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The Sports Report Olympics Edition: U.S. women’s national team kicks off

Megan Rapinoe #15 of the United States.
Megan Rapinoe strikes her 2019 Women’s World Cup pose before an Olympics send-off match for the U.S. Women’s National Team on July 5.
(Getty Images)

Welcome to The Sports Report: Olympics Edition. I’m your host for the day, Helene Elliott.

Greetings from Tokyo, where pickled herring was a featured item in the breakfast buffet at our hotel. Seemed a bit much for early in the morning, but maybe I’ll become more adventurous as the Olympics go along.

A long journey from Los Angeles had a happy ending when I reached my hotel room and discovered I had a shower curtain. That seems like standard issue, but anyone who remembers my previous Olympic wanderings might recall that at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the shower curtain in my bathroom disappeared and reappeared at random times. (And I always suspected the pink vase, the only ornamental item in the otherwise bare-bones décor, was a listening device). It’s difficult to be a polite guest when there’s no shower curtain to prevent the floor from getting soaked. All looks good for a dry floor here.

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The shower curtain hanging in Helene Elliott's Tokyo hotel room.
The shower curtain in Helene Elliott’s Tokyo hotel room.
(Helene Elliott / Los Angeles Times)

I’ve been fortunate to be assigned to cover the Olympics 17 times, and I’ve had a wild variety of accommodations over the years. At Lake Placid in 1980 and Calgary in 1988 (while I worked for Newsday) we rented private homes; since then I’ve stayed in a ski chalet, hotel, or media village of often dubious quality. A personal touch can make a big difference: The temporary trailers we stayed in at the 1994 Lillehammer Games were no-frills places to rest your head, but someone thought to decorate the walls with kids’ drawings of what they imagined the Olympics would look like. The charming artwork gave me a strong emotional connection to the Norwegian people and contributed to making it one of my favorite Games.

The hotel in Sydney in 2000 was near a lively 24-hour food court-type of place, one of many excellent aspects of those Games. The hotel in London in 2012 was near the British Museum, and a trip to the Main Press Center required a bus ride past the Tower of London. Not bad. The Rio hotel was steps from the Main Press Center but the local sewage system was iffy and nose plugs became a useful accessory. Then there was the time at Nagano, Japan, in 1998 that one of my suitemates didn’t come home one night but her alarm went off at 6 a.m. and we couldn’t turn it off because she had locked her bedroom door. Ah, memories.

I’m looking forward to making more memories and telling athletes’ inspirational stories at these Games. Without crowds (but with a shower curtain) this will be a unique experience for us all.

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Let’s get to the latest Olympics news...

Holding the Olympics in a pandemic

Players on Italy's softball team warm up during a training session at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium.
Players on Italy’s softball team warm up during a training session at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium on Tuesday.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

David Wharton on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the Tokyo Olympics: With the clock ticking down to the start of the Summer Games on Friday, Olympic executives and Japanese organizers find themselves increasingly on the defensive.

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COVID-19 cases continue to run high in this capital city, there have been public protests and each new day seems to bring another positive test — an American gymnast, two South African soccer players — in and around the Games’ purportedly secure bubble.

All of which underlines a lingering question: Why push forward with a massive sporting event in the midst of a global health crisis?

At a news conference over the weekend, the president of the International Olympic Committee acknowledged that debate around the recently dubbed “Pandemic Games” has grown “more heated and more emotional.”

U.S. women’s soccer

Christen Press of United States is challenged by Sofia Jakobsson of Sweden.
U.S. forward Christen Press, left, is challenged by Sweden forward Sofia Jakobsson during an international friendly on April 10. The U.S. and Sweden renew their rivalry Wednesday at the Tokyo Olympics.
(Linnea Rheaborg / Getty Images)

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Kevin Baxter on the U.S. women’s soccer team waiting five years to play Sweden in the Olympics again: Christen Press spat the words out with tired acknowledgement more than excitement.

“In world championships,” she said, “we always play Sweden at some point.”

The Tokyo Olympics are no exception. The women’s national soccer team faced Sweden in six of the eight Women’s World Cups and twice in six Olympic tournaments, the last coming five years ago in Brazil when Sweden eliminated the U.S. on penalty kicks.

That quarterfinal loss in Brazil marked the only time the U.S. has failed to reach the final of an Olympic tournament and the Americans don’t have to wait long for a chance at revenge, opening group play of the pandemic-delayed Japan tournament Wednesday against Sweden at Tokyo Stadium.

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“There’s absolutely a bitter taste in all of the players that were part of that match and how it ended,” she said. “That’s what drives this time. One of the first things that I learned about this team is how to flip any pressure and expectation and history. And it was probably the most valuable lesson.”

How many U.S. athletes are competing?

A total of 612 athletes are scheduled to represent the United States at the Tokyo Olympics. Among the large contingent are several athletes who are expected to challenge for gold in one or multiple events.

Here’s a searchable chart looking at everyone who is scheduled to compete for the United States along with the starting dates for their events:

Tuesday’s TV schedule

Haylie McCleney practices with the U.S. softball team at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium.
Haylie McCleney practices with the U.S. softball team at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium on Tuesday ahead of their Olympic opener against Italy on Wednesday.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

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The Tokyo Olympics will be broadcast and streamed in the U.S. on NBC Universal platforms, which will feature more than 7,000 hours of coverage.

Here’s a look at Tuesday and Wednesday’s TV coverage schedule (all times PDT):

TUESDAY

Softball – Japan vs. Australia, 5 p.m., NBCSN

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Softball – U.S. vs. Italy, 8 p.m., NBCSN

Softball – Mexico vs. Canada, 11 p.m., NBCSN

WEDNESDAY

Women’s Soccer – Great Britain vs. Chile, 12:30 a.m., Olympic Channel

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Women’s Soccer – U.S. vs. Sweden, 1:30 a.m., USA

Women’s Soccer – Netherlands vs. Zambia, 4 a.m., Olympic Channel

Women’s Soccer – Australia vs. New Zealand, 4:30 a.m., USA

Women’s Soccer – China vs. Brazil (LIVE), 1 a.m., NBCSN

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Women’s Soccer – Japan vs. Canada, 3:30 a.m., NBCSN

Softball – U.S. vs. Canada, 5 p.m.

Softball – Japan vs. Mexico, 8 p.m.

Photo of the day

Gabriel De Coster takes part in a canoe slalom training run Tuesday.
Gabriel De Coster takes part in a canoe slalom training run Tuesday ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games.
(Benoit Doppagne / AFP via Getty Images)

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Latest news and updates on the live blog

Be sure to follow our live blog for the latest results, news and analysis from The Times’ team of reporters from Tokyo. For complete Olympics coverage, go to latimes.com/olympics.

Want more Olympics coverage?

The Times released its 24-page Olympic preview section Sunday, your passport to the Games. The section was distributed exclusively to home delivery subscribers and e-newspaper readers. You can purchase a copy of the preview section in The Times store.

Illustration for the Tokyo Olympics section cover of Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky.
(Kevin Gold / For The Times)

And finally

The time is ticking until the start of the Tokyo Olympics.

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Countdown to Tokyo Olympics
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Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email us at sports@latimes.com. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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