The celebration cauldron is seen lit on March 25, the first day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay. The governor of Osaka prefecture said on Thursday that he wants to cancel the Olympic torch relay legs going through Osaka. Kim Kyung-Hoon/Pool Photo via AP

OLYMPICS

The Tokyo Olympic torch relay will not run through the streets of Osaka prefecture next week because of rising COVID-19 cases.

The move is a setback for Tokyo organizers, who began the relay two weeks ago from northeastern Fukushima prefecture with 10,000 runners planning to crisscross Japan over the course of four months. The Olympics open in just over 100 days on July 23.

In a last-minute change of plans, organizers said in a statement Wednesday that runners and the torch will be involved in some event in an Osaka city park on the days when the relay was to cross the entire prefecture. That was to be April 13-14.

“Given the circumstances, the Osaka prefectural authorities today requested Tokyo 2020 to hold the Osaka segment of the Olympic torch relay in Expo ’70 Commemorative Park rather than on public roads,” Tokyo organizers said in a statement, adding the Osaka segment would be conducted in the park “for all torchbearers who wish to run there.” It also said “no spectators” would be admitted either day.

Osaka prefecture Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura asked people on Wednesday not to make unnecessary trips in the area.

“Medical systems (in Osaka) are on the verge of collapse,” Yoshimura said at a news conference, attributing the rapid spike in infections to new variants of the virus. “Obviously it spreads more rapidly and it is more contagious.”

About 70% of hospital beds available in Osaka have already been occupied, officials said. Osaka reported 719 new cases Tuesday and more than 800 were expected Wednesday, both exceeding totals for Tokyo. But there are also fears the spike will be seen soon in Tokyo.

FOOTBALL

PLAYER CHARGED IN SHOOTING: Former Florida State star football player Travis Rudolph was arrested early Wednesday morning in South Florida for a shooting that left one man dead and another wounded, authorities said. Rudolph, 25, was charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder, according to a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office news release.

Deputies responded shortly after midnight to a double shooting in the Lake Park area, officials said. One man was transported to a local hospital for treatment, while the other was found dead a short distance to the south in West Palm Beach, authorities said. Investigators identified Rudolph as a suspect in the shooting and arrested him a short time later. Officials didn’t say what led to the shooting or why Rudolph was a suspect.

Rudolph was Florida State’s leading receiver in 2015 and 2016 and left the team early to enter the NFL draft in 2017. He went undrafted but eventually signed with the New York Giants and then the Miami Dolphins. He also spent time with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. The team released him Wednesday.

SOCCER

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Chelsea took a big step toward returning to the last four by defeating Porto 2-0 in the first leg of the quarterfinals.

Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell scored their first Champions League goals to give Chelsea a great chance of making it to the semifinals for the first time in seven years.

Next week’s second leg will also be played at Sevilla’s Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium. Porto was considered the home team on Wednesday.

Kylian Mbappe scored twice to lead Paris Saint-Germain to a 3-2 win at defending champion Bayern Munich in the first leg of their quarterfinal.

Mbappe was a constant threat while Neymar had two assists as the French champion responded to its 1-0 loss to Bayern in last year’s final by seizing the advantage going into the second leg in Paris next week.

Marquinhos scored the other goal as the visitors went 2-0 up inside the first half hour, but the PSG captain went off injured shortly afterward and Bayern responded through headers from Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Thomas Muller.

Mbappe sealed the win with his eight goal of the competition in the 68th.

ZAMBIA: Police in Zambia are investigating an incident where a soccer coach fired eight gunshots into the air at the end of a game after his team lost.

Zesco Chipata FC’s Esau Chalo Zulu fired three shots while standing on the field at the end of the match, and then five more near his team’s vehicle, which was parked at the edge of the field. The incidents occurred after his third-tier team’s 1-0 loss to local rivals Prison Leopards Chipata FC in Zambia’s Eastern Province on Saturday.

Police say Zulu admitted firing the shots but he said it was in self-defense. He said he fired the shots in the air in an attempt to disperse opposition supporters who surrounded him after the game and then threatened to stone his team’s vehicle, according to police. The Zambian soccer association said it is waiting for an official report of the incident from league officials before taking any action. Police have confiscated the gun, which they say had been obtained legally and was licensed.

FIFA SUSPENDED the national soccer federations of Pakistan and Chad on Wednesday amid disputes about how they should be run.

The Pakistan soccer federation, known as the PFF, was suspended for “third-party interference” for the second time in four years after a group of officials and protesters occupied the body’s headquarters last month.

The protesters oppose a “normalization committee” appointed by FIFA to run the sport in Pakistan after years of infighting by groups of officials. The takeover of the PFF headquarters has already disrupted the national women’s championship.

Pakistan was previously suspended from October 2017 to March 2018 after FIFA objected to a court decision to appoint an outside administrator to run the PFF after another dispute over a contested election. FIFA opposes governments or courts getting involved in soccer disputes.

The suspension for Chad comes after the African country’s government tried to dissolve the national soccer federation and appoint new officials to run the sport. FIFA said it will lift the suspension if the government repeals those decisions and hands back power to the president of the soccer federation.

SKIING

WOMEN’S WORLD CUP: Overall World Cup champion Petra Vlhova will go into the Olympic season without the coach that helped her win skiing’s biggest prize this year.

The Slovakian skier said she was parting ways with Livio Magoni after five years. No reason for the break was mentioned, but media reported their relationship had been tense following unflattering remarks on Vlhova’s style of skiing supposedly made by Magoni in an interview with an Italian newspaper two weeks ago.

Magoni previously coached Tina Maze to the overall title in 2013, when the Slovenian skier set a still unbroken record for most World Cup points in a single season: 2,414.

GOLF

LPGA: The LPGA Tour says the final event of its three-tournament Asia swing has been canceled. The Blue Bay LPGA on Hainan Island in China was scheduled for May 13-16, following tournaments in Singapore and Thailand.

The LPGA said the the cancellation was due to current health concerns and travel restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the decision was guided by the China Golf Association, which oversees all golf events in China.

It is expected to return to the schedule in 2022.

EUROPEAN TOUR: Next month’s Open de France golf tournament has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the European Tour said Wednesday.

The event was scheduled for May 6-9 but can’t go ahead due to a surge of new infections in France. The government recently introduced partial lockdown measures that included school closures and a month-long domestic travel ban. No new date has been set for the tournament, which is played about 12.4 miles southwest of Paris in the town of Guyancourt.

“We will continue to look at all options in the hope of playing the tournament later this year,” European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley said.

TRACK AND FIELD

RUSSIA DOPING: Russian Olympic champions Andrei Silnov and Natalya Antyukh have each been banned for four years for doping offenses, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said Wednesday.

Silnov and Antyukh were both charged last year with using or attempting to use a prohibited substance or method. The charges stemmed from a World Anti-Doping Agency investigation into Russian doping in 2016. Silnov won gold in the high jump at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Antyukh won the title in the 400-meter hurdles at the 2012 London Games. She also won bronze in the 400 and silver in the 4×400 relay in 2004. They will keep their Olympic medals.

Neither athlete has competed since 2016, but Silnov was the senior vice president of the Russian track federation until June 2019, when he stepped down citing an investigation by the Athletics Integrity Unit into his conduct. CAS did not immediately say when the verdicts were handed down or give details on the cases. They were published in a brief summary of various cases and appeals concerning 12 Russians.

Yelena Soboleva, who won a world indoor championship silver medal in 2006, was banned for eight years and hammer thrower Oksana Kondratyeva, who was disqualified from fifth place at the 2013 world championships, was banned for four years. CAS also reduced the length of bans for four Russians, including high jumper Ivan Ukhov. His ban was cut from four years to two years, nine months. The ruling does not reverse an earlier decision in a doping case to strip Ukhov of the 2012 Olympic high jump gold.

TENNIS

VOLVO CAR OPEN: Top-ranked Ashleigh Barty easily won her first clay-court match in two years, cruising past Japan’s Misaki Doi 6-2, 6-1 at Charleston, South Carolina.

Barty, fresh off a championship run at the Miami Open the past two weeks, had little trouble moving from hard courts to clay. She won 10 of the last 11 games in her first match on the slower surface since winning the 2019 French Open.

Not all the high seeds made the transition as smoothly. Second-seeded Sofia Kenin fell to Lauren Davis in three sets, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Fifth-seeded Belinda Bencic lost in three sets to Paula Badosa, 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-1. And No. 7 Elise Mertens fell to Alize Cornet 7-5, 6-3.

Among the seeded players moving on was 17-year-old Coco Gauff, who topped Liudmila Samsonova 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.


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