Potential 2020 Olympics hosts react to IOC report

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Olympics officials from Tokyo, Istanbul, and Madrid have all apparently done a quick read-through of the IOC Evaluation Commission report released Tuesday morning, and all believe they have a shot at earning the right to host the worldwide event.

Tokyo, which has slowly but steadily made its way to the front of the pack during the bidding process, received high marks from the IOC for being a “modern, dynamic city that sets global trends” and for having an efficient transportation system that will serve officials, athletes, and fans.

“We are proud that the report confirms our bid’s very strong technical excellence, which offers certainty in uncertain times for sport,” Tokyo bid leader and Japanese IOC member Tsunekazu Takeda told the AP. “We are also aware that we must deliver much more than just a strong report.”

Meanwhile Istanbul, which is amid its fifth bid in the last six Olympic cycles dating back the 1996 Games, carries the highest price tag at $19 billion, but earned points for its unique ability to literally and figuratively bridge European and Asian continents through the Olympics.

Istanbul’s bid also earned support from 83 percent of its citizens, the most by of the three potential host cities. But massive construction, issues with traffic, and recent violent protests seem to have hurt Istanbul’s chances despite the country having more than seven years to fix any looming issues.

“This report confirms that Istanbul’s bid is firmly on track,” Istanbul Olympic official Hasan Arat said. “We particularly welcome the IOC’s clear endorsement of Istanbul’s unique strengths. We know that we are at least on an equal footing with others in this race… We feel Istanbul is in a very good position.”

Lastly Madrid, in its third straight bid for the Games, seems to be in the back of the pack, as Spain is in the middle of a four year recession and have an unemployment rate hovering around 27 percent. But the high level of support from citizens, the 28 already standing venues, and the extremely low price tag – only $1.9 billion, just one tenth that of Istanbul – is keeping Madrid afloat as they enter the finals stages of bidding.

“The commission believe that the degree of financial risk facing Madrid 2020 should be manageable over seven years within the Spanish economy and taking into account government guarantees.”

IOC members will now spend the next week reading the 110-page report before meeting to discuss it at IOC headquarters on July 3 and 4. Then the three cities will each make one more final pitch to the IOC in Buenos Aires on September 7 before the final secret ballot vote that will determine which city earns the honor.

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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