The Sports Report Olympics Edition: Vending machines on every corner

Vending machines in Tokyo.
(Ben Bolch / Los Angeles Times)

It’s a rare sight, trash sullying the pristine Tokyo cityscape — all the litter is apparently piled inside the hotel rooms of visiting journalists — but one thing is ubiquitous here.

The vending machine.

Good morning, my name is Ben Bolch, curator of today’s Olympics newsletter, and I’ve got the lowdown on Japan’s favorite automated pastime. But first, let’s get to the major Olympic news:

Olympic medal count

U.S. Olympic athlete tracker

Latest Olympics news and results

Saturday and Sunday TV schedules

A morning stroll around the Nishitetsu Inn, situated in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo, reveals a smorgasbord of drink options readily available without ducking into a restaurant or one of the 7-Elevens stationed on almost every block.


There was soda, tea, iced coffee, juice, water, milk, energy drinks and other indecipherable liquid refreshment all for the taking, provided one plunked a hundred or so yen into the vending machines that swarmed the place like cicadas.

A vending machine on a street
A vending machine on a street in Tokyo.
(Ben Bolch / Los Angeles Times)

I counted 19 vending machines within half a city block — or maybe it was a block, given that alleyways here can be crowded thoroughfares—around my hotel. A coworker later suggested that I make one purchase from every machine, but I wanted to be able to button my ever-tightening pants before heading out on my next assignment.

I’ll admit, though, that some of the options were enticing. All were cheap. Nothing exceeded 210 yen, or roughly $2 given the current exchange rate. I didn’t look closely at the cigarette-dispensing machine because I had no interest.

So many machines in such a small area raises so many questions. Namely, why? Why is there a need for such an oversaturation of machines? How much product is moved? How much money is generated? Also, what happens when it rains? While some of the machines reside under an overhang, others are completely unprotected. Electric shock, anyone?

Most of these questions were answered by Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bishop as part of his exhaustive review of this country’s fascination with automated dispensing. Bishop revealed the country contains 5.5 million vending machines — more than the entire European Union—while generating more than $60 billion annually. Convenience is a major factor, yes, in addition to value and variety.

These things don’t just peddle drinks, as Bishop noted. Japanese delicacies, souvenirs, electronics, knickknacks and knickers — allegedly used — among other mentionables and unmentionables can all be had by the push of a button.

A handful of vending machines inside the Olympics media center hawk official Summer Games souvenirs including sunglasses, coffee mugs, tote bags and dolls bearing the images of super cute Miraitowa and Someity, the Olympic and Paralympic mascots, respectively. The machines keep cranky journalists from waiting in long lines to buy those same items inside the adjacent souvenir shop, though lines can also form in front of the machines themselves.

Any doubts about the popularity of these things were quashed as I approached my second set of machines on my morning stroll. As I contemplated the kaleidoscope of colors and foreign symbols, a smiling apple on one bottle alleviating the need for translation, a truck pulled up behind me and a man got out.

He worked for Asahi, and he was there to restock the machines.

California’s gold rush

Given that it’s easily the most populous state, California leading the medal count in the Summer Olympics going back their 1896 debut in Athens is no surprise.

According to BeenVerified, athletes born in California had snagged 954 medals before the Tokyo Olympics, including 467 gold, 269 silver and 218 bronze. New York ranked second with 436 medals and Pennsylvania was third with 267. North Dakota is the only state never to produce a gold medal winner among its natives.

When it comes to maximizing its population at the Summer Games, one of the smaller states has earned a spot atop the podium. Hawaii has produced 10.7 Olympians per 100,000 residents in the 125 years since the first Summer Games, edging California (7.5), Massachusetts (6.2) and New Jersey (5.6).

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U.S. swimmer Caeleb Dressel celebrates with Hungary’s Kristof Milak.
U.S. swimmer Caeleb Dressel celebrates with Hungary’s Kristof Milak after setting a world record and winning gold in the men’s 100-meter butterfly Saturday at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
(Gary Ambrose / For the Times)

Nathan Fenno on swimming: Each gold medal at the Summer Games weighs a little over a pound, but the burden the discs made from recycled electronics carry can be much greater.

When two of the world’s most dominant swimmers, Caeleb Dressel and Katie Ledecky, grabbed hold of the starting blocks for their signature events Saturday, the expectation that rippled through the few hundred whistling, flag-waving athletes scattered around the Tokyo Aquatics Centre wasn’t just for them to win gold, but to deliver something special.

They provided that during a 25-minute stretch that made history.

Dressel broke his world record to win the 100-meter butterfly during a busy morning, then Ledecky followed minutes later with a victory in the 800 freestyle for the third consecutive Olympics.


U.S. gymnast Simone Biles warms up before the women's team final.
U.S. gymnast Simone Biles.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

Helene Elliott on gymnastics: Simone Biles, who was scratched from the women’s team competition and withdrew from the all-around event final after losing her ability to sense where she is in the air, has withdrawn from the event finals in the vault and uneven bars, which will be contested Sunday.

USA Gymnastics, the sport’s governing body in the United States, said in a statement released Saturday that Biles made the decision to withdraw from the vault and uneven bars finals “after further consultation with medical staff.”

MyKayla Skinner will replace Biles and will join Jade Carey in the vault final. Skinner had the fourth-best vault score in qualifying but didn’t reach the finally automatically because of a rule that limits each country to a maximum of two representatives in any event final. The U.S. will not be granted a replacement for Biles on the uneven bars because no other U.S. woman scored high enough to earn a replacement spot.


Kevin Baxter on Mexico soccer: It took Mexico six tries to reach the semifinals of an Olympic soccer tournament. Now it can’t seem to stay away.

With Saturday’s 6-3 rout of South Korea in Yokohama, El Tri is back in the final four for the second time in nine years, riding two goals from Henry Martin and two from Sebastián Córdova to a date with Brazil on Tuesday in Kashima, about 70 miles east of Tokyo, where an Olympic medal will be on the line.

Brazil beat Egypt 1-0 in its quarterfinal.

Mexico’s only other trip to the Olympic semifinals, in 2012, ended on the top step of the medal stand. But the team has been far more dominant in this tournament, scoring three or more goals in three of its five games. And each game has produced a different star.

Track and field

Jamaica's Elaine Thompson-Herah celebrates after winning the women's 100-meter final at the Tokyo Games on Saturday.
(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

From the Associated Press: Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica broke Florence Griffith Joyner’s 33-year-old Olympic record in the women’s 100 meters.

She crossed the line in 10.61 seconds to defend her title and lead a Jamaican sweep of the medals, besting Joyner’s mark of 10.62 at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Thompson-Herah beat rival Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce by .13 seconds. Shericka Jackson won bronze. This had been shaping up as a fast race for some time. Fraser-Pryce ran the fourth-fastest time in history at 10.63 seconds in June.


Poland was a surprise winner in the Olympic debut of the 1,600-meter mixed relay event, holding off a late charge from an American team that didn’t have Allyson Felix in the lineup.

The Dominican Republic finished with the silver medal and the Americans took bronze. There was some thought Felix might be on the track for the relay with a chance to win her record 10th Olympic medal. It will have to wait.

The American squad was made up of Trevor Stewart, Kendall Ellis, Kaylin Whitney and Vernon Norwood. They were .01 seconds behind the Dominicans.


Maria Guadalupe Gonzalez of Mexico and Hong Liu of China compete in the women’s 20-kilometer walk final.
Maria Guadalupe Gonzalez of Mexico and Hong Liu of China compete in the women’s 20-kilometer walk final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
(Julian Finney / Getty Images)

Kevin Baxter on speedwalking: Legend says the Aztecs wandered for more than a century before establishing Tenochtitlán, the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas, on the site of what is now Mexico City. It was the journey that gave birth to the Aztec empire and built the foundation for modern Mexico.

Seven centuries later the descendants of those nomadic warriors still use walking as a way to project power. Only now it happens in the Olympic sport of racewalking, an odd mix of Monty Python’s “Ministry of Silly Walks” and ultramarathoning that Mexico has dominated for nearly half a century.

Mexico has won 10 gold medals since the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, and three have come in racewalking. Mexican racewalkers also have captured five silver and two bronze medals; no country has won more in the sport over that time.

Men’s basketball

Dan Woike on U.S. men’s basketball: The teams of two, dressed identically down to the Asics sneakers, pushed yellow dust mops up and down the court, mirroring one another. After finishing their trips around the floor, they pause under the basket and, in totally synchronicity, bow.

Every timeout, every halftime of the tournament looks exactly the same.

Now this is the kind of consistency the American men’s basketball team would love to have.

Instead, they’ll have to settle for the highs, the stretches where the best players in the world play like the best team in the world. Led by Kevin Durant, they had enough of those moments Saturday beating the Czech Republic 119-84 and assuring themselves a spot in the quarterfinals.

TV schedule for Saturday and Sunday


Multiple sports — 11 p.m. (Friday)-1:30 a.m., USA

  • Diving — Women’s springboard semifinal (live)
  • Women’s handball — Russian Olympic Committee vs. France

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

  • Gymnastics — Men’s trampoline final (live)
  • Shooting — Mixed trap final
  • Archery — Men’s individual final (live)


11 p.m. (Friday)-Saturday 4 a.m., Olympic Channel

  • Women’s singles gold medal match
  • Women’s singles bronze medal match
  • Men’s singles bronze medal match
  • Women’s doubles bronze medal match
  • Mixed doubles bronze medal match

8-11 p.m., Olympic Channel

  • Men’s singles final
  • Women’s doubles final
  • Mixed doubles final

Men’s volleyball

  • U.S. vs. Brazil, 11 p.m. (Friday), NBCSN


  • Women’s final and bronze medal matches, 1:30 a.m., USA (live)


  • Men’s Quarterfinals (TBD), 1 a.m., NBCSN (live)
  • Men’s quarterfinals (TBD), 1:30 a.m., USA (live)
  • Men’s quarterfinals (TBD), 4 a.m., USA (live)

Track and field

Multiple events — 3-8 a.m., Peacock (live)

  • Men’s long jump qualifying round
  • Women’s 100 semifinals
  • Men’s 100 round 1
  • Men’s discus throw final
  • Women’s 800 semifinals
  • Mixed 400 relay final
  • Women’s 100 final


  • U.S. vs. South Korea, 3 a.m. (live)


  • Men’s final round — 3:30 a.m., Golf Channel (live)

Multiple sports — 5 a.m.-3 p.m., NBC

  • Archery — Men’s final
  • Men’s water polo — U.S. vs. Hungary
  • Rugby — Women’s final
  • Cycling — BMX freestyle qualifying
  • Gymnastics — Men’s trampoline final
  • Tennis — Women’s singles final
  • Beach volleyball — Women’s qualifying round
  • Golf — Men’s third round report
  • Diving — Women’s springboard semifinal
  • Women’s Volleyball — U.S. vs. Russian Olympic Committee (11 a.m.)
  • Men’s Basketball — U.S. vs. Czech Republic (1 p.m.)

Women’s volleyball

  • China vs. Italy, 6 a.m., USA (live)

Multiple sports — 6 a.m.-12 p.m., NBCSN

  • Badminton — Men’s doubles final (live)
  • Women’s handball — Norway vs. Netherlands
  • Fencing — Women’s team sabre final
  • Beach volleyball — Lucky loser
  • Equestrian — Eventing, dressage

Multiple sports — 7:30 a.m.-11 p.m., USA

  • Men’s basketball — Australia vs. Germany
  • Women’s volleyball — Serbia vs. Brazil
  • Women’s rugby — Final and bronze medal matches
  • Judo — Team final
  • Boxing — Semifinals
  • Weightlifting — Finals
  • Men’s water polo — U.S. vs. Hungary
  • Men’s soccer — Quarterfinal (TBD)
  • Men’s water polo — Croatia vs. Serbia
  • Fencing — Men’s team foil quarterfinals
  • Women’s basketball — Canada vs. Spain
  • Fencing — Men’s team foil semifinals (live)
  • Track and field — Finals and qualifying rounds, 5:10 p.m. (live): Women’s shotput final; Men’s 400 qualifying round; Women’s steeplechase qualifying round

Men’s basketball

  • U.S. vs. Czech Republic, 10:45 a.m., NBCSN

Multiple sports — 5-9:05 p.m., NBC

  • Beach Volleyball – Women’s Elimination Round (live)
  • Track and Field — Qualifying rounds
  • Swimming — Finals (live): Men’s and Women’s 50 freestyle; Men’s 1,500 freestyle; Men’s and women’s 100 medley relays
  • Track & Field — Finals (live): Mixed 400 relay final; Women’s 100 final
  • Fencing — Men’s team foil quarterfinals
  • Multiple sports — 9:05-11 p.m., NBC
  • Beach Volleyball — Men’s elimination round (live)
  • Cycling — BMX freestyle finals
  • Men’s swimming — 1,500 freestyle final

Multiple sports — 12-6:45 p.m., NBCSN

  • Badminton — Women’s semifinal
  • Archery — Men’s individual final
  • Beach volleyball — Qualifying round and lucky loser
  • Tennis — Women’s final
  • Men’s soccer — quarterfinals (TBD)

Multiple sports — 6:45-8:45 p.m., NBCSN

  • Women’s volleyball – U.S. vs. Russian Olympic Committee

Men’s water polo

  • U.S. vs. Hungary, 8:45 p.m., NBCSN

Women’s rugby

Bronze medal and final matches, 9:45 p.m., NBCSN


NBC coverage

Men’s volleyball

  • U.S. vs. Argentina, 5:45 a.m., NBC

Multiple sports — 7:45 a.m.-3 p.m.

  • Fencing — Men’s Team Foil Final
  • Equestrian — Eventing, Cross Country
  • Tennis — Men’s Singles Final
  • Beach volleyball — Men’s Elimination Round
  • Golf — Men’s Final Round
  • Beach Volleyball — Women’s Elimination Round
  • Cycling — BMX Freestyle Finals
  • Gymnastics — Men’s Floor & Pommel Horse Finals

Multiple sports — 4-6:30 p.m.

  • Diving — Women’s Springboard Final
  • Track & Field — Semifinals: Men’s 100m; Women’s 100m Hurdles
  • Beach Volleyball — Women’s Elimination Round (LIVE)
  • Gymnastics — Women’s Vault Final

Track & Field

Semifinals and Finals, 6:30 p.m.

  • Men’s 100m Final
  • Women’s 100m Hurdle Final
  • Men’s Long Jump Final
  • Men’s 800m Semifinal
  • Men’s 400m Semifinal
  • Women’s 200m Round One

Multiple sports — 8 p.m.-9:05 p.m.

  • Women’s Uneven Bars Final, 8 p.m.
  • Canoe — Qualifying (LIVE)

Women’s volleyball

  • U.S. vs. Italy, 9:05 p.m., NBC

USA Network Coverage

Multiple sports — 11 p.m. (Saturday)—11 a.m.

  • Diving — Women’s Springboard Final (LIVE)
  • Men’s Volleyball — Brazil vs. France
  • Beach Volleyball — Elimination Round
  • Men’s Handball — Denmark vs. Sweden (LIVE)
  • Women’s Water Polo — Hungary vs. China
  • Women’s Water Polo — Netherlands vs. Canada

Men’s Basketball

  • Spain vs. Slovenia (LIVE), 1:20 a.m.

Multiple sports — 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

  • Men’s Handball — Germany vs. Brazil
  • Wrestling — Semifinals
  • Boxing —Semifinals
  • Weightlifting — Women’s Final
  • Tennis — Men’s Singles Final
  • Canoeing — Qualifying (live)

Track & Field — Finals and Qualifying Rounds, 5 p.m. (LIVE)

  • Women’s 100 Hurdles Final
  • Men’s Long Jump Final
  • Women’s 1500 Round One
  • Women’s 200 Round One

Women’s basketball

  • U.S. vs. France, 9:40 p.m. (live)

CNBC coverage

Multiple sports — 11 p.m. (Saturday)-2 a.m.

Badminton – Men’s Singles Semifinal

Men’s Handball – Norway vs. France (LIVE)

Multiple sports — 5 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

Fencing – Men’s Team Foil Final

Beach Volleyball – Men’s Elimination Round (LIVE)

Men’s Water Polo – Hungary vs. Italy

Field Hockey – Women’s Quarterfinal (LIVE)

Badminton – Women’s Doubles Bronze Medal & Final (LIVE)

Men’s water polo

U.S. vs. Greece (LIVE), 7:30 p.m.

NBCSN Coverage

Men’s basketball

  • U.S. vs. Czech Republic, 11 p.m. (Saturday)

Multiple sports — 12:30-11 a.m.

  • Men’s Soccer – Quarterfinal
  • Field Hockey – Men’s Quarterfinal
  • Weightlifting – Women’s Final (LIVE)
  • Fencing – Men’s Team Foil Final (LIVE)
  • Badminton – Women’s Singles Final (LIVE)
  • Table Tennis – Elimination Round
  • Badminton – Men’s Singles Semifinal

Multiple sports — 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

  • Equestrian – Eventing, Cross Country
  • Golf – Men’s Final Round
  • Men’s Handball – Denmark vs. Sweden
  • Badminton – Women’s Singles Final

Men’s Volleyball

  • U.S. vs. Argentina, 3 p.m.

Olympic Channel coverage

Tennis — 11 p.m. (Saturday)

  • Men’s Singles Final
  • Women’s Doubles Final
  • Mixed Doubles Final

Tennis — 4 a.m.

  • Men’s Singles Final
  • Women’s Doubles Final
  • Mixed Doubles Final

Wrestling — 4 p.m.

  • Qualifying Rounds & Semifinals
  • Greco Roman 60kg and 130 kg
  • Women’s Freestyle 76 kg

Wrestling — 7 p.m.

  • Qualifying Rounds & Semifinals (LIVE)
  • Greco Roman 60kg, 77 kg, 97 kg, and 130 kg
  • Women’s Freestyle 68kg and 76 kg

Golf Channel


  • Men’s Final Round, 8:30 a.m.


  • Gymnastics event finals 1 a.m. (live)
  • Men’s Floor Exercise
  • Women’s Vault
  • Men’s Pommel Horse
  • Women’s Uneven Bars

Track & Field (LIVE)

  • Men’s High Jump Final
  • Men’s 100m Semifinals
  • Women’s 100m Hurdles Semifinals
  • Women’s Triple Jump Final
  • Men’s 800m Semifinals
  • Men’s 400m Hurdles Semifinals
  • Men’s 100m Final

Until next time...

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