The next U.S. Olympic city: Chicago?

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This post starts a series that will look at which U.S. cities would be perfect hosts for the Olympics.

Chicago was actually supposed to host the 1904 Olympics, but back then the World’s Fair was so powerful that organizers forced Olympic founder Pierre de Coubertin to move the Games to St. Louis to coincide with their event. The city was snubbed again 105 years later when it finished fourth in its bid to host the 2016 Games, despite being a heavy favorite. It  probably had more to do with the U.S. having hosted eight Olympics, as opposed to Latin America’s zero, but Chicago remains arguably the perfect city to host the Summer Games.

Infrastructure: Chicago has two airports, a decent-to-good public transit system, and enough hotels to house anyone and everyone interested in attending. Its seven major professional sports franchises (yes, we include the WNBA’s Chicago Sky) and numerous colleges mean there are enough established venues to host basketball, soccer, gymnastics, handball, and pretty much anything else.

Sports culture: Chicago is a city full of people who love sports, even if their most adored team recently passed the 100 year threshold of failure and its fans believe this has more to do with a goat than just being terrible at baseball. But, rain or shine, they support the Cubs, Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, and White Sox, and would provide an incredible atmosphere for American and international Olympians.

Weather: While Chicago’s eight-month winters are brutal beyond words (and single-handedly the reason we don’t live there), the weather borders on unbeatable from June through September (second only to San Diego). Thankfully those are the exact months the Summer Olympics occur. You might have some humidity and a bad cold-front now and again, but that’s true anywhere.

Nightlife: Chicago has everything you’re looking for when it comes to going out on the town, with a nightlife concentrated to a couple great areas. You can find excellent restaurants, clubs, and bars downtown, or you can head to Wrigleyville, which is one of the best spots in the country for bar crawling and late night gorging. Also, the spinach deep dish at Gino’s East is the best pizza on the planet.

Biggest drawback: Where do you put Olympic Park? No seriously, look at a map of the city and tell us where you put the Park, the Athletes Village, the stadium… I’m very interested.

Intangibles: Aside from some of the best museums, restaurants, and entertainment available for those looking to explore the city beyond the Games — as well as a lakefront perfect for water sports — Chicago has one thing going for it that no other city does: Medinah Country Club. It’s a championship course that would have been a perfect place for golf to return to the Olympics for the first time since (wait for it) the 1904 St. Louis Games. Thanks a lot, Rio.

Michael Phelps to participate in Shark Week

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NEW YORK (AP) — Olympic champ Michael Phelps is participating in Discovery network’s Shark Week this summer, although he won’t be asked to outswim one.

It’s not immediately clear what Phelps will be doing, although Discovery President Rich Ross said Tuesday he’s intrigued about seeing the fastest human swimmer interact with nature’s fastest. Perhaps Phelps can be encouraged to go underwater in a shark cage, he said.

The week of shark-themed programming in mid-summer is annually Discovery’s biggest event. Now that it is approaching its 29th year, programmers are on the lookout for a new wrinkle.

Phelps has won 28 Olympic swimming medals, 23 of them gold.

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MORE: Phelps: I don’t know what to tell my son about doping

World Figure Skating Championships ice dance preview

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Alex Shibutani says he and sister Maia have made a statement the past two years.

“With our ability to perform when the stakes are highest,” he said.

The stakes don’t get much higher than this week.

The Shibutani siblings, breakout world silver medalists a year ago, lead three U.S. couples who finished in the top six at the 2016 World Championships into this year’s worlds in Helsinki.

It is the strongest ice dance field since the Sochi Olympics. The PyeongChang Winter Games medal contenders will be confirmed this week.

The clear favorites are Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the 2010 Olympic champions competing this season for the first time since taking silver in Sochi. Virtue and Moir returned from their two-year break to post the three highest total scores of all time in their last three international competitions.

“This is probably the most prepared we’ve been for a world championships,” Moir said, while adding, “this was a warm-up season.”

PREVIEWS: Men | Women | Pairs | Dance | TV schedule

The Shibutanis finished second (with a personal-best score) to Virtue and Moir at the most recent event, the Four Continents Championships at the 2018 Olympic venue in South Korea in February. The margin separating the two couples — 5.1 points — was considerable.

“We’re sort of in a way in a race against ourselves to try and see how good we can get and how good we can become,” Alex Shibutani said. “Each competition along the way is another step to that eventual goal [the Olympics].”

At worlds, the Shibutanis are in the medal mix with France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who won the last two world titles.

The French, already the youngest world champs in 40 years, are trying for the first ice dance three-peat in 20 years.

But they have not progressed this season, unable to match or better their winning score from the 2016 World Championships.

Papadakis and Cizeron train in Montreal with Virtue and Moir, but they struggled (held against their own standard) in both competitions outside of French borders this season. And in different areas — step sequences, twizzles, lifts.

Conversely, it looks like the Shibutanis’ biggest obstacles are well behind them. They went from a world bronze medal in their first senior season together in 2011 to four straight years off the podium.

The Shibutanis hit a nadir at the Sochi Olympics with a ninth-place finish, worst of the three U.S. couples. Maia’s tights snagged on Alex’s sequined jacket during a lift.

The devoted vloggers countered doubts after Sochi by stressing their youth — Alex was 22 then; Maia was 19. They talked about weathering the journey and sticking to a meticulous creative process.

It paid off with their first U.S. title last year, followed by that world silver medal in Boston.

“Last year’s results at the world championships were very energizing for us,” Alex Shibutani said. “People are aware of the career trajectory that we have had. We’ve set ambitious goals because we were so motivated following that result and that exciting string of competitions that we had last season.”

The Shibutanis were actually outscored by two-time world medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates in the U.S. Championships free dance in January. They stormed back with that personal best at Four Continents, though, erasing any doubt that they are the U.S. couple expected to make the podium in Helsinki.

The U.S. has earned 12 ice dance medals at the last 12 World Championships. In that same span, the U.S. brought home eight medals combined from men’s, women’s and pairs.

The Shibutanis feel confident they will extend recent American success in their discipline.

They would also create more history for sibling skaters. They’re already the most accomplished brother-sister duo since Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay of France won three straight world medals followed by Olympic silver in Albertville.

“We really elevated the way that we compete and perform,” at Four Continents last month, Alex Shibutani said. “Our skating has reached another level.”

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