THE BIG PICTURE: Tokyo 2020 closes; Roglic gets La Vuelta three-peat, U.S.-Canada qualifying draw; the worst day in Olympic history

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● XVI Paralympic Games: Tokyo 2020 ● “Together, against the odds, we did it.

“The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games have not just been historic; they have been fantastic. In 12 magical days, athletes gave the world confidence, happiness, and hope. Athletes broke records, athletes won hearts, athletes opened minds. Importantly, athletes changed lives.”

That was International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons (BRA) in his remarks during the closing ceremony of the XVI Paralympic Games in Tokyo, bringing to a close one of the most tumultuous chapters in the history of the Olympic Movement.

Said Seiko Hashimoto, President of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee:

“I am proud of having hosted the Olympics and Paralympics, the first global events in the world since the pandemic, and [to] pass the baton to Paris.”

But she had regrets, especially having to hold the Games without any spectators in view of political realities in Japan, even though Japanese professional baseball and football matches were held with spectators during the Games period.

“As we were not able to host the Tokyo Games in a complete form, I cannot say that they were a 100 percent success. I think history will determine whether they were a success or not.”

They were undoubtedly a success, first and foremost for the athletes. China finished with the most medals in the Paralympics:

(1) 207: China (96-60-51)
(2) 124: Great Britain (41-38-45)
(3) 118: Russian Olympic Committee (36-33-49)
(4) 104: United States (37-36-31)
(5) 98: Ukraine (24-47-27)

There is still a lot of clean-up to do, not the least of which is settling the finances, with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government likely responsible for a major share of the costs. But even with all of the restrictions, the seeds of future successes for Tokyo and Japan from these Games can be seen.

A positive note came on Monday as the coronavirus infection report for Tokyo showed just 968 new cases, the lowest total since 19 July.

● Cycling ● The 76th Vuelta a Espana ended with the same result as the last two, with Slovenian star Primoz Roglic winning his third straight title.

Roglic capped off his victory with a brilliant final-day win in the 33.8 km Individual Time Trial, beating Dane Magnus Cort, 44:02-44:16 for his fourth win in the 21 stages, including the opening and closing stages.

Roglic has sealed the win after Saturday’s difficult Stage, with five hard ascents in the final half of the race, as he finished second to Clement Champoussin (FRA), 5:21:50-5:21:56. Roglic had a 2:38 lead over Spain’s Enric Mas going into Sunday’s finale and ended with a 4:42 edge over Mas, 7:40 over Jack Haig (AUS) and 9:06 over Adam Yates (GBR).

Roglic’s three-peat is the first since Roberto Heras (ESP) did it in 2003-04-05 and only the third overall, with Swiss Tony Rominger achieving it in 1992-93-94.

● Football ● On the second match day of 14-game CONCACAF World Cup 2022 qualifying play, the U.S. Men’s National Team played to a disappointing 1-1 draw with Canada in front of an unhappy crowd of 43,028 in Nashville.

The American men had a 72-28% possession edge and out-shot Canada, 11-6. But aside from a Brendan Aaronson finish off a brilliant cross from Antonee Robinson in the 55th minute, the U.S. attack was mostly stagnant.

The 1-0 lead did not last long as Canada’s Alphonse Davies got loose on the left side of the field in the 62nd minute and sent a near carbon-copy of Robinson’s cross to the front of the U.S. net, where it was tapped in by Clyde Larin. The partisan U.S. crowd booed at the end of the game.

The U.S. may be on an 12-game unbeaten streak (10-0-2), but it now has two draws in its first two World Cup 2022 qualifiers, with a third match in San Pedro Sula, Honduras on Wednesday. Not a must-win with so many games to go, but a victory would lower the anxiety level for both the team and the fan base.

● Ice Hockey ● On Friday, the National Hockey League, NHL Players Union, the International Olympic Committee and the International Ice Hockey Federation announced an agreement that will allow NHL players to compete in the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games.

There is a possible withdrawal for coronavirus complications, but otherwise the travel, insurance and player support issues were worked out. NHL players were in the Winter Games from 1998-2014, but not in Korea in 2018. A break in the NHL schedule was worked out already.

The Olympic tournament will include the top eight teams from the 2019 IIHF World Ranking – Canada, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic, the U.S., Germany, and Switzerland – plus host China and qualifiers Slovakia, Latvia and Denmark.

● In Memoriam ● The worst days in the history of the Olympic Movement took place 49 years ago on 5-6 September 1972 in Munich, West Germany, during the Games of the XX Olympiad.

In an event designed to mark the re-emergence of a democratic, free West Germany from the murderous ashes of World War II, what had been a joyful Games was savaged by the kidnapping and eventual murder of 11 members of the Israeli delegation by Palestinian terrorists.

The Games was halted for 34 hours and a memorial service was held in the Olympiastadion on 6 September. IOC President Avery Brundage (USA) said in part:

“Every civilized person recoiled in horror at the barbarous criminal intrusion of terrorists into the peaceful Olympic precincts. We mourn our Israeli friends, victims of this brutal assault.

“Sadly, the greater and more important the Olympic Games become, the more they are open to commercial, political and now criminal pressure. …

“We have only the strength of a great ideal. I am sure the public will agree that we cannot allow a handful of terrorists to destroy this nucleus of international cooperation and goodwill we have in the Olympic Movement.

“The Games must go on and we must continue our efforts to keep them clear, pure and honest and try to extend sportsmanship of the athletic field to other areas. We declare today a day of mourning and will continue all the events one day later than scheduled.”

But the Games has never been the same.

The International Olympic Committee was long resistant in further honoring the memory of the Israelis, but a special ceremony was held on the day at the Olympic Village prior to the opening of the Rio Games in 2016 and a moment of silence was held during the Opening Ceremony of the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

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