everton in a friendly at Old Trafford in front of an expected crowd of 55,000 and confirmed starts for captain Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial.

But the club added: "Unfortunately, Jesse Lingard is unavailable after testing positive for COVID-19. He is isolating in line with government and Premier League guidelines."

Lingard enjoyed an outstanding loan spell with West Ham last season, scoring nine goals in 16 Premier League appearances.

The England international netted on average once every 158 minutes, the 11th-best rate in the division among players with multiple goals.

Lingard, who also provided four assists last term, has returned to the first-team fold at United in pre-season.

He posted on his Twitter page on Saturday: "Really gutted to have tested positive after a good pre-season.

"Luckily I feel fine and will follow the guidelines and be back with the boys on pitch very soon! Thank you for your support."

Bayern Munich's rearranged DFB-Pokal clash with Bremer will take place on August 25, the club announced on Thursday.

Julian Nagelsmann's side were meant to get their campaign underway against the fifth-tier outfit this Friday.

However, positive COVID-19 test results forced Bremer into quarantine and subsequently ensured the first-round clash had to be rescheduled.

Bayern announced the new date in a statement on their official website. It read: "FC Bayern's DFB-Pokal match away to Bremer SV has been rearranged for Wednesday August 25. The first-round clash, which was originally scheduled for Friday, had to be postponed due to quarantine measures imposed on the fifth-division club.

"The new date has now been confirmed by the German Football Association (DFB), with the match at Bremen's Weserstadion kicking off at 20:15 CEST. The new date for the draw for the second round is 5 September at 18:30 CEST."

The original postponement meant the Bundesliga champions missed the chance to get crucial minutes into first-team players before their top-flight opener against Borussia Monchengladbach on August 13.

Further scheduling issues may follow for the Bavarians given they must play five times in 15 days, including the DFL-Supercup against Borussia Dortmund and clashes with both Cologne and Hertha Berlin.

Aside from Nagelsmann's appointment, Bayern have had a quiet transfer window, with the only signing of note being the acquisition of RB Leipzig's Dayot Upamecano following the departures of club greats David Alaba and Jerome Boateng.

Bayern Munich have confirmed their first-round DFB-Pokal match with Bremer has been postponed due to coronavirus concerns.

The Bundesliga champions were due to begin their cup campaign on Friday against the fifth-tier side.

However, Bremer recorded positive COVID-19 test results within the first-team squad, meaning quarantine measures have been imposed on the club.

"The health of our and of our opponent's players are of paramount importance, so we consider the order of the health department to place our team in quarantine as correct and necessary," said Dr. Peter Warnecke, the club's first chairman and hygiene officer.

Bayern later said in a statement: "The DFB [German Football Association] has announced that Bayern's DFB-Pokal match at Bremer SV on Friday has been postponed due to quarantine measures ordered by the authorities for the host club.

"The DFB will make a decision on the rescheduling of the match after consultation with both clubs as soon as possible. In addition, the draw for the second round will also have to be postponed due to both clubs having been placed in different sides of the draw."

Bayern later announced on Tuesday that young forward Joshua Zirkzee will spend the 2021-22 season on loan with Anderlecht.

Sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said: "It's very important for Joshua that he gets as much playing time as possible. Anderlecht offers him this chance. Joshua can now take the important next step in his professional career in an interesting league, and I trust him to have a good season."

Bayern are due to begin their Bundesliga title defence away to Borussia Monchengladbach on August 13.

Hosting an Olympic Games at any time can be a logistical nightmare. Doing so during the height of a deadly pandemic only exacerbates the difficulties.

For example, how do you go about trying to appease a largely Olympic-sceptic city like Tokyo, whose residents were fearful of the effect welcoming thousands of athletes, officials and world's media would have in increasing coronavirus infection rates.

Stats Perform's man on the ground, Peter Hanson, provides a look at how travel is working at Tokyo 2020 to assuage the fears of the locals, and a behind-the-scenes glimpse of his journeys to the arenas he has visited.

BUSES, BUSES AND MORE BUSES...

Let's start with a secret.

This isn't my first time in Tokyo. I actually visited here seven years ago with a couple of American friends. The three of us had recently been in Bangkok for our buddy's Thai wedding and had decided to make the hop across to continue our travel adventure.

My overriding memories of that first jaunt were just how futuristic it felt, the signs and billboards burning bright LED lights directly into my quickly faltering retinas. For a major city, I remember also thinking how clean the place was. I'm a big fan of city dwelling – but most can be a little untidy in places.

The other thing that sticks out is how absolutely hopeless I was at navigating my way around. This is nothing new, I can barely get around the streets of Sheffield and Rotherham – the places I have lived my entire 31 years – back in England without needing to follow Google Maps. Luckily for me, my travel companions are not quite so directionally challenged, so I largely just hopped on whatever subway they did and didn't ask questions...

So, when I first got asked if I'd like to cover these Games my first reaction was "yes, absolutely". My second was "better start saving up for three weeks' worth of Ubers".

But these are pandemic times, and pandemic times call for pandemic measures. There are rules in place and restrictions to follow, and one of the great logistical challenges Tokyo 2020 organisers have faced is how to ferry around hordes of the world's media while restricting their interactions with locals – many of whom were not keen on hosting the Olympics at all – during the Games.

I have to say, the end result has been pretty impressive. As soon as you enter the departure hall at the airport, you are ferried onto a shuttle bus, taken to a taxi rank being held inside a huge car park around 20 minutes away, popped into a taxi and driven straight to your hotel.

For someone as dense with directions as I am, this was a bit of a relief.

But that was just the first problem to solve. For the first 14 days of your visit to Tokyo, you have to agree not to go anywhere other than your hotel or to Games-specific locations in a previously agreed Activity Plan.

For that fortnight you are also told not to take public transport anywhere. To solve this issue, Tokyo 2020 has created quite the travel network.

The media transport mall at the media centre is connected to nearly all the Games venues. There are over 30 terminals (not quite like you would see in a normal indoor bus depot – rather a series of stops in a huge outdoor space with sort of crudely constructed tents to keep you sheltered should it rain).

Approximately a third of these stops are connected to a list of Tokyo 2020-approved hotels, running buses to our accommodation 24 hours a day (although, understandably, between midnight and 6am these run much less frequently). 

The rest ship us off to the Games venues, with drop-off points roughly a five-minute walk to the various media centres.

It is not the only way to get around a city still under a state of emergency. Tokyo 2020 has created the Transport by Chartered Taxi system, whereby you can book Games-specific vehicles to cart you around to the desired location.

After that initial two weeks, you are technically allowed to use public transport (and are provided a travel pass to do so) but actively encouraged to keep using the media network to limit social interactions with the regular public.

MARVELLING AT THE MEDIA CENTRE

One of the things I was most looking to when entering Japan was seeing the media centre.

Okay, sure, partly because I'd been couped up in quarantine for three days and the escape from the four walls of my hotel room was a blessed relief.

But mostly because I was itching to see for the first time what a media centre for an Olympics looks like.

Once taking the bus from the hotel to the media centre, getting in is quite a smooth process. The media complex – which adjoins to the broadcasting centre – is so big that from the transport mall you have to take a shuttle bus. From there, you undergo a temperature check, lower your mask so the security cameras can get a good look at your face, and scan your accreditation card before waiting nervously for the green light to give recognition you are an approved member of the media.

The first impression was just how big the complex is. There are rows upon rows of hot desks, all with plug sockets and LAN cables, while every which way you turn there are TV monitors showing a variety of different events.

There are private offices everywhere (for the likes of the IOC and British Olympics association), medical rooms to drop off PCR tests, help desks for everything from tech woes to transport, food courts, cafes, fancy-looking vending machines…you name it, over several vast floors it's (probably) got it.

TRIBUNE TRAVAILS AT THE AQUATICS CENTRE

The sad thing about the Tokyo Aquatics Centre is the fact it serves as a reminder that these are the Games that could have been.

Opened in February 2020 close to Tokyo Bay, it is a hugely impressive structure that holds approximately 15,000 spectators – sadly, save for the pockets of athletes cheering on their team-mates, these seats are not in use and the bright-blue glow of the pool and the huge screens present an almost eerie feeling without the packed rafters.

My first trip there was an exciting one, though. It would act as my first "live" view of these Games and I got to witness TeamGB's first gold medal of Tokyo 2020 thanks to Adam Peaty, and caught most of Tom Daley's emotional triumph in the men's synchronised 10 metre diving.

It's a process much like the media centre to get in, only here you have a physical thermometer placed on your forehead to check you don't have a temperature. But as at all the venues you do go through airport-style checks before heading down to the media. It was at the aquatics centre I was asked to taste the bottle of water in my bag and, even though I knew it wasn't possible, I did start to panic and wonder what if it had been poisoned…

It hadn't of course and off I popped down the road towards the media area, which for the aquatics centre is a long tent that also adjoins to the press conference room.

So far so good. My issue came again with my aforementioned navigation skills. My friends back home call me 'Captain Direction' I'm that hopeless with them (okay, that's a nickname I actually gave myself but still…). The problem I encountered was trying to find my appropriate area in the media tribune, walking through about 10 different doors, and walking up and down several hefty flights of stairs before I reached the conclusion that I had probably been in the right place from the start…

INSPIRED BY SIMONE AT THE GYMNASTICS CENTRE

Before I travelled to Tokyo, I had a rough idea in my head of some of the things I wanted to do. One at the very top of my priority list was seeing Simone Biles live in the gymnastics.

So, on the first Tuesday of the Games I managed to get a high-demand ticket for the Ariake Gymnastics Centre to watch the final of the women's team event.

The trip there was probably my favourite, because unlike a lot of the other buses that serve just a single venue, this one was bit of a stadium hop around Ariake – a district of Koto in Tokyo.

Before I made it as far as the gymnastics centre, I was treated to a look at the Ariake Tennis Park – where there was a deep temptation to jump off and try and catch a glimpse of Novak Djokovic or Naomi Osaka – and Ariake Arena, where the volleyball was being held. 

Eventually, I arrived at the gymnastics centre – an impressive temporary venue, which after the Games will be turned into a 12,000 seater sporting arena, and went through the now customary protocols to get inside.

Unlike my first journey to the aquatics centre, finding my way around here was an absolute breeze. All of the media facilities are inside the building, and there are signs pretty much every few yards directing you to the tribune.

I should at this point make another admission. I don't know the first thing about gymnastics. In fact, when I was at school I was so hopelessly bad at the sport in P.E. or gym or whatever you call it where you are, that my "routine" consisted of a shambolic forward roll and jazz hands. In my defence I was short, stocky, not particularly agile and carrying about 20lbs extra weight. All of those things still stand true today.

But it was too good an opportunity to pass up and it seemed the same for a lot of people in there. I sat next to a journalist from Denmark (whose son by the way is named Peter Hansen – hello Spider-Man meme!) who was there for the exact same reason as me, to see Biles in person.

There was no way to predict what came next, with this genuine living legend managing just one rotation before sitting out the rest of the event. She later revealed she has been contending with mental health issues.

Sitting in the news conference room, it was impossible not be completely full of admiration for this frank admission. Her bravery to send that message, I think, is more important than any achievement she has in gymnastics.

DISCOVERING THE OLYMPICS STADIUM

Another on my bucket list for this trip was obviously to check out the Olympics Stadium. I decided to book in for the athletics at the first opportunity and go to the morning session last Friday.

By that point, I'd been in Tokyo for 10 days and the long days and sleepless nights had taken their toll…so my first journey there I can't recall too much to you because I took a decent snooze on the 30-minute trip.

But, when I got there my initial thought was wow. I absolutely love sports stadia, you can't be a sports-obsessed kid like I was and not. I've seen some impressive arenas in my time – Wembley, Soccer City in Johannesburg, Yankees Stadium…Hillsborough.

And this is right up there among the best I've been to. Only, after that initial buzz I must say I was almost overwhelmed by a sudden sadness. 

I think maybe because at the other venues I'd visited I was so one-track minded in what I wanted to do whereas my first visit here was more about finding my bearings and preparing for a busy week to come. 

I remember going to one of the morning sessions at London 2012 and the Olympic Stadium was absolutely packed. It was weird seeing this place (with a capacity of 68,000) empty knowing it would stay that way for the rest of the Games, and knowing that really it deserved better.

Alvaro Odriozola has become the latest Real Madrid player to test positive for coronavirus.

The 25-year-old is the third member of the Madrid squad to contract the illness in the past eight days after Karim Benzema and new signing David Alaba also returned positive tests.

Odriozola played the full 90 minutes of Los Blancos' 2-1 friendly defeat to Rangers in Glasgow last week but will now self-isolate.

Madrid confirmed the news in a short statement on their official website on Saturday, though they did not clarify whether the four-cap Spain international was asymptomatic. 

Real Sociedad academy product Odriozola featured 16 times for Madrid in all competitions season, including nine starts in LaLiga.

With Dani Carvajal still on the comeback trail from a hamstring injury, Odriozola was in contention to start the season at right-back for Madrid.

Carlo Ancelotti's side have one more pre-season friendly to play – against Milan in Austria on August 8 – before beginning their LaLiga campaign against Alaves the following week.

Tokyo 2020 chiefs have banished an Olympic Village resident from the Games after they broke strict rules by going sightseeing.

The individual has had their accreditation withdrawn, said Tokyo Olympic organising committee spokesperson Masa Takaya.

Takaya did not identify the person concerned and would not comment on whether they were a competitor.

It is the first case of a resident of the Olympic Village being thrown out for such a breach of the Games 'playbook', which includes restrictions on movement due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Takaya told a media briefing on Saturday: "To leave the Olympic Village for sightseeing, that should not be tolerated and therefore accreditation was removed

"I can't give you any more than that. That decision was made yesterday."

Asked whether the person was an athlete, he added: "I can't tell you. It is a person related to the Games.

"As long as the accreditation is deprived, this person cannot enter into any Tokyo 2020 relevant venues."

Regarding whether any others were involved, Takaya said: "In terms of the number of people, I can't disclose that number."

He said more detail may be provided by Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto on Sunday, when he attends the daily Games briefing.

 

Takaya also said there had been a breach at a hotel housing athletes that are in isolation due to COVID-19 protocols, with two people said to have left.

"According to the facility manager – in this case it's a hotel – I have to say the communication was not adequate. When the hotel faced the people who insisted on leaving, the hotel wanted to retain them, trying to convince them of not leaving, but they have forcefully left the facility," Takaya said. 

That news came in the wake of Germany's athletes' body Athleten Deutschland criticising quarantine conditions.

The German organisation complained of "insufficient supply in basic areas", including fresh air.

"The food supply is neither rich nor balanced, nor does it meet the sometimes specific nutritional requirements of top athletes," Athleten Deutschland added.

"Athletes who have resumed training activities in the room have to wash sweaty clothes in the sink, which hardly dry afterwards.

"You feel left alone and have to obtain a lot of information yourself. It is unclear to you what the exact sequence of the quarantine is and what steps have to be taken after it has ended."

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will hold talks with Cricket Australia over coronavirus restrictions during the Ashes amid concerns that several senior players may be reluctant to tour.

Joe Root's side are due to start their bid to regain the urn at The Gabba on December 8, with the fifth and final Test scheduled to begin at Optus Stadium in Perth on January 18.

Multi-format players such as Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler would face several months away from home, with the T20 World Cup taking place in the United Arab Emirates prior to the Ashes.

It is unclear whether COVID-19 rules may prevent families from travelling to Australia and England players have been in talks this week to seek clarity over restrictions that may be in place.

The ECB and the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) say player and staff welfare will be a priority as they prepare to hold discussions with Cricket Australia.

A joint ECB and PCA statement  said: "This week, several meetings have been held between the England men's players, ECB and Team England Player Partnership to discuss provisional plans for the tour of Australia later in the year.

"All parties are collaborating and will continue to work together to understand protocols around bubble environments, family provision and quarantine rules that will be in place for the tour during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

"With player and management’s welfare paramount, the ECB will discuss planning and operational requirements with Cricket Australia in the coming weeks and how they seek to implement their policies in partnership with state and federal governments.

"All stakeholders are committed to putting player and staff welfare as the main priority and finding the right solutions that enables the England team to compete with the best players and at the highest possible standard that the Ashes series deserves."

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