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Paris Olympic athletes’ village key issue in fight with LA

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PARIS (AP) — Paris leaders of their latest Olympic bid stressed to IOC inspectors on Monday that their planned 1.7 billion euros ($1.86 billion) athletes’ village had guaranteed funding only for the 2024 Games and not 2028.

The International Olympic Council is assessing the possibility of giving Paris and Los Angeles the next two Olympics in September, and the athletes’ village has become a hot topic because Paris officials say their site will not be available after 2024.

“We are committed with the public authorities on this project for 2024, after that it’s not guaranteed,” bid leader Tony Estanguet said on Monday.

Michael Aloisio, the deputy general director of the Paris bid, added it would be difficult for Paris to freeze the project for four extra years “because there’s a need for the people around this area for housing.”

“All these projects have now been launched, and so they will take place before 2024, and so we can’t just freeze them and kind of sideline them for four years.”

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo insisted the village in the Seine-Saint-Denis will help develop an area where unemployment remains high. A total of 3,000 new homes should be built in the district after the Olympics.

“We believe in the regeneration of this area,” Hidalgo said.

Bid officials showed inspectors the planned village site in the Pleyel area, a 50-hectare (125-acre) site next to the river Seine. They said 84 percent of the athletes would be able to reach their competition venues in less than 25 minutes, and the Olympic stadium and aquatics center were within two kilometers (1.2 miles) of the proposed village.

MORE: With new president on board, Paris 2024 bid is ‘ready right now’

In addition, the bid committee said new public transport infrastructure will make the village more accessible, with the creation of a new train station, and a road interchange that should make it accessible from the center of Paris in about 20 minutes by car.

The inspectors were impressed by the village plans.

“This site is extremely well located and (close) to all competition venues,” said Patrick Baumann, the head of the IOC evaluation commission. “We received all the necessary information to understand how the site will be developed. We also spoke with the architect, who told us how the future housing project will be done.”

The other main construction requirements include an aquatics center close to the Stade de France, and the media center.

Because existing infrastructure was at the heart of the project, Paris leaders promise to limit spending, with an infrastructure budget of 3 billion euros and operational costs of 3.2 billion euros. They estimate 70 percent of the village costs will come from private funds.

“We have received all the guarantees we needed,” Baumann said.

On the second day of their visit, the IOC inspectors divided in three groups and toured the proposed venues, including the Eiffel Tower, Roland Garros, the National Velodrome, and the Stade de France.

Many Parisian landmarks including the Grand Palais and Champ de Mars will be used if Paris wins. The road cycling races would finish at the Arc de Triomphe, equestrian next to the Versailles Castle, and beach volleyball at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

Asked to compare the Paris planned venues with those of Los Angeles, Baumann dodged the question.

“The venues have a different history, but they are equally mind-blowing,” he said.

Evaluation commission members will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday for breakfast at the Elysee Palace before final discussions with Paris bid leaders.

Paris and Los Angeles will have another opportunity to present their bids to IOC members in Lausanne in July after they receive the evaluation commission report. The host city election will take place on Sept. 13 in Lima, Peru.

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MORE: Paris 2024 bid welcomes new French president Emmanuel Macron

Nathan Chen hits short program, leads world championships

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That’s more like it, Nathan Chen.

After two disastrous Olympic short programs, Chen nailed his jumps at the world championships, taking the lead by 1.86 points over Russian Mikhail Kolyada in Milan on Thursday. American Vincent Zhou is third.

Full results are here.

“I learned a lot from the Olympics, and I used what I learned there heading into the short program in terms of where to place my mind, what to think about throughout the program,” Chen said. “It was great to have an opportunity to come back before the end of the season to try the short program again, sort of hope to redeem myself.”

Later Thursday, Germans Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot backed up their Olympic gold with a world title, shattering the longest-standing world record in figure skating with a record margin of victory. Full recap here.

In Saturday’s men’s free skate, Chen can become the youngest men’s world champion since Yevgeny Plushenko in 2001. Zhou can become the first man to make a senior world podium the year after winning a world junior title since Plushenko in 1998. The U.S. last put two men on a world podium in 1996 (Todd EldredgeRudy Galindo).

This week’s field lacks Yuzuru HanyuJavier Fernandez and Patrick Chan, who combined to win every Olympic and world title since 2011 but ended their seasons at the Olympics.

On Thursday, Chen hit a quadruple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, a quadruple flip and a triple Axel for 101.94 points (2.18 shy of his personal best). It was a reversal from PyeongChang, where Chen’s short programs began unraveling with that opening combination, and he scored 80.61 and 82.27 points.

Chen placed 17th in the Olympic short program and redeemed himself with the top free skate, moving up to fifth. He went into the Olympics as the only undefeated male skater for the season.

“That I was able to bounce back and have the long program that I did, because of that the whole Olympic experience wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be after the short program,” Chen said Thursday. “Being able to have that, I didn’t have any ghosts of the Olympics following me [to worlds].”

Zhou, the youngest of 37 men in the field at 17, landed a quad Lutz-triple toe loop combination and a quad flip, fist pumping at the end of his skate. He shattered his personal-best short program by 12.25 points. Zhou was sixth at the Olympics.

“I came here to skate a clean program, I did that, and being in the top three is icing on the cake,” Zhou said.

Two other medal favorites — Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno of Japan and two-time world bronze medalist Jin Boyang of China — struggled with jumps. Jin is fourth and Uno fifth.

Uno, competing with a reported ankle injury, performed a triple-double combination rather than the quad-triple he did in PyeongChang. Jin had a quad toe called under-rotated.

The third American, 2013 U.S. champion Max Aaron, is in 15th place. Aaron put his hand down on his opening quad Salchow and turned out of his triple Axel landing.

Key Free Skate Start Times (Saturday ET)
Max Aaron (USA) — 6:05 a.m.
Shoma Uno (JPN) — 8:21 a.m.
Jin Boyang (CHN) — 8:29 a.m.
Mikhail Kolyada (RUS) — 8:38 a.m.
Vincent Zhou (USA) — 8:47 a.m.
Nathan Chen (USA) — 8:55 a.m.

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Olympic pairs’ champs crush world record for world title; U.S. struggles

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Germans Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot added a world title to their Olympic gold with a world-record score, while U.S. pairs’ struggles continued with the Americans’ lowest-ever results at a world championships.

Savchenko and Massot broke the longest-standing record total in figure skating, extending their lead from Wednesday’s short program to win by 20.31 points over Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov.

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres took bronze, France’s second Olympic or world pairs medal in 86 years.

Full results are here.

Savchenko and Massot’s free skate — the first to eclipse 160 points under the current judging system — included a side-by-side triple Salchow-double toe loop-double toe loop combination and a throw triple flip and throw triple Salchow.

Their total score — 245.84 points — shattered 2014 Olympic champions Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov‘s record of 237.71 set at 2013 Skate America. Their winning margin also broke Volosozhar and Trankov’s record for an Olympics or world championships under the 14-year-old points system.

Savchenko earned her 11th world medal — tying the female record held by Norwegian singles legend Sonja Henie — and sixth world title — tying Soviet Alexander Zaitsev for second on the all-time pairs’ list, four behind Irina Rodnina.

This was the French-born Massot’s first world title. Savchenko’s previous five world titles came with now-retired Robin Szolkowy.

The two U.S. pairs finished 15th and 17th, which means the U.S. drops to one pairs’ spot for the 2019 Worlds, its fewest since 1957.

U.S. champions Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim dropped from 11th after the short program to 15th of 16 pairs after the free skate. Scimeca fell on their death spiral and a throw triple flip, looked distraught skating off the ice and tweeted 10 minutes later, “I’m sorry for losing us a spot” and “Bad day to have a bad day.”

The Knierims made the top 10 in their four previous world championships appearances with a best finish of seventh.

The other U.S. pair, 2000 World junior singles silver medalist Deanna Stellato and 2014 Olympian Nathan Bartholomay, were 17th in Wednesday’s short program, missing the cutoff for the free skate by one spot.

It’s the first time all U.S. pairs finished outside the top 11 at a worlds, granted worlds didn’t regularly have a field greater than 15 pairs before 1990.

It came on the heels of the U.S. having its smallest pairs’ contingent — one pair — at an Olympics since the first Winter Games in 1924. The Knierims were 15th in PyeongChang, marking the first time the U.S. sent a pair to an Olympics and put none in the top 10.

The last U.S. pairs’ medal at worlds came in 2002, making this the nation’s longest drought in any figure skating discipline. The last Olympic medal was in 1988.

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