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Monday, July 23, 2012

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK

Costas' criticism sparks discussion over tributes


Staff writer

Should the International Olympic Committee permit individuals or groups to make political statements during the Olympics?

There are various opinions on that position, but longtime NBC announcer Bob Costas thinks so.

Case in point: As USA Today reported in a recent story, Costas takes exception that the IOC won't grant Israel a moment of silence to remember the 11 Israeli coaches and athletes killed at the 1972 Munich Games by Palestinian terrorists.

"I intend to note that the IOC denied that request," Costas was quoted as saying to The Hollywood Reporter. "Many people find that denial more than puzzling but insensitive."

USA Today wrote that "Costas plans to make his statement and essentially call out the IOC during the Opening Ceremony on July 27 when the Israeli team enters the 80,000-seat Olympic stadium."

Moreover, should the IOC permit a moment of silence to be held for the victims of the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami? Many would blurt out "yes" without hesitation.

Medal quest: Butterfly specialist Natsumi Hoshi is as committed to earning a top-three finish in London as any athlete.

Just ask her.

"Whatever the color is, what I'm looking for is a medal," Hoshi told reporters at the Ajinomoto National Training Center in Tokyo.

"Ever since I had a frustrating result (finishing fourth in the 200 by 0.01 seconds) in last year's world championships, I've wanted to be an Olympic medalist. I've never won a medal at a world competition.

"As far as a gold medal, I don't really know. . . . So I am aiming for a medal, rather than for a particular color."

The 2011 FINA World Swimming Championships in Shanghai gave Hoshi the perfect motivation as she made preparations for the London Games.

"I never, ever want to experience that terrible feeling again," Hoshi was quoted as saying in Swimming World magazine, reflecting on her fourth-place finish in China.

Asked if she thinks stamina can be a key for success in England, Hoshi told reporters, "I'm not sure. But I always finished first in long-distance races in elementary school. I also made third place in a (jump) rope-skipping contest. I kept skipping for 20-something minutes. I was always better in long-distance races than short-distance ones."

So, in essence, she does consider stamina a positive attribute. "I've always swum that way and thought it was natural," she admitted.

Hoshi, now 21, made her Olympic debut in 2008 in Beijing as a high school student. Yuko Nakanishi, a 2004 Athens Games bronze medalist in the 200 fly, helped Hoshi make her transition to the global stage.

"Four years ago, I was here as the only high school swimmer (for Japan), but she talked to me. . . . She was my idol, but we got closer during training camp," Hoshi recalled.

Tokyo 2020 slogan: On Thursday, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Bid Committee revealed its campaign tagline: Discover Tomorrow.

The two-word phrase will be ubiquitous between now and September 2013, when the IOC makes Tokyo, Istanbul or Madrid the winning city.

Tokyo 2020 officials stressed the slogan highlights two of Japan's capital city's positive attributes: dynamic innovation and global inspiration.

"We believe that Tokyo 2020 will be Games in which Olympic values add to the life of the host city and its people; and in which those people and their culture, customs and values add something to the Olympic movement," Japanese Olympic Committee president Tsunekazu Takeda told reporters last week at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.

"It would begin, as does every visit to us, with our unique hospitality, or 'omotenashi.' It is just one example of the traditional culture based on Olympic values of respect, excellence and friendship that makes Japan so fascinating to our visitors."

Also announced Thursday, the Tokyo 2020 color arrangement, meanwhile, will feature red, blue, yellow and green, which are prominently featured in Olympic usage, as well as purple. The choice of purple is symbolic of its longtime use in festivals throughout the Edo Period (1603-1867).

Did you know?: Malaysian shooter Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi, who is eight months pregnant, is scheduled to compete in the 10-meter air rifle shooting competition in London. She is No. 47 in the world rankings.

In an interview with The New York Times, Taibi said, "For me, nothing is impossible. It's one of the challenges. If I abandoned it, maybe who knows? Another four years to wait, maybe I don't have the (same) opportunity."

Natural-born talent: Ian Chadband's quality in-depth profile of British runner Mo Farah, which recently appeared on The Telegraph website under the headline "The Making of Mo Farah," dished out a classic never-give-up storyline.

"I still remember this nine-year-old coming over from Somalia, a lovely kid with a cheeky sense of humor and a beaming smile you couldn't help but warm to," Alan Watkinson, Farah's former physical education teacher told The Telegraph. "It wasn't easy for him to start with. He struggled with the language, so (he) found it difficult to pick up what was being said in lessons. . ."

In time, Farah adjusted to life in England and became a terrific competitor. He's a legitimate gold medal contender now, with a first-place finish in the 5,000 and second-place spot in the 10,000 at the 2011 IAAF World Athletics Championships to his credit. In June, he was victorious in the 5,000 at the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon, running the year's fastest time in the event (12 minutes, 56.98 seconds).

Looking back on Farah's younger days, Watkinson said the popular Olympian always had special skills.

"His running? Wow. We had a race during one lesson and even though he'd head off in the wrong direction once he hit the front, he always effortlessly recovered the lead. It was all so natural; the challenge was to harness it," Watkinson told The Telegraph.

Three to keep an eye on: 1. Swimmer Kosuke Kitajima, a Tokyo native, is vying to three-peat in the 100-and 200-meter breaststroke after double gold-medal efforts in the 2004 Athens Games and 2008 Beijing Olymipcs; 2. gymnast Kohei Uchimura, three-time men's all-around world champion and Nagasaki product, is attempting to win his first Olympic gold and a chance to cement his greatness in the annals of the sport; and wrestler Saori Yoshida, who hails from Mie Prefecture, is hoping to win the women's 55-kg gold for the third straight time.

Looking ahead: Ed Odeven's Olympic coverage from London will include event reports, notebooks, features, columns and London Postcards for the print and online editions.

Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this article.



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