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Visa Olympic partnership comes full circle in Pyeongchang

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The Pyeongchang Winter Games mark the 30th anniversary of Visa’s Olympic partnership, a run that has and should continue to produce plenty of highlights.

The slogan “Everywhere you want to be” has been joined with the Olympic Movement for three decades.

Famous Visa commercials included the Dream Team, Michael Phelps swimming across the Atlantic Ocean, the velvety voice of Morgan Freeman and U.S. women’s ski jumpers fight for equality.

In 2018, Visa will head back to where it all started in South Korea.

“Our first [Summer] Games were the Seoul Games in 1988,” said Chris Curtin, ‎Visa’s Global Head of New Platform Marketing Transformation and Chief Digital Officer. “So, we’re kind of coming home in our own way to South Korea after 30 years of having a relationship with the IOC.”

Visa, the official payment technology partner of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the only payment card accepted at Olympic venues, will debut an interactive shopping experience for fans in Pyeongchang and for viewers back home.

“We gear up for the Games just like these athletes do,” Curtin said. “It’s nothing short of a Herculean effort.”

At the Olympics, which open Feb. 9, fans can make purchases with wearable payment devices — gloves, commemorative stickers and Olympic pins.

For those watching via NBC Olympics, Visa Checkout will offer a first-time, real-time experience.

Viewers will be directed to a newly launched digital platform where they can browse and buy gear from the Team USA Shop worn by athletes from the ice and snow to the medal podium.

“When you see your favorite U.S. athlete, and you are like, gosh, I wish I had that USA vest or USA shirt, we’re going to offer that up on the website, and you can buy that in real time,” Curtin said.

Another round of Visa’s memorable Olympic commercials will debut over the next two months, featuring athletes such as the Nigerian bobsled team. No African nation has competed in Olympic bobsled before.

“There’s a World’s Fair element to the Olympics that allows for if not begs for brands like Visa to showcase their best,” Curtin said. “The Olympics are important to us because they share a lot of the same attributes that we do. They’re global in nature. They stand for and recognize excellence. There’s a sense of nationalism, but, frankly, they all live in a village together.”

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WATCH LIVE: London Marathon

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Watch the world’s best distance runners chase world records at the London Marathon, live on NBCSN and commercial free on the NBC Sports Gold “Track and Field Pass” for subscribers on Sunday at 3:30 a.m. ET.

NBCSN coverage also streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.

WATCH LIVE: London Marathon
NBCSN coverage — STREAM LINK
NBC Sports Gold commercial free — STREAM LINK

Sunday’s race start times (ET)
3:55 – Elite Wheelchair Races
4:00 – World Para Athletics Marathon World Cup ambulant races
4:15 – Elite Women’s Race
5:00 – Elite Men’s Race, Mass Race

The men’s field features arguably the two greatest distance runners of all time — Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele.

Kipchoge, the Rio Olympic marathon champ, ran the fastest marathon ever recorded — 2:00:25 in Nike’s sub-two-hour attempt last May in non-record-eligible conditions.

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history under legal conditions, having run six seconds shy of Kenyan Dennis Kimetto‘s world record of 2:02:57 from 2014.

In the women’s race, Kenyan Mary Keitany, already the world-record holder in a women’s-only race, looks to take down Brit Paula Radcliffe‘s world record with male pacers set in London 15 years ago. That time is 2:15:25.

Keitany is challenged by Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba, the third-fastest female marathoner in history behind Keitany and Radcliffe.

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Teddy Riner, dominant judoka, to skip 2018, 2019 Worlds

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French judoka Teddy Riner, arguably the world’s most dominant athlete, will reportedly skip the next two world championships before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

French coach Franck Chambily said Riner will compete a light international schedule the next two years ahead of what would be his fourth Olympics, according to Agence France-Presse.

Riner, a 29-year-old, 6-foot-8-inch native of Guadeloupe, is undefeated since 2010 with a reported 144-match winning streak. That includes Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 and world titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Before the streak, Riner also earned world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010, plus an Olympic bronze at age 19 in 2008.

He could compete through the 2024 Paris Games.

“When I am invincible, I will stop,” Riner said in 2013, according to The Associated Press.

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