In chronological order:
1998-12-09 — Teams are expected to begin arriving in Brasil this Friday. They will spend the next week warming up and testing out Rio's shuffleboard surfaces.
Hotels are booked solid throughout Rio de Janeiro and the surrounding area. Many spectators are finding it easier to stay in São Paulo, 375 kilometers to the west, and commute to the games.
While being a country of football supporters, Brasilians are just as rabid when it comes to shuffleboard. Fans painted in the green and yellow of Brasil waited in lines for three days last week when ticket booths opened. Two hundred police officers were dispatched to make sure that order was maintained.
"I have waited in line for two days to get tickets for my family. This is the greatest day in my life," said Gabriel Barretos, a Team Brasil supporter.
While Team Brasil is not expected to make it all the way to the championship game, they are expected to easily place in the qualifying round, which begins next week in Rio.
1998-12-13 — Teams from around the world arrived Friday and Saturday in Rio de Janeiro for this year's International Shuffleboard Championship Qualifying Round. Most of the teams were quick to make their way to the famed beaches of this wondrous tourist destination.
But there were many concerns when it was discovered that Akira Tojo failed to arrive with his teammate Kuno Akuso, their manager, and several trainers. When asked if his teammate's injury will force him and his country to sit out this year, Akuso responded, "We are confident that this is the year of Japan."
This year's other favorite, the Amazing Shovel Duo of Switzerland, arrived as expected, and manager Jens Kruger was quick in saying that this week's main objective is for his team to get plenty of rest.
1998-12-15 — While most of the world's shuffleboard teams were settling in to Rio's gentle nightlife on Monday night, a dangerous brawl was taking place in a downtown bar. The shuffleboard teams from Ireland and Russia have been arrested for disorderly conduct and one Irish teammate is in intensive care in a Rio hospital.
Russia's Yuri Molotov and Valentina Brezhnev and Ireland's Robert O'Connell and Patrick Glynn apparently got into an argument Monday night over, witnesses say, who are the better shuffleboard players and who are the better drinkers. The ensuing fight gave O'Connell a fractured skull, taking Ireland out of the running for this year's qualifying round. ISCQR officials have also disqualified the two teams from the competition, decisively ending their chances of playing.
Managers, trainers, and fans expressed their deep anger and regret at hearing the news. "I really can't believe it. This is no place to squabble over such nonsense," said one 34-year-old fan.
Also, there has been no news on just where Japan's Akira Tojo is. Team manager Toshiki Yoshida insists that they will easily qualify but gave no explanation as to what has happened to Tojo.
1998-12-16 — A devastating fire has effectively ended Tajikistan's chances at qualifying and has left many teams without a place to sleep. An early morning fire swept through the hotel where many teams and their managers were staying. Most fled the flames without much injury but the team from Tajikistan has been sent to the hospital due to severe burns.
"We were asleep when suddenly we woke up to a very loud siren and everyone was running down the hallway trying to get to the stairs," said Morocco's Sidi Muhammad ben Youssef. Smoke filled the corridors, he said, as he and his teammate helped the Cameroon and Venezuela teams find the exits.
It is not known what caused the two o'clock blaze or where the stranded teams will stay. But many local residents have offered to house the players for the duration of the contest.
Also, it is not known how the U.S. military strikes on Baghdad will affect the competition. Team Iraq has made no announcement on the matter of whether or not their team will return to Iraq. The managers for France and China said their response will hinge on Iraq's position.
And there has been no word on the whereabouts of Akira Tojo. There have been many rumored sightings of the famed shuffleboard player throughout Rio de Janeiro, but they have been discounted as "mere wishes from drunken fans," according to one local merchant.
1998-12-17 — Iraq has pulled their team out of this year's competition, causing many fans to storm on the ticket booths, demanding their money back. After Iraq's announcement this morning, both China and France declared that they were also calling back their teams in protest of the U.S. airstrikes on Iraq.
Many are beginning to wonder if this year's International Shuffleboard Championship Qualifying Round is cursed. Japan's Akira Tojo failed to arrive with his teammate last week, Irish and Russian teams are subsequently disqualified for a bar fight, and then Tajikistan's team is severely injured in an early morning blaze at their hotel, displacing the teams from Morocco, Cameroon, Venezuela, Mongolia, Pakistan, and Malaysia in the process. Those teams have been taken in as guests of local residents, except for Team Cameroon. They were so distraught because they lost their lucky shuffleboard cues in the fire.
"We cannot play without our cues. They are very dear to us and cannot be replaced," said teammate Nguru Foumban.
With opening ceremonies being held tomorrow, it is not certain whether or not Akira Tojo will stand alongside his teammate Kuno Akuso or whether or not any more tragedies will stop these world-class teams from participating.
1998-12-18 — Opening ceremonies were held this evening in a huge extravagant gala of fun and excitement. Those fans fortunate to have obtained tickets were not disappointed. Tens of thousands of fans cheered loudly as their favorite team marched into the arena in Niterói, waving flags and smiling profusely. Once all 113 teams had entered, they formed an enormous chain by holding hands and sang this year's "Song of the Championship," written especially for the competition.
"It was so beautiful! I can't believe they could fit so many dancing elephants amongst the players! It was better than the Olympics," said Team U.S.A. supporter Fran Clarke.
Afterwards, fireworks lit up the arena and a huge marching band entered, escorted by the Brasilian Dancing Troupe. Everyone seemed to have had a good time despite the exclusion of teams from Russia, Ireland, Tajikistan, Iraq, Cameroon, France, and China. But a few fans picketed outside the arena protesting the U.S. military attack of Iraq and calling for a disqualification of Team U.S.A.
Matches begin Saturday at 06:00 local time. Japan's first match is at 15:30 in the afternoon. Trainers and teammate Kuno Akuso are not worried and insist Akira Tojo will be present for the match against Panama.
1998-12-19 — The world, it seems, gasped today at the appearance of Akira Tojo for his country's first match-up against Panama. With minutes left to go before the match, Tojo appeared before the match officials with his teammate Kuno Akuso for the prematch equipment check. Everything checked out all right except that Akira Tojo is now Akane Tojo. He is a she.
This realization stunned reporters and fans alike. There is no ISCQR rule saying that sex-changes are not allowed or that they even have to be cleared with officials before the first match. Only after the first match are they not allowed, resulting in a disqualification.
Tojo seemed to be in top form, helping her country beat out the Panama team. If anything, she seemed to play better. Team Panama seemed to be uneasy throughout the entire match, making basic mistakes that cost them the game.
"I have been wanting this operation for a long time and I felt that this was the best time to have it," said Tojo after the win. When asked about how it will affect her game, she replied, "I do not think that it will. If anything, it has freed my movements and made me a better player."
1998-12-21 — Japan played another excellent game today after getting a day of rest and the win from disqualified Iraq. Akane Tojo and Kuno Akuso appeared to have no trouble defeating the Finnish team in a breath-taking match.
In group 3 Honduras is surprising the world with their strong start. Norway, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Colombia, and Liechtenstein are also playing very good shuffleboard.
The Amazing Shovel Duo of Switzerland is presently tied with Austria in group 6 going into their match-up Wednesday morning. Manager Jens Kruger is confidant that his man-woman team is completely ready for the game.
"We have practiced a lot this past week on these Brasilian surfaces and we truly understand every bump and scratch. There is no question in my mind that Austria poses no threat to us," said Kruger.
1998-12-23 — The Austrian team mysteriously vanished today before their scheduled match with Switzerland. Both players, their manager, and trainers failed to show up today for their 10:30 game and noone has seen them since last night in the lobby of their hotel.
Officials waited the rulebook thirty minutes before awarding the win to Switzerland. "Of course we are upset," said manager Jens Kruger. "We have practiced many times with the Austrian team in preparation for these games. It is a great shame that they didn't show up." Police refuse to comment on the matter.
According to ISCQR rules, any team missing two games is immediately disqualified. Unless Team Austria appears soon, their chances for qualifying will disintegrate.
1998-12-24 — Team Austria was disqualified today for missing their second match in a row. Fans and officials alike are worried that something bad has happened to the usually punctual team who were tied with Switzerland and almost certain to move on to the finals tournament.
Many are eyeing the Switzerland team themselves, saying they were scared that Team Austria would beat them out of the running. But these rumors are unfounded and even if Austria beat Switzerland, the top two teams from every group moves on to the finals round next year. Besides that, the two teams are seemingly well acquainted and have practiced together for many years.
Police are asking anyone who may have information to step forward and contact them.
1998-12-25 — The Precision Team of Japan faced Team Mongolia today in a long hard battle of cues and discs. Both were initially undefeated in group 5 but only one could come out with a win. And that team was Japan.
Akane Tojo was ecstatic over the triumph. "I am so very happy. Kuno and I knew that if we could play like we have been playing, we could overcome this game," said Tojo after the match. "Mongolia is a strong team . . . but this is the Year of Japan."
Also today, Norway suffered a humiliating defeat to Brasil, who were expected to be completely annihilated. Fans think Brasil may have a chance after all of making it to the finals. "Never underestimate the home team especially when it's Brasil," yelled one fan.
In a disappointing game, Team USA lost to the Dominican Republic. The 64- and 68-year-old USA team was disappointed afterwards and team captain Florence Richardson said it was "a great disappointment." USA fans also appeared rather disappointed as well. "We are very disappointed at the results," said Russel Simon of Baltimore.
1998-12-27 — Today was the final day of regular play in the qualifying round. Monday and Tuesday will be the elimination round in which teams tied for the top two spots will play each other to the death.
Group 8 will be the group everyone watches as there are five teams competing for the group's two spots in the Finals Tournament. So far 14 teams have been awarded placements in next year's tournament. That leaves 10 spots unclaimed.
Honduras, Japan, Switzerland, Indonesia, and Liechtenstein are the only teams who have won every match they have played and fans believe that these are the teams that will have to be reckoned with in next year's Finals.
"Japan is going all the way, baby," said one fan while another thought that "Indonesia will kick everyone's ass."
Austrian fans are still stunned that their team, a team that could have qualified alongside neighbors Switzerland, has gone missing since Wednesday. Police had very little to say because it might compromise their investigation.
"We are working day and night to find these people. And we will find them," said Rio Police spokesman Manoel da Souso.
1998-12-28 — Belize, Guatemala, and the United Arab Emirates are all in a unique position in group 9 standings in the elimination round. Each has won one game, so it is necessary for them to play the tie-breaker match in which all three teams play at the same time. The match will be held tomorrow evening.
In group 8 Kenya has come out of the unexpected and defeated the expected winner, Italy. They just may very well have the momentum to qualify in this group.
Tomorrow is the second day of the Elimination Round with the much anticipated rematch between the Dominican Republic and the United States. And Closing Ceremonies will be held Wednesday evening at 6:30, where the qualifiers will be announced and awarded.
1998-12-29 — With all the positions being taken for the ISC Finals, many fans are dissatisfied with the Brasilian police's lack of success for finding what happened to the Austrian team, a team expected to qualify.
The Austrian team has been missing since last Wednesday and noone has had any contact with them since the previous night. Officials said that they have no plans to postpone the Closing Ceremonies tomorrow.
The teams that have qualified are obviously excited and feel very honored for having the chance to play for their countries. "We are very excited and it is such an honor to play here in Rio," said Morocco's Sidi Muhammad ben Youssef. They beat out Nepal on Monday in group 3's elimination round match.
Team USA had a chance to pay back the Dominican Republic team for that horribly humiliating game last Friday. "We were so defeated after the game Friday, we didn't think we could ever step another foot back home without being tied up and hung from a tree," said 64-year-old team captain Florence Richardson of Miami shuffleboard fame.
1998-12-30 — Two hours before the 1999 ISCQR Closing Ceremonies were scheduled to begin, Rio de Janeiro Police held a press conference to say that they have in custody suspects they believe kidnapped the Austrian team.
Arrested were the former Worldwide Center's Brasil Office Coverage Reporter Pedro Salvador and El Salvador's team manager José Carrera.
Rio Police spokesman Manoel da Souso said that Salvador and Carrera orchestrated the largest fraudulent gambling enterprise in sports history with the potential to gain over 23.8 billion U.S. dollars. As of yet, the Salvadoran team and trainers have not been charged with any wrong doing.
"This is a complete shock to us. We had absolutely no idea José was ever doing this," said Marcus Martinez of Team El Salvador.
Souso said that the Austrian team were kidnapped so that El Salvador would be able to qualify since they realized it would be just about impossible otherwise with both Switzerland and Austria in their group.
ISCQR oficials held an emergency meeting as soon as they found out and decided that they would not cancel the Closing Ceremonies. They have disqualified the El Salvador team and awarded runner-up Nigeria with second place in group 6.
Tafawa Ndo of Team Nigeria was ecstatic. "We were happy to have placed third in the group, but to be awarded second placing is wonderful," said Ndo, whose brother plays on Nigeria's football team.
Team Austria ends up tied for third place, even though they were forced to miss their last five games.
— Brasil Office Assistant Coverage Reporter Maria Sanchez
1998-12-31 — The 1999 ISCQR Closing Ceremonies were held Wednesday evening here in Rio de Janeiro amongst much cheer and revelry. The announcement of El Salvador's team manager and a Worldwide Center reporter's kidnapping the Austrian team hardly dampened the festivities.
Brasilian President Cardoso awarded the 24 qualifying teams medals and gave a moving speech on international athleticism and its role in forging the way to peace in the next century. He then lit a cannon which fired a naked clown 500 feet through the arena, who landed in a pool of whipped cream surrounded by the nude Brasilian Dancing Troupe, which wore flaming pinwheels on their heads as they danced amongst shooting glitter, balloons, and pyrotechnic explosions. At which point a man dressed in an elephant costume directed the arena into singing the ISCQR99 Official Theme Song, "Song of the Championship," while hovering 300 feet above the ground in a miniature rocket ship suspended from cables and complete with a spark-belching thruster. Afterwards he swan dived into the whipped cream and the rocket ship landed in the middle of the congregations of qualifying teams, who had apparently assembled a make-shift landing pad out of sparkling sequined dresses. They waved colorful flags and threw streamers as an entourage of green aliens dressed in ISCQR colors emerged from the ship and chased after the Brasilian Dancing Troupe.
Fans and spectators cheered and sang throughout the ceremonies. Everyone agreed that this year was a huge success.
— Brasil Office Assistant Coverage Reporter Maria Sanchez
Brasil Office Coverage Reporter: Pedro Salvador
Brasil Office Assistant Coverage Reporter: Maria Sanchez