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IOC to discuss North Korea threat ahead of PyeongChang Olympics

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LONDON (AP) — Escalating tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program have caused security challenges posed to the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics to be assessed at an upcoming IOC meeting.

The International Olympic Committee session comes five months before the Winter Games are staged 50 miles across the border from North Korea.

Although regional concerns have been building for months amid new missile tests by the North, the pace has intensified since new sanctions were passed against Kim Jong Un’s regime by the U.N. Security Council last week. It led to heated rhetoric between the United States and North Korea, with threats of attacks.

“We are monitoring the situation on the Korean peninsula and the region very closely,” the IOC said on Friday from Lausanne, Switzerland. “The IOC is keeping itself informed about the developments. We continue working with the organizing committee on the preparations of these games which continue to be on track.”

France Olympic Committee president Denis Masseglia told The Associated Press the North Korea situation will be discussed at the IOC Session in Lima, Peru, in September.

“There is no reason to be too worried at the moment,” Masseglia said. “We are five or six months away from the Olympics. We are monitoring the situation carefully. Of course if the tension escalates, we’ll need to adapt. But PyeongChang is ready to host the games.”

PyeongChang is presenting the IOC with the third successive problematic build-up to an Olympics after Sochi in 2014 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016 were beset by human rights, environmental, and political crises.

“Each host city presents a unique challenge from a security perspective,” United States Olympic Committee spokesman Patrick Sandusky said, “and as is always the case, we are working with the organizers, the U.S. State Department and the relevant law enforcement agencies to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

Germany’s Olympic body said it will follow government travel advice which currently does not warn against travel to South Korea.

“We are observing the situation in the interests of both our athletes and fans,” the German Olympic Sports Confederation said. “Naturally we hope that it doesn’t worsen and that it calms down. In such cases, before we go to any such tournaments or competitions we always consult with the Federal Foreign Office for guidance.”

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Salt Lake City forms committee to weigh Olympic bid

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Salt Lake City has formed an exploratory committee to decide if the city will bid to host the Winter Olympics in either 2026 or 2030 — taking a key step toward trying to become a rare two-time host city.

The group made up of elected officials, business leaders and one key member of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City said Monday that it plans to make a recommendation to state leaders by Feb. 1.

The announcement comes after the U.S. Olympic Committee board said Friday that it was moving forward with discussions about bringing the Winter Games to America for either 2026 or 2030.

Because Los Angeles was recently awarded the 2028 Summer Games, a bid for 2030 would make more sense, chairman Larry Probst said Friday.

The USOC has until next March to pick a city; those expressing interest include Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno, Nevada.

Innsbruck, Austria, said Sunday it wouldn’t bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics, taking one more city out of the running. The hosting rights are set to be awarded in July 2019.

The same country hasn’t hosted back-to-back Olympics since before World War II, though when the International Olympic Committee scrapped its traditional rules and awarded 2024 (Paris) and 2028 (LA) at the same time, it indicated it was certainly open to new ideas.

Since 2012, Salt Lake City has been letting Olympic officials know the city was ready and willing to host again with a plan based on renovating and upgrading venues that have been in use since the Games ended.

The city had previously estimated it could put on a Winter Olympics for about $2 billion, but the committee will come up with a new cost estimate, said Jeff Robbins, the president and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission.

Robbins is one of three co-chairs on the committee along with Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and Fraser Bullock, a key player in Salt Lake City’s 2002 Olympics.

Robbins said he thinks the city has a great shot at winning a bid based on the relatively low cost and because it has demonstrated it knows how to maintain venues and keep them in use, putting the city in line with Agenda 2020, the blueprint that IOC President Thomas Bach created for future Olympics calling for less spending on new venues and infrastructure.

There’s an eight-lane interstate running from the Salt Lake airport, which was upgraded for the Olympics, to Park City, which is the home of U.S. Ski and Snowboard. Park City is the host for key U.S. training centers for freestyle skiing, speedskating and cross country skiing.

Overall, the area has hosted about 75 World Cup and world-championship events in winter sports since the Olympic cauldron was extinguished more than 15 years ago.

He said an expanded light rail train line grid around Salt Lake City and a $3 billion airport renovation already underway are two examples of how Salt Lake City is even better prepared now to host than in 2002.

But he and other organizers will also have to answer questions about a bidding scandal that marred the 2002 Games and resulted in several International Olympic Committee members losing their positions for taking bribes.

“You can’t control the past,” Robbins said. “The results of what happened I think would certainly speak volumes. While there was some challenges, we hosted arguably one of the best Olympics ever hosted.”

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Simone Biles announces new coach

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When Simone Biles begins her comeback in earnest next month, she’ll be training under a new coach — Laurent Landi — who coached one of her Olympic teammates, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Landi, a 39-year-old former French gymnast, guided Rio uneven bars silver medalist Madison Kocian at the Dallas-area gym WOGA, along with wife Cecile.

“[Landi] was in Dallas, which is not far away, and had recently left WOGA, and I had worked with alongside him and know how he is with athletes,” Biles said, according to the newspaper. “He does a good job not letting pressure get to the athletes. You can see some coaches get stressed but he doesn’t.”

Biles’ previous coach since she was 7, Aimee Boorman, left their Houston-area gym for a gymnastics job in Florida after the Rio Games.

Biles said last week she plans to return to full-time training Nov. 1 and return to competition next summer.

Kocian is now at UCLA and uncertain to return to elite gymnastics.

Two other Final Five members — Aly Raisman and Laurie Hernandez — have said they plan to return to training for a Tokyo 2020 run. But neither has announced a return to the gym like Biles.

The last member — 2012 Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas — has not said whether she will come back.

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