Tom Goldman

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And I look forward all week to saying, and now it's time for sports.

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Updated September 30, 2021 at 12:25 PM ET

The NBA has returned and back with it are COVID-19 worries.

For a third season the association is navigating operating games while trying to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

This time around they have a new move: Vaccines — but not all players say they're ready to take them. The vast majority of players in the league are vaccinated, but some high-profile athletes have said they won't disclose if they're vaccinated or not.

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TOKYO — They were called the "COVID Olympics." The "pandemic Olympics." The "anger Olympics." Many Japanese people were upset to host such a huge and risky event in the middle of the pandemic, and many outside observers were surprised it happened at all.

TOKYO — Traditionally, doping at the Olympics has been an uncomfortable companion to the Games' soaring athletic achievements.

In Tokyo, it hasn't been the issue it often is because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

But it's still there, along with a Russian team that has come to embody doping controversy.

A joke and suspicion

There's a joke that's been going around at these Olympics: When has there ever been so much talk about positive tests, and not have it be about performance-enhancing drugs?

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TOKYO — At Thursday's Summer Olympics, the women's all-around gymnastics winner was ... not Simone Biles.

The title and gold medal went to Sunisa Lee of the U.S.

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The American swimmer Katie Ledecky won her first gold medal today at the Tokyo Summer Olympics. She and her fans celebrated the win, but there were enormous expectations for her at these games. Here's NPR's Tom Goldman.

It's Opening Ceremony day in Tokyo, heralding the official start to another Olympics. Although we've already had two days of sports competition, there's the knowledge that once the smoke settles after tonight's ceremony-ending fireworks, the gates are flung open to 16 straight days of unprecedented drama.

As a reporter, it'll be fine to have a daily plan — but as always, I'll be ready to wad it up and throw it away as unforeseen stories capture the imagination.

So at this point, there is a sameness about these Tokyo Games.

The Tokyo Summer Olympics officially begin Friday with the Opening Ceremony.

But the sports actually start today (8 p.m. ET).

Host nation Japan kicks off competition with a softball game against Australia.

With three first-day games (the other two are top-ranked U.S. vs Italy and Mexico vs Canada), softball is in the Olympic spotlight after being out of it for the past 13 years.

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The NBA has long been considered the most progressive of the major professional sports leagues – teams and especially players have taken the lead with their activism and focus on social issues.

But coaching hires this week have critics wondering whether the NBA has taken a step back.

A difficult moment

As new Portland Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups sat down for his introductory press conference on Tuesday, it was a difficult moment.

A new era in college sports begins this week.

Following Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear's executive order allowing college athletes to be compensated for the use of their name, image and likeness — known by its abbreviation "NIL" — at least seven states will put into effect NIL laws, on Thursday. The laws allow athletes to make money for things like endorsement deals, signing autographs and social media content.

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And now it's time for sports.

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College sports are about to change dramatically and Congress needs to act quickly in order to ensure fairness.

That was the message Wednesday on Capitol Hill, at a lengthy senate hearing about new state laws that'll allow college athletes to make money off the use of their name, image and likeness. The money would not be from the athlete's school.

NBA fans have been flooding back into arenas for the playoffs.

The presence of ticket-purchasing and merchandise-buying humans, missing for more than a year during the coronavirus pandemic, has been a welcome sight for the cash-strapped league. Players have loved feeding off the excitement of live audiences.

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Now it's time for sports.

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