The Chicago Bulls' fading playoff hopes have taken another blow as All-Star Zach LaVine is set to miss some time. 

LaVine is in the NBA's health and safety protocol amid the coronavirus pandemic, the team confirmed on Thursday.

He will miss at least Friday's game against the Memphis Grizzlies. 

The Bulls had been scheduled to practice on Thursday, but it was called off because of health and safety protocols, a team spokesperson told reporters. 

Entering Thursday's action, the Bulls (22-32) were in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, holding a one-game lead over the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards for the final spot in the play-in tournament.   

LaVine is averaging a career-best 27.5 points per game. He scored 30 points and added seven assists in a loss to the Orlando Magic on Wednesday.

Chicago have dropped four games in a row and 12 of their last 16.

 

Cancelling the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics remains an option, according to a top official from Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). 

The Games, which were postponed last year amid the coronavirus pandemic, are set to take place between July 23 and August 8, with the Paralympics following from August 24 until September 5.

The health crisis continues to cause issues for nations across the globe but the message from the International Olympics Committee (IOC) and from the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee has thus far been that the show will go on.

International fans are banned from attending, and social-distancing measures, track-and-trace systems and temperature checks will be enforced.

With experts in Japan warning the country has entered a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, the secretary general of the LDP, Toshihiro Nikai, said cancelling the Games remains a possibility. 

"If it seems impossible to go on with the games, they must be definitely cancelled," Nikai told TBS TV.

"If there is a surge in infections because of the Olympics, there will be no meaning to having the Olympics."

Asked if cancellation was still an option, he added: "Of course."

A recent poll conducted by Japanese news agency Kyodo News revealed that 39.2 per cent of respondents want the Games to be cancelled, with 32.8 per cent in favour of it being delayed again.

 

Only 100 days remain until the rearranged Tokyo Olympics begin, some 12 months after they were originally scheduled to take place in the Japanese capital.

The overriding question over the past year has simply been: how will this happen?

Uncertainty still lingers over the monumental logistical effort needed to reschedule an Olympics, one that did not take place as planned for the first time since World War II as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Over a year since it was first confirmed the Games would be put back, the global health crisis is still wreaking havoc as countries battle COVID-19 with varying levels of success.

For the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese government, a more pertinent question may be: how could the Games not go ahead?

Soon, more than 11,000 athletes plus their coaches, as well as throngs of media and officials from around 200 nations, will flock into a single city during a pandemic.

As the Games come into view and the ceremonial lighting of the Olympic cauldron draws closer, the message has been pretty clear – one way or another, the show will go on.

So, just where are we at and what do we still not fully know about how the Games will function?

HOW THE SITUATION IS VIEWED IN JAPAN

While there appears little chance of another immediate postponement, there has not been particularly mass support from the people of Japan.

A Times report in January citing an unnamed Japanese government source suggested the Games would be cancelled – suggestions that were labelled as "categorically untrue" by the IOC.

But a survey taken by the Kyodo News Agency in the same month found approximately 80 per cent of people wanted another postponement or cancellation. 

A more recent poll taken by consultancy Kekst CNC found 56 per cent of respondents in the country do not want the Olympics to take place.

Confidence in Japan's ability to host the Games will hardly have been improved by the Olympic torch relay being prevented from taking place on public roads in Osaka on April 13 and 14 due to a surge in coronavirus cases.

While a full lockdown has never been imposed in Japan, a second state of emergency in Tokyo was only lifted on March 22.

Daily new infection rates in Japan decreased to a little over 500 in early March, but rates have steadily been on the rise again, with over 3,695 reported on April 10. Over 9,000 people have died after having a confirmed case in the country.

There are also concerns about the speed of the vaccine rollout in Japan, with frontline medical workers having not started receiving jabs until February. It could be July by the time the wider population is offered a shot.

PLAYBOOKS, TESTING AND NO MANDATORY VACCINATIONS

Despite those reservations, the IOC and Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee have pressed ahead to come up with an extensive collaborative list of rules in a 'playbook'.

Athletes and officials, members of the press, and international federations are among the groups who will have to follow playbooks for the duration of the Games.

The guidance we have all become so familiar with for over a year is stressed: avoid physical contact, maintain distance, follow good hand hygiene, wear masks, and keep away from crowded spaces where possible.

Chanting and singing is discouraged, with the playbook stating athletes should be supported instead by clapping.

Additionally, an activity plan must be provided for the first 14 days when entering Japan – including details of planned activities, travel intentions, and accommodation details.

All those required to adhere to the rules of the playbook are permitted to visit only official Games venues and selected other locations, while going to bars, shops, restaurants or tourist locations is not allowed.

No mandatory period of quarantining will be required, unlike what was in place for the tennis Australian Open earlier this year, but anyone who provides a positive coronavirus test will have to isolate – which the playbook states may be at a government-approved isolation facility.

Athletes will not be required to have received a vaccine against COVID-19 to take part in the Games, although the IOC has actively encouraged participants to take the opportunity if possible.

The issue of whether vaccines should be mandatory remains a contentious one. Middle-distance athlete Genzebe Dibaba, a silver medallist for Ethiopia in the 1,500 metres at Rio 2016, recently told Stats Perform News she feels competitors should get a jab.

"Yes, I think it's safe and more comfortable to manage, to meet with the other athletes. [I think it's] better to take the vaccine," she said.

Swimming great Mark Spitz, a legend of the 1972 Games in Munich where he won seven golds, also believes Olympians should take a vaccine.

Speaking courtesy of Laureus, Spitz told Stats Perform: "Personally I've received the vaccine because of my age, I didn't jump in front of anyone in line. And there's nothing to fear from the vaccine.

"According to the doctors and the experts we're somewhere in excess of 90 per cent protected - that doesn't mean I don't observe social distancing, masking up and all the other things we've heard so much about and have been observing.

"I think the athletes will have to cope with these type of observances. I think the athletes should be vaccinated, not only for their own good but for anyone they come into contact with in their journey to get to Tokyo."

Athletes are to be tested every four days, but no decision has yet been taken on whether a positive result will see competitors prohibited from taking part in their events – the contention over potentially false positive tests remaining a sticking point.

At past Olympics, Games accommodation 'villages' have earned a reputation as party venues, with competitors clustered and able to blow off steam at the end of a brutal four-year training cycle.

But this year promises to be an altogether different experience, with athletes told to arrive five days before competing and leave no later than two days after their event finishes.

Temperature checks are required to be taken every day, and playbooks warn that such tests will also be required to enter any official Games venue – a temperature of more than 37.5 degrees would mean a competitor is not allowed to enter.

TRAINING DISRUPTION AND OVERSEAS FANS BANNED

Disruption to the Games has not just been a nightmare for organisers. Athletes too have had to rip up plans and training schedules, and find ways to adapt during unusual times.

Qualifiers and warm-up events have been cancelled or rescheduled, many official competitions have bitten the dust, and several months have been spent at home training, with practice facilities closing during lockdowns.

Amid the uncertainty has been the real fear of a full cancellation, and many have pondered whether the Games will lack integrity due to the varying levels of preparedness of athletes.

But many also believe athletes will just be desperate to compete on the biggest stage of all after over 12 months of turmoil.

"Everybody knows how special the Olympics are; for an athlete it cannot really get any better. You obviously want to do yourself proud and your family, but also you are representing your country," Fabian Cancellara, the cycling time trial gold medallist at both the 2008 and 2016 Olympics, told Stats Perform.

"Obviously with cycling I had many other big events, but the Olympics is huge and something you can never forget both when competing and the whole Olympic experience.

"You wait four, or in this case five years. Who knows how it is going to be in Tokyo really, nobody is quite sure but I'm sure they can still put a great Olympics on.

"The athletes will be even more hungry after waiting an extra year and whoever gets to experience what I did and become an Olympic champion, it's going to be amazing for them."

Spitz acknowledged the disruption, but he too hopes competitors will have had ample time to prepare.

"I can't speak on behalf on a lot of different sports and how their training habits have been affected. I know swimming, for example, it's been a bit of a concern since we can't get into pools here in America," he said.

"It has a profound effect on swimming obviously. Especially these large pools we need to practise in, 50-metre pools, it's not in somebody's back yard, and you need to be coached and assembled in a team.

"So, this was put on the sidelines for a number of months back in the winter time, but a lot of the athletes are on track right now. They have opened up these facilities and far enough in advance that come time for the Olympic Games we're going to see top-notch performances from swimmers around the world. How it's affected gymnastics or other sports I'm not quite sure but it definitely has affected them."

One thing that is certain is those competing are sure to do so in a very different atmosphere to past Olympics.

Last month, it was confirmed no overseas visitors will be allowed to attend the Games – a significant blow to an event that prides itself on providing an international flavour.

Approximately 900,000 to one million tickets had reportedly been sold across the Olympic and Paralympic Games to overseas spectators, all of which will need to be refunded.

Fears of a behind-closed-doors Games are unlikely to come to fruition, although a decision about a potential cap on capacity of venues is likely to be made in the near future.

TOO COSTLY TO CANCEL?

Of course, for all the messages of unity and triumphing amid adversity, there will be cynics asking whether this all boils down to one thing: money.

There is undoubtedly an element of truth that there is plenty to lose financially.

As of December 2020, it was reported the budget for the Olympics had risen to a whopping £11.5billion, an extra £2.1bn compared to the totals a year prior.

The additional costs are said to be mainly down to measures needed to combat the threat of COVID-19 and the renegotiating of contracts.

And there is pressure too from broadcasters, who contribute to around three quarters of the IOC's budget, who remain adamant the Games should go ahead.

So, yes, here we are with 100 days to go and barring a monumental change of heart, the show will indeed go on.

Genzebe Dibaba believes it would be a more comfortable experience at the Tokyo Games if athletes are vaccinated against coronavirus and is confident organisers will do all they can to protect competitors at the Olympics.

Wednesday marks 100 days until the Games are due to begin in the Japanese capital, a year later than planned after the original dates in 2020 were scuppered by the pandemic.

The health crisis continues to cause issues for nations across the globe but the message from the International Olympics Committee (IOC) and from the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee has thus far been that the show will go on.

While international fans are banned from attending, and social-distancing measures, track-and-trace systems and temperature checks will be enforced, a vaccination against COVID-19 will not be a pre-requisite to participate in Tokyo.

Middle and long-distance runner Dibaba, a silver medallist in the 1500 metres at Rio 2016 and the world record holder over that distance, thinks athletes should have a jab for the Games.

"Yes, I think it's safe and more comfortable to manage, to meet with the other athletes," Dibaba told Stats Perform News.

"[I think it's] better to take the vaccine."

As part of the solutions to try and prevent transmission of the virus at the Games, Tokyo 2020 and the IOC have come up with 'Playbooks' for athletes, officials and the media to follow – which includes having to complete an activity book outlining plans while in the city.

Regular testing will also be enforced, with athletes being checked every four days, and Dibaba acknowledged organisers are doing what they can to put on a safe Games.

"It's hard to feel safe because it's a virus and you can get it at any minute," she added.

"But since it's the Olympics, I know they will do everything they can to protect us."

Dibaba spoke about the difficulties athletes have faced in training for an Olympics facing so much uncertainty.

But the Ethiopian – a world champion in 2015 – is still focused on moving up a step on the podium in Tokyo, even if she feels a crack at breaking her own 1500m world record may have to wait a little while.

"For now I'm getting ready for the Olympics, not for the record," Dibaba said. 

"It's a race, since it's a record anyone can break it if they work hard. If they go for the record I will be there. 

"If not I'm just working for the Olympic Games, not for the record. After the Olympics, I promise you I will try one more time that I will go for the record."

World number two Daniil Medvedev has pulled out of the Monte Carlo Masters after returning a positive coronavirus test.

The Russian, who was given a bye for the first round, went into isolation after returning a positive test on Monday.

"It's a big disappointment not to play in Monte Carlo," he said in a statement. "My focus is now on recovery and I look forward to getting back out on Tour as soon and as safely as possible."

Medvedev, who lost the Australian Open final to Novak Djokovic in January, had been practising with 11-time Monte Carlo champion Rafael Nadal on Monday.

The 25-year-old last played at the Miami Open at the end of March, where he lost in the quarter-finals to Roberto Bautista Agut.

England international James Maddison was one of three Leicester City stars dropped for the 3-2 Premier League defeat at West Ham on Sunday after breaching COVID-19 protocols.

Maddison, Hamza Choudhury and Ayoze Perez were absent for disciplinary reasons, with the Telegraph reporting the trio were left out by manager Brendan Rodgers for attending a party last weekend.

Speaking after the game, Rodgers said he was "bitterly disappointed" with their breach of the rules but said the players would be back in contention for the FA Cup semi-final against Southampton next weekend.

He said in a press conference: "My objective coming into Leicester City was to create a standard on and off the pitch. The standards fell way below what we'd expect and particularly at this time of the season, when we're challenging and fighting to finish off a really exciting season.

"That standard and the values we have as a club, they fell well below that. The guys that weren't involved in the squad today would have been, but as a consequence of their behaviour, they weren't.

"I could easily fine players and it's a drop in the ocean now and everything is right, but then the dynamic isn't quite right in the squad. I had to deal with that throughout the week, the players are bitterly disappointed.

"They are good boys, they knew what the consequence was, they wouldn't be involved in this game and now we draw a line under it. They will rejoin the squad, train next week and get ready for next weekend."

Leicester said in a statement: "The club has made its expectations around adherence to COVID-19 protocols abundantly clear to all its personnel.

"It is extremely disappointing, therefore, to learn of a breach that had the potential to undermine the efforts of club staff to protect the environments in which our teams train and play. Appropriate measures have been taken to prevent our team bubbles being compromised.

"We wholly expect our people to behave in a way that reflects the national effort and the sacrifices made by our communities to control the spread of the virus. Those involved have apologised for their poor judgement.

"Our response to the matter will be concluded internally."

The French Open will take place a week later than initially scheduled this year, a move aimed at increasing the possibility of spectators attending the event in Paris.

Action at Roland Garros was due to begin with qualifying on May 17, reverting back to a more traditional time in the tennis calendar after taking place last year in September and October.

That move was made due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, taking place after the US Open while Wimbledon was cancelled.

With France currently in a third nationwide lockdown as part of measures to slow the rise in COVID-19 cases, the ATP and WTA Tours released a joint statement on Thursday confirming the main draw at Roland Garros will now begin on May 30 instead.

"Tennis has required an agile approach to the calendar over the past 12 months in order to manage the challenges of the pandemic, and this continues to be the case," the statement read.

"The decision to delay the start of Roland Garros by one week has been made in the context of recently heightened COVID-19 restrictions in France, with the additional time improving the likelihood of enhanced conditions and ability to welcome fans at the event.

"Both the ATP and WTA are working in consultation with all parties impacted by the postponement to optimise the calendar for players, tournaments and fans, in the lead-up to and following Roland Garros.

"Further updates will be communicated in due course."

Rafael Nadal is the defending men's champion, the Spaniard having secured the clay-court title for a 13th time in 2020. However, there was a new winner in the women's tournament, Iga Swiatek of Poland defeating Sofia Kenin in the final.

A statement released from the Grand Slam Board backed the move to postpone the French Open, while also announcing the grass-court season will be reduced by one week as a consequence.

"All four grand slam tournaments are united in their view on the importance of a meaningful build-up to every grand slam, to provide players of all competitive levels with appropriate opportunities to practice, prepare and compete on the relevant surface," a statement released via Wimbledon's official website read.

"It was for this reason that the grand slams, together with the Tours, were supportive of changes to the calendar to create an enhanced grass-court season of three weeks between Roland Garros and the Championships from 2015 onwards. It is widely agreed that this change has been very successfully received.

"However, given the considerable challenges ahead of the FFT in staging Roland Garros, and to avoid further impact on the rest of the calendar, the grass-court season will be reduced by one week in 2021."

Wimbledon will remain as planned, the main draw beginning on June 28 with qualifying taking place the week beforehand.

Juventus have announced Federico Bernardeschi has tested positive for COVID-19, ruling him out of Wednesday's crucial game against Napoli.

Bernardeschi is isolating away from the rest of the first-team squad following the test result, though Juve revealed on Tuesday that the Italy international is asymptomatic.

The 27-year-old came on as a second-half substitute as the reigning champions drew 2-2 with Torino on Saturday, a result that further damaged their bid to win the league for a 10th straight season.

Juve boss Andrea Pirlo was without both Leonardo Bonucci and Merih Demiral for the Turin derby after the defenders tested positive for coronavirus during the international break.

Cristiano Ronaldo struck a late equaliser but the Bianconeri still dropped down to fourth in the table, 12 points behind leaders Inter with just 10 matches remaining.

Juve host fifth-placed Napoli in midweek too, a key fixture for both clubs in the battle to qualify for next season's Champions League.

Like compatriot Bonucci, Bernardeschi was involved for the Azzurri as they started their World Cup qualifying campaign last month – he made appearances in all three Group C fixtures in March, against Northern Ireland, Bulgaria and Lithuania.

The Italian Football Federation announced four members of their staff had returned positive tests prior to the game in Lithuania, which resulted in a 2-0 win for Roberto Mancini's side.

The Washington Nationals will start their MLB campaign against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday after last week's scheduled opening series against the New York Mets was called off due to coronavirus issues. 

The Nationals were set to host the Mets at Nationals Park on Friday, but the game - and subsequent series - was postponed after four players tested positive for COVID-19. 

In addition to those four, there are seven further players and two staff members still undertaking quarantine as part of contact tracing. 

General manager Mike Rizzo said "the majority" of the players in quarantine were on the Nationals' 26-man roster, while "several" were not. 

They plan to fill those roster vacancies from an alternate training site where more than 30 players have been participating in daily training sessions.

The planned first game against the Braves, set for Monday, also will not go ahead, but the Nationals will return to action on Tuesday.

"We want to do everything we can to nip this thing in the bud right here, right now," Rizzo told reporters.

"So, I think that's being taken very much into consideration when we're talking [about] the next couple of days.

"They [the players] really want to get back into the routine of baseball, and they want to work out and get the blood flow [going] again. I think they're very excited about getting back on the field."

The Braves were swept 3-0 in their opening series against the Philadelphia Phillies. 

Next month's French Open could be postponed amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to France's minister of sports.

France entered its third national lockdown on Saturday in a bid to halt another surge of COVID-19 cases, which had threatened to overwhelm hospitals across the country. 

Professional sporting events are largely exempt from the restrictions, but minister of sports Roxana Maracineanu has suggested the French Open could be put back from its scheduled May 23 start date.

"We are in discussions with them [the French Tennis Federation] to see if we should change the date to coincide with a possible resumption of all sports and major events," she told radio station France Info.

"Today, although high-level sport has been preserved, we try to limit the risks of clusters, of spreading the virus within professional sports."

Rafael Nadal won last year's French Open, which was postponed by four months, to pull level with Roger Federer's record of 20 grand slam titles.

This month's EFL Cup final between Manchester City and Tottenham at Wembley will be attended by 8,000 spectators as part of a government test event.

The clash was pushed back from its original February 28 date to April 25 in the hope that supporters would be allowed to attend in some capacity.

With less than three weeks to go until the showdown between City and Spurs, the game has been confirmed as a pilot event to test the return of big crowds.

A proportion of tickets will be made available to both Premier League clubs, with the rest given to local residents in Brent and NHS staff.

The plan is to ensure the safe return of mass gatherings as coronavirus lockdown restrictions ease in England.

It has already been announced that 4,000 locals will be present for the FA Cup semi-final between Leicester City and Southampton on April 18, while 21,000 could be in attendance for the FA Cup final on May 15.

Rick Parry, Chair of the EFL, said in a statement on Sunday: "The Carabao Cup is a prized asset of the EFL, a great competition for clubs to win and always a fantastic occasion so we are absolutely delighted to see supporters back for the 2021 final, in what will hopefully be another important milestone along the way to a full return of fans.

"Football has lots of expertise in crowd management so we welcome the opportunity to support the government in its Events Research Programme and will also take great pride in hosting NHS staff at the final to whom we owe so much for their momentous efforts throughout the pandemic.

"The EFL's broad objective has always been to seek fans return to stadia as soon as it is safe to do so and we welcome the opportunity to play our part working collaboratively with Wembley Stadium, local authorities and specialists overseeing the research programme. 

"These collective efforts will be crucial as we seek a return for fans of EFL clubs for the play-offs and start of the 2021-22 season, so that our members can plan with confidence."

The World Snooker Championship, which runs from April 17 to May 3, will be the first sporting event to be included in the trial and up to 1,000 spectators will attend each day.

Juventus trio Arthur, Paulo Dybala and Weston McKennie have been left out by head coach Andrea Pirlo as punishment for their breach of coronavirus protocols.

Italian newspaper La Stampa reported that police were called to McKennie's home late on Wednesday to break up a social gathering, with such events forbidden under current social restrictions.

Arthur and Dybala were among those to attend, despite a nationwide curfew put in place amid the global health pandemic.

Ahead of Saturday's derby with Torino, Pirlo confirmed the three players would not be involved – and did not make it clear exactly when they will be considered again for first-team action.

"The three players involved in the episode are not called up for tomorrow's match and we will see when they will resume," the Juve boss told the media on Friday. "Having said that, let's talk about the derby.

"I took the decision not to call them, the club did the rest. This certainly wasn't the right time to have a dinner until late, both because it was two days away from a match and out of respect for those who respect the rules."

For Dybala, it is the latest setback in a difficult season. The forward has featured in just 11 Serie A games in 2020-21 and has been sidelined since the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie with Porto through injury.

The Argentina international issued an apology via Instagram on Friday having attended the gathering with his colleagues, adding: "I know that in such a difficult moment for the world with COVID it would've been better not to make a mistake, but I was wrong to stay out to dinner."

Pirlo is also without defenders Leonardo Bonucci and Merih Demiral after both tested positive for coronavirus during the international break.

It is hardly ideal for the reigning league champions as they desperately look to stay in the title race; Juve suffered a shock 1-0 home loss to Benevento last time out and trail leaders Inter by 10 points.

"Tomorrow is very important, we will speak to each other before the match in order to face it in the best possible way. The approach doesn't change, you play to win, always," Pirlo said.

"After defeats you have to get up and react as best you can. We are ready to do that, we will show great pride, we have champions and a great group who want to react."

Pirlo will have Alex Sandro available after he returned to training without any issues, while Danilo offers an option for Juve in either defence or midfield.

Torino have won only one of their past 29 Serie A derbies between the sides, though they too are in need of points as they sit precariously placed in 17th, just above the relegation zone.

Juve are unbeaten in their past 33 league fixtures against teams starting the matchday in the bottom four (W29 D4), their last defeat against such opposition coming back in May 2016 against Verona.

Juventus forward Paulo Dybala has apologised for breaking coronavirus protocols by attending a get-together with a couple of his team-mates.

Italian newspaper La Stampa reported on Thursday that police were called to the house of Weston McKennie late on Wednesday to break up a party attended by up to 20 people.

Arthur is also alleged to have been in the Turin property and all three players are said to be facing large fines, and possibly a suspension, for attending the lockdown gathering.

Juventus have yet to officially comment on the reports, but Dybala took to Instagram on Thursday to confirm he was present.

"I know that in such a difficult moment for the world with COVID it would've been better not to make a mistake, but I was wrong to stay out to dinner," he said.

"It wasn't a party, but I was wrong anyway and I apologise."

Juventus announced earlier on Thursday that Leonardo Bonucci and Merih Demiral have tested positive for COVID-19.

Leonardo Bonucci has joined Juventus team-mate Merih Demiral in testing positive for coronavirus, the Serie A giants have confirmed.

The 33-year-old returned from international duty with Italy on Thursday, a day after the Italian Football Federation announced four members of staff had also returned positive tests.

Bonucci will now begin a period of self-isolation that could keep him out of Serie A games with Torino, Napoli and Genoa over the next 10 days.

A statement on Juventus' official website on Thursday read: "Leonardo Bonucci, upon returning from the Italian national team, this morning underwent a diagnostic molecular test for COVID-19 which came back positive. 

"The player has already been placed in home isolation."

Juve confirmed earlier on Thursday that fellow defender Merih Demiral tested positive for COVID-19 on March 26 while away on international duty with Turkey.

Demiral was granted permission to return to Italy on a specially arranged flight and is isolating at the club's J Hotel.

According to reports from Italy, meanwhile, Juve intend to fine a trio of players for breaching coronavirus restrictions by attending a party.

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