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NBC's Olympics coverage has long been built on a foundation of human-interest stories and showcasing athletes' road to the Games. The same philosophies will apply to the coverage of Paralympics, which will air on the network for the first time.
Sunday will mark the first time that Paralympics coverage will air on the main NBC network and is part of 1,200 hours of programming airing across NBC, NBCSN, Olympic Channel and digital properties. The Paralympics began in Tokyo on Aug. 24 and continue through Sept. 5.
NBC will have three weekend docu-follow series episodes which will show the stories and performances of athletes competing in Tokyo. Sunday's episode, which will air at 7 p.m. EDT, will feature U.S. team flagbearers Melissa Stockwell (triathlon) and Chuck Aoki (wheelchair rugby), along with swimmer Jessica Long.
NBC's Mark Levy, the SVP of Original Production and Creative, said the one-year delay of the Games due to coronavirus allowed them to be able to dive deeper into athletes' back stories.
"We really want our viewers to feel connected to the Paralympians. We want to give them a chance to care and cheer for them," Levy said. "It's our opportunity through the primetime shows to reach a lot of people and share these back stories."
Long — who entered Tokyo with 23 career medals, including 13 gold — has had part of her story shown on Toyota ads that premiered earlier this year during the Super Bowl. Sunday, though, will allow viewers to see her visit to Russia for the first time in 2013 and meeting her birth mother for the first time.
Long was born with fibular hemimelia, a genetic abnormality which caused her lower legs to not develop properly. She was given up for adoption and was adopted at 13 months old. Her lower legs were amputated five months later.
Future episodes will show Long in competition, as well as how her Toyota ad has inspired people.
Stockwell is the first female American soldier to lose a limb in active combat when a roadside bomb exploded while she was leading a convoy in Iraq. She was also the first Iraq War veteran who qualified for the Paralympics in 2008.Aoki and the wheelchair rugby team are looking to win gold after a tough loss to Australia in Rio in 2016.
The shows will also show swimmer Abbas Karimi, who is part of the six-member Paralympic Refugee Team.
"To be able to showcase all these athletes with disabilities and the opportunity to create a dialogue, we're hoping that people's perceptions might change," Levy said. "That's really compelling for us and a real important reason why we're sharing these stories."
Levy is also hoping that people who watch Sunday will possibly tune in at some point to the 12 hours of daily coverage that is on NBCSN. NBC's other Paralympic docu-follow series will air Sept. 4 and 5. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Olympics, Tokyo, Paralympics, NBC
TOKYO - The Tokyo Paralympics open Tuesday after a year-long pandemic delay and with the virus continuing to cast a long shadow as Japan battles a record surge in cases.
As at the Olympics, the event will be marked by strict virus rules, with almost all spectators banned and tough restrictions on athletes and other participants.
While a swell of domestic support emerged during the Olympics after months of negative polls, there is deep concern in Japan as the Paralympics approach with the country going through a fifth virus wave.
More than 25,000 new cases were recorded on Thursday, and medics across the country have warned hospitals are at breaking point with serious cases also at record highs.
It's a challenging environment for the most important sports event for disabled athletes, and International Paralympic Committee chief Andrew Parsons has warned participants against complacency.
Despite the backdrop, IPC officials insist the reach of the event will be "incredible.""Of course, the fact that we will not have spectators at the venues is a challenge," Parsons told AFP in an interview. "But we believe we will reach more than 4 billion people through broadcasting."A
A woman walks past a sign of the 2020 Paralympics Image source: voavoa
Local officials say the Games can be held safely, with athletes and other participants subject to the same anti-infection rules that applied to the Olympics.
Competitors can only enter the Paralympic Village shortly before their event and must leave within 48 hours of the end of their competition.
They will be tested daily and limited to moving between training venues, competition sites and the Village.
The measures are intended to prevent the Games from becoming a superspreader event -- and officials say the Olympics proved the restrictions work.
There were 552 positive cases linked to the Olympics reported from July 1 until Sunday, the majority among Japan residents employed by the Games or working as contractors.
So far, 138 cases related to the Paralympics have been confirmed, also mostly among Japan-based Olympic officials, though at least four athletes have also tested positive.
But Olympic officials say there is no evidence of infection spreading from the Games to the rest of Japan, where case numbers were already on the rise.
Still organizers acknowledge the worsening environment.
"The infection situation today is different to how it was before the Olympics. It has deteriorated," said Tokyo 2020 official Hidemasa Nakamura on Friday. "And the local medical system is also in a very tight situation."
The virus surge has caused tensions, with some local regions and schools cancelling planned trips to Games events despite support for the programme from Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.
The mood among Paralympians remains buoyant though, after the uncertainties of the year-long delay.
"It's our time to take aim at gold!" tweeted U.S. archer Matt Stutzman, a Paralympic silver medalist who uses the handle "Armless Archer."
Stutzman is among those likely to be making an appearance on the medal podium during the Games, which will see 4,400 athletes from around 160 national teams competing.
There are 22 sports, with athletes competing in different categories and classes depending on the nature of their disability. Badminton and taekwondo are appearing for the first time.
Top names include Germany's Markus Rehm, dubbed the "Blade Jumper" for his gravity-defying feats in long jump, which have earned him three gold medals and a bronze.
He has pushed to be included in the Olympics, but so far without success over concerns that his prosthetic blade gives him an advantage.
Other household names include Tatyana McFadden, the American wheelchair racer who will be competing in her fifth summer Paralympics.
She also appeared at the Sochi Winter Games, where she won a silver medal in the country where she was born, as her adoptive U.S. mother and Russian birth mother cheered her on.
Japan will be hoping it can repeat the gold rush that saw it bring home a record 58 gold Olympic medals.
Among its top medal hopes is Shingo Kuneida, the reigning world No. 1 wheelchair men's single champion and considered one of the greatest figures in the sport. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Tokyo Olympics, Paralympics, Sports
The official price tag for the Tokyo Olympics in $15.4 billion, which a University of Oxford study says is the most expensive on record. What else could those billions buy?
The ballpark figure for building a 300-bed hospital in Japan is $55 million. So you could put up almost 300 of these.
The average elementary school in Japan costs about $13 million. For that price, you get 1,200 schools.
A quick search finds a Boeing 747 is priced at roughly $400 million. Voila: 38 jumbo jets for the cost of the Tokyo Olympics.
The point is that Olympic Games are costly and may bump aside other priorities. In fact, several Japanese government audits say the real outlay for the Tokyo Games is even more than the official figure, perhaps twice as much. All but $6.7 billion comes from public money from Japanese taxpayers. According to the latest budget, the IOC's contribution is $1.3 billion. It also chipped in several hundred million more after the pandemic.
Olympic costs have been dissected in a study by the University of Oxford, which found that all Games since 1960 have had cost overruns averaging 172%. Tokyo's cost overrun is 111% or 244%, depending on which cost figure you select.
"The IOC and host cities have no interest in tracking costs, because tracking tends to reveal cost overruns, which have increasingly become an embarrassment to the IOC and host cities," Oxford author Bent Flyvberg said in an email. Flyvberg also pointed out that costs would be reduced if the IOC picked up more of the bills rather than opening organizers' wallets.
Following costs is a tedious exercise, dotted with arguments about what are — and what are not — Olympic expenses. Flyvberg explained that numbers from different games can be "opaque and noncomparable" and require sorting and tracking.
"The problem is disentangling what is Olympics cost and what is just general infrastructure spending that would have happened anyways but was sped up for the Olympics," Victor Matheson, who studies sports economics at College of the Holy Cross, wrote in an email.
For example: The 1964 Tokyo Games, he says, "were either one of the cheapest or one of the most expensive Games depending on how much of the preparation costs count as the Olympics."
The 2008 Beijing Olympics, usually listed as costing more than $40 billion, and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, priced at $51 billion, are often singled out incorrectly as the most expensive.
"The numbers for Beijing and Sochi likely include wider infrastructure costs: roads, rail, airports, hotels, etc. Our numbers do not," Flyvberg wrote in an email.
The blur around costs — and who pays — allows the IOC to pitch the Olympics as a global party that brings the world together and promotes world peace. Everybody is seen to benefit, and the financial interests of the not-for-profit IOC are hidden behind national flags, pomp and ceremony, and heart-tugging stories about athletes winning gold and beating the pandemic.
Tokyo, of course, saw costs soar with the postponement. Officials say the delay added $2.8 billion to the final total. The postponement and a subsequent ban on fans also wiped out virtually all ticket sales income, which was budgeted at $800 million. That shortfall will have to be picked up by Japanese government entities — likely the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
Tokyo organizers raised a record $3.3 billion from domestic sponsors, driven by giant Japanese advertising company Dentsu Inc. But many sponsors complained openly in the run-up to the Games that their investment was wasted without fans. Toyota, one of the IOC's top 15 sponsors, pulled its Games-related advertising off television in Japan because of public discontent about holding the Olympics in the middle of a pandemic.
The big winner appears to be the Switzerland-based International Olympic Committee, which by holding the Olympics — even without fans — assured broadcast rights income of $3 billion to $4 billion. The IOC is essentially a sports and entertainment business, and almost 75% of its income is from selling broadcast rights, with another 18% from sponsors.
The IOC was able to drive the Games forward, partly because the terms in the so-called Host City Agreement favor the IOC and not the Japanese hosts.
In an interview last week, President Thomas Bach said financial interests were not at the center of the IOC's decision to postpone instead of cancel.
"We could have canceled the Games 15 months ago," Bach said. "Financially, it would have been the easiest solution for the IOC. But we decided at the time not to cancel the Games, not to draw on the insurance we had at the time."
The IOC has never said how much insurance coverage it has for such eventualities, nor what is covered.
So why did Tokyo want the Olympics? Why does any city? German sports economist Wolfgang Maennig said the Olympics offer little economic boost. So any value must be elsewhere. He has often likened the Olympics to throwing a big party for your friends and overspending, hoping they go away happy and remember you fondly.
"After three decades of empirical research, economists agree that the Olympics do not generate any significant positive effect on national (or even regional) income, employment, tax income, tourism etc.," Maennig, a 1988 Olympic gold medalist in rowing, wrote in a email.
Good for the home team
He said any benefits were elsewhere and include home-field advantage and more medals for home athletes, new sporting facilities, enhanced international awareness and fast-track decision-making around urban regeneration. Japan's Olympic performance has been in line with that; it has won more gold medals and overall medals than ever before.
Much of the Olympic benefit goes to construction companies and contractors. Tokyo built eight new venues. The two most expensive were the National Stadium, which cost $1.43 billion, and the new aquatic center, priced at $520 million. The next two Olympic organizers — Paris in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028 — say they are cutting back drastically on new construction.
Though Tokyo probably suffered short-term economic losses from the pandemic and absence of fans, any losses are relatively small for a country with a $5 trillion economy.
In another study of Olympic costs by Robert Baade and Victor Matheson, "Going for Gold: The Economics of the Olympics," they point out that Olympic investment is risky and only a few reap the benefits.
"The goal should be that the costs of hosting are matched by benefits that are shared in a way to include ordinary citizens who fund the event through their tax dollars," they wrote. "In the current arrangement, it is often far easier for the athletes to achieve gold than it is for the hosts."(VOA/HP)
Xander Schauffele held off the late challenges from the chasing pack, none more so than Rory Sabbatini of Slovakia — who got without a single stroke of the American — to win a gold medal in the men's individual golf tournament at the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.
It was a huge victory for the 27-year-old at this point of his career. Despite often being amongst the favorites in the latest golf odds, the San Diego-native is yet to win one of golf's four majors — The Open, The Masters, The USPGA and The US Open — and he will certainly be hoping that he can use this triumph in Tokyo to push on next season.
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With nine top-10 finishes in 18 appearances at the majors, six of which have been inside the top five (including finishing second at the 2018 Open and 2019 Masters), Schauffele is making a bit of name for himself as a nearly man in the sport's biggest tournaments, and that it is a duck he will certainly be hoping to break sooner rather than later.
Whilst not a major, winning an Olympic gold medal in golf is not to be sniffed at, and it is the kind of victory that the 27-year-old might just have needed to give him that boost to kick on and finally get his hands on one of the major trophies — even though he will need to wait until next year as the recent Open at Royal St. George's in Kent marked the end of this year's major schedule.
Some golfer's may have played down winning the men's tournament at the Olympics, but for Schauffele, whose grandparents live in Tokyo, taking the gold medal back to the United States with him was at the very top of his priority list.
Olympic GameGetty Pictures
"I really wanted to win for my dad. I am sure he is crying somewhere right now. I kind of wanted this one more than any other," Schauffele said after his one-stroke victory.
"You are trying to represent your country to the best of your ability and then you add family stuff on top of that. I'm probably going to have a nice call with my grandparents tonight.
"Everyone is back home watching. I was feeling the love from San Diego and Las Vegas this whole time. I'm a little speechless right now, quite honestly."
Form and momentum are key in the game of golf, and whilst this is a victory that has come somewhat late in the season, when there are no majors left to vie for, if Schauffele can just carry on playing at the top of his game for the remaining month or so, perhaps even landing a second TOUR Championship in the last tournament of 2021, which he will now likely be tipped to win on the best golf predictions sites, then there is no reason why he can't bring his current form with him into next season.
The Masters is up first, taking place in mid-April, and the prestigious Augusta National hasn't been too bad to the American over the last couple of years, as he finished second in 2019 before scuppering the same position late on to finish tied for third this year. If he can keep up the form that resulted in him winning gold at the Olympics, then he may just find himself being fitting into that sought-after Green Jacket.
It's fair to say that it's only a matter of time before Schauffele lands his maiden major triumph, and there's no doubt that scooping a gold medal at the Olympics will have only helped his cause!
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