IOC “hugely impressed” by Tokyo bid

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The IOC evaluation commission still needs to visit Madrid and Istanbul in the coming weeks, but IOC vice president Craig Reddie is absolutely glowing after his four day inspection of Tokyo’s bid.

“We have been hugely impressed by the quality of bid presentations by the bid committee,” Reddie said at a news conference Thursday. “Across the board, it has been excellent in every way.”

Reddie also said that he was impressed by Japan’s government support, including the presence of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at some of this week’s presentations. Prime Minister Abe also invited the commission to a dinner where they were met by Japan’s medalists from the London Games.

“The best thing about the Games here would be exactly what happened in my own city of London,” Reedie added. “We share enthusiasm, the movement for sport, [and] the development for sport.”

Toyota chairman Fujio Cho almost met with the group and told them that his company, and a number of other large Japanese corporations, are ready to support the Olympics should they come back Tokyo for the first time since 1964. Japanese officials say the Games could have a potential $32 billion impact, as well as show how the country has recovered from the 2011 Tsunami.

Next up, the evaluation commission will visit Madrid starting on March 18.

Once the commission is finished scouting each city’s potential as an Olympics host, they’ll write up reports for the 101 IOC members to read through before a meeting this July at HQ. There they’ll hear the final pitches from all three Olympic committees. The final vote will take place September 7 in Buenos Aires.

No NHL players means more mistakes and goals at Olympics

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GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Hockey is a game of mistakes and it’s on display in fine form at the Olympics.

It doesn’t look beautiful, of course, with players all outside the NHL turning the puck over for point-blank scoring chances or leaving opponents wide open in front. The talent level is lower, so the risk factors and the entertainment level are up. Goaltenders have to be on their toes for unexpected, game-saving stops even more than usual.

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“It’s a short tournament: A few mistakes can decide your fate,” Finland goaltender Karri Ramo said Saturday. “You try to create more than carry it out of the zone, so obviously teams are trying to keep the puck and create scoring chances, so those mistakes happen. You’re not going to win if you play safe.”

There’s not a whole lot of safe, low-risk play so far, and scoring has increased as a result. After each team played twice, games were averaging 5.1 goals, up from 4.7 in Sochi with NHL players on the rosters.

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Ligety exits quietly, Hirscher brilliant again

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Marcel Hirscher, the Austrian ski god, is finally having his moment. King of the World Cup tour for the past seven seasons, on Sunday Hirscher won his second Olympic gold, in the giant slalom.

Hirscher had won a grand total of no Olympic medals, nada, zip, zero in two prior Games. Now he might — could, should — win three here at PyeongChang. The slalom, another Hirscher specialty, is due to be run Thursday.

To watch Hirscher ski is to watch one of the great athletes of our — or any — time. Like being courtside in Chicago to see Michael Jordan back in the day. At Wimbledon for a Roger Federer volley. At the Water Cube in Beijing in 2008 when Michael Phelps was swimming the butterfly.

In Sunday’s race, Kristoffersen finished second, 1.27 seconds back of Hirscher. Pinturault finished third, 1.31 behind.

American racer Ted Ligety used to own this event: the Sochi 2014 giant slalom gold medalist, he was world champion in 2011, 2013 and 2015. Pinturault took Sochi 2014 bronze.

Considering his relatively low slalom ranking and the pounding that slalom demands, Sunday’s GS was — just like that, that quickly, that quietly — likely the final race of Ligety’s outstanding Olympic career.

“This is probably it for me at these Games,” he said after run two, adding that he is planning to head back to Europe, to race the remainder of the World Cup season.

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