Team GB sprint star Dina Asher-Smith hailed Marcus Rashford and his England team-mates for "showing a really good sense of moral leadership for our nation".

Manchester United striker Rashford earned plaudits for his work lobbying the government to provide free school meals during the height of the coronavirus pandemic last year, while he and the rest of the Three Lions squad who reached the final of Euro 2020 this month were also vocal in the fight against racism, continuing to take a knee throughout the tournament in a united showing against racial prejudice.

Asher-Smith, who will be going for gold in the 100 and 200 metres at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, has herself spoken out about her experiences of racism and in March she received the column of the year award by the International Sport Press Association for an article she wrote in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder.

She has also been a vocal supporter of the protests taken by Naomi Osaka and Lewis Hamilton in the past and the 25-year-old, a die-hard Red Devils supporter, hopes to do more in the area of social activism once the Olympics have finished.

"I think what Marcus and all the other players have been doing is fantastic and it made me so proud to watch them and see how they conducted themselves," Asher-Smith told a roundtable of journalists at a pre-Games Team GB call.

"I think they've done fantastically throughout the Euros. I think they surpassed all our expectations in the nicest way.

"They are actually a credit to our nation and showing a really good sense of moral leadership for our nation and I think as sports people we are really proud and definitely as a Brit, and a black Brit, especially throughout the Euros I was really proud of them. I think they represented both the nation and our community incredibly well.

"Social activism is something I'd love to increase, but with the Olympics and everything I've been one-track minded towards Tokyo. But definitely once we're past this point, because I definitely compartmentalise things, when I'm over this little compartment of my life that's definitely something I want to increase because you do have to give back.

"I think it's an essential part of being not only an athlete but someone who has had an opportunity and the only reason I'm here today is because of the good will and hard work of so many other people in teams and throughout my community and so many opportunities I've had, whether that's grants or school teachers taking extra time to take me to a club or telling me about a club.

"It's goodwill of other people so it would be entirely selfish to not give back when you have the opportunity to in your career and I'm really proud of how the footballers have done that throughout the year and how they conducted themselves throughout the Euros." 

 

Athletes competing in Tokyo are set to have more scope to protest at the upcoming Olympics after the IOC relaxed its controversial Rule 50, which previously forbade any "demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas".

The IOC will allow athletes to make protests prior to competitions starting, though anyone doing so on podiums or medal ceremonies – similar to the famous Black Power salute made by Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics – could face sanctions.

Asher-Smith always expected a climb down, adding: "I think to see the IOC lifted the ban, I was entirely unsurprised. 

"Protesting I see as a fundamental human right, so if you were to penalise someone for standing up against racial inequality how on earth would that go? You know what I mean? How on earth would you enforce that? 

"Would you revoke somebody's medal for saying racism is wrong? I honestly thought that was always going to happen otherwise they would have just been faced with loads of athlete protests at the Games and it would have been really embarrassing, you can't really tell people not to.

"Unless they want to say they're against people saying they're against racism I didn't know how that was going to go.

"Some of the Olympics' most iconic moments have been the Black Power salute by Tommie Smith way back when, and that is something people remember the Olympics for, that's something they're very proud to see at the Olympic Games."

Asher-Smith, the reigning 200m world champion, also hopes she can play her part in inspiring young women to take part in sports over the course of the next two weeks.

"I think the next fortnight has great potential to inspire an entire generation of young women as we do with every Olympics," she said.

"But I think it's becoming increasingly important nowadays. We have significant drop-off rates of young women.

"They hit teenage years, they're all very active in the sporting field or active world, then they hit between 11 and 15 and drop out in their droves.

"Then it's under 10 per cent get enough exercise or get the government recommended guidelines of exercise and engage on aesthetic grounds rather than having fun. 

"I hope the next fortnight shows not only can you make a viable career out of this. Being a sportswoman in whatever you want to do is a viable career it's not just track and field, it's not just tennis, it's not just football there are many avenues you can go down to be a career sportswoman. 

"But also that it's fun, that it can completely change your life, develop lifelong friendships, it's not just about doing sport for a physical goal to lose weight, to gain this, to alter your body but also for self-esteem, your mind, your mental health and to live a fulfilled and enriched life. 

"I think the Olympic Games has an incredible chance to inspire so many women and also women who have had babies, and the Paralympics as well, women who have very different life circumstances to all of us, so I think it's a great platform and showcase for all the sports we love."

Defending double Olympic champion Andy Murray revealed how his daughter provided him with inspiration after his early exit at Wimbledon.

A heavy third-round defeat by Denis Shapovalov had left the Scot questioning whether his hard work in training was worth it after years of injury woe as he tried to regain his spot at tennis' top table.

The two-time Wimbledon winner, who has four young children, now feels prepared and revitalised to compete in his fourth Games off the back of his young daughter's accidental wisdom.

Murray told reporters: "When I got home, the day after my match, my daughter said to me: 'Daddy, you're home because you lost another tennis match?'

"I said: 'Yeah, I did. But what do you do when you lose at something?' And she said: 'You try and try again?' I was like: 'Yeah, that's what I want to do.'

"I want to keep playing because I enjoy it and I still think I can play at a good level. 

"There have been difficult moments obviously in the last few months and the last year with the injuries and stuff, but right now this is the healthiest I've been for the longest period in the last year."

Murray will be part of a six-man squad in Japan, including doubles partner and two-time grand slam doubles winner Joe Salisbury, as he looks to defend his Rio 2016 and London 2012 golds.

As the only player to win back-to-back singles titles in Olympic history, Murray still intends to compete at the top-level of tennis for as long as he is able to do so.

"It can be hard and after tough losses like that at Wimbledon - you question a lot of things," the Team GB athlete added to BBC Sport.

"I do still feel like I am capable of playing high-level tennis and when that isn't the case I will stop playing. But right now I don't believe that is the case."

Yet the Games in Japan provides a completely different challenge in 2021 as all athletes remain acutely aware of the coronavirus concerns that surround sport all over the world.

The 34-year-old's Team GB team-mate Johanna Konta is one of many players to miss out due to circumstances linked to the virus.

Murray, who was drawn against ninth seed and Wimbledon quarter-finalist Felix Auger-Aliassime on Thursday, is familiar with the devastating impact a positive result can have after having to miss a major due to COVID-19.

"It happened to me before the Australian Open and I was gutted," he said.

"Thankfully I was able to compete in another grand slam a few months later, but if you've been preparing for something for five years and something like that to happens to you, it would be brutal.

"So there is an anxiousness, but from what I've seen everyone is taking the protocols seriously, so hopefully there won't be too many issues."

Murray will be hoping for few issues on the court too, though he and Salisbury have been drawn in a difficult tie against second-seeded pair Pierre Hugues-Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.

Novak Djokovic has been burned by high expectations at the Olympics before, so it was little surprise that he should express only guarded optimism on the eve of the Tokyo Games.

The Serbian, who has won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon already in 2021, is chasing the gold medal that would leave him one step away from the first tennis calendar 'Golden Slam' by a man.

Should he triumph in Japan over the next fortnight, Djokovic will head to the US Open in late August needing to win in New York to complete the full set.

Steffi Graf, who in 1988 won all the slams and gold at the Seoul Olympics, is the only player in tennis history to have completed such a sensational season.

Djokovic said such a feat was becoming a "more and more realistic" target, as he spoke in a Serbia team news conference, but the last time he stepped off the singles court at an Olympic Games, he was in tears, having lost in the first round at Rio to Juan Martin del Potro.

There is no danger of Djokovic running into his Olympic nemesis in Tokyo, with Del Potro, who also beat Djokovic in a bronze-medal match at the London 2012 Olympics, not a part of Argentina's squad as he battles back from four knee operations.

Looking at his own prospects for Tokyo and the rest of the year, Djokovic said: "It is still a long way to go ... I put myself in a very good position. But I will take things very slowly and cautiously.

"It's an approach I need to have because in the past I wasn't probably fully experienced in that approach. And I started to feel there were a lot of distractions around that influenced my performance.

"I know there are a lot of things on the line, a lot of history on the line. I'm privileged to be in this position. I worked very hard to be here, with my team, of course. But let's talk about history if everything goes great."

After his singles loss in Rio, Djokovic and Nenad Zimonjic lost in the second round of doubles to Brazilians Bruno Soares and Marcelo Melo.

A bronze from Beijing 2008 is all Djokovic has to show for his Olympics career to date, but he is a hot favourite for the title in Tokyo, where he will start against Bolivia's world number 139 Hugo Dellien.

The 34-year-old Djokovic said he "would be delighted to ask" Graf how she achieved her 1988 clean sweep.

"When I was thinking about her ultimate achievement ... I did not think it... I don't want to say 'achievable', but [I thought] there was a slim chance that someone could make it again, both male and female," Djokovic said.

"But right now it seems more and more realistic. Of course, it is one of my goals and dreams."

Djokovic has neither Roger Federer nor Rafael Nadal as rivals in Tokyo, with Federer missing after reporting a knee injury setback and Nadal electing to give the event a miss.

The 'Big Three' each have 20 grand slam titles now, following Djokovic's hot streak, and the Serbian admits it is unusual for both superstars to be absent.

"I have not experienced too many big tournaments in the past 15 years without Roger and Rafa playing. So it's a little bit strange," Djokovic said. "I'm used to seeing at least one of them. But still, some of the best players in the world are here.

"The guys who are in the top six, seven in the world, they are the biggest competitors or candidates for winning a medal. But potentially I am meeting with them in the later rounds."

After winning Wimbledon for a sixth time, Djokovic surprised many by claiming he could skip the Olympics, but he was reeled in by the appeal of representing his country, perhaps for the final time in the Games.

"Without the key element of any sports events – the crowds, the fans, that energy – it's different, but it is still the Olympic Games," he said.

"I was in a dilemma for a little bit, but I decided to come, and I'm glad because there are many more things that are beautiful about the Olympic Games. So I will try to focus on those things."

Andy Murray feels claiming an Olympic medal at Tokyo 2020 would be the greatest achievement of his illustrious tennis career.

Set to take part in his fourth Games as he looks to defend the singles title he won at London 2012 and successfully retained at Rio 2016, Murray knows this tournament is likely to be his last at the Olympics.

A creditable and entertaining run to the third round of Wimbledon came amid questions over his long-term future in the game after several years of injury woe.

After losing to Denis Shapovalov at the All England Club, Murray has been drawn to play against another Canadian, Felix Auger-Aliassime, in Tokyo.

He will also play in the men’s doubles alongside Joe Salisbury, with a tough draw in that competition too against Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.

Despite having three grand slam wins, two Olympic titles and a doubles silver medal to his name, Murray believes a podium place in Japan – which he feels is possible – would be a crowning achievement after all he has been through. 

"That is the goal, to try and win another medal," Murray told reporters. "I'm aware that it is not going to be easy. 

"I'm also in a slightly different position to what I was four, five years ago when I would’ve been expected to get one. 

"Maybe that is not the case this time around, but for me, it would probably be my best achievement if I could do that after everything that’s gone on the last few years. 

"I'm motivated for that reason alone and I still believe that I can do that. I still believe that it is possible."

Now 34, it is by no means certain Murray will still be playing and competitive on the ATP Tour by the time the 2024 Olympics take place in Paris.

"I know that this could be the last [Olympics] for me," added the Briton.

"So I want to go out there and leave everything out on the court, fight for every single point because ultimately that’s all you can do."

Having beaten Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro in his two Olympic finals, Murray – who revealed he has practiced well and regularly since Wimbledon - hopes his experience of going all the way at the Games will work in his favour.

He added to BBC Sport: "I've prepared as best as I can. I have tough draws in singles and doubles but I think I have a chance.

"If I can get through a round or two I'll start to feel more comfortable. I also have the experience of playing in the Olympics, which I can use to my advantage."

Having taken a five-month break in January, Tom Dumoulin cannot wait to get back into cycling action for the Netherlands as he lines up as one of the favourites in Tokyo.

Dumoulin took an indefinite break from cycling at the start of 2021 to understand his motivations for the sport, but the three-time Tour de France stage winner returned in June and will represent his country at the Games.

Usually a time-trial specialist, Dumoulin will compete in the combined road race and time trial as he looks to become only the second cyclist to win both events at a single Games.

The only cyclist to achieve this feat before is Dumoulin's compatriot Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel, who won both events at the Olympic Games Sydney 2000.

"I'm glad to be back. I had a couple of good weeks in June and the condition improved gradually. The most important thing is that I had fun on the bike again, and I took pleasure in working towards a goal again," the 2017 Giro d'Italia general classification winner said.

"I really want to go for it in the road race. It's a super-beautiful course and the heat normally suits me. I mainly prepared for the time trial, because that's my main goal, but that full gas on Saturday does not have to affect my [performance in the] time trial on Wednesday."

The Netherlands and Italy have won a joint-record nine cycling gold medals at the Games and Dumoulin believes he and his team-mates have another good chance of success on Saturday.

"We have Bauke Mollema as target man and that's logic. We have got a strong team, but not really a team to control the race.

"Dylan Van Baarle, Wilco Kelderman and me, we have free roles and the three of us hope to go a long way, but we will support Bauke wherever necessary.

"Yoeri Havik who combines the road race with track cycling [at Tokyo 2020], joins us to support the team in the first 100 kilometres."

Graham Arnold revealed he had "visualised" Australia's impressive 2-0 win over Argentina in their Olympics opener – and said keeping Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona out of conversations was all-important.

Australia head coach Arnold saw his Olyroos team strike a major victory for the underdog with their Tokyo 2020 success in Sapporo, where goals from Lachlan Wales and Marco Tilio did the damage.

Although the Argentina team this year does not carry the same star quality as the 2004 and 2008 sides that featured Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi respectively, the South Americans were expected to be on a high after their senior side lifted the Copa America trophy earlier this month.

Arnold's Australian troops were highly impressive in the Group C tussle, however, even though their coach still saw room for improvement.

"Nobody would have given us a chance apart from us. I've been visualising this performance for the last couple of weeks, I even visualised the score," Graham said.

"I believe in these boys and I believe so much in them that I'm not happy with our overall performance. I was happy with the work rate, the energy, but at times we turned over the ball too simply and too easily. We need to improve as we go on, and we will."

 

Arnold pointed to Australia having only one previous Olympic men's football win in the 2000s, a 5-1 win over Serbia and Montenegro in 2004 at the Athens Games.

"It's a great win, but we've done nothing yet. It's three points, we're off to a great start, the first win, but the important thing is improvement," the coach added.

"We didn't mention the name of the opposition, it's all about us. Sometimes when you mention a nation like Argentina's name, everyone just starts thinking of the players, Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, and Copa America champions.

"It was more about focusing on ourselves for the last week and making sure all the players knew their roles, their jobs and building a lot of belief in the players that we could go out there and put in a good performance and win the game."

He vowed Australia were "here to compete for a gold medal" and offered up the victory to those locked down in Australia during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

"It was probably the last thing I mentioned to the players before they went on the pitch," he said. "Australia, New South Wales in particular, is going through a very tough time at the moment with COVID, with lockdown and I just said to the boys, 'A lot of families are locked down at home, let's put a smile on a lot of Australian faces tonight, give them a performance they will remember'.

"I really expect that a lot of people back at home who didn't give us much chance of winning before really enjoyed that. I expect we put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces ... for tonight anyway."

Michael Phelps hailed Katie Ledecky as "the best female swimmer that we have ever seen" as the American looks to add to her haul of five Olympic golds in Tokyo.

Ledecky won the gold medal in the 800m freestyle race at London 2012 at the age of 15 and went on to scoop four golds in the Rio Games five years ago.

The 24-year-old will be aiming to defend her titles in the 200m, 400m and 800m individual freestyle races, as well as the 4x200m freestyle relay.

A new event has also been added in for the women at this year's Games, with the 1500m freestyle up for grabs.

Given her achievements so far, Ledecky may well have Phelps' all-time Olympic record of 23 gold medals in her sights.

Phelps, who also holds the record for the most gold medals in individual events (13) and Olympic medals in individual events (16), believes Ledecky already has to be considered one of the greats.

"Katie and I have known each other for a long time," the 36-year-old said in a Panasonic Instagram live interview. "She is hands down the best female swimmer that we've ever seen.

"I always say one thing for her is just be her. As long as she's being herself and preparing for what she has to do, everything else will happen how it's supposed to.

"She's somebody that understands what to do in this setting and she's going to go out there and have some fun and we're going to see a lot of fast times."

 

Phelps also suggested Ledecky, and other athletes competing for the top prizes in Tokyo, must go into "autopilot" in order to keep their composure when it counts.

He added: "You've done the hard work, now it's just time to let it all show.

"Go out there, have some smiles, have some laughs and perform.

"From [Athens] 2004 on, I feel I was almost on autopilot because the preparation was done. All I had to do was just get on the blocks and race."

Richarlison fired a first-half hat-trick before nervy Brazil almost squandered a 3-0 lead against Germany in their Tokyo 2020 opener, while Australia stunned Argentina.

Reigning Olympic champions Brazil eventually toppled Germany 4-2 in the Group D opener in Yokohama, a rematch of the final from the 2016 Games in Rio that went to a penalty shoot-out.

Brazil were pegged back to 3-2 on this occasion before Paulinho's stoppage-time strike ended 10-man Germany's hopes of snatching a draw.

Richarlison made a seventh-minute breakthrough when Germany defender Amos Pieper slipped to allow the Everton striker a clear run on goal. Although his first shot was pushed out by Florian Mueller, Richarlison lashed in the rebound on the half-volley.

A close-range header after 22 minutes made it 2-0 and Richarlison sealed his treble with a shot into the right corner that took a slight deflection off Pieper.

Matheus Cunha missed a penalty for Brazil in first-half stoppage time before clumsy goalkeeping from Santos allowed Germany to get on the scoresheet after the break, Nadiem Amiri's tame volley creeping in.

Germany's Maximilian Arnold was dismissed after a soft second booking for a clash with Dani Alves, but another goal arrived when Ragnar Ache headed home in the 83rd minute, only for Paulinho's clinical breakaway finish, high into the top right corner, to make sure of the points.

Australia enjoyed a banner day as goals from Lachlan Wales and Marco Tilio floored a youthful Argentina side, who had midfielder Francisco Ortega sent off shortly before half-time.

Wales tucked in a low cross from Joel King to give the Olyroos a 14th-minute lead, and Ortega was dismissed for two bookable offences in quick succession to leave Argentina in trouble.

Tilio sealed a 2-0 win with a thumping left-footed strike into the right corner from 20 yards after 80 minutes as Argentina were caught on the break.

France were beaten 4-1 by Mexico, with substitutes Uriel Antuna and Eduardo Aguirre putting the finishing touches to the impressive win with late goals. Andre-Pierre Gignac, who plays his club football in Liga MX, got France's consolation with a second-half penalty.

Burnley striker Chris Wood scored as New Zealand earned a 1-0 win over South Korea, and Milan midfielder Franck Kessie netted in Ivory Coast's 2-1 victory against Saudi Arabia.

Spain were held 0-0 by Egypt, while hosts Japan edged South Africa 1-0 and Romania beat Honduras by the same scoreline.

France head coach Sylvain Ripoll has called on his players to "digest" their 4-1 thumping by Mexico and promptly step up their game at Tokyo 2020.

Les Bleus went into the Olympic tournament rated as being among the leading medal contenders along with Brazil and Spain.

But they suffered a miserable defeat to Mexico on Thursday and are now under pressure in Group A with just three days until their next match against South Africa.

The match was goalless at half-time, with five goals scored in an extraordinary second period.

But France only accounted for one of those strikes, a penalty from captain Andre-Pierre Gignac.

"The first thing we are going to do is digest what happened," said Ripoll. "We only have a couple of days between matches so it's not very much time. 

"Of course we knew this would be difficult but we know we can do better. There's not a lot of time [between matches] so each player will have to focus on themselves individually.

"We play as a team but everybody needs to step up their game so we can get a better result in the game against South Africa."

Ripoll felt France's struggles to keep the ball were key to their defeat, but does now feel Mexico will be looked at in a different light.

"We are disappointed, not just with the result but with the content of the match," he added.

"We should have had a better balance, we needed to be better, but now we can really understand the quality of the Mexico team, which is a really high-quality team.

"There's more that we should have done. It's important to understand that we need to improve our game going forward. 

"In football it's all about having the ball and we struggled with that."

Hosts Japan, who beat South Africa 1-0 in their opener, are the other team in Group A.

Spain boss Luis de la Fuente was dismayed to lose Oscar Mingueza and Dani Ceballos to injuries in the team's Tokyo 2020 opener.

The head coach of the Olympic team fears Barcelona defender Mingueza and Real Madrid midfielder Ceballos will not make swift recoveries.

He was also critical of the officiating that allowed Egypt to enforce their physical game on the match that finished 0-0 in Sapporo.

Speaking about the injured duo, who were both forced off in the first half, De la Fuente said: "They are the greatest concern. They do not look good. Let's see if I'm wrong and they can recover.

"We are very concerned because they could be serious injuries."

Mingueza was on the receiving end of a sixth-minute heavy tackle that saw Ahmed Fotouh yellow-carded, and then came off in the 22nd minute.

Ceballos was replaced shortly before half-time after being fouled by Taher Mohamed, although it was seemingly unintentional when the Egyptian player stood on the Spain star's left ankle.

Asked about Egypt's approach, after they were shown four yellow cards, De la Fuente suggested they should have had more discouragement from such forceful tackling.

He said, quoted in Marca: "The other day we had a talk in which they explained to us how the VAR works and we hope that next time we will have better luck with the sanctions that take place in the field of play because today we have not had it.

"We had a meeting that explained the actions that could be punished with a red card. Today there were several of them and they were not punished as they told us."

Mingueza had a breakthrough season at Barcelona last term, playing 39 senior games after stepping up from the club's B team.

Ceballos has returned to Real Madrid ahead of the new LaLiga campaign after spending the past two campaigns on loan at Arsenal. He failed to score in 40 games for the Gunners last season and had just three assists.

The captain of the Germany women's hockey team has won the right to wear rainbow colours at the Tokyo Olympics "as a symbol of sexual diversity".

Nike Lorenz has worn rainbow armbands in other tournaments and will don the colours again when the team nicknamed Die Danas face Great Britain in their opening match on Sunday.

The 24-year-old had been waiting for confirmation of whether she would be allowed to make her statement at the Games, given the Olympic Charter states: "No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

The German Olympic Sports Federation (DOSB) said in a statement: "The IOC has agreed to a joint request from DOSB and @DHB_hockey whereby Nike Lorenz, captain of @DieDanas, should be allowed to wear the rainbow colours in her team's matches at the Tokyo Olympics as a symbol of sexual diversity.

"Nike Lorenz has already been informed. She thanks DOSB and the Hockey Federation and will play for the opening game against Great Britain on Sunday with the rainbow colours on the socks."

Rainbow symbolism has been a feature of many sporting events, with stars taking the opportunity to encourage inclusion of LGBTQ+ people.

DOSB president Alfons Hormann said: "We are pleased that we have found a common way that enables the hockey team to make a socio-political statement."

France are expecting the United States to come out firing when the men's basketball competition at the Tokyo Olympics begins.

Team USA are favourites to win a fourth consecutive gold at the Games despite losing two exhibition games in a mixed build-up period to the tournament.

They open their Group A campaign against France in Saitama on Sunday.

France defeated the Americans in the 2019 World Cup quarter-finals and head coach Vincent Collet expects that to be on the minds of their opponents.

He said: "We also know that they want to beat us because two years ago we did it in China - so we know what to expect."

Collet is aware that France's Olympics fate is unlikely to be determined by their group game with the USA, even if it is an occasion to savour.

Asked if it was an advantage to play USA first, he said: "I don't know. It's always a very tough game. It's a special game, but for us it’s just the beginning of the competition.

"I would hope that we play a good game but whatever happens we will need to beat the Czech Republic in the second one, which is probably even more important.

"The preparation has been up and down. We didn't have a couple of players until last week so it has hurt the preparation a little bit."

Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier are two of the five NBA players in the 12-man France roster.

Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Draymond Green and Devin Booker are among the leading names playing for the USA.

Matthew Dellavedova is clear Australia have come to Tokyo with the objective of dethroning the United States and claiming the Olympic gold medal in basketball.

Winners of the last three golds, the USA are strong favourites to make it four in a row, though Australia and Spain are among the teams who should provide competition.

Team USA had a far-from-ideal Olympics preparation, losing to Australia in an exhibition game as well as suffering a defeat to Nigeria, while they have also lost some key players to withdrawals.

Kevin Durant said this week the main rivals of USA will go into the Games confident of producing an upset and that their star-studded roster has had "a slap in the face".

While Dellavedova is aware of the scale of the task to beat USA in competitive action, he is clear about the target Australia have set.

Australia lost to Spain in the 2019 World Cup semi-finals and also fell at the last-four stage at Rio 2016, so the former NBA champion wants to take the last steps to glory.

"The bar has been set since before Rio 2016 and the goal has not changed," former Cleveland Cavaliers man Dellavedova said.

"We know we have come up short in Rio and in China [at the World Cup] but the goal is the same.

"We want the gold medal, and we know how tough it is going to be.

"I thought we had a good week [of exhibition games] but you don't really know until you play anyone else. It's still early.

"There's a lot of things we've got to get better at, but incorporating the new guys in, it's been a lot of fun. They've fitted right in, brought a lot of energy and it's been good."

Head coach Nick Kay also goes into the Olympics full of ambition.

He said: "We're here to win. We want to win a gold. It's something that's been eluding us for a long time now and we want to do it, not just for our group but all the Boomers and Australian players that have been there before.

"We have got to stick together, that's our big thing right now. We have got to play hard each possession and do all those little things that make our Boomer culture special."

Nigeria, who also beat USA in a warm-up game, are Australia's first opponents on Sunday.

"I think they've shown a lot," Dellavedova said about Nigeria.

"They've got a lot of great players. Obviously they beat USA earlier in the week. Athletic, aggressive on defence, I think they made 20 or more threes against the US.

"They were really shooting the ball and moving it. It’s going to be tough, and we're going to have to be ready right from the start of the game."

Ash Barty and home favourite Naomi Osaka start their respective quests for Olympic gold against Sara Sorribes Tormo and Zheng Saisai, while Novak Djokovic opens against Hugo Dellien.

In a stacked women's draw, world number one and Wimbledon champion Barty has a tough opening assignment and could face French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 13th seed, as early as round three.

Spectators may not be in attendance at Tokyo venues for the Olympics but Japanese fans will be rooting for Osaka, who returns to action after a two-month hiatus with the four-time grand slam winner having spoken openly about mental health and anxiety issues.

Viktorija Golubic or Maria Camila Osorio Serrano would await Osaka if she can get through round one, but a dream final with Barty is no shoo-in given 15 of the world's top 20 on the WTA Tour are in action including each of the nine leading the race for the 2021 WTA Finals.

Aryna Sabalenka (3), Elina Svitolina (4), Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova (5), Iga Swiatek (6) and Garbine Muguruza are all featuring in Tokyo.

 

The men's side has been hit by a spate of withdrawals, with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem among those not playing in the Japanese capital.

The main talking point surrounds whether the all-conquering Djokovic can continue his march towards a calendar Golden Slam – a sweep of all four majors and an Olympic gold in the same year.

Any notion of a free ride for the Serbian is wide of the mark, though. His side of the draw could see him come up against Andrey Rublev (5), Alexander Zverev (4) and Hubert Hurkacz (7), while Stefano Tsitsipas (3) – beaten by Djokovic in the French Open final – and Daniil Medvedev (2) are among the potential final opponents.

Andy Murray, gold medal winner in 2012 and 2016, faces Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime in a tricky first-round match.

Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony director Kentaro Kobayashi has been sacked after footage of him making light of the Holocaust emerged.

On the eve of the Games being formally opened in Japan's capital, the man behind the ceremony admitted he had made comments in 1998 that were "trying to get people's attention shallowly because I couldn't make people laugh as I expected".

Kobayashi was a comedian at the time and his comments came in a skit.

He said on Thursday, according to the Yomiuri newspaper: "I understand that my stupid choice of words at that time was wrong, and I regret it. I apologise to those who feel uncomfortable. I am sorry."

The International Olympic Committee confirmed his dismissal, stating: "Tokyo 2020 Olympic opening ceremony creative team member Kentaro Kobayashi was dismissed from his post after a joke he had made in the past about a painful historical event was brought to light. Following this, the Tokyo 2020 organising committee relieved Mr Kobayashi of his role as a member of the team.

"In the short time remaining before the opening ceremony, we offer our deepest apologies for any offence and anguish this matter may have caused to the many people involved in the Olympic Games, as well as to the citizens of Japan and the world."

The Nazi-led Holocaust saw around six million Jews murdered during the Second World War.

His dismissal raises questions about how the ceremony will now go ahead. It was already set to proceed in front of a near-empty stadium, with fans being barred from attending Olympic events in Tokyo due to COVID-19 concerns.

Seiko Hashimoto, president of the organising committee, told a news conference:  "How we're going to handle the ceremony is currently being discussed."

Asked whether the resignation could overshadow the Olympics, Hashimoto said: "Because of COVID, society united. How are we going to bring solidarity to society? We have to review the message to deliver to the world.

"Yes, we are facing a lot of challenges right now. Maybe that's the reason why these negative incidents will impact the messages we want to deliver to the world. The value of Tokyo 2020 is still exciting and we want to send our messages to the world."

Speaking before the damaging footage emerged, IOC president Thomas Bach said the opening ceremony would be "a moment of joy and relief, joy in particular for the athletes".

He said the relief would come "because the road to this opening ceremony was not the easiest one".

Bach added: "There is a saying that if you feel this kind of relief, there are stones falling from your heart, so if you hear some stones falling then maybe they are coming from my heart."

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