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.

Pyeongchang Olympic organizers optimistic with 500 days to go

Security personnel stands by a logo of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games before an event to mark the start of the 500-day countdown in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. With 500 days until the Olympic cauldron is ignited in Pyeongchang, organizers of the 2018 Winter Games say 90 percent of construction on new venues is complete and the focus of preparations is on test events. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Marking the 500-day countdown to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, organizers said Tuesday that 90 percent of construction of new venues is complete and the focus is now on preparing for test events.

Pyeongchang’s organizing committee said construction is on schedule for a series of sports competitions scheduled from November to April that will serve as rehearsals for the Olympics, which begin Feb. 9, 2018.

The six new competition venues for the games are now 88 percent complete and a new high-speed rail line – designed to link the country’s main gateway of Incheon airport with Pyeongchang in less than two hours – will be completed next June and start operations in January 2018, organizers said.

The preparations are undergoing a transition from the “planning phase to operational readiness,” the organizing committee said in a statement.

“Asia has immeasurable potential to become the frontier of winter sports. Pyeongchang has been dedicated to promote winter sports and attract investments throughout Asia,” the committee said.

Noting that the 2018 Games will be the first of three consecutive Olympics in Asia, the committee said Pyeongchang will be an “opportunity to establish even closer links among the next host countries and build bridges through sports.”

Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympics, while Beijing will stage the 2022 Winter Games.

Pyeongchang organizers have overcome delays, local conflicts over venue constructions and difficulties attracting domestic sponsorships in past years. Optimism over preparations has increased after the successful hosting of the first round of test events at Alpine venues earlier this year.

Despite a slow start, organizers say more than 80 percent of the domestic sponsorship target of $850 million has been met and that they expect to reach 90 percent of the target by the end of the year.

A program of cultural events featuring pop singers and local sports stars was held in Seoul on Tuesday evening to mark the start of the countdown.

MORE: 500 Days to Pyeongchang: Five athletes to watch

500 Days to Pyeongchang: Five athletes to watch

PARK CITY, UT - FEBRUARY 06:  Chloe Kim celebrates a first place finish in the ladies' FIS Snowboard World Cup at the 2016 U.S Snowboarding Park City Grand Prix on February 6, 2016 in Park City, Utah.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Today marks 500 days until the Opening Ceremony of 2018 Winter Olympics.

Below are five U.S. athletes to get to know before February 9, 2018:

Ryan Bailey (Bobsled): Bailey, who finished fifth as a sprinter in the London Olympic 100m, is attempting to compete at the 2018 Olympics as a bobsledder. On Sept. 21, just weeks into his bobsled career, he won the men’s push athlete national title. The last male Summer Olympian to make a U.S. Olympic bobsled team was Willie Davenport in 1980.

MORE: Converted sprinter Ryan Bailey wins bobsled national title

Brittany Bowe and Heather Richardson (Speed Skating): Bowe and Richardson have been trading world records in recent years. Last November, Bowe broke her own women’s 1000m world record, only to have Richardson lower it just three minutes later. A week later, Bowe broke the world record in the event once again.

MORE: Dan Jansen explains recent flurry of world records

Meryl Davis and Charlie White (Figure Skating): The future is uncertain for Davis and White, who became the first U.S. couple to win an Olympic ice dance title in Sochi. They have not competed since the 2014 Olympics, but they have also not announced their retirement.

MORE: Where Meryl Davis, Charlie White stand on possible comeback

Chloe Kim (Snowboarding): Kim mathematically qualified for the 2014 U.S. Olympic team in halfpipe, but at 13, she was not old enough to be eligible to compete in Sochi. A U.S. woman has won gold in the event at three of the past four Olympics, but Kaitlyn Farrington, who won halfpipe gold in Sochi, retired after being diagnosed with a spinal condition.

MORE: Kaitlyn Farrington retires from snowboarding

Mikaela Shiffrin (Alpine Skiing): Shiffrin became the youngest Olympic slalom champion at the 2014 Games, when she was 18. Four years later, she is hoping to become the first Alpine skier — man or woman — to repeat as slalom gold medalist. She also could become the first U.S. women’s Alpine skier to win gold medals in multiple Olympics.