Budapest 2024
Budapest 2024

Budapest mayor may propose withdrawing 2024 Olympic bid

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The mayor of Budapest said Friday he may propose withdrawing the city’s bid for the 2024 Olympics as soon as next week.

Speaking to news site Index.hu, Istvan Tarlos said he could make his proposal to the Budapest Assembly as soon as Wednesday, once he has confirmed the position of the government and the Hungarian Olympic Committee, both of which said a decision on withdrawing the bid rested with city authorities.

Tarlos’ statement came after the apparent success of a petition launched by opponents of the bid, who presented election officials with forms containing 266,151 signatures seeking a referendum, far more than the minimum of 138,000 valid signatures needed.

Budapest City Hall did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

“Over a quarter million signatures have come together so this money is spent on modern hospitals and well-equipped schools instead of on the Olympics,” said Andras Fekete-Gyor, chairman of Momentum Movement, a new political group behind the initiative.

He added it would be “cowardly” if authorities tried to block the referendum or withdrew the candidacy without allowing the referendum to take place.

“We emphatically request Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Mayor Istvan Tarlos to hold the referendum and refrain from blocking it from being held,” Fekete-Gyor said at Budapest City Hall. “Not asking people’s opinions about organizing the Olympics in Hungary was a huge omission on their part.”

Earlier Friday, Tarlos said he would consider withdrawing if enough people backed the referendum but said it was “treason” on part of the opposition to abandon its support for the bid.

The head of the Hungarian Olympic Committee said the decision was up to the Budapest Assembly and blamed the opposition parties, some of which helped gather signatures for the referendum, with splitting Hungarian society.

“With this activity, they have greatly weakened and constantly weaken Budapest’s chances and weaken Hungary’s bid,” committee chairman Zsolt Borkai said in a statement.

The bid has received strong backing from Orban, an avid sports enthusiast, though last year he compared Budapest to David competing against the Goliaths of Los Angeles and Paris, the remaining bidders after Hamburg and Rome withdrew their candidacies.

Fekete-Gyor said election officials had 45 days to review the signatures and determine whether the valid number had been reached. Several earlier attempts to hold similar referendums in Budapest or nationally were either blocked by the courts or abandoned.

The International Olympic Committee will select the host city in September.

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Mark McMorris hospitalized after snowboarding accident

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Olympic bronze medalist Mark McMorris suffered several injuries including a fractured jaw, fractured left arm, ruptured spleen, stable pelvic fracture, rib fractures and a collapsed left lung during a backcountry snowboarding trip Saturday, according to Canada Snowboard.

McMorris underwent surgery to control bleeding from the spleen on Saturday. He underwent another surgery to repair the jaw and arm fractures Sunday and was resting in Vancouver General Hospital on Monday morning.

“While both the mandible and humerus fractures were complicated injuries, the surgeries went very well, and both fractures are now stabilized to heal in excellent position,” Canada Snowboard team physician Dr. Rodney J. French said, according to the press release. “It is too early to speculate on a timeline for Mark’s recovery.”

McMorris, 23, won bronze in the first Olympic snowboard slopestyle event in Sochi, competing 12 days after breaking a rib.

McMorris has been considered a threat for two gold medals in PyeongChang, with the addition of big air. He earned Winter X Games medals in both slopestyle and big air in 2015, 2016 and 2017, including double gold in 2015.

He has already come back in this Olympic cycle from breaking his right femur in an Air and Style big air run in Los Angeles on Feb. 21, 2016 (video here). His rehab has been extensively documented by Canadian media.

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Several women’s players spurn worlds inquiry from USA Hockey

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As sports organizations and notable hockey figures express support of the U.S. women’s team, several players say they rejected overtures from USA Hockey to serve as replacements for the upcoming world championships.

Two players told The Associated Press on Friday that USA Hockey reached out to them to gauge their interest for the worlds, which begin next week in Plymouth, Michigan.

Brittany Ott, a goaltender for the Boston Pride of the National Women’s Hockey League, and Annie Pankowski, a junior forward at the University of Wisconsin, said the email from USA Hockey was not an invitation but rather an inquiry about their availability.

“I responded to that email and I said I’m not willing,” Pankowski said.

A third player, goalie Lauren Dahm, told the AP on Saturday she also turned down an invitation. Dahm plays for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League Boston Blades.

The U.S. team has said it plans to boycott the worlds over a wage dispute with USA Hockey, which confirmed Thursday it would begin reaching out to potential replacement players. Several players posted messages on social media saying they support the national team and would decline or have declined any outreach from USA Hockey.

“From a personal standpoint I have never been invited to a USA Hockey series or camp or anything like that and I would honestly love to be invited to something like that,” Ott said by phone. “However at the current time, this is a fight that I believe in and I’m definitely going to stand up and help fight as much as I can.”

Many players posted a version of a Jerry Rice quote on Twitter on Friday: “Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can do what others can’t. I said no to USAH & will not play in the 2017WC.” Not all players who tweeted that message were asked by USA Hockey if they could play.

On Saturday, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith joined the chorus of support for the players, saying on Twitter the organization stands behind their pursuit of fairness and equality.

“These women understand inequality when they see it and are expressing their right to be treated fairly as athletes and workers,” Smith tweeted. “Of course, they have the NFLPA’s support in daring to withhold their services until a fair agreement is reached.”

Philadelphia Flyers coach Dave Hakstol posted his support on Twitter, calling players competitors and role models.

On Friday, the NHL Players’ Association and Major League Baseball players posted messages of support. The NHLPA posted on Twitter that it supports players and panned USA Hockey’s bid to stock the team with replacements, adding that the decision “would only serve to make relations, now and in the future, much worse.”

The MLBPA encouraged all female hockey players to stand united behind their national team colleagues.

Players are seeking a four-year contract that includes payments outside the six-month Olympic period. The sides met for 10-plus hours Monday, but players have called USA Hockey’s counterproposal “disappointing.”

USA Hockey said Thursday its priority was to have all the players selected for the national team on the ice March 31 when the tournament begins. But the organization added that it informed players’ representatives it would begin reaching out to potential replacements with the tournament coming up.

Star national team forward Hilary Knight said last week she wished USA Hockey luck putting together a suitable team of replacements to defend the gold medal because the player pool was united in the dispute. Ott and Pankowski said they had not heard from any players expressing a willingness to play in worlds.

“It’s a very unified front,” Ott said. “It’s a tight-knit community that we have in women’s hockey here. This is definitely a big opportunity for us to make a big change and have a big impact on our sport and have it grow. We’re all standing together.”

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