Late night swimming at Rio Olympics

The President of the Australian Olympic Committee John Coates says it’s time to accept late night swimming finals in Rio and get on with the job.


Coates was speaking to news media in Monaco on Saturday before the 127th Session of the International Olympic Committee.

“The Americans are happy to swim anytime so should we,” he said, “It is time to move on”.

The AOC had questioned the swimming finals starting at 10pm in Rio, but the IOC says the schedule will not be changed.

Swimming Australia also raised the issue with its international federation, FINA, but it is understood the Americans and the Canadians did not support the move.

To maximise recovery time for the athletes following the evening events in Rio the morning sessions will be moved into the early afternoon.

The IOC says the schedule strikes a balance which provides for the athletes and ensures that swimming is broadcast to a global audience.

The AOC says it will work with Swimming Australia to maximise a high performance environment for its swimmers and all of the team.

“We will have the appropriate mechanisms in place at Games’ time for the swimmers” Coates said.

“We need to be prepared to deal with the schedule. All athletes will compete under the same conditions, we need to work with Swimming Australia to enable our athletes to adapt”.

Earlier, before the AOC announcement, the swim team’s head coach Jacco Verhaeren described the late night sessions as “a lack of respect”.

Speaking to AFP at the FINA short-course championships in Doha, the Dutchman said the biggest problem would be with sleeping.

“I think the biggest concern is the life in the village because athletes will return to the village after swim down and maybe drug testing at 2am,” he said.

“They still need to have dinner because their whole time shifts. How to deal with that in an Olympic village where other sports (people) wake up in the morning and you are trying to go to bed, there is a disturbing factor for other sports as well.”

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Aussie coach slams late night Olympics

Australian swimming’s head coach Jacco Verhaeren has described the apparent decision to stage the finals of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro from 10pm, local time, as showing “a lack of respect”.


While there has been no formal announcement confirming this, neither has the International Olympic Committee (IOC) moved to dismiss reports of late-night starts.

Instead IOC spokesman Mark Adams said: “There was no formal decision on the schedule, but the schedule is one that has broad acceptance.

“The games are a global event that will be seen around the world and the schedule has to work around the world to give the best showcase for each sport,” he said, adding “the athletes are at the very centre of that.”

“The athletes are happy in the case of swimming. FINA are happy.”

Such an assertion, though, is directly contradicted by Verhaeren who has guided one of the world’s biggest swimming nations since January.

Dutchman Verhaeren has coached at the last five Games and guided freestyler Pieter van den Hoogenband to three titles at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics.

He also oversaw Dutch success in London in 2012 including Ranomi Kromowidjojo’s triple gold.

The Dutchman, therefore, has proven pedigree and he told AFP: “It’s simple. It’s a lack of respect.”

The 45-year-old also pointed to the repercussions: “We don’t know how it works in terms of performance, in terms of health and preparation.

“Clearly the choice is not made for performance reasons. There is only one reason and that is television and money and only American television and money and that to me is not really fair.

“I think the biggest concern is the life in the village because athletes return to the village after swim down and maybe drug testing at 2am.

“They still need to have dinner because their whole time shifts. How to deal with that in an Olympic village where other sports wake up in the morning and you are trying to go to bed, there is a disturbing factor for other sports as well.”

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Non-military hostage response: journalists

A journalists’ group has called on the United States to explore alternatives to military action in dealing with hostage-takings, after an American and a South African were killed in a failed rescue attempt in Yemen.


Luke Somers, an American photojournalist, and Pierre Korkie, a teacher, were killed early on Saturday in the unsuccessful rescue operation in Yemen’s southeastern Shabwa province.

Reporters Without Borders said tragic outcomes in hostage-takings by Islamic extremists have become more and more frequent, underscoring the growing dangers facing journalists.

“We again urge the US government, which has announced its intention to review its policy on hostages, to explore all alternatives to the military option and to make every effort to guarantee the safety of the civilians involved,” said Christophe Deloire, the secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders.

“This review must be conducted on the basis of consultation with former hostages, both US and foreign, with the families, if they so wish, and with the employers and NGOs concerned.”

The charity group Gift of the Givers said it had been negotiating to secure Korkie’s release and had expected him to go free as early as Saturday when the rescue operation intervened.

US President Barack Obama said he authorised the operation because of indications that Somers was in imminent danger.

In a video this week, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula threatened to execute Somers within 72 hours.

Somers, who was kidnapped in September 2013, was the third American journalist killed this year in hostage-takings by Islamic extremists.

Two US journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, American aid worker Peter Kassig and British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines were all beheaded in Syria by the Islamic State group.

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World’s largest white truffle sells for $74,000

Consider it a bargain: The world’s largest white truffle has sold at auction for $A73,609 ($US61,250) – far less than the cool $US1 million its owner reportedly had hoped for.


The White Alba’s Truffle weighed 1.89kg (4.16 pounds) when unearthed last week in the Umbrian region of Italy, making it by far the largest ever found.

Sotheby’s said it was purchased on Saturday by a gourmand from Taiwan, who had placed his winning bid by telephone.

Bidding started at $US50,000 for the record-breaking fungus.

It was owned by the Balestra Family of Sabatino Truffles, whose CEO told the New Haven Register newspaper this week that he hoped it would fetch seven figures.

“I told everybody I wanted a million dollars,” said Federico Balestra telling the newspaper that a Sabatino employee in Italy “was hunting truffles for us and found the truffle for us.”

Balestra added that the massive fungus – slightly smaller than an American football – was large enough “to feed a party for 300-400 truffle dinners.”

Long after the dinner plates are cleared away, the Balestra truffle was expected to enjoy immortality as an entry in next year’s edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.

News reports said this new record holder was about twice the size of the previous champion.

Nevertheless, the dethroned white truffle fetched far more when it was sold in 2010 – some $US417,200, according to Sotheby’s,

The auction house said the Balestra family plans to donate proceeds from the auction to a number of charitable organisations, including Citymeals-on-Wheels, a local group to feed the hungry, and the Children’s Glaucoma Foundation.

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Sick Tiger improves as Spieth sizzles

Australian Open winner Jordan Spieth continued his relentless charge at Tiger Woods’ invitational tournament in Florida, while the host battled through nausea and vomiting in a dramatic third round.


Spieth, fresh from his victory in Sydney last weekend, fired a bogey-free nine-under-par round at Isleworth to reach 20 under, extending his overnight lead to seven shots.

Fellow American Keegan Bradley and Swede Henrik Stensen were closest to Spieth at 13 under while Woods shot a three-under round but remained last in the 18-player event he hosts to raise money for his charity foundation.

Spieth was practically flawless on Saturday, opening with three straight birdies and capping his round with a 50-foot birdie putt to take total command of the tournament.

“Felt strong coming off last week,” he said.

“Job is not done this week, but I’m a believer in my own momentum.

“I’m going to go out tomorrow with a very similar strategy to today.

“If the putts go and the breaks go my way, hopefully shoot a round like today.

“If not, I’m still going to have to shoot under par to win this golf tournament.”

The 21-year-old said he had never been 20 under on any course through 54 holes, and he had never finished a tournament that many under par.

That gave him a target for Sunday when he goes after his second straight victory.

The tournament is Woods’ first competitive hit-out after a four-month layoff due to a back injury.

“It wasn’t easy … I fought hard,” Woods said.

Woods, who had not played competitively since the PGA Championship in August because of a back injury, vomited from the first hole onward, making six birdies and three bogeys on the day.

“I’ve been throwing up for hours,” Woods said, noting he has unable to keep down food or sleep well but was not in pain and never considered quitting.

“I wasn’t doing too good at the beginning but I thought I could hang in there,” Woods said.

“The fever just broke. As the round went on I was starting to feel better.”

Woods will enter the final round 20 strokes off the lead.

Australian Jason Day, who hasn’t played since September due to a back injury, is sixth and at eight under after a third-round 70.

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Two hostages killed during failed rescue attempt in Yemen

South African teacher Pierre Korkie was also killed, just a day before he was to be freed after more than a year in captivity, said the charity that had negotiated his release.


Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula threatened in a video on Thursday to execute Somers, 33, kidnapped 15 months ago in Sanaa. It gave Washington three days to meet unspecified demands.

A senior US defence official said there were “good indications” al-Qaeda had moved the deadline up and “were preparing to kill him, on what would have been Saturday morning our time, which is why we moved as fast as we could”.

“It was either act now and take the risk, or let that deadline pass. And no one was willing to do that.”

Commandos were dropped by helicopter in the dead of night 10km from where the hostages were being held in the southeastern province of Shabwa, the official said.

They made their way to the al-Qaeda hideout by foot, but were discovered about 100 metres away.

“When the element of surprise was lost, and a firefight ensued, we believe that is when (the hostages) were shot.”

One of them – it is not clear who – died en route to a naval ship, the USS Makin Island, and the other on the operating table aboard the vessel.

Yemen said 10 militants were killed in the fighting and four of its own men wounded.

In May 2013, al-Qaeda seized Korkie and his wife Yolande, who was released in January. The couple had worked as teachers in Yemen for four years.

The Gift of Givers charity said logistical arrangements had already been put in place to fly Korkie, 57, out of Yemen Sunday.

“The psychological and emotional devastation to Yolande and her family will be compounded by the knowledge that Pierre was to be released by al-Qaeda tomorrow,” it said.

“It is even more tragic that the words we used in a conversation with Yolande at 5:59 this morning was ‘the wait is almost over’.”

Obama said that since Somers was abducted, Washington had been using “every tool at our disposal” to try to secure his release.

“Luke was a photojournalist who sought through his images to convey the lives of Yemenis to the outside world,” Obama added.

“He came to Yemen in peace and was held against his will and threatened by a despicable terrorist organisation.”

“The callous disregard for Luke’s life is more proof of the depths of AQAP’s depravity,” Obama said.

British-born Somers had worked as a freelance photographer for the BBC and spent time at local newspapers, including the Yemen Times before he was snatched off Sanaa’s streets.

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Indians prepare for Aussie crowd abuse

India’s premier fast bowler Ishant Sharma has warned his teammates to prepare to cop abuse from Australian crowds.


Sharma says handling the crowd sledging will be a factor in how India fare in the four-Test series starting in Adelaide on Tuesday.

“Australia is a really amazing country to play cricket in,” Sharma told reporters in Adelaide.

“What I know from my past experience in Australia, I think you will get a hard time from the crowd as well and you have to be prepared for all these things.

“Obviously it’s mentally challenging for you when the people are saying all these things to you, and at the same time you’re handling the pressure in the centre as well.

“If we are mentally ready for all these things, we will do well.”

Sharma, at age 26, is on his third tour of Australia but has meagre returns in the country.

In the 2007/08 tour of Australia, he took six wickets at an average of 59.66 and four years later just five wickets at 90.20.

On that most recent tour, Sharma confronted Michael Clarke in peak form with the Australian captain banking a triple century and a double-ton and averaging 125 for the series.

Sharma said despite the memory of Clarke’s run spree, the Indians weren’t overly focused on the Australian leader.

“We have certain number of plans for certain batsmen, not only Michael Clarke,” he said.

“(David) Warner is scoring runs for them, (Shane) Watson – you have different plans for everyone. We have a plan A, a plan B.

“I think the old ball is going to be very crucial for us, how you are going to bowl with the old ball to certain batsmen.

“That is the time you can go for runs, it’s very difficult for the bowlers to stick to your basics … you’re getting tired, you’re mind is getting drifted from one side to the other side, so how you can control all these things is really important.”

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Hostage Korkie killed a day before release

Pierre Korkie, a South African teacher who was taken hostage by Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen more than a year ago, has been killed in a failed rescue bid just a day before he was due to be released.


“We received with sadness the news that Pierre (Korkie) was killed in an attempt by American Special Forces, in the early hours of this morning, to free hostages in Yemen,” said the Gift of the Givers charity.

The group, which had been negotiating Korkie’s release, said on Saturday he was mere hours from being released when US special forces launched their operation.

“The psychological and emotional devastation to (his wife) Yolande and her family will be compounded by the knowledge that Pierre was to be released by Al-Qaeda tomorrow,” it said.

Luke Somers, an American photojournalist, was also killed in Saturday’s failed raid by US forces in Yemen’s southeastern Shabwa province.

Korkie, who was in his fifties, was seized along with his wife in May 2013 in Yemen’s second city of Taiz by members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Yolande was released in January following mediation by Gift of the Givers.

The couple, from the South African city of Bloemfontein, had worked as teachers in Yemen for four years at the time of their capture.

Korkie’s family repeatedly pleaded for his release and expressed concern about his health, saying he was suffering from a hernia and had gone deaf while in captivity.

“A year has passed and my husband, Pierre, is still in captivity. He is gravely ill and could die from complications of his condition,” said Yolande Korkie in an emotional video plea posted on YouTube in May.

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Typhoon sparks calls for climate action

As loved ones braced for the full impact of Typhoon Hagupit back home, Filipino activists in Lima urged climate negotiators to act with more urgency in drafting a global plan to limit such potentially life-threatening events.


“To us in the Philippines, we are not any more debating on whether or not the impacts of climate change are here, we have experienced it,” Voltaire Alferez of the Aksyon Klima Pilipinas NGO grouping said on the sidelines of the talks.

“Year after year we are bombarded … from one typhoon to another,” he told AFP as his wife and son of one year left their Manila home for the relative safety of higher ground.

This is the third typhoon in a row to hit the Philippines during the annual, ministerial-level climate negotiations.

Talks were aimed towards a new, global pact to limit climate harm by curbing Earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Last year, Typhoon Haiyan hit while talks were under way in Warsaw, killing 7350 people, and Typhoon Bopha claimed 600 lives during negotiations in Doha in 2012.

The UN’s World Meteorological Organisation has said extreme storms like Haiyan are “consistent” with human-induced climate change.

Countries are gathered in the Peruvian capital to negotiate the broad outlines of the new global pact, which is due to be signed in Paris next December and take effect in 2020.

But NGOs and activists acting as observers to the bartering says the pace is too slow and a sense of urgency lacking, with one week to go in the December 1-12 session.

“One of the biggest concerns we have is that negotiators still don’t have a sense that what we are dealing with in these negotiations is a planetary emergency,” said Tasneem Essop of green group WWF.

Grouping 195 nations and the EU bloc, the talks under the umbrella of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change remain deeply divided on how to apportion responsibility for emissions curbs, which requires a costly shift from cheap and abundant fossil fuel to cleaner alternatives.

The goal is to limit average global warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels, but scientists say the world is heading for double that — a recipe for ever-worse droughts, floods and sea-level rise.

Parties are divided on what must be in the agreement, with developing countries wanting commitments that rich nations are loath to give: to helping with climate-change adaptation, finance, and compensation for loss and damage suffered.

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Missing Mexican student’s remains identified

Forensic experts have identified one of 43 missing Mexican students among charred remains found in a landfill, partly solving a case that has roiled the government for weeks.


Federal authorities sent badly burned remains to an Austrian medical university last month after finding them in a garbage dump and river in the southern state of Guerrero.

“One of the pieces (of bones) belongs to one of the students,” a federal official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Sources close to the families identified the victim as Alexander Mora.

Authorities say the aspiring teachers vanished after gang-linked police attacked their buses in the city of Iguala on September 26, allegedly under orders from the mayor and his wife in a night of terror that left six other people dead.

The police then delivered the 43 young men to members of the Guerreros Unidos drug gang, who told investigators they took them in two trucks to a landfill, killed them, burned their bodies and dumped them in a river.

Despite the confessions, prosecutors have stopped short of declaring the students dead, saying they would wait for DNA test results from Austria’s Innsbruck University.

Parents of the students led a new protest in Mexico City on Saturday, the latest in a wave of demonstrations against President Enrique Pena Nieto’s handling of the case.

Parents of the missing students have refused to believe their sons are dead, chanting at every protest “they took them alive, we want them back alive”.

If all 43 are confirmed killed, it would rank among the worst mass murders in a drug war that has killed more than 80,000 people and left 22,000 others missing since 2006 in Mexico.

The Iguala case has drawn international condemnation, highlighted Mexico’s struggle with corruption and undermined Pena Nieto’s assurances that his security policy was bearing fruit.

Pena Nieto returned to Guerrero last week for the first time since the students went missing more than two months ago.

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