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IOC member apologizes for linking Russian ban to Nazis

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — IOC board member Gian-Franco Kasper apologized Thursday for comparing a ban on Russia from the 2018 Olympics to persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany.

“It was an inappropriate and insensitive comment,” Kasper, the long-time International Ski Federation president, said in a statement.

The 73-year-old Swiss official had been speaking on the sidelines of an IOC board meeting in 2018 host city Pyeongchang.

Kasper compared a potential Olympic ban for Russia — as punishment for state-backed doping and cheating at the 2014 Sochi Games — with indiscriminate persecution by the Nazis.

“I apologize unreservedly for any offence I have caused. I am truly sorry,” Kasper said in the statement released by the IOC.

The IOC has set up two commissions to verify evidence — detailed in investigations appointed by the World Anti-Doping Agency — of Russia’s doping program before deciding on the country’s Olympic participation.

Last July, the IOC board declined to impose a blanket ban on Russian teams and athletes competing at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Instead, the decision was left with the sports federations in a chaotic two weeks of legal debate and hearings before the games.

Kasper was not a board member at the time. He has since been promoted to represent winter sports on the IOC’s policy-making committee.

The two IOC commissions, investigating claims of a Russian doping conspiracy and prosecuting disciplinary cases against individual athletes, are expected to work for several more months.

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MORE: Russians face exclusion for not returning Olympic medals

Team USA Opening Ceremony uniforms have heaters

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The U.S. Olympic team uniforms for the PyeongChang Opening Ceremony contain heating components that will last up to 11 hours.

Ice dancers Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani and bobsledder Aja Evans wore the uniforms on TODAY on Monday.

The heat technology will come in handy.

The PyeongChang Opening Ceremony on Feb. 9 (live streaming on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app) will be in an outdoor stadium, likely in below-freezing temperatures.

From USA Today:

“The athletes can set the temperature (there are three settings) via their cellphones. The heat can last up to five hours on the high setting and 11 hours on the low setting, fully charged.”

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MORE: PyeongChang Olympic schedule daily highlights

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Jamaica misses Olympic men’s bobsled by one spot

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The only Jamaican bobsled team in PyeongChang will be its women’s bobsled team.

Jamaica missed qualifying a two-man bobsled team for the Olympics by one spot in rankings finalized last week.

Jamaica still had a chance to sneak into the 30-sled Olympic field if one of the qualified nations declined a spot, but that didn’t happen.

The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation made it official Monday, publishing the Olympic fields for each event.

At least one Jamaican men’s sled competed in every Olympics from 1988 through 2002, then again in 2014.

Sochi driver Winston Watts retired, but a new team was formed in this Olympic cycle that included former Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals running back Michael Blair.

New driver Seldwyn Morgan competed on the lower-level North American Cup the last three seasons with a top finish of seventh.

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MORE: Would Usain Bolt make a good bobsledder?