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USOC narrows private list of 2024 Olympic bid cities

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The U.S. Olympic Committee trimmed its list of candidates for a potential 2024 Olympic bid on Tuesday but did not disclose which cities were chosen.

The USOC will probably make a public announcement in the next 10 days, after taking the next few days to communicate with the smaller group of cities individually.

“We’re not prepared to get into any specifics or details today, other than to say we had a great discussion, and we’re going to be moving forward with some really fantastic candidates,” USOC chairman Larry Probst said after a board of directors meeting in Boston, one of the cities that has expressed interest in bidding for 2024.

The other cities reported to be in the running were Dallas, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington. In May, Probst said the short list would probably be two or three cities.

The 2024 process, which began with the USOC sending letters to 35 mayors in February 2013, has been kept private to encourage participation from the cities, USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said.

“What we’re trying to do is create an opportunity to have open, meaningful conversations with these cities in a context where they don’t have to be public,” Blackmun said. “I don’t think any of the cities that we’re going to be talking to in the next six months have made unequivocal decisions that they want to stay in [2024 bidding].”

The U.S. has not hosted an Olympics since the 2002 Winter Games and is in the midst of its largest gap between hosting since the 28-year stretch between 1932 and 1960.

The U.S. has not committed to a bid for 2024 yet, and it said it will not decide until the outcome of Agenda 2020.

Agenda 2020, a blueprint introduced by IOC president Thomas Bach shortly after his election last year, includes the review of Olympic host city bidding procedures.

A finalized Agenda 2020 is expected to go up for IOC approval in December. The USOC has said it hopes to decide if it will bid, and, if it does, which city, by the end of this year.

“We clearly want to see the output from that [Agenda 2020] working group and what changes are adopted before we push the go button on formalizing a bid on 2024,” Probst said.

The next steps for a USOC bid team will be to perform what Blackmun called “deeper due diligence” on the short list of cities. The USOC wants to make sure each city can deliver Games essentials and big-ticket items such as an Olympic Stadium, Olympic Village and media centers.

The bid team will visit the short list of cities and provide an update to the board of directors at a September meeting.

Photos: 2014 World Cup stars who played in Olympics

Italian curler roars after hitting shot to qualify for Olympics (video)

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Forgive Amos Mosaner for shouting, for he clinched Italy’s first Olympic curling qualification.

Mosaner’s double takeout in an extra end put Italy past Denmark 6-5 in the last-chance Olympic qualification tournament in Pilsen, Czech Republic, on Sunday.

He rushed down the ice after that last stone, tossed his broom aside, pumped his fist and roared into a group hug with teammates.

Skip Joël Retornaz returns to the Olympics after a 12-year absence. He skipped Italy’s team at the 2006 Olympics, where they earned an automatic berth as host nation.

“This has such a different taste,” the 34-year-old Retornaz said, according to World Curling. “Earning the right on the ice feels great. It feels like a dream for me.”

Denmark later did make the Olympic field as the last nation, beating the Czechs for the spot.

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The Pyeongchang Olympic curling fields:

Men
Canada
Sweden
U.S.
Japan
Switzerland
Great Britain
Norway
Italy
Denmark
South Korea

Women
Canada
Russia
Switzerland
Great Britain
U.S.
Sweden
Japan
China
Denmark
South Korea

Mixed Doubles
China
Canada
Russia
U.S.
Switzerland
Norway
Finland
South Korea

Russia says its athletes want to compete at Pyeongchang Olympics

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russian athletes are overwhelmingly in favor of competing at the Pyeongchang Winter Games despite a ban on the national team, the country’s Olympic committee said Monday.

Sofia Velikaya said the Russian Olympic Committee’s athletes’ commission, which she chairs, has heard from “all the athletes in all sports” on the Olympic program, with a majority in favor of competing.

Velikaya said no athletes have told the ROC they would rather boycott.

“At the current moment, everyone’s training and everyone’s hoping to take part in the Olympics,” Velikaya said.

The International Olympic Committee last week barred the Russian team from Pyeongchang because of doping offenses at the Sochi Olympics, but is allowing Russians to compete under a neutral flag as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.”

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the government won’t stand in their way.

ROC spokesman Konstantin Vybornov said teams from biathlon and snowboard had recorded videos affirming their desire to compete, while the men’s hockey team has written “a collective letter.”

Some Russian hardliners believe it is shameful for athletes to compete at the Olympics without their national flag. But Velikaya defended the athletes, saying everyone watching will know who is from Russia.

“The choice of competing at the Olympics is strictly individual,” Velikaya said. “I call on Russian society to treat athletes’ decisions with understanding and respect.”

With the IOC due to send out invitations to individual Russians over the next two months, Velikaya said Russian sports officials would put together lists of their preferred teams.

Those rosters, she said, would stop the IOC from inviting “numbers five and six” in the Russian team while leaving out genuine medal contenders.

Russia is pushing back against some IOC conditions, however, backing appeals by Russian athletes banned for doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Velikaya also said her commission will ask the IOC to remove a condition stopping athletes from being invited to Pyeongchang if they have been suspended for doping in the past.

That affects a few athletes with earlier offenses unconnected to the Sochi Olympics, including biathletes banned for using the blood-booster EPO and speed skating world champion Denis Yuskov, who was suspended in 2008 after testing positive for marijuana.

Forcing the Russians to compete as neutral athletes puts the IOC in the uncomfortable position of regulating how they celebrate.

The Russian flag won’t be flown at medal ceremonies, but what happens if a Russian winner accepts a flag or a gift from a spectator for a victory lap? Can Russian athletes fly the flag from their windows in the athletes village?

Those are on a list of questions Vybornov said Russia will ask of the IOC.

“A figure skater wins, let’s say, and they throw her a teddy bear in Russian uniform onto the ice,” Vybornov said. “She picks it up. Can she do that? Or is that an offense?”

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