TOKYO — On the track Friday night, Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas powered away from the field in the 400 meters, while Allyson Felix, in third place, won a record 10th Olympic medal.
In the men’s 4×100 relay, Italy ran down Britain in the last stride to win. In the women’s race, the Jamaican team, with all three medalists from the 100 meters, outran the U.S. for the gold.
In the women’s 1,500, Faith Kipyegon of Kenya foiled Sifan Hassan’s bid for a 1,500-5,000-10,000 triple; Hassan finished third. Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda won a physical men’s 5,000 with the American Paul Chelimo in third.
Alix Klineman and April Ross of the United States won the gold medal in beach volleyball, giving Ross a full set of medals in the event.
The U.S. women’s volleyball and basketball teams both rolled past Serbia in semifinal matches. Final volleyball score: 3-0. Final basketball score: 79-59.
Gable Steveson of the U.S. won the heaviest weight class in freestyle wrestling, upending Geno Petriashvili of Georgia with a takedown with only seconds to go.
Canada defeated Sweden in a shootout for its first gold in women’s soccer.
TOKYO — With nine Olympic medals (six golds and three silvers), Felix was already tied with the Jamaican sprinter Merlene Ottey as the most decorated female Olympian in track and field.
By winning her 10th Olympic medal in the 400-meter final, she has matched Carl Lewis as the most decorated American athlete in track and field. She also has 18 world championship medals, including 13 golds.
Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas won the 400-meter race with a time of 48.36, and Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic came in second.
Felix finished with the bronze medal, running her second fastest time ever, in 49.46. The time is faster than her silver medal performance at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
For Felix, this Olympic berth — her fifth — meant something more than medals, though. Her daughter, Camryn, was born in 2018 after an emergency cesarean session at 32 weeks. She remained in the neonatal intensive care unit for weeks.
Felix’s first exercise after Camryn’s birth was a 30-minute walk.
In 2019, Felix penned an opinion piece in The New York Times criticizing the maternity policies of her longtime sponsor, Nike, who declined to guarantee that she would not be punished if she didn’t perform at her highest levels in the months after giving birth.
She came to these Games as an athlete sponsored by Athleta. And weeks before the Tokyo Games, she started her own shoe brand, Saysh.
Felix won the bronze medal wearing her own shoes on her own terms, with her family cheering from home.
She will have a chance of earning yet another Olympic medal in the 4×400 meter relay on Saturday.
Because of an editing error, an earlier summary on the home page misstated the medal Allyson Felix won in the 400-meter race. It was a bronze, not a silver.
The Jamaican women put an exclamation point on their domination of Olympic sprinting Friday night, winning the women’s 4×100 relay in a race whose outcome seemed predetermined from the start.
The Jamaican team featured the three medalists in the 100 meters, Elaine Thompson-Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Shericka Jackson, with Briana Williams running the leadoff leg. Thompson-Herah also won the 200 meters.
As long as the Jamaicans could take care of the baton and get it safely around the track — never a guarantee — it appeared nearly impossible for them to lose. They missed the world record by just two-tenths of a second and ran the second fastest time in history.
Jamaica’s closest competition came from the United States, the defending gold medalists in the race and always a formidable foe. But there were no holdovers from that side to the one that ran the finals in Tokyo, and the team featured just one other woman who had won a medal at these Games, Gabrielle Thomas. The Americans took the silver, finishing in 41.45.
Britain won the bronze.
In the men’s race, Italy stunned the field, riding the speed of 100-meter champion Lamont Marcell Jacobs to edge Britain by one-hundredth of a second to take the gold medal.
Andre De Grasse of Canada, the 200-meter champion, blazed an anchor leg and got his group to the finish line beating out China for the bronze medal. Jamaica’s men, who were unbeatable in this race for years during Usain Bolt’s career, could do no better than sixth.
This was Italy’s first triumph in the sprint relay, an event that European nations have rarely excelled at.
The United States team was not in the final because of a mistake during the baton handoff in an earlier heat and because, well, they did not run fast enough.
Canada, a relentless team with an aging star, a sturdy defense and a talented young core, won its first gold medal in women’s soccer on Friday by defeating Sweden in a penalty shootout, 3-2, after a 1-1 tie in Yokohama.
Julia Grosso clinched Canada’s victory by converting her team’s sixth attempt in a shootout that featured more misses (seven) than makes (five). When her shot went in off Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl, her teammates raced forward off the midfield line where they had been watching and buried her in a pile of red at the top of the penalty area.
Sweden’s players, who had taken an early lead on a goal by Stina Blackstenius in the 34th minute and created far more chances to score in regulation and extra time, collapsed to the turf, some of them in tears. Sweden lost in the final for the second straight Olympics.
Canada had been the bronze medalist in the past two Olympic tournaments, but advanced to the final for the first time by beating its neighbor and nemesis, the United States, in the semifinals on Monday.
Trailing at halftime, Canada had tied the score in the 67th minute on a penalty kick by midfielder Jessie Fleming, awarded after a video review confirmed that Sweden defender Amanda Ilestedt had fouled Christine Sinclair, Canada’s 38-year-old striker and captain.
Sweden pressed hard for the winner before the final whistle and again in extra time, and it even had a chance to win the gold in the shootout, but Caroline Seger shot over the crossbar on her team’s fifth attempt.
That opened the door for Canada, and after Deanne Rose scored and Stephanie Labbe made a save, Grosso strode to the spot and scored the winner.
Fleming’s penalty kick in the second half was her second critical goal for Canada this week; she had also scored a penalty kick for the only goal in a 1-0 victory over the United States in the semifinals. The United States went on to beat Australia for the bronze.
Canada’s victory over Sweden delivered the first major international championship for Sinclair, one of her country’s most decorated and celebrated athletes. But the Olympic title also means that Quinn, who started the final, became the first openly transgender and nonbinary athlete to win an Olympic medal.
In the men’s competition, Mexico beat host Japan, 3-1, to win the bronze medal. Brazil and Spain will meet in the men’s gold medal match on Saturday.
Even before the final scores were calculated, Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret, the best female sport climber in recent years, dropped her head into her hands and shed tears.
She came into the Tokyo Games as the favorite to win the women’s sport climbing event in its Olympic debut, and said she had felt immense pressure to win. And even under all that stress, she did.
Climbers from Japan joined her on the medals podium: Miho Nonaka won the silver medal and Akiyo Noguchi won the bronze.
“This was the hardest competition of my entire career,” Garnbret said. “It was definitely super hard, especially mentally hard.”
In front of no paying spectators, with music pulsing throughout the outdoor arena and the announcer encouraging climbers by saying, “C’mon, push it!” and “Bring it on!” Garnbret pulled herself up walls of fake boulders and man-made rocks farther than her competition on Saturday.
Garnbret finished first in two of the three climbing disciplines that were combined into one Olympic event. In speed climbing, the first of the three climbing segments in the final, the competitors sprint to the top of a wall, using memory and sheer power. She finished fifth to set up the rest of her night.
“From then on it was actually easier,” she said.
She then finished first in bouldering, which requires climbers to problem solve as they ascend multiple climbing walls without a rope, and she reached the top of two of the three walls. None of her seven competitors could even get to the top of one.
At times hanging on only by her red, chalk-covered fingernails, Garnbret, 22, also was No. 1 in lead, the segment in which competitors use a rope to see how far they can climb up a technical wall given a set amount of time.
As she and the other medalists stood on the podium, the biggest cheers came when the Japanese climbers were announced. Not only did the volunteers in the stands applaud Nonaka and Noguchi, but groups of fans who had gathered on one big walkway next to the arena also leapt up and down in exhilaration. Those fans were warned not to stop and watch the event, even from afar, by volunteers holding up signs that told them to keep walking. Yet they stayed.
One man had dressed up as Mount Fuji and wrapped himself in a Japanese flag. Others raised their cellphones to take videos and photos of the climbers, who were just specks in the distance as they scaled the different walls.
At the end of the night, those fans might have recognized Garnbret. She was the climber who finished at the top.
TOKYO — Faith Kipyegon of Kenya defended her Olympic title in the women’s 1,500 meters, and in the process ended Sifan Hassan’s audacious bid for three gold medals at the Tokyo Games.
Kipyegon, 27, ran the race in an Olympic record time of 3:53.11 after sprinting past Hassan on the final lap. Laura Muir of Britain finished second for her first medal at a major international outdoor championship, and Hassan finished with the bronze — no small consolation for an athlete who already won the 5,000 meters and has raced through hot, grinding heats since the start of the track and field competition. She will vie for another medal on Saturday in the women’s 10,000 meters.
Kipyegon, though, once again proved herself as the best in the world at her chosen distance. After winning the 1,500 meter gold at the 2016 Olympics, she gave birth to her first child in 2018. She returned to win the silver medal at the 2019 world championships, and ran the fourth fastest time in the history of the event at a meet in July: 3:51.07.
Elle Purrier St. Pierre, the Vermonter who won at the U.S. trials in June, placed 11th.
TOKYO — The U.S. women’s basketball team has many advantages during the Olympic tournament, including a coterie of W.N.B.A. stars that seem to have a lot of chemistry.
But one of the most important could be that several of them have played in international leagues in the off-season or do so now for lucrative contracts, making their opponents not as unfamiliar as they might otherwise be.
Brittney Griner said as much after she led the team in a 79-59 semifinal romp of Serbia that gave the U.S. squad its 54th consecutive Olympic win since 1992 and its 11th appearance in the gold medal game, which is Sunday against Japan.
“After playing nine years in the W.N.B.A, playing overseas, and knowing the players too, I have played many players of team Serbia overseas,’’ said Griner, who is on the Phoenix Mercury and has played in China and Russia. “So just having that confidence and familiarity, I can play well.”
That was a bit of an understatement. She had 15 points and 12 rebounds. That, combined with Chelsea Gray’s 14 points and Breanna Stewart’s 12 made the U.S. unstoppable, as they have been throughout the tournament.
The United States has stomped past Nigeria, Japan, France and, in a quarterfinal game, Australia, always with comfortable margins.
The U.S. women are favored to win their ninth gold, and it hasn’t looked like teams have an answer for their versatile offense and defense. They lead the tournament in scoring, assists and field goal percentage — and also in star power with the likes of Bird, A’ja Wilson and Diana Taurasi.
Wilson said the U.S. has focused on improving its defense.
“That comes from just playing with each other, trusting the next layer of defense to be there,” she said.
She added, “We’re really starting to clamp down on our defenders and our teams and we’re just meshing together.”
As the team steamrollers along, pressure may be mounting to meet the expectations of a seventh consecutive gold. Or is that galvanizing them?
“This is exactly where we want to be, so now everything is on the line,’’ Stewart said. “We’re going to do what we can to make sure that we come home with a gold.”
Still, she said, the drive to meet the mark can take something away from an Olympic experience already constricted by pandemic protocols and regulations.
“Right now there’s so much pressure that it’s seven straight overall, things like that, that you get lost in what’s actually happening and enjoying being at the Olympics,” Stewart said.
Serbia, which is ranked No. 8 in the world, was not considered a doormat. They had a comeback win over China in the quarterfinals and are the reigning EuroBasket champions; they are noted for a grinding if not flashy offense and a tough defense. Jelena Brooks leads the team in scoring with 13.5 points per game.
Yvonne Anderson, a U.S.-born player with Serbian citizenship, led Serbia against the United States with 15 points and two rebounds.
The U.S. might have already brushed past its stiffest competition in this tournament by beating Australia, which is ranked No. 2 in the world. Japan is ranked 10th.
But the Americans, who are ranked No. 1 — if it needs to be said — pledged to be ready for Japan, which defeated France on Friday night, 87-71, in the other semifinal game.
“The winning team is going to come out extra aggressive, but we have to fight through that,’’ Sylvia Fowles said. “At this point, we’re locked in on the task ahead of us. We’re just trying to win the gold.”
TOKYO — Just four years after making the transition to beach volleyball, Alix Klineman of the United States won the gold medal on Friday with her partner April Ross, who took home her third Olympic medal.
The Americans won, 21-15, 21-16 over Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy of Australia on a blisteringly hot day at Shiokaze Park. The Australians particularly struggled to win points on their serve: An American dig, set and spike always seemed to be waiting for them.
When Ross won her last Olympic medal with Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2016, Klineman didn’t even play beach volleyball.
She was a professional indoor volleyball player, playing internationally for teams in Italy and Brazil. In 2017, Klineman envisioned a future in beach volleyball and dreamed of the Olympics. She began to study the craft.
Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, was watching. She saw potential with Klineman, 31, citing a list of attributes: her physicality, work ethic, intelligence and intensity, to start.
“Alix did study the game more than anyone else I’ve ever known,” said Ross, 39. “She’d go home and watch a ton of video, and I’d be like, ‘Well, I’ve got to go home and watch video, too.’”
Without fans in the stands in Tokyo, it was easier to catch the pair’s enthusiasm and communication in the stadium. If there was no cheering, they would make up for it by encouraging each other even louder on their way to the gold.
“I just can’t believe it,” Klineman said minutes after they earned their spot in the final. “It’s the most amazing feeling. You know, we dreamed of this, and this is what we worked for every single day. But just because you work for it, and just because you do everything you can, doesn’t mean that it happens.”
They had an extraordinary run at the Tokyo Olympics, winning gold without dropping a set in any of their four matches in sweltering heat. The dominance was the payoff for Klineman’s transition to a new sport and Ross’s bet on a new player.
“When you’re working for something like this, you need someone who is going to work their butt off every day,” Ross said. “And I knew she was coming out to the beach to make the Olympics. And I knew taking such a risk for herself was a motivating factor.”
“It all held up,” she said, looking up to Klineman, who is 6 feet 5 inches tall.
For Ross, the gold medal is the culmination of a career that at times was lost in the long shadow of the greatest U.S. beach volleyball players, Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, the gold medalists in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
In her first Olympic trip, Ross won silver in 2012 with Jennifer Kessy, losing the final to the legendary duo. When May-Treanor retired, Ross joined forces with Walsh Jennings to win bronze in 2016.
Now she has the full set.
Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda took the gold medal in the men’s 5,000, surviving a physical and tactical race to hold off Mohammed Ahmed of Canada and Paul Chelimo of the United States.
Cheptegei established himself as the top distance runner in the world in 2020, rewriting the record book for the 5,000 and 10,000.
Cheptegei took his time in taking control of the race on a heavy night at the National Stadium. He was in the middle of the pack halfway through as the runners took turns keeping the race honest from the front.
As the race moved toward its climax, it became distance running as contact sport. There were elbows and knees and heels clanging together as the leaders battled for position.
Chelimo, the 30-year-old American who runs with the U.S. Army’s high performance team, moved to the front with three laps to go before giving way to Nicholas Kimeli of Kenya.
But as the bell sounded, Cheptegei did what he was expected to do, moving to the front and opening up just enough of a gap on the back stretch to make it a race for second and third place. Ahmed came on strong in the final 100 meters with Chelimo outstretching Kimeli in the final 5 meters and falling over the finish line to take the bronze.
Olympic athletes have long been photographed biting their medals, a celebratory if not entirely hygienic gesture.
But typically they’re biting their own medals. A mayor in Japan learned the hard way that chomping on someone else’s doesn’t go over as well.
Mayor Takashi Kawamura of Nagoya apologized after biting the gold medal of Miu Goto, a member of the Japanese national softball team, during a ceremony on Wednesday as he stood in front of a backdrop promoting coronavirus safety precautions. He was immediately pilloried on social media, where some Olympians said they would be furious if it happened to them. Others just thought it was gross.
Toyota expressed its displeasure in a statement, saying Mr. Kawamura “did not pay respect and honor to the athlete, nor had consideration to prevention of infection.” (Goto also plays for the company’s corporate team.)
Mr. Kawamura said he later recognized it was “extremely inappropriate conduct.”
“I apologize from the bottom of my heart for making her and others feel uncomfortable and causing troubles to them,” he said.
Local news reports said Mr. Kawamura had visited Toyota to deliver a letter of apology, but he waited in the car while his aides went inside. The city of Nagoya received about 4,000 complaints from citizens criticizing his act, according to reports.
Naohisa Takato, a judo gold medalist, wrote on Twitter that he handled his medal with care so as not to damage it.
“Ms. Goto is so generous that she did not get angry,” he wrote. “If I were her, I would cry.”
Nao Kodaira, a speedskater who won gold at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, tweeted that he would have cried and “wouldn’t be able to recover for a while.”
Triathlon athletes collapsing in near 90-degree heat. A tennis star, sweating profusely, telling an umpire that he might die.
As average temperatures rise across the globe, scientists warn, more cities will struggle — as Tokyo has — to host the Olympics in the summer months. Paris, the host of the 2024 Summer Games, experienced its hottest day on record this July, with temperatures nearing 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Los Angeles is set to host the 2028 games during the peak of wildfire season.
One analysis published in the Lancet medical journal in 2016 gives a glimpse of the future. A team of researchers predicted that by 2085, under a worst-case emissions scenario, where emissions of greenhouse gases aren’t brought under control in coming decades, just 33 of 645 major cities in the Northern Hemisphere would be able to host the Olympics in the months of July and August in a climate safe for athletes. Most of those cities were in Western Europe; only two were in Asia.
Tord Kjellstrom, an environmental and occupational health scientist, who handled the team’s data analysis, ran the same analysis for The New York Times using a more moderate emissions scenario — one that assumes the nations of the world will take enough action against climate change to stabilize planet-warming emissions shortly after 2100. He still found that only 41 cities, fewer than one in 10 of major cities in the Northern Hemisphere, would be able to safely host the games.
“Everywhere you look, temperatures are trending up,” he said. “So it’s crazy. It’s a very bad plan to keep holding these Olympic Games during the hottest period of the year.”
The researchers made a number of assumptions. They used a measure of heat stress, known as the wet-bulb globe temperature, or WBGT, a combination of temperature, humidity, heat radiation and wind. They focused on the marathon as the most demanding endurance event, and used a WBGT of 26 degrees Celsius, or about 79 degrees Fahrenheit, as a low-risk limit for the event. They also examined an “extreme risk” scenario of WBGT at 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
They examined cities with a population of more than 600,000, the lower limit among Olympic host cities in the postwar period. And they excluded the southern hemisphere, where July and August tend to be cooler; Brisbane is set to host the 2032 Summer Games starting in July, the city’s coldest month of the year. (Of course, many cities in the Southern Hemisphere face increasingly extreme heat and humidity during their own summer months.)
Jennifer Vanos, an assistant professor at Arizona State University who has studied the effects of extreme heat on athletes, cautioned that long-term predictions were challenging, and pointed to recent research that has started to show that worst-case scenarios are unlikely. Moreover, the risks posed by heat and humidity varied by sport, she said. (Athletes in some events, like short sprints, may even benefit from the heat.)
Still, “most places that are going to hold Summer Olympics are going to have to prepare for heat,” she said. “And if a host city is going to be potentially dangerously hot, or going to be dealing with something like wildfires, we have to be willing to move it.”
The summer heat concerns have added a new dimension to the climate concerns facing the Olympics. Summer heat was a concern as far back as the Atlanta Games in 1996, but more recently the concerns have generally focused on the Winter Games affected by warming temperatures and lack of snow.
Tokyo organizers have come under fire for claiming in their winning bid that Tokyo had “many days of mild and sunny weather” in summer that could provide “an ideal climate for athletes to perform at their best.”
“I think a lot of people feel misled,” said Shuhei Nomura, an associate professor of health policy and management at Keio University. Still, Tokyo likely avoided a wider debacle by banning most spectators, he said, saving crowds from having to swelter in the heat. “We would have been in big trouble.”
Of course, the International Olympic Committee could move the Games to cooler months. But ever since the Sydney Games were staged in late September to disappointing television viewership numbers, the Olympic committee has told candidate cities that the Summer Games must be scheduled between July 15 and Aug. 31, barring “exceptional circumstances.”
Moving outdoor endurance events to cooler locations — like Tokyo organizers did with the marathon races, set to take place this weekend in the northern city of Sapporo — could also become increasingly necessary, experts say. Moving those events out of big cities could help athletes escape the heat trapped by concrete buildings and streets, a phenomenon known as the heat island effect.
“One of the points we’ve made to the I.O.C. is that they should really strengthen the climate requirements for the cities that bid for the Games,” said Daniel Scott, professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo.
“There are just risks everywhere, especially in that mid-July to mid-August stretch.”
TOKYO — Only the purest of the purists revel in 50-kilometer racewalking.
All that arm swinging and hip swaying for more than three hours.
You thought the marathon was long at 26.2 miles in two-plus hours?
The 50-kilometer racewalking world-record holder, Yohann Diniz of France, raced, er, walked the course of about 31 miles in three hours 32 minutes and 33 seconds in 2014. The more common 20-kilometer race walk is a sprint by comparison.
So for the brave few aficionados hooked on the race, the 50-kilometer race on Friday morning local time was bittersweet.
It was the final version of the race at the Olympics. Yes, the 50-kilometer event is walking into the sunset and will not return for the Paris Games in 2024.
The Olympic committee has decided the race does not fit with the organization’s stated mission of gender equality. It is the only event on the Olympic program that has no approximate equivalent for women. Rather than add a women’s race, the I.O.C. will introduce an unspecified mixed-team racewalking event.
“We are working with the I.O.C. on a Race Walk Mixed Team event but there is still a considerable way to go to create a new format that will work for the sport of athletics and meet the I.O.C.’s criteria for the Olympic Games,” Loic Malroux, a spokesman for World Athletics, said in a statement.
The 50-kilometer’s demise has Elliott Denman upset. Denman, a sportswriter who was a racewalker for the U.S. team in the Melbourne Games in 1956, said in an email that he was angered by the removal of “the longest and toughest of all events.”
The race, which was introduced in 1932 at the Los Angeles Games and held every Summer Olympics since then except the Montreal Games in 1976, is apparently too slow and tedious for younger sports fans. On television, the walkers also look like they’re jogging, which doesn’t help the sport.
“Unless the situation takes a drastic U-turn somewhere down the road, and don’t get your hopes up about it — the Sapporo 50K champion will be the 20th and last in an amazing series,” Denman wrote. Racewalkers, he added, “loved every step of their long journeys” and “now, for all that effort, they’re being told to ‘go take a hike.’”
The race, like the men’s and women’s marathons, was moved from Tokyo to Sapporo, on the northern island of Hokkaido, because it’s cooler there. It began at 5:30 a.m. local time on Friday, just after sunrise.
Dawid Tomala of Poland won the gold medal in 3:50:08, nearly 18 minutes short of the Olympic record, which will now stand for eternity.
TOKYO — There is a lot of sand in Qatar but not a lot of beach parties. At least, not the kind of revelry that tends to draw beach volleyball players, in their bikinis and short shorts.
A lack of tradition, though, has not stopped Qatar from assembling a top-flight beach volleyball team. On Saturday, Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan will fight for bronze in the Olympic men’s beach volleyball competition, having defeated Italy, the 2016 silver medalists, along the way.
“Everyone now knows Qatar in beach volleyball,” Mr. Younousse said. “It’s on the map.”
Armed with cash, coaches and state-of-the-art training facilities, Qatar has been trying to assemble an athletic force worthy of the host of the 2022 soccer World Cup, not to mention other high-profile sporting events that the small Gulf state is eager to attract.
In Tokyo, Qatar has fielded 16 competitors — 13 men and three women — most of whom were drafted from other countries. They include athletes originally from Mauritania, Egypt, Sudan and Morocco. To represent Qatar, where Arabic names are common, many have shed their original names for purposes of competition. But they earn salaries and opportunities that would be impossible in their countries of origin.
“We are one of the best countries to support sports, the government supporting us to achieve things,” said Abderrahman Samba, a 400-meter hurdler who placed fifth in the finals in Tokyo. “I don’t think I can tell you now all the support, it will take days to tell.”
Mr. Samba grew up in Saudi Arabia but ran for Mauritania, his parents’ homeland, before turning up as a Qatari competitor in 2016, about a year after moving there.
“They helped me follow my dream,” he said. “They give me everything.”
Tariq Panja contributed reporting.
TOKYO — Two coaches involved in the attempt to force an Olympic athlete home to Belarus against her will have been stripped of their credentials and expelled from the Olympic Village, Games organizers said Friday.
The case of the 200-meter specialist Kristina Timanovskaya, 24, briefly turned the Tokyo Games into the center of a major diplomatic conflict when Timanovskaya sought sanctuary from the police at Narita International Airport. Timanovskaya, who is now in Poland, said she had been “kidnapped” after writing an Instagram post criticizing the Belarusian athletic federation’s preparations for the Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee had come under pressure over the slow progress of its investigation into the matter until, on Friday, the organization announced in a Twitter post that it had asked the coaches, Artur Shimak and Yuri Moisevich, to leave the Olympic Games. “They will be offered an opportunity to be heard,” the post said, noting that the investigation was continuing.
Timanovskaya complained in her video that her coaches had registered her for an event she hadn’t trained for, the 4×400-meter relay, because they had failed to conduct enough antidoping tests on other athletes.
In an interview with The New York Times this week, Timanovskaya named Moisevich, the head coach of the Belarusian national team, and Shimak, the deputy director of the Belarusian Republican Track and Field Training Center, as central players in the attempt to remove her from Tokyo.
She said the two men had come to her room at the Olympic Village to persuade her to recant the complaints she had made in her Instagram post and to go home. The order, they said, came from higher-ranking officials.
“Put aside your pride,” Moisevich can be heard saying on a partial recording Timanovskaya made of the conversation. “Your pride will tell you: ‘Don’t do it. You’ve got to be kidding.’ And it will start pulling you into the devil’s vortex and twisting you.”
He adds, “That’s how suicide cases end up, unfortunately.”
Timanovskaya can be heard crying on the tape. At other times she sounds defiant, refusing to believe that if she were to acquiesce and return home, she would be able to continue her athletic career.
The chairman of the Belarus Olympic committee is the eldest son of Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the strongman leader who has held power in the country for 27 years. He has long sought to stifle any dissent, through measures including a brutal crackdown that began a year ago after a disputed presidential election. Targets of the crackdown also included a number of athletes, leading to the I.O.C.’s decision in December to bar the Lukashenkos from attending the Tokyo Games.
At least 387 people with Olympic credentials have tested positive in Tokyo since July 1, including 32 athletes, according to organizers. Most of the infections have occurred among Japanese nationals, including contractors and others working at Olympic venues.
While a tightly controlled bubble has kept the virus from derailing the Games, infections are spiraling across Japan. Health officials reported 5,042 new cases in Tokyo and 14,211 nationwide on Thursday, both daily records.
In NBCUniversal’s stewardship of the Tokyo Olympics broadcast, the coronavirus pandemic has been the greatest challenge for the company, which paid more than $1 billion to run 7,000 hours of Games coverage across two broadcast networks, six cable channels and a fledgling streaming platform, Peacock.
The ratings have been a disappointment, averaging 16.8 million viewers a night through Tuesday, a steep drop from the 29 million who tuned in through the same day of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. NBCUniversal has offered to make up for the smaller-than-expected television audience by offering free ads to some companies that bought commercial time during the Games, according to four people with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss negotiations.
The opening ceremony set a downbeat tone. Instead of the usual pageant of athletes smiling and waving to the crowd, there was a procession of participants walking through a mostly empty Tokyo Olympic Stadium, all wearing masks to protect against the spread of Covid-19 as a new variant raged. The live morning broadcast and prime-time replay drew the lowest ratings for an opening ceremony in 33 years, with just under 17 million viewers. The high came Sunday, July 25, when a little more than 20 million people tuned in.
The absence or early exits of popular athletes from some events, including the gymnast Simone Biles, the runner Sha’Carri Richardson, the tennis champion Naomi Osaka and the basketball star LeBron James, further dimmed expectations. And in a constant reminder of the coronavirus, on-air correspondents have been masked as they keep their distance from athletes.
“We turn to the Olympics as an escape, as this fun, uplifting experience, and certainly there have been moments like that,” said Jen Chaney, a television critic for Vulture. “But more than anything, watching this year has shown the wounds that we’re dealing with.”
Facing a tough Serbian team in the women’s volleyball semifinal, the United States won in straight sets to earn a spot in the gold medal game.
The win — by 25-19, 25-15, 25-23 — brought both joy and relief for the Americans, who lost to the Serbs five years ago in the semifinal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. That loss hurt because the U.S. team had been doing so well at those Olympics, with the gold medal within reach.
Karch Kiraly, the U.S. team’s coach, said it was “an absolute soul crusher” to lose in that semifinal match because it was the Americans’ only defeat in Rio and was so close: It came down to the fifth set, with the Serbs winning, 15-13.
The team in Tokyo now will have a chance to redeem itself from that loss when it plays Brazil in the gold medal match on Sunday. The United States will be ready for anything, and any team, Kiraly said, partly because throughout the coronavirus pandemic it has spent so much time working on team chemistry.