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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.

IOC creates 3-person panel to have final say on Russian participation

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JULY 30: IOC President Thomas Bach during the IOC Executive Board Meeting on July 30, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A three-person International Olympic Committee panel will make a final ruling on which individual Russian athletes are allowed to compete in the Rio de Janeiro Games.

The IOC’s ruling executive board, meeting Saturday for the final time before the opening of the games next Friday, said the panel will decide on the entry of Russian athletes whose names have been forwarded to compete by their international sports federations and approved by an independent arbitrator.

“This panel will decide whether to accept or reject that final proposal,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. “We want to make it absolutely clear that we are the ones making the final call.”

The move comes amid a doping scandal that has led to the exclusion of more than 100 Russian athletes connected to state-sponsored cheating. More than 250 Russian athletes have been cleared to compete by the federations.

The panel will have to make its ruling before the opening ceremony, just six days away.

“We’re working on a very, very tight timeline,” Adams said. “It has to be finished by Friday at the very latest.”

The panel will consist of three executive board members: Turkey’s Ugur Erdener, chairman of the IOC medical commission; Germany’s Claudia Bokel, head of the athletes’ commission; and Spain’s Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., a vice president of the modern pentathlon federation.

Adams said the panel will review every athlete cleared by the federations, but would not reopen the cases of those who have been barred. An arbitrator from the Court of Arbitration for Sport will make an initial ruling before the final decision goes to the IOC panel.

“This review board panel will look at every single decision, every single athlete, to make sure the IOC is happy with the decision that’s been taken,” Adams said. “It’s very important that the IOC makes the final decision based on independent advice.”

Saturday’s meeting came less than a week after the IOC board decided not to ban Russia’s entire team from the games because of state-sponsored doping. Rejecting calls by more than a dozen anti-doping agencies for a complete ban on Russia, the IOC left it to the federations to vet which athletes could compete or not.

The Russians banned so far include the 67 track and field athletes barred as a whole by the IAAF, and more than 30 others rejected under new IOC eligibility criteria. Russia’s eight-member weightlifting team was kicked out of the games on Friday for what the international federation called “extremely shocking” doping results that brought the sport into “disrepute.”

The IOC has been roundly criticized by anti-doping bodies, athletes groups and Western media for not imposing a total ban on Russia. Pressure for the full sanction followed a World Anti-Doping Agency report by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren that accused Russia’s sports ministry of overseeing a vast doping conspiracy involving the country’s summer and winter sports athletes.

IOC President Thomas Bach has defended the decision as one that protects individual athletes who have not been implicated in doping.

Rio’s preparations, meanwhile, remain clouded on several fronts, including budget cuts, water pollution, slow ticket sales, and concerns over crime and the Zika virus. The games come with the suspended president awaiting an impeachment trial and the country gripped by a severe recession.

But Bach and the IOC board remained upbeat following a final progress report by organizing committee chief Carlos Nuzman, including details of the opening ceremony at the Maracana stadium.

“We can’t reveal any secrets but the organizing committee tell us that the ceremony will have Brazilian soul and enchant the world,” Adams said.

Bach gave the organizers a final pep talk ahead of the first games in South America.

“He thinks it’s going to be a great games,” Adams said. “He made that very, very clear. He gave a very rousing thank you to the team and said, ‘Now you must concentrate on delivery, delivery, delivery.”

Also Saturday, the IOC board granted full recognition to the International Ski Mountaineering Federation. It had received provisional recognition in 2014. Saturday’s decision marks another step toward potential future inclusion in the Winter Games.

MORE: Doping investigator ‘inundated with requests’ for more info on Russians

Bryan brothers pull out of Olympics, won’t defend gold medal

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 04:  (L-R) Silver medalist Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, gold medalist Mike Bryan and Bob Bryan of the United States and bronze medalist Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet of France pose on the podium during the medal ceremony after the Men's Doubles Tennis final match on Day 8 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on August 4, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Bob and Mike Bryan have pulled out of the Rio Games, less than a week before they were to begin defending their men’s doubles Olympic gold medal.

The Americans made the announcement on their Facebook page, citing their “family’s health,” but not specifically concerns with the Zika virus, which has caused many other tennis players and golfers to withdraw.

“After countless hours of deliberation Mike and I have decided to forego the Rio Olympics. Though we’d love to compete again, as husbands and fathers, our family’s health is now our top priority,” they wrote.

The 38-year-old identical twin brothers are the second-ranked men’s pair in the world. The U.S. Tennis Association is looking into replacements, according to the Associated Press.

The Bryan brothers defeated Michael Llodra and France Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France for gold four years ago in London. At the 2008 Beijing Games, they fell to Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland in the semifinals before knocking off Llodra and Arnaud Clement for bronze.

The Bryans were the No. 1 seed in both 2008 and ’12.

After winning gold in London, Bob and Mike went on to collect titles at the next four Grand Slams (2012 U.S. Open, 2013 Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon). The brothers have won a record total of 16 Grand Slam titles together.

MORE: Tomas Berdych joins growing list of tennis players skipping Rio