Rome 2024
Rome 2024

Rome 2024 Olympic bid suspended, may be revived later

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ROME (AP) — Italy suspended Rome’s bid for the 2024 Olympics on Tuesday, forced to pull the plug because of the staunch opposition of the city’s mayor.

Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago said that he had written to the IOC announcing the decision to “interrupt the candidacy.”

While the letter left open a small possibility for a revival of the bid if there is a change in city government, Malago didn’t hold out much hope.

“Today the game is over. But if someone decides that the game isn’t over it’s not up to us. But today we’re ending the game,” Malago told The Associated Press after his announcement at a news conference. “That’s it.”

The move comes after Rome’s city council voted last month to withdraw support of the bid on the recommendation of Mayor Virginia Raggi.

“The bid committee is officially liquidated as of today,” Malago said. “It’s a big wound for us. I hope they realize how bad an impression we’ve made.”

The International Olympic Committee said it had “taken note” of the Italian decision and “will further explore with the candidature committee what this means.”

“All the circumstances and the information that we have received in the past days clearly demonstrate that this is about Italian politics only,” the IOC said.

Rome’s withdrawal leaves only Los Angeles, Paris, and Budapest, Hungary, in the running for the 2024 Games. The IOC will select the host city in September 2017.

It’s also the second time in four years that a Rome bid has been withdrawn or suspended.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

“I feel like I’ve been robbed of hope,” Rome bid vice president and Italian Paralympic Committee president Luca Pancalli said.

Hoping to regain the trust of the IOC, Malago said he was offering up Milan as host of the IOC session in 2019.

“This is the first step of Italy’s rehabilitation after this unacceptable interruption,” Malago said. “The other evening I had a chance to discuss this possibility with (IOC President) Thomas Bach and IOC general director Christophe De Kepper and there is ample support for this idea.”

“This is a way to turn the page and move on,” Malago added.

Raggi, who represents the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, said that taking on the costs of an Olympic bid is “irresponsible” for a city struggling to emerge from years of corruption and poor public services.

While Raggi wrote a letter to the IOC last month, IOC rules state that only the national Olympic committee can withdraw a candidacy.

“Anybody can write to the IOC but the only letter that counts is the one from the president of the Olympic committee,” Malago said.

Since being elected in June as Rome’s first female mayor, Raggi has had a rough first few months in office. Her administration was thrown into chaos after she dismissed her Cabinet chief and four other officials resigned.

A budget of 24 million euros ($27 million) had been allotted — much of it spent — to the 2024 candidacy, even though bid leader Luca Cordero di Montezemolo had no salary.

Malago compared Rome’s situation to Vancouver’s withdrawal six months before the 1980 Winter Games were awarded to Lake Placid in 1976. Vancouver had to wait 30 years to host the 2010 Winter Games.

“While it’s true that Canada had two games in the intervening years — Montreal (1976) and Calgary (1988) — I think Vancouver paid a big price for that decision,” Malago said. “Rome and Italy find themselves in a similar situation today.”

Still, the “interruption” of the bid is another signal that the IOC still has work to do to convince cities that hosting the games is a boon and not a burden.

Last month, 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, and Boston 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.

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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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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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