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Georgia’s presence at Sochi Olympics not assured

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Georgia’s president-elect is considering attending the Sochi Olympics, he said Sunday amid tensions between Georgia and Russia.

“We are considering this issue by our team,” Giorgi Margvelashvili said on TV, according to Trend News Agency.

The Olympics could, “give a start to some new relations not only in Russia but in the entire world,” Margvelashvili said on TV, according to RIA Novosti.

Margvelashvili was elected Georgian president on Oct. 27.

Richard Norland, the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, said the decision on whether Georgia will participate in the Olympics will be made later.

“Georgia’s feelings are clear,” Norland said, according to Trend. “However, in terms of regional security interests, the country seeks to take constructive steps.”

Georgia, with 4.5 million people, is the country bordering Russia that’s closest to Sochi. It hasn’t won a Winter Olympic medal since its debut in 1994 after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died on a training run the day before the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Opening Ceremony.

Recently, Georgian officials were reportedly unhappy that a Russian military pilot from the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict was chosen as one of the torch bearers for the Sochi Olympic torch relay.

Georgia and Russia were in conflict during the 2008 Beijing Olympics over a breakaway region that left hundreds dead, and the two bordering nations have had disagreements since.

In May, the Georgian Olympic Committee put its Sochi participation to a vote and unanimously decided to take part.

In October, Georgia’s prime minister said the nation won’t take part in the Sochi Olympics if it’s expected to be “humiliating” for the country.

“We should see how the situation evolves,” Bidzina Ivanishvili said in an interview with Georgian Public Broadcaster’s First Channel, according to RIA Novosti. “And if we feel before the Games that the participation is humiliating for us, then, of course, we won’t take part.”

Sochi unveils souvenir ticket design

Michael Phelps left with one meet before Olympic Trials

Michael Phelps
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Michael Phelps could face his lightest-ever competition run-up to an Olympic Trials after opting not to swim at a meet in Atlanta next week.

Last week, Phelps noted one other scheduled meet before the U.S. Olympic Trials (June 26-July 3). That’s in Austin, Texas, from June 3-5.

In his previous four Olympic cycles, Phelps swam at least two meets in the final two months before the Olympic Trials, according to USA Swimming statistics.

Phelps’ training plan in May and June will be impacted by the impending birth of his first child. Fiancée Nicole Johnson is 36 weeks pregnant, according to her Instagram.

Without Phelps, the Atlanta meet is expected to include five-time 2015 World champion Katie Ledecky, 12-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin, Olympic 100m free champion Nathan Adrian and rising sprint freestyler Caeleb Dressel.

VIDEO: Phelps’ interview with Matt Lauer

Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic chief quits

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Reuters
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A former South Korean government minister was nominated to take over the organizing committee of the 2018 Winter Olympics on Tuesday, just hours after Cho Yang-ho quit amid escalating financial troubles at the business group his family controls.

Lee Hee-beom, a former minister of industry and energy, needs to be ratified by a vote of senior committee officials to officially become president of the organizing committee for the Pyeongchang Games.

Cho’s sudden resignation marked the second change in less than two years at the helm of the local organizing committee, which had struggled to get preparations back on track in the face of venue construction delays, disputes over the location of the Olympic Stadium and slow pace of domestic sponsorship.

Cho is chairman of the Hanjin Group, which controls Olympic sponsor Korean Air and a major shipping company struggling with heavy debt.

He said in a statement he couldn’t continue with the Olympic job because he needs to focus on stabilizing Hanjin Shipping, South Korea’s largest container carrier, which said last week that it will undergo a debt revamp program with creditors in its last-ditch efforts to stay in business.

Cho took over as president of Pyeongchang’s organizing committee in July 2014 after the sudden resignation of Kim Jin-sun, the former governor of the region that includes Pyeongchang.

“For the past two years, I have truly put forward my very best efforts to work with every member of the organizing committee to prepare a successful Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2018,” Cho said in the statement. “I can proudly say that POCOG has become a strong team, and the challenges we have overcome have allowed us to achieve success at our first official test events this past February.”

Pyeongchang organizers have faced a series of challenges in recent years, including the construction delays, local conflicts over venues and criticism about their financial planning, but preparations had seemed to turn a corner after the successful hosting of test events earlier this year in Olympic venues.

Gunilla Lindberg, head of the International Olympic Committee’s coordination commission for the 2018 Winter Games, said the IOC respected Cho’s decision and appreciated his cooperation in recent years.

“Under his leadership, the organizing committee has made great progress and has delivered very successful test events,” Lindberg said. “There remain a number of important steps to be taken ahead of the Games and the IOC remains confident that through our close cooperation with the Pyeongchang 2018 organizing committee these will be successfully addressed.”

The announcement of Cho’s resignation came on the same day the Olympic flame was set to land in Brazil, where problems in preparations have sometimes overshadowed the build up to the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro in August.

MORE: New events added for 2018 Olympics