The International Olympic Committee (IOC) wants discussions to be held over FIFA's plan to stage the men's World Cup every two years instead of four. 

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has been travelling across the globe in a bid to drum up support for making the World Cup a biennial competition. 

The proposal, which is set to be voted on in December, has been met with criticism from federations at a continental and national level, as well as players' and supporters' unions. 

The IOC suggested it is simply a money-spinning exercise for FIFA and said it shared concerns raised about the impact on other sports, gender equality and player welfare. 

An IOC statement read: "A number of international federations (IFs) of other sports, national football federations, clubs, players, players associations and coaches have expressed strong reservations and concerns regarding the plans to generate more revenue for FIFA, mainly for the following reasons: 

"The increased frequency and timing for the World Cup would create a clash with other major international sports. This includes tennis, cycling, golf, gymnastics, swimming, athletics, Formula 1 and many others. This would undermine the diversity and development of sports other than football. 

"The increase in men's events in the calendar would create challenges for the further promotion of women's football. 

"The plans ... would create a further massive strain on the physical and mental health of the players." 

The release continued: "The IOC shares these concerns and supports the calls of stakeholders of football, international sports federations and major event organisers for a wider consultation, including with athletes' representatives, which has obviously not taken place." 

The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) is to investigate allegations that two Belarus coaches tried to force sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya to board a flight home from the Tokyo Olympics.

Tsimanouskaya claimed Artur Shimak and Yury Maisevich took her to the airport against her will after she criticised the coaches on social media.

The 24-year-old finished fourth in her 100 metres heat, before being pulled out of the Games by Belarusian officials.

Due to also compete in the 200m, she claimed a Belarusian coach entered her for the 4x400m relay despite her never having raced in the event before.

Tsimanouskaya said she did not feel safe returning to her homeland amid a crackdown on anti-government dissent following mass protests that erupted last year over a disputed election.

She flew to Warsaw rather than Belarus after being granted a humanitarian visa by Poland. 

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) revoked Shimak and Maisevichas' accreditation in August after launching an investigation into the saga.

The IOC and World Athletics on Thursday revealed that the AIU will look into the matter.

World Athletics and the IOC stated: "Further to the incident involving Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and the decision taken by the IOC to cancel and remove the accreditations of the two coaches, Messrs A. Shimak and Y. Maisevich, as a provisional measure during the Games, the IOC and World Athletics have jointly agreed to continue the investigation and to open a formal procedure vis-à-vis the two aforementioned coaches. 

"To this effect, and given that the Olympic Games have now concluded, it has been decided that the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) – the independent body created by World Athletics to manage all integrity issues (both doping-related and non-doping-related) for the sport of athletics – will conduct the procedure, with the full collaboration and support of the IOC. 

"The AIU will publish the outcome of its investigation when this has been finalised."

 

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."

Rory McIlroy has praised fellow Olympians Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka for sparking fresh discussion around mental health in sport.

American Biles, a four-time Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast, pulled out of the individual all-around final and the women's team final this week to focus on her mental wellbeing.

Japan's Osaka withdrew from this year's French Open tennis and opted not to play at Wimbledon after speaking of battles with depression and anxiety, although she has taken part in the Olympics.

Four-time golf major winner McIlroy, who is representing Ireland in his first Olympics, has previously opened up about his own struggles.

And the 32-year-old said he was fully behind Biles, Osaka and other athletes for ensuring discussions around the subject are "not taboo anymore".

"I live in the United States and anything that came on the TV about the Olympics it was Simone Biles. I mean it was the Simone Biles Olympics, right?" McIlroy said.

"To have the weight of 300-whatever million [people in the USA] on her shoulders is massive.

"Just as I thought Naomi Osaka was right to do what she did at the French Open and take that time off and get herself in the right place, I 100 per cent agree with what Simone is doing as well.

"You have to put yourself in the best position physically and mentally to be at your best and if you don't feel like you are at that, or you are in that position then you are going to have to make those decisions.

"I'm certainly very impressed, especially with those two women to do what they did and put themselves first.

"I'm glad that at least the conversation has started. There's been a few athletes that have really spoken: Michael Phelps, Kevin Love, Naomi Osaka, Simone Biles. The conversation, it's not taboo anymore."

McIlroy believes an athlete suffering from mental health issues should not be viewed any differently from one suffering from a physical injury.

"People can talk about it. Just as someone has a knee injury, or an elbow injury, if you don't feel right 100 per cent mentally that's an injury too," he said.

"I think in sports there's still this notion of powering through it, digging in and you're not a competitor unless you get through these things. I think that's probably part of it.

"But then when you hear the most decorated Olympian ever talk about his struggles and then probably the greatest gymnast ever talk about her struggles, you know then it encourages more people who have felt that way to come out and share how they're feeling."

McIlroy has been a little out of sorts heading into the Olympics, a tie for 59th at the Irish Open preceded a missed cut at the Scottish Open while he shared 46th at the Open Championship.

However, the world number 13 now has more coping mechanisms to handle the mental strain of competing at the highest level and fluctuations in form and performance.

He saud: "I certainly have a few more tools in my mental toolbox to maybe deal with things than I had a few years ago. Again, it's just trying to put yourself in an environment in which you can thrive. That's the bottom line.

"Someone like Naomi Osaka was trying to put herself in that environment in the French Open and I think the whole sports world was behind that decision. It obviously didn't play out the way she wanted it to, but it certainly started a great conversation."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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."

Double Olympic gold medallist Andy Murray feels Tokyo 2020 can provide a "beacon of hope" after the disruption that continues to be caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Murray is set to take part in his fourth Games as he looks to defend the singles title he won at London 2012 and then successfully retained four years later in Rio. 

Delayed by a year due to the global pandemic and due to be played out in front of no spectators in Japan, Murray is excited to compete as he bids to build momentum following his injury problems.  

"Going to a second Olympics as defending champion is exciting and I am looking forward to the challenge. The Games are the biggest competition in the world and as athletes we train hard for moments like this," the Team GB tennis star wrote on the official Olympics website. 

"Tokyo 2020 in 2021 is unique, falling during the pandemic and we have seen incredible resilience from athletes, fans and all those involved in making this happen. 

"In so many ways, right now it's more important than ever that people around the world get to reconnect to the raw emotion of sport, watch incredible performances and celebrate the achievement of athletes coming from around the world.

"It's going to be amazing to be playing in Tokyo and my own experiences are why I think the Games have never been more relevant. For those that are still experiencing the worst of the pandemic and others that have lost so much over the last year, this Games can be a beacon of hope."

Murray is part of six-strong tennis squad, which includes men's doubles partner Joe Salisbury – an Olympic debutant and recent French Open mixed doubles winner – and Neal Skupski, that will compete for Team GB.

Current British number one Dan Evans is the other men's player in the squad, while Heather Watson and Johanna Konta appear at their third and second respective Games to make up the team.

While Murray will chase doubles glory with Salisbury, the 34-year-old is not taking his eyes off individual success either.

"On a personal level, the Tokyo Games are significant. My goal is to try and win a medal. Ideally a gold one for my country," the two-time Wimbledon champion added.

"I know first-hand the impact that playing sport for a career has on your body. I know how difficult and frustrating that journey can be. I know the heartbreak of missing a major tournament and the journey of recovery."

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 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.

After an absence of 112 years, golf made a grand return to the Olympics schedule at the 2016 Rio Games.

Now, four years on, another stellar cast from the men's and women's games are descending on Tokyo aiming to stand atop the podium.

While several big names once again opted out – including former world number one Dustin Johnson – amid a demanding schedule during the traditional major season, the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Nelly Korda offer plenty of star attraction.

With that in mind, Stats Perform provides an overview of those competing for golfing glory in Japan.

RAHM, BRYSON, MCILROY AND THOMAS THE HEADLINE ACTS

Justin Rose missed out on qualification, meaning there will be a new gold medal winner in the men's competition. And what an achievement it would be for Rahm to add an Olympic accolade to his name fresh off breaking his major duck with a fine U.S. Open triumph last month. McIlroy finished in a tie for seventh at Torrey Pines and, having previously been among the biggest critics of golf at the Olympics, is to make his Games debut representing Ireland aiming to add a gold medal to his four career majors. There are four male representatives from a star-studded United States cast that includes three major winners in the form of Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Colin Morikawa. DeChambeau had been well in contention to win the U.S. Open before a final-round collapse, with Morikawa finishing fourth. Xander Schauffele – the final American male in action – was tied seventh and is sure to have plenty of support given his mother, who was born in Taiwan, grew up in Japan.

KORDA OUT TO TAKE INBEE'S CROWN

Inbee Park is one of the all-time greats and the seven-time major victor is among the favourites to retain her gold medal from Rio four years ago. Ko Jin-young provides another strong South Korean hope, as do countrywomen Kim Sei-young and Kim Hyo-joo. But it is Nelly Korda who travels to Tokyo with all the momentum. The 22-year-old took the Women's US PGA Championship last month to ascend to the top of the LPGA rankings for the first time. Elder sister Jessica Korda also qualified, while their brother Sebastian is in line to represent the United States in tennis. Major winners Danielle Kang and Lexi Thompson complete a strong four-woman contingent. Filipino sensation Yuka Saso, who won the U.S. Open this year, is another to watch out for in the women's competition.

MATSUYAMA, HATAOKA OUT TO MAKE MOST OF HOME ADVANTAGE

Hideki Matsuyama made history by becoming the first man from Japan to win a major tournament with his glorious triumph at the Masters back in April. Moreover, the 29-year-old has previous at the Kasumigaseki Country Club – a venue where he won the Asia-Amateur Championship in 2010. A quiet man he may be on the course, but expect fireworks from Matsuyama in Tokyo. In the women's field, Nasa Hataoka is the highest-ranked Japanese player gunning for gold. With eight professional wins to her name, Hataoka went agonisingly close to securing a maiden major when she lost out in a play-off to then-teenager Saso at the U.S. Open. Hinako Shibuno, the 2019 Women's British Open champion, missed out on selection with Mone Inami instead Japan's other female representative.

The delay to the Tokyo Olympics has been a source of frustration for countless athletes, but perhaps none more so than the Japanese stars so desperate to succeed in their home nation.

Uncertainty and confusion surrounding the Games has sadly reigned for the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

And yet, here we are in the month the action is set to begin and the show looks certain to go on.

No international spectators will be in attendance, but limited numbers of domestic fans are due to be allowed to watch the action.

So, who are the biggest names representing Japan the locals will hope to inspire to glory? Stats Perform has taken a look…

NAOMI OSAKA

There is no other place to begin than with one of the biggest names in the whole of sport, let alone tennis right now. Naomi Osaka is a superstar with a huge global following, particularly in Japan and America. Only 23 and with four grand slams to her name, there is seemingly no limit to the level she can reach. Osaka is the defending US and Australian Open champion, but withdrew after the first round of the French Open and opted not to play at Wimbledon after revealing a long-endured battle with depression. The issue came to the fore when Osaka had announced she would not take part in media conferences in Paris to protect her mental health, starting a wider conversation over how athletes are treated. 

 

HIDEKI MATSUYAMA

So often a nearly man, 2021 has already been a breakthrough year for the gifted Hideki Matsuyama. There were seven top-10 finishes in major tournaments before finally the 29-year-old took top billing to win the Masters at Augusta back in April. In doing so he became the first Japanese man to win a major tournament (Hinako Shibuno and Chako Higuchi have both won majors in the women's game). Olympic gold is certainly not out of the question for one of the most gifted players in golf.

KIYUNA RYO

Karate is making its Olympics debut and so is one of its greatest ever competitors in the form of Kiyuna Ryo. In 2019, Ryo won every competition he entered - including a third Asian championship - while the pandemic denied him a shot at a record fourth straight WKF world championship in June 2020. It will take a huge effort to stop Ryo, who will be 31 by the time the Games begin, standing atop the podium.

UTA ABE

The younger sibling of two-time world champion Hifumi Abe – himself off to Tokyo 2020 – judoka Uta Abe represents a serious medal hope for Japan. A two-time world champion herself in the -52kg category, she will aim to become an Olympic champion on July 25 – the same day her brother will aim to wear gold in the men's -66kg category. There is no shortage of judo talent in Japan, with Shohei Ono aiming to defend the -73kg gold he won at Rio 2016.

KENTO MOMOTA 

The past 18 months have been challenging for everyone but especially for Kento Momota. In January 2020, the badminton star was involved in a road accident that claimed the life of his driver, while he required surgery on his eye socket. A combination of the injury, the global pandemic and a positive test for coronavirus kept Momota off the court for 14 months. But the two-time world champion – who won an astounding 11 titles as recently as 2019 – will be desperate to complete a fairytale ending with gold in Tokyo.

 

DAIYA SETO

One of Japan's greatest hopes in the pool, Daiya Seto already has an Olympic medal in the form of a bronze from Rio four years ago in the 400 metre individual medley. With four gold medals in long course world championships and as many at the Asian Games, there are plenty of high hopes for Seto.

Andy Murray has been selected as part of six-strong Great Britain tennis squad for the upcoming Olympic Games.

The Scot, a two-time winner in men's singles and the current champion, will have another opportunity to strike gold when he competes in Tokyo.

Murray is set to appear at his fourth Olympics having also been part of the squad for Beijing 2008 prior to victories at London 2012 and Rio 2016.

On his inclusion, he said: "The Olympics means a huge amount to me, it’s a massive honour to be able to compete at a fourth Games. 

"Leading Team GB out at the Opening Ceremony five years ago in Rio was one of the highlights of my career. 

"Going to a second Olympics as defending champion is exciting and I’m looking forward to the challenge."

Murray will also compete in the men's doubles alongside Joe Salisbury, an Olympic debutant and two-time Grand Slam doubles winner - most recently in the French Open mixed event.

Current GB number one Dan Evans is also part of the men's line-up, and is set to compete in both the singles and doubles events this summer.

His partner in the latter will be two-time Grand Slam doubles semi-finalist Neal Skupski who, like Evans, is set to appear at his first Games.

GB's women's representatives are Heather Watson and Johanna Konta, who are appearing at their third and second Olympic Games respectively.

Both players will compete in the women's singles event and team up for the doubles.

Team GB chef de mission Mark England said: “It’s a huge privilege to announce our tennis players for Team GB. 

"The calibre of the team gets stronger with every Games and it is great to see a mix of returning and first time Olympians. 

"Two-time Olympic Champion Andy Murray was our flag bearer in Rio and he continues to lead by example through his commitment to the Olympic Games and Team GB in what will be his fourth Olympics. 

"We are also delighted to welcome back Heather and Johanna as returning Olympians, and I am sure they will all pass on the best of their insight to Dan, Joe and Neal."

The Tokyo Olympics could take place with no spectators in attendance if the Japanese capital is placed into another state of emergency, the nation's prime minister Yoshihide Suga has said.

Japan is moving ahead with plans to host the Games, which were postponed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, despite strong public opposition and warnings from health officials that crowds could lead to increased infection rates.

International fans are already banned from attending, with a decision on domestic spectators due to be taken on Monday.

On Sunday, the state of emergency that had been imposed on Tokyo and eight other prefectures was lifted, though looser restrictions remain in place until July 11.

Speaking to reporters at a vaccination centre, Suga said: "In the event a state of emergency was declared then we can't rule out not having spectators.

"I think that's obvious from the standpoint of making safety and security our utmost priority."

There were 376 new positive tests for COVID-19 reported in Tokyo on Sunday, an increase on the 304 a week prior. The seven-day average in the capital also rose to 388 from 384.1.

Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto and Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto are due to hold a news conference later on Monday after the culmination of talks surrounding domestic fans.

Adam Gemili has accused the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of hypocrisy over its plans to sanction athletes who take a knee in support of Black Lives Matter at this year's Games in Tokyo.

Last month, the IOC executive board approved recommendations in regard to Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, relating to athlete expression at Tokyo 2020 and beyond.

Although it pledged to "increase opportunities for athletes' expression during the Olympic Games" and celebrate "Peace, Respect, Solidarity, Inclusion and Equality" through collective branding, it was deemed "not appropriate" for competitors to "demonstrate or express their views on the field of play".

As such, any actions such as taking a knee at a podium ceremony will be subject to sanctions, although it is unclear at this stage what the punishments might be.

British sprinter Gemili told The Guardian "all hell would break loose" if athletes were banned for protesting.

If he is able to improve upon his fourth-placed finish in the 200m at Rio 2016, the 27-year-old explained he would not be dissuaded from taking a stand and cited double standards over the celebrations of Black Power protests at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico and the IOC's present position.

"For sure I would be happy to take a knee if I was successful at the Olympics and I had that opportunity," he said.

"I would definitely protest. The fact the IOC is telling athletes 'no, you can't do it' is only going to make people more angry. If the opportunity came, I wouldn't shy away from it.

"This is what I don’t understand: the IOC are so quick to use Tommie Smith, the picture of his fist raised, but they are saying 'actually, no one is allowed to do that'. It doesn't make sense.

"I don't think you can ban an athlete for protesting. And if they do, all hell would break loose and it could go south and sour very quickly. They will be very naive to even try to do that.

"The Olympics is not a place to be political, it's a place for sport and to bring the whole world together, but the whole BLM movement is more than political. It's about being a good human, and equal rights for everyone."

The IOC reported 70 per cent of over 3,500 athlete respondents to their survey were against demonstrations on the "field of play" or at official ceremonies, with that figure dropping fractionally to 67 per cent for podium ceremonies.

Nevertheless, Gemili feels the governing body's methodology was flawed when it came to accurately showing the strength of feeling from athletes of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

"I think the IOC knew exactly what it was doing," he added.

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