Tokyo 2020 will get a man-made meteor shower, but transparency lags far behind

The announcement that the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will feature a man-made meteor shower, certainly sparked some interest for a Games which have been beset by controversies to date.

Back in July 2015, the Japanese government scrapped plans for a $2 billion stadium envisioned as the centerpiece of the event due to concerns over rising costs and a growing public backlash.

Designers were eventually appointed in December, but just a month later the bidding process came under scrutiny when the second part of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) commission report into corruption was published.

The report detailed a conversation between another of Lamine Diack’s sons, Khalil, and Turkish officials leading the Istanbul bid team.

A “sponsorship” payment of between $4m and $5m US dollars had been made by Japanese organizers either to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) or the Diamond League series.

The report claims Istanbul lost the support of Lamine Diack, the IAAF boss at the time, because they did not pay.

Further payments from the Japanese were revealed earlier this month, with French prosecutors saying $2m had been paid to a Singapore-based company called Black Tidings to help secure the games.

The controversies surrounding the 2020 Games appear to mirror those which have hit the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Allegations of bribery and corruption in the selection process involving members of FIFA’s executive committee first surfaced in 2011, although these were subsequently retracted.

In March 2014, it was alleged that a firm linked to Qatar’s bid paid committee member Jack Warner and his family almost $2m.

Mohammed bin Hammam, former president of the Asian Football Confederation, came under scrutiny in June 2014 when The Sunday Times claimed to have evidence proving he had paid over $5m to football officials to support the Qatar bid.

Bin Hamman and all those accused of accepting bribes denied the charges.

Cultural issues regarding Qatar’s laws on homosexuality, along with major controversies involving the treatment of migrant workers tasked with building the infrastructure have also hit the headlines, but arguably the biggest talking point has been the timing of the tournament and its impact on the stadiums and the players.

The event is scheduled to be held between November and December 2022, timing which will cause major disruption to some of the world’s top leagues.

With the World Cup normally scheduled during the northern hemisphere’s summer months, the weather in Qatar came firmly into focus.

Temperatures of more than 50 degrees were a big concern for the players, leading FIFA to move the tournament to later in the year.

Despite the switch, organizers still plan to fit out the five stadiums with solar-powered air conditioning capable of reducing temperatures within each stadium by up to 20 degrees.

The technology will harness the power of the sun’s rays to provide a cool environment for players and fans by converting solar energy into electricity that will then be used to cool the stadiums.

When games are not taking place, the solar installations will export energy onto the power grid which will then be used during subsequent matches, creating a carbon neutral status for the venues.

Ethiopia told to test 200 athletes before November by WADA or face suspension

The World Anti-Doping Agency has turned its attention to Ethiopian athletics, with the African country told to conduct 200 drug tests on its competitors before November or face possible sanctions.

The sport’s reputation has been dragged through the mud in recent times, with Russian athletes still banned from competition and the organization turning up the heat on Kenya also.

With the Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro only months away, ensuring strict doping protocols are in place has become a priority for WADA and the International Association of Athletics Federations.

With three Ethiopian runners provisionally suspended from competing last month and a host of others under investigation, a major overhaul of the nation’s doping structures is set to occur.

As a result, 200 athletes will undergo tests between now and November, with the process set to start almost immediately.

“We are told that we could be banned from the IAAF if we don’t comply with the request,” national track team doctor Ayalew Tilahun said.

The African country’s government is set to provide $300,000 to fund the testing, with WADA officials to visit Ethiopia in early June, potentially alongside IAAF President Sebastian Coe, to check on progress.

The timing of the tests seems slightly peculiar, with the November deadline much later than the upcoming Olympics and Ethiopian athletes potentially competing in Brazil before being tested internally.

Ethiopia is clearly a nation that the IAAF have identified as needing to upgrade doping procedures, with Coe in the past admitting the country’s current structure was in need of ‘critical care’.

WADA reportedly visited Ethiopian doping facilities in December 2015 and were shocked by poor standards, giving them a ‘zero’ rating.

Ethiopian 1500m world champion Abeba Aregawi tested positive for meldonium earlier this year, however the runner now represents Sweden.

Russia is yet to find out whether its athletes will be restored to international action in time to participate at the Olympics.

Renowned Russian pentathlete Alexander Kukarin, 22, dies in unexpected circumstances

Russian pentathlete Alexander Kukarin has unexpectedly died aged 22, with the cause thought to have been a heart attack.

The distinguished athlete passed away at a Moscow hotel last Thursday, with a reported cardiac arrest stated as an early reason.

Kukarin’s death was confirmed in a statement by the Modern Pentathlon Federation of Russia.

“Modern Pentathlon Federation of Russia is sad to announce that on November 26 Russian pentathlete Alexander Kukarin died,” the acknowledgement on the organisation’s official website reads.

“Modern Pentathlon Federation of Russia expresses condolences to the families and friends of the athlete.”

The statement continued by ruling out foul play or suspicious circumstances.

“We did not find any signs that he had been attacked, while there were no suspicious signs,” it said.

“The athletes have finished their season and Alexander was not at a training camp. An unexpected cardiac arrest is our initial diagnosis. The autopsy and final results will be ready in one and a half to two months.”

Kukarin’s proudest competitive moment came as he won a relay silver at the 2015 World Championships in Berlin earlier this year.

The Russian also claimed a bronze medal in the mixed relay at the 2015 European Championships in Bath back in August.

The 22-year-old was also a champion of junior sport, winning World and European tournaments back in 2011.

Kukarin was buried at a St Petersburg cemetery on Sunday.