LaLiga has confirmed it will support clubs who elect not to release players who represent national teams in South America for next month's fixtures.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Premier League announced that all 20 clubs had agreed to block their players travelling to countries on the United Kingdom's red list amid concerns over enforced quarantine periods on their return.

The majority of countries in South and Central America are on the UK's red list, while the Premier League also confirmed it had aired its frustration with FIFA over the decision to extend the CONMEBOL international window from nine days to 11.

Similarly, LaLiga has now hit out at world football's governing body, insisting it would fully back clubs who choose not to release South American internationals for this reason, while also taking into account concerns over coronavirus.

"In relation to the serious unilateral decision by FIFA to increase by two days, from nine to 11 days in both September and October, the international FIFA period for the CONMEBOL confederation, without addressing other solutions that were raised in the World Leagues Forum, LaLiga wants to communicate that it will support in all areas the decision of the Spanish clubs not to release their players belonging to the national teams for the convocation of CONMEBOL, and will take the pertinent legal actions against this decision that affects the integrity of the competition by not allowing the availability of the players," a statement read.

The statement went on to declare that 25 players from 13 LaLiga clubs had already been called up by South American nations, with the squads for Ecuador and Venezuela still to be announced.

"The Spanish association understands that the world calendar cannot and should not be modified in this way, especially when there are alternative solutions," LaLiga's statement continued.

"LaLiga, through the World Leagues Forum, has already expressed its discomfort in this situation and in the absence of sensitivity towards the clubs, on an issue, such as the international calendar, which is set and agreed four years in advance and to which the national leagues have already adapted taking into account the circumstances of the COVID, but always in a way agreed between all the parties involved.

"LaLiga will summon the affected clubs for a meeting in the coming days."

The Wallabies and All Blacks will clash in the Bledisloe Cup in Perth before Queensland hosts the remainder of the Rugby Championship.

New Zealand pulled out of next weekend's third and final Bledisloe Test due to concerns over coronavirus, with the showdown initially set for August 28 at Optus Stadium.

The fixture will go ahead in Perth, with a date for the game set to be confirmed in the coming days following SANZAAR's announcement on Tuesday.

Afterwards, the Rugby Championship will head to Queensland for doubleheaders across four consecutive weekends in Brisbane, Gold Coast and Townsville, where the centenary Test between the All Blacks and Springboks will be played.

The Wallabies play South Africa on September 12 at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast, where the All Blacks then going head-to-head against Argentina.

September 18 will see the teams travel to Brisbane for Argentina-New Zealand and Australia-South Africa contests at Suncorp Stadium.

Australia and Argentina face-off at Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville the following weekend on September 25, before the New Zealand-Argentina centenary encounter.

The Rugby Championship concludes on the Gold Coast on October 2, with the Pumas facing the Wallabies and Springboks taking on the All Blacks.

"We thought last year was tough when we had to implement a Tri-Nations tournament in Australia with South Africa absent due to the pandemic, but the current disruption caused by the 'delta variant' of COVID-19 has seen government authorities tighten up border bio-security measures substantially," said SANZAAR CEO Brendan Morris.

"This is understandable and therefore, we had no option but to basically move the remainder of The Rugby Championship to Queensland.

"On behalf of SANZAAR and the national unions, I would like to sincerely thank the Queensland Government for working with us around the clock to provide a travel, accommodation, training and playing environment that will safely allow us to complete the tournament.

"SANZAAR and the national unions are incredibly grateful and will work closely with the states' health authorities to ensure all bio-security measures are adhered to." 

Rugby Australia (RA) CEO Andy Marinos added: "This is a world Rugby first and a truly special celebration of the game, in what I see as a once-in-a-lifetime event."

Lionel Messi is yet to play for Paris Saint-Germain this season, but has been called up to Argentina's squad for their World Cup qualifiers next month, with Paulo Dybala making a long-awaited return.

Having led Argentina to Copa America glory, Messi made the shock switch from Barcelona to Paris earlier in August, though he is yet to make his debut for Mauricio Pochettino's team.

The 34-year-old, along with fellow former Barca star Neymar, is expected to make his bow against Reims in PSG's final game before the international break.

Messi, along with club-mates Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes, would then travel to South America for matches against Venezuela, Brazil and Bolivia.

However, despite Pochettino having given his blessing for Messi to play for his country next month, this could result in the trio missing up to four of PSG's September fixtures.

Argentina and Brazil are both on the French government's 'red list' for travellers, meaning arrivals must quarantine for 10 days once they return to France, unless they have been fully vaccinated. It is unknown if the players in question have yet received both doses.

PSG face Clermont on the second weekend in September, with a tussle against Lyon following a week later. A 10-day quarantine period would mean Messi and team-mates would certainly miss those matches, as well as the opening round of the Champions League group stage, which is to be played on September 14 and 15, while an away trip to Metz in Ligue 1 could also come too soon.

Travel restrictions could well change in the coming weeks, though PSG will not be the only team fretting over possible mandatory quarantine for players in Lionel Scaloni's squad.

Premier League players Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia, both of Aston Villa, and Cristian Romero of Tottenham would have to isolate regardless of their vaccination status under the current travel restrictions imposed by the UK government.

Meanwhile, Juventus forward Dybala has earned a recall after almost two years out of the picture.

Dybala, who endured an injury hit 2020-21 but scored in Juve's 2-2 draw with Udinese on Sunday, last featured for Argentina in November 2019.

With Sergio Aguero and Mauro Icardi both unavailable due to injury, and Lautaro Martinez a doubt despite being included, Dybala has made the cut to round off Scaloni's attack.

Argentina squad in full:

Franco Armani (River Plate), Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa), Juan Musso (Atalanta),Geronimo Rulli (Villarreal); Marcos Acuna (Sevilla), Juan Foyth (Villarreal), Lisandro Martinez (Ajax), Lucas Martinez Quarta (Fiorentina), Nahuel Molina Lucero (Udinese), Gonzalo Montiel (Sevilla), Nicolas Otamendi (Benfica), German Pezzella (Real Betis), Cristian Romero (Tottenham Hotspur), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax); Rodrigo De Paul (Atletico Madrid), Nicolas Dominguez (Bologna), Alejandro Gomez (Sevilla), Giovani Lo Celso (Tottenham Hotspur), Exequiel Palacios (Bayer Leverkusen), Leandro Paredes (Paris Saint-Germain), Guido Rodriguez (Real Betis); Julian Alvarez (River Plate), Emiliano Buendia (Aston Villa), Angel Correa (Atletico Madrid), Joaquin Correa (Lazio), Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Nicolas Gonzalez (Fiorentina), Lautaro Martinez (Inter), Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain).

Rugby Australia remain "confident" the third Bledisloe Cup clash will be staged in Perth, despite New Zealand pulling out of the game next weekend.

The All Blacks and the Wallabies were due to meet at Optus Stadium on August 28, but New Zealand Rugby (NZR) opted against travelling due to concerns over coronavirus.

Rugby Australia (RA) announced it was "incredibly disappointed" at the move, while Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie stated in no uncertain terms he was "bloody angry" over the decision.

Playing the Test in the United Kingdom or South Africa had been suggested as an alternative, but RA chief executive Andy Marinos hopes the trans-Tasman rivals can still do battle in Perth next month.

"We're working hard now with the West Australian government and the stadium to see if we can't move that to September 4," Marinos told Channel Nine on Sunday.

"We remain optimistic and confident we can get the game away eventually in Perth."

NZR chief executive Mark Robinson denied claims that RA had not been told that the All Blacks would not fulfil the fixture before it was announced.

He said: "We had calls right through from Wednesday, Thursday, we put something in writing on Thursday and then we spoke to them before anything was released.

"Certainly I know that senior All Blacks and Wallabies were discussing the situation and our players were making them aware of the reality of our situation."

NZR also announced the All Blacks' two home Rugby Championship Tests against South Africa – scheduled for September 25 and October 2 – will not be played in New Zealand following government advice that the Springboks would not be able to enter the country due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexander Lacazette, Willian and Alex Runarsson have all been absent due to coronavirus, Arsenal have confirmed.

Head coach Mikel Arteta explained Aubameyang and Lacazette were feeling unwell prior to the Gunners' lacklustre 2-0 defeat at new boys Brentford to begin their Premier League campaign last Friday.

It has now been confirmed the strike duo are part of a quartet who missed that game following a positive test for COVID-19, with each player at various stages of their recovery.

Aubameyang, who scored 10 goals in 29 Premier League outings last term, has now returned a negative result and could be in contention to feature against Chelsea on Sunday.

Willian's situation will be monitored ahead of the clash against his former club, but Lacazette and Runarsson have both been ruled out of the derby clash.

Arsenal also provided injury updates on Gabriel, Eddie Nketiah and Thomas Partey after being beaten by a newly promoted side in their opening league match of the season for the first time since 1976-77 against Bristol City.

Partey is expected to return to training at the end of August after sustaining an ankle injury in the pre-season friendly against Chelsea.

Nketiah, who suffered an ankle injury in the same game as his team-mate, will be back in training a couple of weeks later in September, while Gabriel is aiming to be back later this month.

The 2021 Japanese Grand Prix has been cancelled due to "ongoing complexities" related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Race organisers on Wednesday announced that the event at the Suzuka circuit will not take place for a second successive year.

The COVID-19 crisis pandemic prevented the 2020 from being staged and a race due to be staged on October 10 has also been called off.

A statement from Formula One said: "Following ongoing discussions with the promoter and authorities in Japan the decision has been taken by the Japanese government to cancel the race this season due to ongoing complexities of the pandemic in the country.

"Formula One is now working on the details of the revised calendar and will announce the final details in the coming weeks.

"Formula One has proven this year, and in 2020, that we can adapt and find solutions to the ongoing uncertainties and is excited by the level of interest in locations to host Formula One events this year and beyond."

The F1 season resumes with the Belgium Grand Prix on August 29, with Lewis Hamilton holding an eight-point lead over Max Verstappen at the top of the driver standings.

Simona Halep says she is no longer afraid of coronavirus after getting vaccinated and hopes more players will take the jab.

Halep opted against travelling to New York for the US Open last year due to the pandemic before testing positive for COVID-19 last October.

The two-time grand slam champion missed the French Open and Wimbledon this year with a torn calf muscle, but claimed her first win since May at the Western and Southern on Tuesday, beating Magda Linette 6-4 3-6 6-0.

Former world number one Halep revealed she feels much more comfortable back on the circuit after taking the vaccine.

"I don't feel afraid, because I am vaccinated," The Romanian told reporters. "I feel protected. I am taking care. I wear the mask when many people are around."

Players have faced strict protocols since the tour resumed, with the challenges of staying in biosecure bubbles and playing in empty stadiums last year before restrictions gradually eased.

Stefanos Tsitsipas this week said that he would only take the vaccine if it becomes mandatory to play on the ATP Tour after Novak Djokovic stated he hopes it will not become a requirement to take the jab.

Halep hopes fellow professionals take the vaccine so they do not face such strict protocols.

"I don't like the bubbles," Halep said. "I feel very stressed when I'm in the bubble.

"So if people can vaccinate more and more (it) will be better, because we will not have more restrictions anymore."

Stefanos Tsitsipas has indicated he will only get the COVID-19 vaccine if it becomes mandatory to participate on the ATP Tour.

World number three Tsitsipas revealed he has not yet been jabbed against coronavirus with the tennis world divided on the issue. 

The ATP Tour have publicly encouraged players to get vaccinated, but Novak Djokovic is among the high-profile players to have stated it should not be compulsory to compete.

When asked ahead of the Western and Southern Open if he would get the vaccine, Tsitsipas told a media conference he still had reservations.

"No one has told me anything. No one has made it a mandatory thing to be vaccinated," the Greek said.

"At some point I may have to, I'm pretty sure about it, but so far it hasn't been mandatory to compete, so I haven't done it, no."

Tsitsipas received a bye through to the second round in Cincinnati, where he will play either Sebastian Korda or Laslo Dere.

The 23-year-old, who has a tour-high 45 wins this season, climbed up to third in the world rankings last week and boldly targeted overhauling Djokovic in top spot.

"The rankings are there for a reason. They signify something important," he added.

"I think that the very next step would be the number one spot, which I hope I can get to one day.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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