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Tokyo 2020 an endorsement of Asian dynamism

The custodians of the world’s greatest multi-sports extravaganza could have selected a well-prepared Madrid option, or go to Istanbul which had pitched itself as a new region for the Games, and a vehicle for fostering peace in the Middle East.

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Instead the International Olympic Committee plumped for the Japanese capital.

Tokyo was not only what IOC president Jacques Rogge described as a “safe pair of hands”, but also a chance to unlock billions of dollars in the world’s most populous region.

Olympic presidential candidate Thomas Bach said it had been a choice between a traditional stronghold and new shores.

“This time the IOC members — in a fragile world — have decided in favour of tradition and stability,” he said.

But the appeal of Tokyo, which had to overcome concerns over the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant leaks just 230 km (140 miles) away, went far beyond safety and tradition.

The country’s financial might and its position in the world’s most dynamic continent also proved irresistible.

“We know they can deliver and have the financial strength to deliver. They can be trusted,” Australian IOC member Kevan Gosper said.

Ultimately Tokyo were rewarded for a strategy which saw them highlight their solid finances and a strong track record of delivering on promises.

The Japanese capital flashed a $4.5 billion war-chest in front of the IOC a year before the vote, assuring them money for the Games was already in the bank.

This was music to the ears of an IOC membership acutely sensitive to the impact the global economic downturn of recent years has had on sports, especially at a grass-roots level.

The IOC is also acutely aware of the preparation obstacles facing next Games host Rio, and wanted to take no risk at all with their 2020 choice.

RIO PROBLEMS

“With their modern infrastructure and their ability to host and organise world-class sporting events, we are convinced the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be a great success,” said Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah, head of the Olympic Council of Asia.

“This commitment (to delivering on their promises) was important. The problems with Rio played a role in this decision,” he told Reuters.

In addition, the Tokyo bid team enticed the IOC in the days leading up to the vote with Asia’s massive marketing potential.

“Asia is the only continent in the world with more people living within its territory than outside,” said Fujio Cho, President of the Japan Sports Association and honorary chairman of Toyota Motor Corp.

“Consequently it is the largest market in the world, with billions of passionate sports fans,” he added.

The message was not misread.

“All three bids were strong bids,” IOC Executive Board member John Coates told Reuters, saying that Tokyo’s had been a good one for athletes.

“It was also good for the Olympic movement because much of our commercial support is in Asia,” he said.

SHIFTING POWER-BASE

Asked whether delays in preparations for the Rio Games may have alarmed members and could have swung votes in favour of Tokyo’s solid bid, Coates said: “I may have heard that.”

Tokyo’s bid has estimated a non-Games budget of around $4.4 billion compared to $3.4 billion for the actual event.

Returning to Asia for the 2020 Games also reaffirms the shifting power-base of global sport.

After decades where sport’s biggest events were mostly split between Europe and North America, international organisations are increasingly recognising the benefits of turning to Asia.

The continent will now host the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, the 2019 World Swimming Championships in South Korea and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Singapore, one of a handful of Asian countries on the Formula One motor racing calendar, has also been selected as the host for the end-of-season Women’s Tennis Association championships for the next five years.

“Asia can now look forward to an exciting few years in the Olympic spotlight,” Sheikh Ahmad said.

“Once again this highlights the influence of the continent as a partner in the Olympic Movement.”

(Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann and Julian Linden, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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Stenson wins Deutsche Bank Championship

Stenson, enjoying a rich run of form, moves above Tiger Woods into top spot in the FedExCup standings after the second of the PGA Tour’s four lucrative playoff events.

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The Swede’s victory was his first on the U.S. circuit since the 2009 Players Championship but follows a second place finish at the British Open and third spot at the PGA Championships.

“It’s been a great week, ball‑striking wise, and the putter was working nicely for me here on the weekend,” said a delighted Stenson.

“It’s nice to come through and win a big event after all the good finishes and getting close to winning like I’ve been the last couple of months. It’s great to get one my belt.

“I got off to a bad start (bogeying the second hole)… but I came back with three straight birdies on four, five and six to put me back into the ball-game. I made some nice putts today and just kept it going. I have been playing nicely for a long time.”

Veteran American Steve Stricker finished second, two shots behind Stenson, after firing a four-under 67 to secure himself an automatic place on the United States Presidents Cup team.

Canadian Graham DeLaet shot a solid 69 to finish alone in third, four adrift of Stenson, to follow up on his second place at The Barclays last week.

DeLaet sealed his place on the International team for the Presidents Cup, becoming only the second Canadian to achieve the honour, and rose to fifth in the FedExCup standings.

GARCIA FALLS BACK

Overnight leader Sergio Garcia fell back into a tie for fourth at the TPC Boston after closing with a disappointing 73, ending up five strokes behind Stenson.

“I just wasn’t comfortable. I wasn’t able to trust myself as I did the first few days,” said the Spaniard.

“It was hard, but I tried as hard as I could the last four holes and I felt like I played quite well.

“But overall, I think it’s been a good week. Very, very positive things from the first three rounds.”

World number one Woods wound up joint 65th after shooting a two-over 73, despite low-scoring conditions on a rain-softened course.

Stenson made a stumbling start with a bogey on his second hole, the par-five second, but fired himself into the lead with a run of four birdies between the fourth and eight holes.

Stricker applied some pressure at the close, a birdie at the 17th reducing the Swede’s advantage to two strokes, but on the same hole Stenson responded by splashing out from a bunker, the first time he had been in sand all week, for birdie.

American rookie sensation Jordan Spieth equalled the best round of the week with a superb 62, finishing with three birdies and an eagle on the 18th.

Spieth tied for fourth at 17-under, level with Spaniard Garcia and Americans Matt Kuchar (66) and Kevin Stadler (68).

Britain’s Brian Davis capped a good week with a 67 to finish at 16-under, a stroke better than compatriot Ian Poulter who had been well set for a higher finish before he got into bunker trouble at the last where he double-bogeyed to end up with a 69.

World number three Phil Mickelson, who began the week in magnificent form, bogeyed four holes on the front nine and double-bogeyed the 16th after finding water but ended with two birdies for an even-par 71 that left him in a tie for 41st.

(Editing by Gene Cherry/Mark Lamport-Stokes)

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Freiburg paying the price of success

But, while the big guns such as Bayern Munich were able to build on success with more lavish signings, Freiburg’s reward was to have their team ripped apart as players took advantage of contract release clauses.

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The result has been that Freiburg, who visit Augsburg on Saturday, have yet to win in four outings and find themselves languishing in 16th place in the 18-team table.

Freiburg’s team began to unravel barely two weeks after the season had finished when Congolese midfielder Cedric Makiadi, a vital cog in midfield for the previous four seasons, was sold to Werder Bremen for an estimated 3 million euros (2.52 million pounds).

Max Kruse, joint topscorer with 11 goals, departed for Borussia Moenchengladback for 2.5 million euros and midfielder Daniel Caligiuri was snapped by VfL Wolfsburg for 2.8 million.

The writing had been on the wall well before the end of last season with striker Jan Rosenthal agreeing terms in March for a summer move to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Coach Christian Streich had warned in April that further success this season was unlikely.

“We’re in for a tough time, we might even go down,” he said. “It would have been nice to have carried on with the team as it is and to strengthen it.”

DOUBLE WHAMMY

Qualifying for the Europa League, in combination with the loss of their best players, has proved to be something of a double whammy.

“Our weekly schedule has always consisted of playing on a Saturday, recovering on a Sunday and then analysing the game and working on things in training throughout the week,” Streich told Bundesliga’s official website (www.bundesliga.com) before the start of the season.

“We used to have Wednesday off, but now we’ll be playing on Thursday so how are we going to do that?”

“We’re going to be coming back on Friday, tired after playing, so we’re not going to be able to do too much on that day to prepare for our next opponents.”

Streich’s fears were confirmed as Freiburg began this season with defeats against Mainz 05 and Bayer Leverkusen, followed by more encouraging draws against Hoffenheim and Bayern Munich.

There was some good news on Wednesday when Jonathan Schmid, who also scored 11 goals last season, signed a contract extension for an undisclosed length of time.

The new signings, including 22-year-old French midfielder Francis Coquelin on loan from Arsenal, and the experienced Mike Hanke from Borussia Moenchengladbach are still settling.

At the other end of the table, Borussia Dortmund, who host erratic Hamburger SV (Saturday, 1630), are the only side who have taken maximum points from their opening four games.

Second-placed Bayern, who dropped their first two points at Freiburg and are the other unbeaten side, host third-placed Hanover 96, who are one point behind the Bavarians.

At the bottom, promoted Eintracht Braunschweig and Nuremberg, the only other teams without a win, clash on Sunday (1530). ($1 = 0.7518 euros)

(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

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Ill Kvitova falls to American Riske

Kvitova, the former Wimbledon champion, was on the verge of becoming world number one last year.

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But her decline in results continued with a lacklustre 6-3 6-0 loss to world number 81 Alison Riske in the third round at Flushing Meadows.

Kvitova, currently ranked 10th in the world, had her blood pressure taken during a medical time out in the second set of a defeat that took one hour and five minutes.

“Unfortunately I was lying in the bed yesterday and I had a fever, so I didn’t come to the site yesterday,” she said.

“My body didn’t help me today. I tried to play, tried to fight. But my body wouldn’t let me fight.

“That’s life. It’s not only in the tennis. It’s something I hope can help me and make me a little stronger.”

Kvitova’s early departure replicated unexpected losses at the three other majors this year. She was beaten by Britain’s Laura Robson in round two at the Australian Open, American Jamie Hampton in round three of the French Open and upset by Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens in the Wimbledon quarter-finals.

She was also hampered by a virus at The All England Club.

“I think it’s the same,” she said. “I had a blood test to see if it was bacteria and virus, and it was virus. I mean, I didn’t have any sore throat or anything like that. I had just a very high fever.

“It’s unlucky at a grand slam. I will take it for this year and next year will be better.”

Kvitova was a heavy favourite against the 23-year-old American after beating her recently in New Haven. But it quickly became apparent that Kvitova was ill.

“I couldn’t play really long rallies, like more than three shots in the rallies,” she said.

“So I try to play my aggressive game. First or second shots, to have a winner. I am disappointed.”

She was scheduled to have more blood tests before leaving New York.

Riske was in tears during her on-court interview.

“I believe I belong here,” she said.

Riske revealed the faith she placed in a small blanket given to her on the day she was born.

“The blankie story is out,” she said after her first victory against a top-10 player.

“I’m used to it now. I can’t deny it now. It’s getting smaller by the week. It can fit in the palm of my hand.

“My siblings always used to hide it. Used to make me so mad.”

The American wildcard said her good luck charm would stay in her hotel room in Manhattan during her fourth round appearance on Monday.

“It’s been with me since the second I was born,” she said. “It’s been around the world. It started out forest green and now it’s like mint green. I don’t know if it’s a colour now.”

(Editing by Gene Cherry)

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Arsenal ease past Fulham to end crisis talk

Lukas Podolski scored twice after Olivier Giroud had grabbed the opener for the visitors while Darren Bent tapped in a consolation goal on his debut for Fulham.

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It is the second time in four days Arsenal have scored three goals, following Wednesday’s 3-0 victory over Fenerbahce in their Champions League playoff.

Saturday’s win and the manner of the performance will go some way to making up for their opening day slip-up at home to Aston Villa, while the names on the scoresheet might make fans think twice about demands for a new marquee striker.

“Yes, I’m pleased because we played like a real team. It is never easy to play away in the league and we did it convincingly,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told BT Sport.

Both teams have three points from their first two Premier League games after Fulham beat Sunderland in their first game of the season.

Despite their resounding midweek win, the pre-match talk still focused on Arsenal’s need for reinforcements and the club’s perceived failure to land a signing to excite frustrated fans.

“You can get people to focus too much on who you will buy and forget how good the players are here,” Wenger added.

Giroud, who is often touted as one of the men Arsenal need to upgrade if they are to chisel out a title challenge, had his say in the debate with his third goal in as many games this season on nine minutes.

Aaron Ramsey tried his luck with a shot from distance that struck Giroud’s heels and fell neatly into the Frenchman’s path.

He lifted it delicately over keeper David Stockdale, standing in for the injured Maarten Stekelenburg, and into the net.

In atrocious conditions that made Arsenal’s intricate passing game difficult, Fulham harried their north London opponents and should have been level but for a fantastic save from Wojciech Szczesny.

The Arsenal keeper parried a shot from Adel Taarabt but the rebound fell invitingly for Damien Duff charging in at the far post. His shot, however, was deflected away by Szczesny’s feet as he scurried back into position.

It was a let-off for the visitors, who went on to double their advantage four minutes before the break.

Santi Cazorla sent Theo Walcott free down the right, his shot from the angle was pushed out by Stockdale, but Podolski followed up and blasted his effort into the net from the edge of the area.

The German made sure of the points midway through the second half when he latched on to Cazorla’s cross and fired in from the edge of the area for his second of the match.

Bent came off the bench on 58 minutes for his first appearance following his loan move from Aston Villa and grabbed a typical poacher’s goal, tapping in at the far post with 13 minutes to play.

(Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Pritha Sarkar and Stephen Wood)

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