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Former Rio mayor probed in Olympic-linked corruption scandal

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Former Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes, the moving force behind organizing last year’s Olympics, is being investigated for allegedly accepting at least 15 million reals ($5 million) in payments to facilitate construction projects tied to the Games.

Paes is one of dozens of top politicians implicated in a sweeping judicial corruption investigation in which construction giant Odebrecht illegally paid billions to help win contracts.

Paes’ name appears in documents published Tuesday by Brazil’s top court, and could stand trial if the country’s attorney general decides to prosecute.

In a statement Wednesday from his spokeswoman, Tereza Fayal, the former mayor strongly denied the allegations made in several plea bargains signed by former and present Odebrecht employees, calling the accusations “absurd and untruthful.”

“He vehemently denies that he has accepted bribes to facilitate, or to benefit, the interests of the Odebrecht company,” the statement said.

Paes stepped in forcefully about two years before the Olympics opened, shortly after International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates called Rio’s preparations “the worst” he’d ever seen and woefully behind schedule.

The IOC repeatedly credited Paes with speeding up preparations and cutting through red tape.

As rumors swirled around Olympic preparations, Paes often challenged reporters to find any corruption in city-hall contracts.

Days after the trouble-plagued Olympics ended, Paes and Carlos Nuzman — an IOC member and the president of the organizing committee — were awarded the “Olympic Order” by IOC President Thomas Bach.

In a statement Wednesday to The Associated Press, the IOC said Paes should be regarded as innocent until proven otherwise.

“These are allegations which he (Paes) strenuously denies,” the IOC said.

Odebrecht was involved in building many Olympic-related projects, including several arenas at the Olympic Park in suburban Barra de Tijuca, a subway-line extension, and the renovation of Rio’s port area.

The Supreme Court documents showed Paes received more 11 million reals ($3.5 million) in local bank accounts, and the rest in off-shore accounts.

In the statement, Paes said “he’s never had off-shore accounts.”

Paes left office on Jan. 1 after a term-limited eight years. He was once viewed as a presidential candidate, hoping to use the Olympics as a springboard. He recently said he hoped to run next year for governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro.

He is referred to in the Odebrecht documents as “The Little Nervous One.”

Plea bargains also indicate that irregularities — none of them involving Paes — were seen in awarding contracts for at least three stadiums for the 2014 World Cup: Sao Paulo, Recife and Brasilia.

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Alysia Montano announces pregnancy with clever video, no racing plans

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U.S. Olympic 800m runner Alysia Montaño is due in November with her second child, but this time she has no current plan to race at the U.S. Championships while pregnant.

Montaño’s husband and manager, Louis, said Wednesday that she has no races on her calendar (nationals are in late June) but hopes to continue her fitness during pregnancy. She may do a couple of 5Ks this summer.

Earlier Wednesday, the family announced the pregnancy in a clever video.

The video included the couple’s first child, Linnea, was born in August 2014, two months after Montaño made worldwide headlines for racing while eight months pregnant at nationals.

Montaño, 31, last raced at the Millrose Games on Feb. 11 in her first meet since falling in the Olympic Trials 800m final on July 4.

Montaño is set to be awarded her first two world outdoor championships medals, four and six years after she ran those races, due to a former Russian rival’s doping ban.

MORE: Montaño finds little joy after Russian stripped of medals

Sweden drops 2026 Winter Olympic bid

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The city of Stockholm says it won’t bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics.

Karin Wanngard, the city official in charge of finances, says the reason is because the International Olympic Committee will not be able to report how big the financial contribution to the host city will be.

She says the figures “will arrive at the earliest in November.”

This means that time will be too short to get enough analysis for the issues raised by several actors,” said the Swedish lawmaker, whose Social Democratic Party had been supportive of hosting the event.

“We Social Democrats have always thought that the Olympic Games are important for Stockholm’s growth and development,” Wanngard said in a statement, adding there was little backing for the event. “Unfortunately, we are alone to have this position about the Olympic Games.”

Swedish Sports Confederation chairman Bjorn Eriksson said he and his organization “fully respect the decision as we also believe in a realistic budget and a sustainable economy.”

Sports Minister Gabriel Wikstrom also supported the decision, adding that the Social Democratic-led government was “ready to handle requests for financial guarantees.”

“We have also been clear that it is Stockholm’s city that must make its decision first,” he told Sweden news agency TT.

The news comes six days after the Swedish Olympic Committee named a CEO for the 2026 bid.

In January, the committee said that Stockholm staging the 2026 Winter Olympics was “possible and desirable” and that a formal bid was expected in March 2018.

In 2015, Stockholm pulled out of the race for the 2022 Winter Games after Swedish politicians refused to give financial backing. Swedish politicians were uncomfortable because of concerns over costs, the environment, post-Games use of venues, the environment and other issues.

The early 2026 bid plan called for 80 percent of the events in Stockholm, while most of the Alpine competitions would be in the northern resort of Are, more than 600 kilometers (400 miles) from the capital. A few skiing events would be in Falun, 215 kilometers (130 miles) northwest from there.

The 2026 Winter Olympics have one bidder — Sion, Switzerland.

Cities in Austria, Canada, Japan and have also discussed potential 2026 bids, as has Lillehammer, Norway, the 1994 Winter Olympic host. The U.S. is not expected to bid for the 2026 Winter Games.

The next two Winter Olympics will be in East Asia in PyeongChang in 2018 and Beijing in 2022, giving a European or North American city a greater opening to be the 2026 host.

The 2026 Olympic host city is expected to be chosen from an International Olympic Committee members vote in 2019.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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