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."

Novak Djokovic has leapt from one bubble into another as he attempts to become the first man in tennis history to win all four grand slams and Olympic gold in the same year.

The only men to have won each of the singles majors across their careers, plus Olympic gold, are Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal, and now Djokovic aims to move to the brink of winning all five in his remarkable 2021 season.

Fresh from dominating at Wimbledon, and with the Australian and French Open titles already in the bag, Djokovic heads into the Tokyo Games as a red-hot favourite, seeking to set himself up to complete a historic campaign at the US Open.

Naomi Osaka will enter the Games with almost as much expectation behind her too, the reigning US Open and Australian Open champion eyeing glory for hosts Japan.

But tennis has thrown up a host of shock results in its short Olympic history. Here, Stats Perform looks at the sport's place in the Games.

 

WHO'S IN, WHO'S OUT, AND WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have all opted out of the Olympics.

Williams made her mind up prior to suffering a leg injury at Wimbledon, although she is already a member of the career Golden Slam club.

Federer reached his decision after revealing he also suffered a physical setback at the All England Club, and Nadal elected to take a two-month break after relinquishing his French Open title.

Don't expect to see them again at the Olympics, given Williams and Federer will be pushing 43 by Paris 2024, and Nadal will be 38. Federer won a doubles gold with Stan Wawrinka in 2008, but his singles peak was the silver medal he earned in 2012, Andy Murray crushing Swiss hopes in the final at Wimbledon.

Dominic Thiem, Bianca Andreescu, Nick Kyrgios, Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber, Victoria Azarenka and Denis Shapovalov are among other confirmed absentees, with fitness issues a factor for some, less so for others.

The COVID-19 crisis is a mitigating factor in why so many stars are staying away, and directly responsible in the case of some players, such as Britain's Johanna Konta and Dan Evans, who both tested positive recently.

But tennis was only fully restored to the Olympic programme in 1988, after being dropped post 1924, and if players are seen to be favouring the grand slams over the Games, that is not such a great look for the sport.

At a time when the International Olympic Committee has shown it is willing to shake up the sports on its programme, tennis could perhaps do with a headline-making Tokyo 2020.

Murray, the two-time defending men's champion, will target an improbable hat-trick. A hat-trick for the injury-hit former world number one would be a sensation, and Osaka landing gold in the women's tournament would surely be one of the great moments of the Games.

 

DJOKOVIC FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GRAF

When Steffi Graf beat Gabriela Sabatini in the women's singles final at Seoul, it completed what we know now as the calendar 'Golden Slam'. She had already won the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, and the feat of the then 19-year-old West German has yet to be repeated.

Now Djokovic is three-fifths of the way to a similar clean sweep of the majors and the Olympics, with the US Open getting under way on August 30 in New York.

He teetered on not going to Tokyo, and perhaps he is to some extent endangering his chances at Flushing Meadows by spending more time travelling and enduring bubble life, while others rest up.

But Djokovic is a fiercely proud Serbian and could not resist a great chance of winning gold for his country. He landed bronze at the 2008 Games in Beijing but in 2012 he lost to Juan Martin del Potro in the bronze-medal match, and a cruel draw at Rio four years later saw him assigned Del Potro in the first round.

Top seed Djokovic bowed out in two tie-breaks to the powerful Argentinian, describing the outcome as "one of the toughest losses in my career".

There is no danger of a hat-trick of defeats to Del Potro, which may help Djokovic. Del Potro has been battling for two years to get back to fitness, undergoing four rounds of right knee surgery in a bid to get back on tour.

 

RAISING THE BAR AT THE OLYMPICS

How the Olympic village functions in Tokyo will be distinctly different to at previous Games, given the pandemic restrictions in place that could be a real buzzkill.

But in the past there have been countless cases of athletes becoming inspired by their surroundings and going on to perform above their usual level.

It can be a party village, and it can also be an eyebrow-raising experience as global superstars rub shoulders with competitors who might struggle for recognition in their home towns. More than anything, the shared team experience, fighting for a collective cause, can make a middling athlete believe they can be great.

Monica Puig was a massive tennis outsider in 2016 but the then world number 34 won the women's singles, stunning Angelique Kerber in the final after beating Petra Kvitova and Garbine Muguruza en route. That gave Puerto Rico their first ever Olympic gold medal.

In 1992, a tournament that featured the likes of Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker finished with a staggering final match-up of Marc Rosset versus Jordi Arrese, who in his home city of Barcelona was edged out 8-6 in the fifth set by the Swiss world number 43. Nobody would have predicted that head to head for gold.

Similarly, at Athens 2004, Nicolas Massu beat Mardy Fish in the gold medal match of a tournament that featured Federer, Andy Roddick, Carlos Moya and Tim Henman.

In the 1996 Atlanta Games, Lindsay Davenport, who had just turned 20, took inspiration from being the daughter of an Olympian, with dad Wink having played volleyball for the United States at Mexico City in 1968.

Davenport was beginning to make an impact on the WTA Tour but was only the ninth seed at the Olympics, yet she swept through the rounds before sinking Arantxa Sanchez Vicario 7-6 (10-8) 6-2 in the final.

"It's like one of those things I look back on and I'm like, 'Was that me?'," Davenport told The Tennis Podcast last year.

"It doesn't seem like it was real. I'd made the transition to the pro tour pretty well, but I liked hanging out between eight and 16 in the rankings. I was very insecure, unsure of what could I do. I liked doing well but I wasn't sure I wanted to do too well because it seemed really overwhelming to be one of those top players.

"Here I go at 20 years old to Atlanta for two or three weeks, in a setting that seemed so comfortable. Look at all these athletes, you have all different shapes and sizes, you have players that are really working hard but have so much in common and you get to hang out with them, breakfast, lunch, dinner in the village."

Davenport was a future world number one and three-time grand slam singles champion, but at this point in her career being an American at an Olympics in the United States was just a thrill.

"You're sharing this with your team-mates who are some of my best friends in Mary Joe Fernandez, Monica Seles. It was the best time ever," she said.

"By the time the tournament actually started we were like, 'Yeah, I'll go play my match and then we'll go back to the village and we'll hang out', and everything went so fast in those few weeks.

"And there I was left standing, winning at the end because I was so incredibly happy and excited with everything that was going on. I kind of forgot what was my job.

"When it became a reality of even just making the team in '96, it was so huge also for my family with having a second generation Olympian."

Sweden ended the United States' 44-game unbeaten run with a 3-0 win in the Olympics group stage on Wednesday and Megan Rapinoe hailed them as one of the best European sides ever.

Strikes either side of the half-time whistle from Stina Blackstenius and a goal by Lina Hurtig proved the difference as Sweden claimed a famous triumph over their heavyweight rivals, who they defeated on penalties in the 2016 quarter-finals.

The world champions enjoyed a two-year spell without losing before the Group G opener but will quickly have to bounce back if they are to follow up their France 2019 success with Olympic gold.

Rapinoe found it hard to defend the USA's performance as she credited Sweden's hard-working display.

"We did not play a very good game and that is to take nothing away from Sweden, they played a great game," the attacking midfielder said after the match.

"This is the highest level and these are the best teams in the world. Sweden are one of the best ever in Europe and the world. If we don't play well we don’t win these games.

"We want to be a lot better, we played a bit tight and hurt ourselves a lot. You can't say one thing specifically.

"I can't remember the last time we gave up a goal, so to give up three is not great but we know what we need to do to win these games, get out of the group and go from there."

Head coach Vlatko Andonovski refused to panic and is keen to see a response against New Zealand on Saturday.

"It has put us in a big hole and we are the only ones who can get ourselves out of it," he said. "It is not going to be easy. We have to get good results in the next two games, but I know this team will not give up.

"I don’t remember this team losing 3-0 in recent history so it is a bit of a shock, but everyone is positive. We still have games ahead of us. We have got to bounce back. We have to forget this game and focus on the next one."

In contrast, Blackstenius, whose brace sealed a remarkable victory, spoke glowingly of her team, who were without Chelsea captain Magdalena Eriksson for the win.

"I'm very happy about the goals - of course I'm happy to score. The team helped me very much and I think I could have scored at least two more but I don't want to focus on that. I'm just happy and proud of the team", the forward said.

“We developed our game and our play. It's very good and we have so much quality in every player. Every player is also very different from the other. We have so many players that can do good stuff and as a team we are very good. Every player is very happy about going very attacking."

Hedvig Lindahl, though, maintained that Sweden's win was simply a starting point and that Peter Gerhardsson's side had not achieved what they had come to the Games for yet.

"It's just the first group game, we haven't won anything yet. We need to keep going," the veteran goalkeeper said. "If you have one high into lows in the group then this means nothing. But to win against the USA, it's something we can take some confidence from.

"You can go very far in a tournament even if you lose to the USA or whoever you play in the first game, so I don't know how much it means, but we showed the world and ourselves that we can play good against a team like the US and any team."

Kevin Durant believes rivals of the United States will go into the Tokyo Olympics confident of producing an upset.

Winners of the last three Olympic gold medals, the USA are strong favourites to make it four in a row, with Australia and Spain seen as their closest challengers.

But Team USA have had a far-from-ideal Olympics preparation, defeated by Nigeria and Australia in exhibition games, though they did beat Spain in their final warm-up contest in Las Vegas.

They have lost significant players including having to make two late roster changes, adding JaVale McGee and Keldon Johnson to replace Kevin Love and Bradley Beal. 

Love withdrew with a calf injury, while Beal had to drop out due to health and safety protocols. 

USA face France in Saitama for their Group A opener on July 25 and Durant feels the favourites must be on guard.

"All of them [Olympic tournaments] are difficult," he said. "Every team wants to beat us, everybody wants to see us lose, so every game has a little bit more pressure to it. 

"A lot of guys dropped out, a lot of circumstances, and I'm sure other teams are seeing us lose and feel confident coming into the tournament.

"But we understand what we're getting ourselves into and we're looking forward to the challenge."

Durant feels like the team is starting to come together after those exhibition defeats.

The Brooklyn Nets forward added: "I feel like we're understanding what coach wants from us on both ends of the floor.

"Guys are getting more comfortable with each other and their roles on the team, and that's only going to bode well for us as we start to play real games. 

"So it was good to kind of get a punch in the mouth early on to remind us that it's not gonna be a cakewalk. 

"And so many people are used to Team USA coming in and blowing everybody out, so it was good for us to see that. Now, hopefully, those are the last losses."

After the conclusion of the NBA Finals, head coach Gregg Popovich is poised to welcome Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday to the set-up.

He is not sure how quickly the trio will adapt to new surroundings but is glad to have them en route.

"Well, there's not a whole lot you can do when they get here the day before," said Popovich.

"It's pretty obvious that they won't know everything that’s been going on, but luckily it's basketball. We'll try to keep it simple and just take care of what we think we can take care of.

"The good thing is they'll be in shape. I don't know how the plane's gonna affect them, that's not an easy flight. 

"It is true that they won't be as ready to play in the sense of execution that we might want, but that's understandable

"We are not sure [how we will incorporate them]. Something like that is pretty unique, there's no paradigm or game plan or rulebook.

"So it's something we'll discuss the rest of the week and just do what we think is best - it'll be an interesting situation for sure."

Popovich was asked if the players will have any film or play packages to review on the flight to Tokyo.

"They're gonna sleep," he replied.

In a further boost to the roster, USA guard Zach LaVine has cleared health and safety protocols so he will also travel to Tokyo and join up with the team.

The United States got off to an awful start in Tokyo as they lost 3-0 to Sweden to end a 44-match unbeaten streak, while Brazil's Marta enjoyed differing emotions as she netted against China in a 5-0 win to make Olympic Games history.

The USA came into the Games as firm favourites for the gold medal, but Sweden offered a rude awakening for the reigning world champions. They had previously not been defeated since back in 2019 before that run was ended by their emphatic setback in the Group G opener.

Goals either side of half-time from Stina Blackstenius and another from Lina Hurtig did the damage, and while the USA were denied twice by the woodwork, Sweden were deserved winners to repeat their quarter-final shoot-out victory over the same opposition at Rio 2016.

In fact, Sweden's three-goal win was the first time since 2008 that the USA have lost in a major tournament by multiple goals and only the sixth time in their history that they have lost a game by three or more goals.

While the USA struggled, Brazil gave an early signal of their intent. Marta's opener made her the first player, male or female, to score at five consecutive Games, while the 35-year-old also moved to second in the all-time top scorer list at the Olympics.

The Brazil forward's record-breaking outing in Group F stole the headlines, but 43-year-old Formiga made history herself. She became the first women's footballer to appear in seven editions of the Games, and is hoping to become the oldest female representing Brazil to claim an Olympic medal, a record previously held by 38-year-old volleyball star Fofao. 

In more routine fashion, Great Britain got off to a strong Group E start as they cruised past Chile 2-0, with Ellen White netting both goals. 

White spoke of her pride after the win and credited her team-mates who provided the chances for her brace.

"I'm obviously delighted to contribute to the team winning, to score two goals. I feel really proud to open the Olympics with Team GB," the forward said.

"It was a great header down from Lauren Hemp for the first one and an amazing cross from Lucy Bronze for the second.

"We've been working really hard to get to this point. I feel really delighted with where I'm at the moment, but I feel there's still more to come. Collectively as a squad we [can] grow and get better as the tournament goes on."

Team GB and Chile both took the knee, as did the USA and Sweden in their fixture, as athletes across the globe continue to make a stand against racism.

Meanwhile, Barbra Banda announced herself on the world stage with a hat-trick, despite Zambia going down 10-3 to the Netherlands. 

The Netherlands led 6-1 at half-time following Vivianne Miedema's hat-trick and a brace from Lieke Martens. 

Sarina Wiegman’s side then added four more goals in the second half, with Miedema getting a fourth, before Banda hit back twice in the final 10 minutes. 

Brazil great Marta has become the first footballer in history to score in five consecutive Olympic Games.

Marta scored the opener from close range after nine minutes and later added a second-half strike as Brazil thrashed China 5-0 to open their campaign in Japan.

The 35-year-old made her Olympics debut back in 2004 when the Games were held in Athens.

Marta went on to score in the Beijing, London and Rio tournaments before also netting in Tokyo on Wednesday. 

She is yet to win the Olympics, though, earning silver medals in 2004 and 2008.

Marta's team-mate Formiga, who is impressively still playing at 43, also broke records by playing against China.

An astonishing 25 years on from her Olympics debut in Atlanta in 1996, Formiga has become the oldest player in the history of football at the Games.

She is also the first Brazilian to compete in seven editions of the Olympics.

Next up for Brazil is a clash with Netherlands on Saturday.

Dani Alves has revealed he has nerves and "butterflies" as he prepares to finally make his Olympics debut at the age of 38.

Sao Paulo defender Alves has 118 caps and four trophies for the senior Brazil team but has never previously played at the Games.

He is one of the over-age players for the Selecao in Tokyo and it is an opportunity he is relishing and even apprehensive about despite his illustrious career at club and international level.

Brazil are among the favourites to win the men's competition along with Spain and France.

They open their campaign against Germany in Group D on Thursday.

"As it is my first time, the feeling is even more special," said Alves, who will captain the team.

"Despite the fact I have great experiences in the past, as it's my first time here I feel butterflies on my stomach and I hope to live up to the expectations of the competition and of our national team.

"I can say my experience will be similar to those that are also coming here for the first time.

"Being here is really a special feeling. As we say, third time lucky. I tried twice, I could not and the third time I managed. So here I am.

"I would like to thank you also for the respect, for the opportunity to be here. Those of you that know me know that I have a young spirit."

Brazil beat Germany on penalties in the final of the Rio Olympics five years ago to clinch the gold medal on home soil.

Ivory Coast and Saudi Arabia are the other teams in a competitive pool.

"Indeed, it is a classic [fixture]," coach Andre Jardine said of the opener against Germany. "It has had a wonderful track record and it is an honour to be part of history.

"Both teams have mutual respect for each other and I expect that it will be a difficult game. It will focus on the detail, on the strategy and also on the concentration.

"I hope that we enjoy and that we are able to write one more page on the history and I hope this page is the Brazilian one."

The men's side will hope to emulate the women's team, who got their Olympics campaign off to an impressive start with a 5-0 win over China.

Brisbane has been formally confirmed as the host of the 2032 Olympic Games.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had already made the Australian city in the state of Queensland its preferred candidate and no other hosts were considered.

Brisbane is the first bid to win the right to host the Olympics uncontested since the 1984 Games staged in Los Angeles.

The bid proposed 32 venues, with The Gabba stadium, a prominent international cricket venue, set to be refurbished as part of the proposals.

The Gabba is in line to host the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the leading athletics events.

India, Indonesia, Qatar, Germany and Spain had all been interested in hosting the Games but did not advance to IOC board approval, with Brisbane fast-tracked.

Australia has twice staged the Olympics previously, in Melbourne (1956) and Sydney (2000).

Following the delayed 2020 Games in Tokyo, which started on Wednesday, the Olympics will go to Paris in 2024 and LA in 2028 before Brisbane four years later.

Real Madrid midfielder and former Arsenal loanee Dani Ceballos is relishing the prospect of combining with Spain's Olympic head coach Luis de la Fuente in Tokyo, having previously worked with him at Under-19 level.

Spain head into the Tokyo Olympics as one of the favourites for the gold medal, given De la Fuente has been able to call upon six players that reached the semi-final stages at Euro 2020 with the senior national side.

The names of their star-studded line-up would be enough to frighten any Olympic opposition as they have included Pedri, Unai Simon, Dani Olmo, Mikel Oyarzabal, Eric Garcia and Pau Torres.

While the players on the pitch paint an attractive picture that could see Spain win their second gold and first since 1992, Ceballos explained how his relationship with De la Fuente could help him thrive.

"I have had great coaches, but with Luis [de la Fuente] we have a different relationship. We have linked up very well from the first tournament (Under-19 European Championship in 2015)", the former Arsenal midfielder said in Tuesday's press conference.

"From then on we have forged a great relationship. He has given me confidence and I have been lucky to give it back to him on the field."

De la Fuente's men get their campaign underway versus Egypt on Thursday before subsequent fixtures against Argentina and Australia and Ceballos, who played 49 times across his two-year loan spell at Arsenal, is aware of the different challenges that the Games provide.

"It is a completely different competition than what we football players are used to. It is a unique opportunity", he said.

"It is really difficult to qualify for it because it has a lot of requirements that are really tough to meet. But this team has done a lot of things to deserve it, and now it is the time to enjoy it."

Barcelona youngster Pedri did not misplace a pass in normal time during the Euro 2020 semi-final against Italy and created 11 chances at the tournament, one more than fellow squad member Olmo (10) and one fewer than first-placed Jordi Alba (12).

 

Both will be team-mates of Ceballos and the midfielder praised all of his colleagues as they prepare to attempt to recreate the 1992 heroics which sealed home Olympic success in Barcelona.

"We have a really great team. On paper, I think we can be among the favourites, but in reality there are a lot of fantastic national teams. On the field it is going to be different", he said

"Playing in this Olympic Games has been a special dream and I have been reading about what happened in that [the 1992] tournament. Especially in the final, that there was extra time and that Spain won against Poland with a goal from Kiko Narvaez.

"Hopefully we can repeat what they did in their day."

Like Ceballos, De la Fuente spoke with pride about leading his nation at the Games, while he also discussed the possibility of following in the footsteps of those from Barcelona 1992.

"It is a pride being here. It is a different feeling from other tournaments because the Olympic Games are unique. It is a totally special experience, and we are wishing to start enjoying it as a competition and living the Olympic environment.", the head coach said.

"We are feeling the same they felt, a great desire to start competing, a great conviction that we have a great team to compete for everything. And feeling capable of fighting for the maximum. I am sure we are feeling what they felt.

"We are going to try to be up to the standards expected of us, and I am sure that we are going to perform to that level and fulfil the expectations we are creating."

The long-standing Olympic motto of 'faster, higher, stronger' has been updated at the Tokyo Games, it was revealed on Tuesday.

The founder of the modern Games, Pierre de Coubertin, backed the original motto in 1894 and 127 years later it has been refreshed.

Now it reads 'faster, higher, stronger - together', with International Olympic Committee members said to have unanimously agreed to the update.

IOC president Thomas Bach said: "We want to put a strong focus on solidarity. That’s what the word 'together' means – solidarity.”

Bach explained: "Solidarity fuels our mission to make the world a better place through sport. We can only go faster, we can only aim higher, we can only become stronger by standing together – in solidarity.”

IOC spokesman Mark Adams added: "The idea is that you are unable to go faster, to go higher, to be stronger without a team around you.

"It's not just about individual excellence. It's about the team around you, whether it is a medical team, a coach, your family, your entourage.

"The idea to update the motto is to really understand that if you want to go faster, go by yourself. If you want to go far, go together.

"The IOC is keen to stress the value of solidarity - it is key. If you really want to do something, you have to work with other people to achieve that."

Olympics great Marc Spitz believes Michael Phelps' record of 23 gold medals will be broken by a future swimming sensation.

For the first time since 2000, the Games will happen without Phelps as a factor in the pool, and it will be the likes of Katie Ledecky and Caeleb Dressel who draw much of the global focus.

Phelps landed six golds at the Athens 2004 Games, then a record eight in Beijing four years later, surpassing Spitz's all-time best haul of seven in a single Olympics, which dated back to Munich in 1972.

Another four gold medals followed at London 2012, before Phelps signed off from the Olympics with five triumphs in 2016 at Rio.

"Records are made to be broken, a point in case being Michael breaking my record that took over 30 years to do. Stories will still continue to be written about athletes that will challenge those that came before them," Spitz said.

Spitz described Phelps' contribution as "overwhelming".

"I don't want to diminish the value of any one of Michael's medals, but the young swimmers are looking at that as a benchmark," Spitz said, speaking courtesy of Laureus.

"They shouldn't consider themselves a failure because they can't quite stay on a career for as long as he did. But someday, someone will break that record unless they change the sport of swimming where some of those events aren't competed in and they make the programme so it has less events.

"Michael took what I had done and concentrated on how he could make and create his own journey. That became the gold standard then.

"The reason people think maybe my seven gold medals were so great were that somebody actually challenged it and then broke that record. Michael’s record will go down in the same way and somebody else will be inspired by what he’s done."

 

According to Spitz, Tokyo 2020 is unlikely to see such feats achieved, but he highlighted freestyle and butterfly maestro Dressel as a swimmer capable of great things at the Aquatics Centre.

Dressel won two relay gold medals five years ago in Rio but topped the podium six times at the 2019 World Championships, including four individual wins.

Spitz also earmarked Ledecky, already a five-time Olympic champion, as another American swimmer who could enjoy a golden Games.

"From a swimming point of view, there's some outstanding names," Spitz told Stats Perform.

"Katie Ledecky comes to mind in women's swimming. She's going to go down as one of the greatest swimmers of all time. The margins of her victories are enormous, it's incredible, it's epic in some of these performances.

"She was there during the Michael Phelps era, and there's also Caeleb Dressel who is ... I don't want to say a replacement for Michael Phelps. He's his own man and rightfully so he should be.

"He's dominated the distances and the strokes he's participated in over the last number of years. There's other people from around the world that will give those two athletes certainly a run for their money.

"The point is that I think we won’t be void in the sport of swimming with names and stories to tell."

Olympics chief Thomas Bach revealed he masked his concerns about Tokyo 2020 going ahead because of fears the Games might "fall to pieces".

Bach is president of the International Olympic Committee, which he said "had to show a way out of this crisis" in order for the global event to go ahead amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking on Tuesday in Tokyo, Bach said the IOC had experienced daily concerns about the Olympics being able to proceed but had to present a positive message to stakeholders including sporting federations, sponsors, the Japanese government and broadcasters.

Had the IOC been open about worries for the Games, which were delayed by a year due to the global health crisis, Bach said it could have triggered a chain of events that would have seen the Olympics collapse.

Instead, the Games get under way this week, with the opening ceremony due to take place on Friday.

Bach said: "Over the past 15 months, we had to take daily decisions on very uncertain grounds. We had doubts every day. We deliberated and we discussed. There were sleepless nights. Like everyone else in the world, we did not know, I did not know, what the future would hold."

Bach appeared to scoff at any suggestion of the IOC deciding to "blindly force ahead at any price" and spoke of the "extreme stress test of the coronavirus crisis".

"Imagine for a moment what it would have meant if the leader of the Olympic movement, the IOC, would have added to the already many doubts surrounding the Olympic Games, if we would have poured fuel onto this fire," Bach said.

"How could we have convinced the athletes to continue to prepare for the Olympic Games by adding to their uncertainty?

"How could we have convinced all the other stakeholders to remain committed to the Olympic Games if we would have even deepened their already serious doubts.

"Our doubts could have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Olympic Games could have fallen to pieces. This is why, we had to keep these doubts to ourselves. This today I can admit and say it, it also weighed on us, it weighed on me.

"But in order to arrive at this day today, we had to give confidence. We had to show a way out of this crisis. We had to provide stability. We had to build trust. We had to give hope."

The IOC announced updated COVID-19 case figures for the Games on Tuesday, with 40 confirmed cases involving residents of Japan and 31 affecting those from overseas.

Having seen crowds return to a range of tour events, former Wimbledon winner Pat Cash understands the disappointment of tennis moving back to behind closed doors at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Each of the three grand slam events to have taken place this year has been held with fans in attendance, with Centre Court seeing capacity crowds for each of the singles finals at Wimbledon. The US Open, which begins on August 30, will allow 100 per cent fan capacity at Flushing Meadows for the final major of 2021.

However, Cash does not believe the lack of spectators at the Games will have too much of an impact on the players who have elected to travel to Japan.

"Well it's unfortunate that the Olympics won't have any fans. I think that's a real disappointment," Cash told Stats Perform.

"But 95 per cent of our life is played on an empty practice court and stadiums.

"Certainly, when you're coming through, nobody's watching you. It's only when you get to Wimbledon or something that you play with crowds, and they can make a difference. We've also been playing most of the year without them.

"To go back [to no fans] it's unfortunate, but it's not something unusual for the players. The crowd certainly does make a difference. It makes a difference with attention and with the crowd roaring and whistling or whatever they want to do."

World number two Naomi Osaka, who will return to action having withdrawn from the French Open to protect her well-being and subsequently skipped Wimbledon, is one athlete who could have benefited from the home support in Japan.

Though he is unsure of how boisterous the home crowd would have been in Tokyo, Cash still feels for the 23-year-old four-time Grand Slam winner.

 

"With no crowds there that's disappointing for her," he added. 

"But you know, it's sort of something we've become used to on the tour - playing with empty crowds and the nerves still kick in, it is all about winning, and players tend to learn to block the crowds out quite well.

"They stay in their own world when they're on the tennis court. The urgency and the intensity of a match is not really going to change that much because the players really want this for themselves."

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