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Rome’s city council votes down 2024 Olympics bid

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ROME (AP) — As far as city leaders are concerned, Rome’s bid for the 2024 Olympics is finished.

The city council voted in favor of scrapping the bid on Thursday, a week after Mayor Virginia Raggi rejected the candidacy, citing concerns over costs.

The anti-bid motion passed easily as expected, since Raggi’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement holds a majority on the city council. There were 30 votes in favor of withdrawing the bid, and 12 votes against the motion.

The 5-Star Movement holds 29 of the 48 council places, and all 29 voted in support of the mayor’s rejection. There was also one supporting vote from an opposition party. Six council members were absent.

The rejection leaves only Los Angeles, Paris and Budapest, Hungary, in the running for the 2024 Games. The International Olympic Committee will decide on the host city in September 2017.

However, Rome bid leaders and the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) are hanging onto hope that the bid can somehow be revived — perhaps if Raggi is ousted from office.

IOC President Thomas Bach will be in Rome next Tuesday for a sports and faith conference at the Vatican.

“We’ll decide what to do after meeting Bach on Tuesday,” CONI president Giovanni Malago said.

It’s the second time in four years that a Rome Olympic bid has been rejected. In 2012, then-premier Mario Monti scrapped the city’s bid for the 2020 Olympics because of financial concerns.

Under previous mayor Ignazio Marino, Rome’s 2024 bid was approved by the city assembly last year with 38 votes in favor and only six against. Italian Premier Matteo Renzi was a strong supporter of the bid.

But Raggi, a 38-year-old lawyer who was elected in June as Rome’s first female mayor, cited worries over costs and budget overruns as reasons for rejecting the bid. She called the candidacy “irresponsible” for a city that can barely collect its trash and keep up other basic public services.

The latest rejection is another signal that the IOC still has a lot of work to do to convince cities that hosting the games is a boon and not a burden. Earlier Thursday, a city government panel in Tokyo warned that the cost of the 2020 Olympics could exceed $30 billion — more than four times the initial estimates.

Voters in Hamburg rejected the German city’s 2024 bid in a referendum. Boston also dropped out last year amid a lack of public and political support and was replaced as the U.S. candidate by Los Angeles.

Four cities withdrew during the bidding for the 2022 Winter Games, leaving only two candidates in the field. Beijing, hardly known as a winter sports destination, defeated Almaty, Kazakhstan.

MORE: Tokyo Olympics costs could top $30 billion, experts warn

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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MORE: What to watch every day of PyeongChang Olympics

USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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MORE: What to watch every day of PyeongChang Olympics