Olympic updates: 45 new positive COVID cases reported

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A total of 45 new positive tests for COVID-19 have been announced by the organizers of the Beijing Olympics.

Athletes and officials account for 25 of the cases, including 20 detected in people arriving at Beijing airport and five others during daily PCR tests carried out by everyone at the games.

The other 20 cases involved people working at the games, including media, including six at the airport and 14 inside the Olympic bubbles.

Organizing committee official Huang Chun said the numbers were “within our expectations”.

A drop in cases is expected in the coming days as fewer people arrive for the games and those inside the bubbles have already returned several days of testing negative.

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The snow replica of the Great Wall built on the Olympic slopestyle course to block the strong wind did little to help.

There were still gusts during the women’s Olympic qualifying round on a freezing day in the mountains above Beijing.

The swirling wind made it difficult to assess rails and jumps along the course.

New Zealand surfer Zoi Sadowski Synnott sailed in extreme conditions and earned the best score of 86.75. Synnott is perhaps the biggest challenger to reigning two-time Olympic gold medalist Jamie Anderson of the United States.

Anderson finished fifth in qualifying. The top 12 qualified for Sunday’s final.

Anderson, 31, said the Great Wall barrier was helpful, but joked “they need a bigger wall”.

Course designers built a block-by-block cut-out structure at the top of the slopestyle course in recognition of China’s iconic landmark and to provide protection from the wind.

The temperature was 5 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 15 Celsius) and felt like minus 12 (minus 24 Celsius) during the competition.

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The International Olympic Committee has said an Olympic security guard was “overzealous” in manhandling a journalist broadcasting live on Dutch television ahead of the opening ceremony.

Asked about the incident, Beijing Olympics spokeswoman Yan Jiarong said “we invite all international media” to report on the games and will protect their legal rights.

Sjoerd den Daas was speaking to the camera on Friday evening when a security official pushed him away. He was able to complete his report later.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said “it was an unfortunate circumstance” and Olympic officials contacted broadcaster NOS.

NOS is the state broadcaster of the Netherlands and an official rights holder of the Olympic Games. Den Daas is his correspondent in China.

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Beijing Olympics organizers and the International Olympic Committee have responded to questions about why an athlete from China’s Uyghur community was chosen to help deliver the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games.

Dinigeer Yilamujiang, a cross-country skier, is from Xinjiang province, where Western governments and human rights groups say the government in Beijing has oppressed members of the Uyghur Muslim minority on a large scale.

Yilamujiang’s selection for the high-level duty was seen by some as a provocation.

Asked about the choice, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said “we don’t discriminate against people based on their background” and that she had the right to participate as a competitor.

The 20-year-old cross-country skier was among seven current and former Chinese athletes chosen as the final torchbearers to cap off the ceremony.

Organizing committee official Chang Yu said the IOC gave final approval this week to choose athletes by age to represent each decade. The idea was to respect the Chinese tradition of transmitting heritage between generations.

China denies allegations of human rights abuses in a crackdown on the Uighur community that the US government and others have called genocide. This issue and others have led to diplomatic boycotts of the games by the United States and other countries.

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Chinese leader Xi Jinping will meet his Egyptian and Serbian counterparts on the sidelines of the Beijing Winter Olympics, state broadcaster CCTV said.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Serbian Aleksandar Vucic are among about a dozen world leaders who attended the opening ceremony on Friday evening.

Xi met Russian President Vladimir Putin before the opening.

Egypt’s ties with China have grown stronger, especially during the pandemic. There are signs that their worldviews are increasingly aligning, as el-Sisi seeks to distance himself from Western leaders who worry about his human rights record.

Vucic has close ties with China, which has become one of the main investors in Serbia. He called Xi his “brother” at the start of the pandemic for supplying Serbia with ventilators and vaccines. Opposition officials have warned of a lack of transparency in Vucic’s deals with China, including large loans for the construction of roads, highways and factories.

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The third and final men’s alpine skiing training session at the Beijing Games has been canceled due to high winds.

Organizers say they made the decision “in the best interest of safety”.

The start of the second training session had to be delayed on Friday because of the wind. Organizers said on Saturday there was no window in the forecast that would allow them to push back the third session rather than cancel it.

Only three skiers started, including one of the favourites, the Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde.

The world’s best skiers didn’t see the Rock course up close until Thursday for the first time, as test events have been canceled for the past two years amid the pandemic.

The men’s downhill opens the alpine competition on Sunday.

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Ukrainian figure skater Ivan Shmuratko cleared COVID-19 protocols by returning two negative tests on consecutive days. This allows him to start preparing for the men’s individual competition which begins on Tuesday.

It was a day too late for his team, however. The Ukrainians scored no points for the men’s discipline in the team competition on Friday because Shmuratko was still following protocols, excluding them from the medal chase.

Team competition resumes Sunday with the women’s short program. Then the top five nations will move on to the free skate, which begins with the men later in the day. The event wraps up with the women’s, pairs and free dance skates on Monday.

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China’s National Health Commission said new nationwide COVID-19 cases in China have fallen to single digits, easing fears of a new outbreak that could disrupt the Winter Olympics for now.

The commission says nine cases were reported in 24 hours, including just one in Beijing.

The Beijing case was in the western district of Fengtai, far from the Olympic venues which were sealed in a bubble with gates and fences to prevent contact between athletes, officials and other participants inside and the General public.

Chinese officials credit a strict “zero tolerance” policy for keeping case numbers down through lockdowns and mass testing, even when only a small number of cases are reported.

The commission on Saturday reported 18 more cases among people who had traveled from overseas, as well as 60 imported asymptomatic cases.

As of Thursday, a total of 308 people associated with the Olympics had tested positive since January 23, including athletes, officials and workers at the Games. Nearly 12,000 people arrived in Beijing from outside China for the Olympics.

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Canadian hockey forward Melodie Daoust will not play against Finland at the Olympics and is listed on a daily basis with an upper body injury.

Director of hockey operations Gina Kingsbury said Daoust is expected to return during the tournament.

The three-time Olympian suffered the injury in the second half of Canada’s 12-1 win over Switzerland in a Group A first-round preliminary game on Thursday. Daoust played on a line with Natalie Spooner and young star Sarah Fillier, who had four goals and three assists against Switzerland.

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Sofia Goggia is back on the snow and preparing to fly to China to defend her Olympic downhill title two weeks after crashing and injuring her left knee and leg.

Goggia posted a video on Facebook showing her wearing the Italy Olympic team jacket and said, “Today I got back on skis and it was awesome.”

She adds: “So much work during these two weeks, so many wounds to heal, so much effort… but so much desire to get there.

Goggia sprained his left knee, partially tore a cruciate ligament and has a “minor fracture” of the fibula bone in his leg. She also suffered tendon injuries after the fall during a World Cup super-G in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

Goggia has won the last eight World Cup downhills she has completed.

The Italian says she was ‘always able to focus on the goal and I never considered it lost’. She adds that she will be flying to China “soon” and that once there she will “put everything in place lap after lap as always”.

Goggia could play the super-G next Friday. The women’s downhill is scheduled for February 15.

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More AP Winter Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/winter-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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