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IOC president ‘impressed’ by Paris 2024 bid

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PARIS (AP) — French President Francois Hollande treated IOC President Thomas Bach with a special gift: an Olympic flag from the 1924 Olympic games that were held in Paris.

In addition to the vintage present, Hollande also had a special message for Bach: “This Olympic flag dates back to nearly a century. It will be a century old when Paris will host the Games in 2024.”

Paris, which has not hosted the Olympics since those Games, is competing against Budapest, Rome and Los Angeles. The International Olympic Committee will choose the host city in September.

After meeting with French athletes and Paris bid leaders during a two-day visit in the French capital, Bach met Hollande at the Elysee Palace on Sunday to discuss the bid.

He told Hollande he was “impressed” by the Paris dossier and the strong support the bid is enjoying.

“The Paris bid is a very, very strong bid because of the unity and the large support it is sparking off,” Bach said. “Personally, I’m very impressed by the unity among both the sporting and political worlds.”

Bach insisted the strong support among the general population was a key asset to the Paris bid.

“This has not always been the case with the previous French bids,” he said.

Paris failed in bids for the 1992, 2008, and 2012 Games and France also decided not to bid for 2020 after Annecy was humiliated in the race for the 2018 Winter Games.

This time, bid officials have made sure their project is backed by the government, the Paris city hall, and enjoys a strong level of public support.

The Paris bid is also in line with the IOC’s Agenda 2020, a set of recommendations encouraging bidding cities to promote maximizing the use of existing facilities and infrastructure to save money.

More than 70 percent of the proposed venues in the Paris bid are existing facilities, with a further 25 percent being temporary structures. The main construction requirements for the bid include an aquatics center close to the Stade de France, a new indoor arena in the southern Bercy neighborhood, the Olympic village and media center. Paris officials are also promising there won’t be any white elephants and that 100 percent of the venues will have a real legacy.

“Your project is excellent and is in line with the Agenda 2020,” said Bach.

Despite the security threats in France, Hollande repeated that Paris has the experience needed to organize and protect major events if it gets the Games, citing the soccer European Championships France hosted last summer as an example.

More than 200 people have died in France in the last 20 months in several terror attacks.

“I have no idea how the world will look like in 2024, but it will necessarily be dangerous,” Hollande said. “There is not a single country, or capital, that might think it will be immune. We have been confronted by this reality for a while, but we have what it takes to protect an event like the 2024 Olympics.”

Next week, Bach will meet Italian officials, who still hope the Rome bid can be revived despite opposition from the city council, which voted in favor of scrapping the bid after Mayor Virginia Raggi rejected the candidacy, citing concerns over costs.

MORE: Rome’s city council votes down 2024 Olympics bid

USA Hockey to start reaching out to potential replacement players

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USA Hockey will begin reaching out to “alternate players” to determine their interest in playing for the U.S. at the women’s world championship next week amid a potential boycott by its national team.

The contact is taking place in the event a resolution cannot be reached between USA Hockey and the women’s national team in a wage dispute.

“It’s important for everyone to understand clearly that our objective is to have the players we named as the U.S. women’s national team be the ones that compete in the world championship,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, in a statement. “Productive conversations have taken place this week and are ongoing in our collective efforts to reach a resolution.”

The alternate players are in the professional NWHL and college, according to USA Today, a report that USA Hockey would not confirm.

U.S. captain Meghan Duggan has said every player in the U.S. national team player pool, plus under-18 national team players, committed to not playing at worlds unless the wage dispute is resolved.

“We are confident that they [potential replacement players] would choose not to play,” the U.S. players said in a statement.

The world championship tournament starts March 31 in Plymouth, Mich.

As of Thursday evening, no resolution has come between USA Hockey and its women’s national team. They met formally on Monday for more than 10 hours, with both sides calling it productive.

“We ask that they approve the original agreement that, the players believed, was acceptable to both parties after Monday’s meeting,” the players said in a statement. “Unless there is an agreement, the players remain resolved to bypass the defense of the world championship.”

Neither side has said when the next meeting will take place.

On Tuesday, USA Hockey said it postponed a pre-worlds camp that was to run through next Tuesday in Traverse City, Mich., and canceled a scheduled Friday exhibition against Finland.

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MORE: NHL asked for decision on Olympics by end of April

NHL asked for decision on Olympics by end of April

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International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel tells The Associated Press he needs to know by the end of April whether NHL players will be cleared to play in the South Korea Olympics next year.

NHL team owners have made it clear they don’t want to stop their season again for the Winter Games and put their stars at risk of injury. The reluctance has come up before and yet the NHL has participated in the Olympics since 1998. This time, however, there seems to be an impasse.

The head of the NHL Players Association, Donald Fehr, says the players want to participate and hopes the league will take advantage of the chance to market the game in Asia.

However, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says without “material change to the current status quo, NHL players will not be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics.”

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MORE: 2018 Olympic hockey groups set