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.

French Open preview: World number ones Djokovic and Williams eager for victory

The French Open is set to start on Sunday, with world number ones Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams both having a point to prove.

For the Serbian, the Paris-based tournament remains the only Grand Slam that he is yet to win in a glittering career, while American Williams has not been at her best in 2016.

In the men’s tournament, Stan Wawrinka shocked Djokovic in last year’s final and will take on Lukas Rosol in the first round of his title defence.

Djokovic has been the dominant force in tennis over the last two years, with defeat in the French Open final the only blemish in his copybook in 2015.

Having won the other three major competitions, the Serb started 2016 in fine fashion by claiming the Australian Open.

Elsewhere, Roger Federer has withdrawn from the tournament after suffering from a back injury, while Rafael Nadal will fancy his chances of winning a competition he has claimed a staggering nine times previously.

The Spaniard has proven that he can be devastating on a clay surface and will hope to claim his first Grand Slam since winning in 2014 at Roland Garros.

World number two Andy Murray has been paired with Czech veteran Radek Stepanek in the first round and will fancy his chances given that he is the in opposite side of the draw to both Djokovic and Nadal.

The Scot also defeated Djokovic on clay earlier this month in the final of the Italian Open.

Russia’s only competitor in the men’s tournament is Evgeny Donskoy, who faces 11th seed David Ferrer.

In the women’s tournament, Williams remains the world’s number one and the player to beat.

The 34-year-old American has won the French Open on three previous occasions but the competition in Paris is her least successful major tournament as she has won the other three six times apiece.

Williams was stunned in the semi-finals of the US Open last year by Italian Roberta Vinci, which robbed her of winning all four major tournaments.

She also started this year with an upset defeat at the hands of Angelique Kerber at the Australian Open, but did win the Italian Open on clay earlier this month. Williams starts against Magdalena Rybarikova.

World number five Victoria Azarenka is a dark horse after returning to full fitness and beating winning the Miami Open earlier this year.

Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova, who lost to Azarenka in the final in Miami after defeating Williams, will start her campaign against Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova and hope to make the latter stages of the tournament in France.

Other Russians to compete in the women’s tournament include Margarita Gasparyan and Vitalia Diatchenko, who face Sloane Stephens and Lucie Safaova respectively, while Maria Sharapova remains banned.

Video: Man United captain Wayne Rooney in bizarre X-Men Apocalypse movie teaser

The video below may well be slightly unnerving and cringeworthy, but it is yet another example of Manchester United’s innovative ways of monetizing the club’s fame.

With a furore around the new X-Men Apocalypse movie, the Old Trafford club have become involved in promoting the film’s release.

As can be seen in the video below, Wayne Rooney is asked by the movie’s heroes to help them in their latest quest to save humanity, while both David De Gea and Anthony Martial also star.

The video is sure to help opposition supporters attack Rooney, with the United captain’s blushes potentially on show at Wembley as his side take on Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final later today.

The latest ploy to make money from the Red Devils brand adds to an array of sponsorship agreements that United have signed up over recent years.

As well as their major partnerships with the likes of Adidas and Chevrolet, the Premier League side also have an official diesel engine partner and official savoury snack partner – with seemingly every opportunity to make money capitalized upon.

In the latest figures released by Forbes, United are third in the global rich list behind Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Adidas targets US sports stars in bid to close Nike’s marketing dominance

A leading executive at Adidas has admitted that the apparel giant is targeting American sports stars in a bid to close the gap on industry leader and rival Nike.

Nike have a stranglehold on the market, thanks largely to having leading basketball and American football stars endorsing their product.

The latest figures show that Nike possessed a 21.1 per cent share in the US sports market in 2015, rising from 20.1 per cent the year prior. In comparison, Adidas has a 3.4 per cent market share.

Although Adidas has a venerable reputation in Europe, the German manufacturer is losing ground in America and has been overtaken by Under Armour in terms of market share.

With Nike also threatening to take away the European organization’s lucrative sponsorship deal with English football team Chelsea, Adidas have started a new offensive.

Adidas’ North America president Mark King has stated that the company want to bolster the arsenal of US sports stars wearing their product.

His goal is to increase the number of NFL players that his company sponsors from 95 to 250 by 2020, while boosting its numbers in the NBA from 70 to 100.

“When you do well in football in the United States, it is like doing well in soccer in Germany,” he said.

“The more grounded that we are in America, in American sports, the more success we’re going to have.

“We’re a brand that can take care of you when you play your game and we can also make you look cool when you come off the pitch.”

Some of the big names to sign up with Adidas recently include Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers football team and James Harden of the Houston Rockets.

The manufacturer’s main target market is teenagers aged 14-18.

Adidas have recorded positive first-quarter sales in 2016, which have increased by an impressive 31 per cent – but this is largely due to the popularity of retro shoes such as Superstar and Stan Smith rather than functional apparel.

The German producer is clearly keen to boost its market share in sports specific products also, given the vulnerable and insecure nature of banking on fashion items.

Adidas’ focus in North America has seen King been given more autonomy and leading executives from head office in Germany transferred to the company’s US base in Portland.

Teenager causes security scare at England training camp

A teenager caused a security scare at St Georges during England’s preparations for Euro 2016.

18-year-old Harry Peak tried to blended in as he trained alongside Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling.

The DJ was suspended by Pirate FM, where he and his sister hosted The Youth Show on the station, as a result of the stunt.

The station’s director said Peak had always been a maverick, but had gone too far this time.

Staff noticed Peak less than a minute after he entered the pitch and quickly removed him.

He reportedly carried out the stunt after an autograph session involving England players was cancelled.

Peak was there as a guest of Club Wembley of which his father, a highly successful dentist, is a member.

He later apologised on Twitter for the stunt, saying he never meant to cause concern or embarrassment and left as soon as he was asked.

The FA said they would be investigating and may revoke his father’s membership as a result.

Peak is not the first person to try a similar stunt.

Simon Brodkin, the character behind Lee Nelson and Jason Bent, has pulled several similar pranks.

He trained with the Manchester City first team squad as they went through their pre-match warm up against Everton.

Brodkin also nearly boarded the England train that was heading to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, but it was his stunt during a FIFA press conference that brought him to the attention of a much wider audience.

After throwing around $600 at Sepp Blatter as he was addressing corruption allegations against FIFA, Brodkin was arrested and charged with trespassing but the case was never brought to court as Zurich prosecutors never received an application for a criminal case.

YouTube to stream Champions League final

After successfully broadcasting the Europa League final between Sevilla and Liverpool on Wednesday, YouTube will also be streaming the Champions League final live next Saturday, May 28.

The Google-owned company, who struck a deal with BT Sport to screen both finals, drew a record peak audience of 3.5 million viewers but has said that it has no plans to challenge for Premier League rights.

Stephen Nuttall, YouTube’s senior director for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: “It is amazing that BT has chosen to put the Europa and Champions League finals on YouTube to reach the widest possible audience.

“Live content works brilliantly as a complement to TV coverage for a broadcaster running a very good YouTube channel.

“Some partners think how much ad revenue can I make on it? Some think about what reach they can get to grow and build a domestic or global audience.”

The Europa League final is believed to be in YouTube’s top five most-watched live sports broadcasts in the UK.

With the Champions League final set to be aired on May 28, rumors had started to circulate that the company would take on Sky and BT in the next Premier League rights auction, but Nuttall dismissed the idea.

“We are not a buyer of rights,” he said. “We are very good at distributing content to the largest possible audience.

“It’s pretty clear. We are a technology company, we do a great job of creating tools that broadcasters, sports leagues and clubs can use to tell their stories to the largest possible engaged audience.

“That is what I expect we will continue to focus on. Our whole model is about partnering with people to allow them to make the greatest possible success out of their content.

“Overall, whether you are BT or UEFA or you are the BBC you look at YouTube and decide that it looks like an interesting place to distribute content.

“We work with, and focus on, distributing their content. Sometimes live, sometimes clips and highlights in the sports world. Sometimes digital natives. We donít create the content ourselves.”

YouTube has steadily been growing its portfolio of live sports offerings.

The media giant recently agreed a free-to-air broadcast deal with Spain’s Professional Football League (LFP) to air games from the LFP World Challenge, the country’s top-tier football pre-season tour.

YouTube will also offer highlights packages and behind the scenes content from the tour.

The company has also partnered with the NFL to offer fans some of the game’s most iconic matches for free.

Cricket continues to be part of YouTube’s strategy to develop its live sports offering, as shown by their recent airing of the inaugural Pakistan Super League competition.

Sevilla win third consecutive Europa League title after stunning comeback against Liverpool

Sevilla produced a stirring second half comeback to overturn a one-goal deficit and win their third consecutive Europa League title against Premier League side Liverpool in Switzerland.

Europa League holders Sevilla retained their European crown after coming back from a goal down against English side Liverpool, scoring three goals in a devastating second half display to win their third consecutive Europa League title and secure Champions League football next season.

Daniel Sturridge gave Liverpool a deserved lead midway through the first half with an outstanding strike with the outside of the boot, with Jurgen Klopp’s side quickly finding their rhythm in what was their first European final since 2007.

Liverpool had three strong penalty appeals turned down by referee Jonas Eriksson in what was a hugely encouraging opening 45 minutes from their point of view – but Sevilla emerged after the break with renewed vigour to draw themselves level in the first minute of the second half.

Kevin Gameiro, the La Liga side’s top scorer in the Europa League this season, tapped in after a superb run from the right-back Mariano to start the comeback, leaving Liverpool visibly shell-shocked. So impactful was the goal that the Premier League side soon looked a shadow of the team that had run Sevilla ragged in the first half.

Sevilla could well have been 2-0 up minutes later but for a superb stop from Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet, denying Gameiro a quickfire second after he had been put clean through on goal.
There was to be no mistake from the Sevilla captain Coke just after the hour with the 29 year-old brilliantly sweeping home a loose ball to give his side the lead for the first time on the night.
Liverpool hassled and harried but failed to regain control of the match they had looked in total control of in the first half, with Coke once again firing in after the ball fell kindly to him in the Liverpool box to give Sevilla yet another night of European glory.

Tottenham Hotspur only Premier League team to make 2015-16 transfer window profit

A study of the activity of the Premier League’s 20 clubs during the last two transfer windows shows that only one team made a profit and that spending and success are not inextricably linked.

Activity in the summer 2015 and January 2016 windows was taken into consideration, with Tottenham Hotspur the only team to make a profit.

The White Hart Lane side made $9.7 million from their deals, with only a handful of new faces brought to White Hart Lane including Toby Alderweireld and Son Heung-min.

This was counteracted by the sales of a host of players including Paulinho, Vlad Chiriches and Roberto Soldado.

Manchester City were the side to make the highest loss on transfers, with a net spend of $180m, which brought the likes of Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Nicolas Otamendi to the Etihad Stadium.

Interestingly, Newcastle United were the next highest net spenders on $115.8m, but this was not enough to save the Tyneside club from relegation.

This also shows the perils of spending big mid-season, with the likes of Andros Townsend and Jonjo Shelvey signed in January but not enough to keep Rafa Benitez’s men in the top flight.

Shock English champions Leicester City made a $41.8m net spend, with only six teams in the division making a bigger loss.

Manchester United were the second highest net spenders in the top half of the finalised table on $48.6m, while a host of the biggest spenders were in the lower reaches of the division.

Newly promoted sides Watford, Bournemouth and Norwich all spent big, with their expenditure in the transfer market actually dictating their fate.

The Hornets and Cherries made net spends of $61.5m and $56m respectively and avoided the drop, while the Carrow Road side’s outlay of $39.2m was not enough to stave off relegation.

The figures will be another source of frustration for Arsenal fans, with the Gunners’ net spend at $22.6m.

With the Emirates Stadium faithful crying out for Arsene Wenger to buy a world-class striker and reinforce the squad, the fact that only six teams spent less will evoke annoyance in the North London supporters.

The figures are set to be shaken up this summer as the likes of United, Chelsea and Liverpool are expected to spend big in a bid to get back into the Premier League top four and fight for major silverware.

17-year-old sets new world record for chin-ups

Andrew Shapiro used an American TV show and his father’s cancer diagnosis as his inspiration to literally pull his way into the record books.

The 17-year-old completed more than 7,000 chin-ups over the course of 18 hours, breaking the previous 24-hour record of 6,800 set in 2015 by Czech Republic athlete Jan Kares.

He also set new six-hour and 12-hour marks during a Relay for Life event in Fairfax County, Virginia.

“It was blood, sweat and hours and hours and hours of hard work,” Shapiro told the Washington Post.

“I’ve always liked challenging myself so I’ll add this to my resume as a person for American Ninja Warrior. I figure they won’t say no to someone who has the world record for pull-ups.”

In addition to his desire to appear on television, Shapiro used the challenge to raise $4,000 for the American Cancer Society.

His dad had a five-year battle with colon cancer, undergoing two major surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. He is now cancer free and in remission.

Shapiro’s record breaking efforts included completing 3,515 pull-ups after six hours and 5,742 by the 12-hour mark.

He matched Kares’ record after 15 hours and continued for another three hours before stopping, having put his chin above the bar 7,306 times.

His family set up three video cameras to record the attempt, with 15 judges on hand to certify the achievement for the Guinness World Records books.

The $250m football game: Welcome to the Championship Playoff Final

Sheffield Wednesday will play against Hull City in the Championship playoff final for a place in the Premier League in a game which will provide a massive cash windfall for the winners.

Wednesday’s victory against Brighton & Hove Albion secured their place in this year’s Championship play-off final, while City progressed to the one game shoot-out at Wembley after easing past Derby County in their semi-final.

The winners of the final will be promoted to the Premier League and gain access to untold riches.

With a new $7.44 billion TV deal coming into force next season, the rewards for promotion have never been greater.

Despite finishing bottom of the Premier League this season, Aston Villa pocketed $95.6 million in prize money.

Next season the team finishing 20th will earn $145 million – the same as Leicester City received for winning the league this time around.

Parachute payments for any team relegated from the league will be a staggering $108.6 million over two years.

With increased matchday revenues, coupled with new sponsorship and commercial deals, the playoff game is financially the biggest prize in football today.

Clubs who stay up for another season can expect to rake in around $435 million.

City finished nine points ahead of Wednesday during the regular season, although there was nothing between the teams when they faced each other.

The pair fought out a 1-1 draw at Hillsborough back in October, with February’s return at the KC Stadium finishing goalless.

Wednesday are bidding to return to the Premier League after 16 years out of the top flight.

Thai businessman Dejphon Chansiri has bankrolled the club since taking over from Milan Mandaric two years ago. Chansiri had targeted promotion by 2017, the year of the club’s 150th anniversary.

Portuguese coach Carlos Carvalhal has invested heavily in the club’s playing squad, bringing in the likes of Fernando Forestieri and Marco Matias for seven-figure sums.

The Tigers are looking to bounce back into the Premier League at the first time of asking.

Steve Bruce has spent shrewdly this season, selling the likes of James Chester, Robbie Brady and Tom Ince and bringing in Moses Odubajo, Sam Clucas and the experienced Shaun Maloney.

Bruce has raised over $38 million in transfer income, while spending just $10 million on players, but he has comfortably guided Hull into the play-off final.

Both Wednesday and City will hope the new found wealth promotion brings will lead to them becoming established Premier League clubs.

Two of last year’s promoted teams, Bournemouth and Watford, have comfortably retained their status and the rise in income next season could further level the playing field.

While England’s top teams compete with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich for the world’s best players, those further down the table have been able to attract talents like Dimitri Payet, Sadio Mane and Xherdan Shaqiri – something which would have been unthinkable a few seasons ago.

Hull have been in fine form in recent weeks and will go into the game as favorites, but Wednesday have also been playing well with just three defeats in their last 16 games and could easily upset the odds.