The Sports Report Olympics Edition: Pressed on the matter, these safety measures aren’t fully protective

A Tokyo Olympics volunteer gestures as she guides journalists at the transportation mall on Wednesday.
(Jeff Pachoud / AFP via Getty Images)

It’s like encasing yourself in bubble wrap before rolling over a spike strip.

Journalists covering these Olympics had to take two COVID-19 tests before departure and one upon arrival. They’ve had to log their body temperature for more than two weeks. They’ve had to spit in a plastic vial for three consecutive days to ensure they’re still free of the virus.

All that … only to jam into buses within bad-breath distance of one another for rides that can last more than an hour.

My name is Ben Bolch, the curator of today’s Olympic newsletter, and I’m wondering how a wave of positive tests hasn’t washed over the thousands of journalists who have converged upon this city.


But before we get to all the ways the media has and hasn’t been protected from the virus, let’s contemplate the biggest stories of the day.

Saturday and Sunday TV schedules

Olympic medal count

U.S. Olympic athlete tracker

Saturday’s medal winners

Ready to burst?

Journalists work in the main press center ahead of the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday.
(Matthias Hangst / Getty Images)

Organizers never claimed they were creating a 2020 NBA Finals-style bubble to protect essential personnel, including the media, from working at these Games. But they instituted what, at first glance, appeared to be robust measures to prevent any positive cases from spreading widely.

There have been all those tests — journalists will be required to take one only every four days for the remainder of the Olympics — the requisite mask wearing and severe restrictions on movement in the city for 14 days.

In theory, it sounded like a safe environment.

In reality, it’s mostly for show.

No one is verifying the body temperatures that folks must input daily into a health tracking app. No one is making sure the saliva samples they submit for virus testing are actually their own.

And tracking the movement of thousands of essential personnel? Impossible. Some have wandered from their hotels without logging their departure times, unshackling them from the 15-minute limit that’s supposed to be in place for two weeks. At that point, you will be free to take public transportation and roam the city.

So far, people such as myself have been (mostly) confined to their hotels, a central work hub and the venues spread across the city. They’re supposed to socially distance, which is impossible given how many Games workers have been shoehorned into the buses. You can be packed so tightly that it’s possible not only to start up impromptu conversations but also detect what brand of deodorant one is (hopefully) wearing.


Of course, from my perspective, there could be a happy ending to this story. Only eight media members had tested positive for the virus between the start of this month and Friday, putting organizers on track to win at least silver in safety.

A book and a bookend

FILE - In this Aug. 8, 2016, file photo, United States' Jesse Smith.
U.S. water polo player Jesse Smith, left, shoots during a match against Spain at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
(Eduardo Verdugo / Associated Press)

These will be the final Games for five-time Olympian Jesse Smith, captain of the U.S. men’s water polo team.

Being a five-time father recently led to another endeavor: children’s books.

Smith spent part of the pandemic writing “Wally the Water Polo Walrus” with help from his niece Lilah Yektai, an illustrator and animal activist. They collaborated on a project intended to promote water safety, water polo and good sportsmanship through vivid images painted in—what else?—watercolor.

“The children’s book is just a fun way to connect,” said Smith, a Pepperdine alumnus who lives in Coronado.

Smith said he’s transitioning into a business career, having already succeeded in his first venture outside the game.

Trojan of the day

Stephania Haralabidis #5 of the United States shoots the ball.
U.S. women’s water polo player Stephania Haralabidis
(Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

Bolstering his coach’s declaration that the U.S. women’s water polo team was “badass,” Stephania Haralabidis scored five goals as part of a record deluge during a 25-4 victory over Japan.

It was the most goals in an Olympic game, surpassing the 16 that China and Australia each scored in the London Games in 2012.

Maggie Steffens scored just 21 seconds into the game and the onslaught was on, the U.S. scoring a record 14 goals by halftime. Steffens also finished with five goals and four others also scored multiple goals.

Haralabidis, a four-time All-American at USC, finished her college career in 2017 as the school’s No. 2 all-time scorer with 269 goals.

Bruin of the day

U.S. softball player Delaney Spaulding
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

The U.S. softball team has shut out its first three opponents thanks to dominant pitching and plays like the one made by shortstop Delaney Spaulding to end the sixth inning against Mexico.

Spaulding ranged deep into the hole to snag a hard grounder that had bounced past third baseman Kelsey Stewart, firing a perfect throw to first for an out that sparked an extended celebration among her teammates.


The U.S. went on to finish off the 2-0 victory to improve to 3-0 in the opening round. Spaulding completed her UCLA career in 2017 as an All-Pac-12 Conference first-team selection who played in three Women’s College World Series.

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Women’s soccer

Rose Lavelle, left, celebrates after scoring a goal for the U.S. against New Zealand.
Rose Lavelle, left, celebrates after scoring a goal for the U.S. against New Zealand on Saturday at the Tokyo Olympics.
(Martin Mejia / Associated Press)

Kevin Baxter on the U.S. Women’s National Team: Vlatko Andonovski called his team’s Olympics-opening loss to Sweden “a wake-up call.” Well, the U.S. women’s soccer team is wide-eyed and fully caffeinated now.

Its gold-medal hopes are back on track too, with first-half goals from Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan sparking a 6-1 win over New Zealand on Saturday.

The Americans’ other goals came from Christen Press and Alex Morgan in the final 10 minutes and on an a pair of own goals.

Even then the score wasn’t indicative of how thoroughly the U.S. dominated.

Men’s basketball

USA's Olympic basketball team player Kevin Durant attends a training session.
Kevin Durant shoots during a Team USA practice session.
(Aris Messinis / AFP via Getty Images)

Dan Woike on the U.S. men’s basketball team: They lost twice in exhibitions in the build-up to the Olympics. One starter had to withdraw because of COVID-19 protocols. And numerous others passed on the event because of injury or indifference.


Magic, Michael and Larry this is not.

But with a quarter of his team still relative strangers to the ones who have been training in Tokyo, U.S. men’s basketball coach Gregg Popovich resisted the urge to send them orientation materials, instead asking NBA Finals participants Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday to get some sleep on their flight to Japan.

Well, maybe this is a dream team after all.

One of the safest Olympic bets doesn’t seem so safe this time. The U.S. men’s team is slowly inching toward completion in the moments before Sunday’s tournament opener against France, the team that knocked them out of medal contention at the 2019 world championships.


Naohisa Takato of Japan, left, and Yang Yung-wei of Taiwan.
Japan’s Naohisa Takato, left, and Yung Wei Yang of Taiwan compete during their men’s 132-pound judo gold medal match on Saturday.
(Vincent Thian / Associated Press)

Gary Klein on judo: The Tokyo Games were delayed a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they have been mired in controversy in Japan.

But Japan’s Naohisa Takato no doubt lifted spirits across the country on Saturday by winning the gold medal in the men’s judo extra-lightweight division (132 pounds) at the historic Nippon Budokan. It marked the first gold medal won by a Japanese athlete in these Games.

Funa Tonaki of Japan won the silver medal in the women’s extra-lightweight division (106 pounds). Distria Krasniqi of Kosovo defeated Tonaki to win the gold medal.

Takato, the bronze medal winner in the 2016 Rio Games, defeated Taiwan’s Yung Wei Yang in the golden score with a match-deciding penalty for a victory that was achieved in the same building where judo was introduced as an Olympic sport in 1964.

TV schedule for Saturday and Sunday

Song Sera of South Korea, right, and Ana Maria Popescu of Romania compete.
Song Sera of South Korea, right, and Ana Maria Popescu of Romania compete in the women’s individual fencing at the Olympics on Saturday.
(Andrew Medichini / Associated Press)

Here’s a rundown of Olympic events on television Saturday and Sunday. All times PDT; includes both live and delayed or replayed broadcasts.


Multiple sports — 11 p.m. Friday-6:50 a.m., USA

  • Men’s cycling — road race
  • Women’s beach volleyball — qualifying round
  • Rowing — qualifying heats and repechages
  • Swimming — qualifying heats
  • Men’s beach volleyball — qualifying round
  • 3-on-3 basketball — Pool play

Multiple sports — 11 p.m. (Friday)-4:30 a.m., NBCSN

  • Women’s water polo: U.S. vs. Japan (live)
  • Softball: U.S. vs. Mexico (live)
  • Archery — Mixed team final (live)
  • 3-on-3 basketball — Pool play
  • Women’s soccer — Sweden vs. Australia (live)
  • Men’s handball — France vs. Argentina (live)

Multiple sports — 3 a.m.-8 a.m., Peacock

  • Men’s gymnastics — Qualifying (live)
  • Men’s volleyball — U.S. vs. France (live)

Multiple sports — 6:30 a.m.-5 p.m., NBCSN

  • Women’s soccer — Netherlands vs. Brazil
  • Table tennis — Elimination round
  • Equestrian — Dressage
  • Badminton — Qualifying round
  • Men’s handball — Denmark vs. Japan
  • Beach volleyball — Qualifying round
  • Men’s volleyball — U.S. vs. France

Multiple sports — 7 a.m.-5 p.m., USA

  • Women’s water polo — China vs. Russian Olympic Committee
  • Beach Volleyball — qualifying round
  • Men’s Handball — Germany vs. Spain
  • Fencing — Men’s sabre and women’s epee finals
  • Shooting — Women’s air rifle
  • Weightlifting — Women’s final
  • Boxing — Elimination rounds
  • Judo — Finals
  • Taekwondo — Finals
  • Table Tennis — Elimination round
  • Women’s soccer — U.S. vs. New Zealand
  • Multiple sports — 5 p.m.-11 p.m., USA
  • Skateboarding — Men’s Street Qualifying (live)
  • 3-on-3 basketball (live)
  • Archery — Women’s team elimination round
  • Skateboarding — Men’s street final (live)
  • Cycling — Women’s road race (live)

Multiple sports — 7:45 a.m.-11:45 a.m., NBC

  • 3-on-3 basketball — U.S. vs. France
  • Women’s water polo — U.S. vs. Japan
  • Rowing — qualifying heats
  • Archery — mixed team final
  • Cycling — men’s road race

Multiple sports — 11:45 a.m.-3 p.m., NBC

  • Swimming — qualifying heats
  • Men’s beach volleyball — qualifying round
  • Men’s gymnastics — team competition

Multiple sports — 5 p.m.-8:30 p.m., NBC

  • Women’s beach volleyball — qualifying round
  • Men’s gymnastics — team competition
  • Swimming final — men’s 400 IM, men’s 400 freestyle, women’s 400m IM, women’s 4x100 freestyle relay
  • Skateboarding — men’s street qualifying

Multiple sports — 5 p.m.-10 p.m., CNBC

  • 3-on-3 basketball — U.S. in qualifying round
  • Softball — U.S. vs. Australia (live)
  • Rowing — Qualifying heats
  • Table Tennis — Mixed doubles quarterfinal

Multiple sports — 5 p.m.-11 p.m., NBCSN

  • Women’s water polo — U.S. vs. Japan
  • Beach volleyball — Men’s qualifying round
  • Men’s volleyball — U.S. vs. France
  • Softball — U.S. vs. Australia

Multiple sports — 8:30 p.m.-11 p.m., NBC

  • Skateboarding — Men’s street final
  • Women’s volleyball — U.S. vs. Argentina

Men’s skateboarding

Street final, 8:30 p.m., NBC (live)

Women’s soccer

U.S. vs. New Zealand, 4:30 a.m. (live)


First round men’s singles, women’s singles, doubles (live), 11 p.m. Friday; Olympic Channel

Men’s volleyball


U.S. vs. France, 6 a.m., NBC (live)

Men’s water polo

U.S. vs. Japan, 10 p.m., CNBC


Multiple sports — 11 p.m. (Saturday)-1 a.m., CNBC

  • Men’s water polo — U.S. men vs. Japan (live)
  • Diving — Women’s synchronized springboard final (live)
  • Archery — Women’s team final (live)

Multiple sports — 11 p.m. (Saturday)-5:20 a.m., USA

  • Cycling — Women’s road race (Live)
  • 3-on-3 basketball — U.S. women vs. Romania (live)
  • Beach Volleyball — Men’s qualifying round
  • Swimming — Qualifying heats (live)

Multiple sports — 3 a.m.-8 a.m., Peacock

  • Women’s gymnastics qualifying (live)
  • Men’s basketball — U.S. vs. France (live)

Multiple sports — 5 a.m.-9:15 a.m., NBC

  • Swimming — Qualifying heats (live)
  • 3-on-3 basketball — U.S. women vs. Russian Olympic Committee (live)
  • Beach volleyball — Men’s qualifying round (live)
  • Men’s water polo — U.S. vs. Japan
  • Rowing — Qualifying heats and repechages
  • Cycling — Women’s road race

Multiple sports — 5:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., USA

  • Archery — Women’s team final
  • Canoe slalom — Qualifying
  • Men’s soccer — Brazil vs. Ivory Coast
  • Women’s handball — Spain vs. Sweden
  • Fencing — Women’s foil & Men’s epee finals
  • Judo — Finals
  • Taekwondo — Finals
  • Boxing — Elimination rounds
  • Weightlifting — Men’s Finals
  • Surfing — Day 1 report

Multiple sports — 6 a.m.-10:30 a.m., NBCSN

  • Men’s water polo — Serbia vs. Spain
  • Women’s handball — Norway vs. Korea
  • Table tennis – Elimination rounds
  • Badminton – Qualifying rounds

Multiple sports — 9:15 a.m.-3 p.m., NBC

  • Canoe Slalom — Qualifying
  • Skateboarding — Men’s Street Final
  • Surfing — Day 1 report
  • Swimming — Qualifying heats
  • Diving — Women’s synchronized springboard final
  • Men’s basketball – U.S. vs. France
  • Multiple sports — 4 p.m.-6:30 p.m., NBC
  • Triathlon — Men’s final (live)
  • Gymnastics — Women’s team competition

Multiple sports — 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m., NBCSN

  • Equestrian — Dressage
  • Table tennis — Elimination rounds
  • Men’s Soccer — Japan vs. Mexico
  • Women’s volleyball — U.S. vs. Argentina

Multiple sports — 2:30 p.m.-6 p.m., USA

  • Triathlon — Men’s final (live)
  • Beach Volleyball — Women’s tournament (live)

Multiple sports — 5 p.m.-11 p.m., CNBC

  • Skateboarding — Women’s street final (live)
  • Rugby — Men’s qualifying round (live)
  • Archery — Men’s team elimination round
  • Skateboarding — Women’s street final (live)
  • Fencing — Men’s individual foil round of 32
  • Men’s Basketball — Argentina vs. Slovenia (live)

Multiple sports — 5 p.m.-11 p.m., NBCSN

  • Men’s water polo — U.S. vs. Japan
  • Women’s beach volleyball — Qualifying round
  • Women’s volleyball — U.S. vs. Argentina
  • Men’s basketball – U.S. vs. France

Multiple sports — 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., NBC

  • Swimming — Finals for women’s `100-meter butterfly, men’s 100-meter breaststroke, women’s 400-meter freestyle, men’s 4X100 freestyle relay (live)
  • Skateboarding — Women’s street qualifying

Multiple sports — 8 p.m.-11 p.m., USA

  • 3-on-3 basketball: Tournament play (live)
  • Beach volleyball — Women’s qualifying round (live)
  • Rowing — Semifinals
  • Women’s Water Polo – U.S. vs. China (live)

Multiple sports — 8:30 p.m.-9:05 p.m., NBC

  • Skateboarding — Women’s Street Final (live)
  • Multiple sports — 9:05 p.m.-11 p.m.
  • Skateboarding — Women’s street final (live)
  • Volleyball — U.S. men vs. Russian Olympic Committee

Men’s soccer

  • Brazil vs. Ivory Coast, 1:30 a.m., NBCSN (live)
  • Australia vs. Spain, 3:30 a.m., NBCSN (live)
  • Japan vs. Mexico, 5:30 a.m., NBCSN (live)



U.S. vs. Japan, 6 p.m., USA (live)


First round men’s and women’s singles; men’s and women’s doubles, 11 p.m. (Saturday)-1 p.m., Olympic channel

Second round men’s and women’s singles; men’s and women’s doubles, 7 p.m.-11 p.m.

Saturday’s medal winners

South Korea's An San, left, and Je Deok Kim hold up medals and bunches of flowers
South Korea’s An San, left, and Kim Je Deok celebrate on the podium after winning gold in the archery mixed team competition Saturday.
(Alessandra Tarantino / Associated Press)

A quick rundown of the athletes who won medals on the first full day of competition at the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

Archery — Mixed team
🥇 Gold — South Korea: An San, Kim Je Deok
🥈 Silver — Netherlands: Gabriela Schloesser, Steve Wijler
🥉 Bronze — Mexico: Luis Alvarez, Alejandra Valencia

Cycling — Men’s road race
🥇 Gold — Richard Carapaz (Ecuador)
🥈 Silver — Wout van Aert (Belgium)
🥉 Bronze — Tadej Podacar (Slovenia)

Fencing — Men’s sabre individual
🥇 Gold — Aron Szilagyi (Hungary)
🥈 Silver — Luigi Samele (Italy)
🥉 Bronze — Kim Junghwan (South Korea)

Judo — Men’s -60 kg
🥇 Gold — Naohisa Takato (Japan)
🥈 Silver — Yung Wei Yang (Taiwan)
🥉 Bronze — Luka Mkheidze (France), Yeldos Smetov (Kazakhstan)

Judo — Women’s -48 kg
🥇 Gold — Distria Krasniqi (Kosovo)
🥈 Silver — Funa Tonaki (Japan)
🥉 Bronze — Urantsetseg Munkhbat (Mongolia), Daria Bilodid (Ukraine)

Shooting — Men’s 10-meter air pistol
🥇 Gold — Javad Foroughi (Iran)
🥈 Silver — Damir Mikec (Serbia)
🥉 Bronze — Wei Pang (China)

Shooting — Women’s 10-meter air rifle
🥇 Gold — Qian Yang (China)
🥈 Silver — Anastasiia Galashina (ROC)
🥉 Bronze — Nina Christensen (Switzerland)

Taekwondo — Men’s -58 kg
🥇 Gold — Vito Dell’Aquila (Italy)
🥈 Silver —Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi (Tunisia)
🥉 Bronze — Jang Jun (South Korea), Mikhail Artamonov, ROC

Taekwondo — Women’s -49 kg
🥇 Gold — Panipak Wongpattanakit (Thailand)
🥈 Silver — Adriana Cerezo Iglesias (Spain)
🥉 Bronze — Abishag Semberg (Israel), Tijana Bogdanovic (Serbia)

Weightlifting — Women’s 49 kg (108 pounds)
🥇 Gold — Zhihui Hou (China)
🥈 Silver — Chanu Saikhom Foroughi (India)
🥉 Bronze — Windy Cantika Aisah (Indonesia)

And finally

Southern California’s own Christen Press scored her first Olympic goal in Saturday’s win over New Zealand. Check it out here.

Until next time...

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