MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin has told the country’s athletes to forget about doping scandals when they compete at the Pyeongchang Olympics. As punishment for what it deemed a doping scheme during the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the International Olympic Committee has invited 169 Russians to compete under a neutral flag using the name “Olympic Athletes from Russia.” “I wish you not to think about anything which has recently accompanied your preparation for these Olympics,”" Putin told a gathering of athletes at his presidential residence outside Moscow. He added that he hopes they “focus on sporting competition, and that you know that following you, as usual, are hundreds of thousands, millions, of fans who love you and hope you win.” While the athletes wore their IOC-approved “neutral” uniforms without the Russian flag — gray for men, red for women — the event was full of patriotic gestures. Hockey stars Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk stepped up to present Putin with a Russian jersey bearing his name and players’ signatures along with the slogan “Russia in my heart.” Several athletes wore their "neutral" jackets open to show a Russian-flag shirt underneath. Russian athletes won’t be allowed to display the flag in Pyeongchang, or to celebrate with Russian flags given by fans. If they win, the Olympic anthem will be played. Meanwhile, the verdicts on appeals from 39 Russians who were given lifetime Olympic bans for doping violations at Sochi will be announced today, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said.
Kobe Bryant: NBA All-Star crowd pays tribute to fallen basketball icon
- Bryant died along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven victims in a helicopter crash on January 26
- NBA’s All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award has been permanently named for Lakers star
CHICAGO: Team LeBron beat Team Giannis by two points at the 69th NBA All-Star game on Sunday at a packed United Center that fell silent for eight seconds before tip-off as about 21,000 fans joined hands to pay their respects to global sports icon Kobe Bryant.
The silence was broken by a string of thunderous “Kobe, Kobe, Kobe,” chants that rocked the stadium as the crowd honored Bryant, who wore the No. 8 and No. 24 during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers that was highlighted by five National Basketball Association championships.
The stirring pre-game tribute began with Laker great Magic Johnson rousing the crowd and paying homage to Bryant, killed along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven victims in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Jan. 26.
“We will never see another basketball player quite like Kobe,” Johnson said, highlighting his work with the Los Angeles community along with the love he had for his family. “This is a tough time for the whole NBA family.”
Johnson also paid tribute to former NBA Commissioner David Stern, who oversaw explosive growth in the popularity of the game during his 30-year tenure. Stern died on Jan. 1.
Before tip-off, the singer and actor Jennifer Hudson, who is a Chicago native, sang with a montage of photos of Bryant and his daughter in the background.
The game was a culmination of a weekend filled with tributes to the former Los Angeles Lakers star who was an 18-time All-Star and won the All-Star game’s MVP award four times.
On Friday, Bryant, who is fourth all-time in league scoring, was named a finalist to the Basketball Hall of Fame. On Saturday, the league’s commissioner, Adam Silver, announced that the league’s All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award has been permanently named for Bryant.
Bryant made his NBA All-Star Game debut in 1998 at age 19 – the youngest player to ever play in an All-Star Game. His 18 All-Star selections are the second-most in NBA history, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, at 19.
Players in Sunday’s All-Star game wore No. 2 and No. 24 on their jerseys to honor Kobe and Gianna Bryant, while the game’s format paid homage to Bryant.
The team with the most points after three quarters needed to score 24 points to win, while the trailing team had to score 24 plus the number of points it was down.
Team Giannis held a nine-point lead over Team LeBron after three quarters, but the LeBron James-led side had the last laugh, outscoring Team Giannis 33-22 in the final period to clinch a 157-155 victory.
Team Giannis was headed by Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Team LeBron’s Kawhi Leonard was named All-Star MVP after scoring 30 points, including eight three-pointers.
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