AP

Lillehammer rules out 2026 Winter Olympic bid

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TOKYO (AP) — The man who organized the most popular Winter Olympics 24 years ago in the Norwegian ski resort of Lillehammer says it’s too soon to return in 2026.

But watch for Lillehammer in 2030.

“2026 would have been best for us, but I have to acknowledge the timing is not there,” Gerhard Heiberg told the Associated Press on Thursday.

He said organizers and politicians had too little time to work out details and financing, but called 2030 “more likely.”

“I’m a little sad,” said Heiberg, a former International Olympic Committee executive board member, and former chairman of the IOC marketing commission. “If we come forward, we will have a very strong bid.”

Lillehammer might have been the instant favorite for 2026, and its absence opens the race.

Bidders have until Saturday to let the IOC know of their interest. In October, the IOC will trim the field to serious contenders and pick the host next year.

At least five serious bids are likely to be on the table: Calgary, Canada; Stockholm, Sweden; Sapporo, Japan; Sion, Switzerland; and Milan-Torino, Italy. Interest might also come from Austria and Turkey.

The Italian Olympic Committee announced Thursday it sent a letter to the IOC stating its plans with a joint bid from Milan-Torino.

The IOC is trying to avoid what happened in bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Six European cities pulled out of official or possible bids, balking at soaring costs, political unrest, and the lack of public support expressed in rejected referendums.

That left proposals from two authoritarian governments: Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Beijing. Beijing narrowly won.

The IOC is trying an about-face, talking up austerity and the use of existing or temporary venues.

Costs have scared away bidders. So have white-elephant venues, which still litter Rio de Janeiro, the most recent Summer Olympics host. Empty venues also threaten PyeongChang.

IOC President Thomas Bach has said flatly: No more experimenting with non-traditional winter sports areas like Sochi, Russia, and PyeongChang.

“We have to think that now is the time to go back with the Winter Games to a traditional winter sports country,” Bach said a few weeks ago in Stockholm.

All four likely bidders suit that bill.

The United States seems primarily interested in 2030 with possible bids from Salt Lake City — the 2002 host — Denver, or Reno, Nevada.

Stockholm hosted the 1912 Olympics, but has never held the Winter Games. Richard Brisius, the CEO of Stockholm’s exploratory committee, told AP he does not expect a public referendum in Sweden — a death knell for many bids.

Sion must get approval in a regional referendum in June to move forward. It could also face a national referendum, two large hurdles. It plans to stage events all over the country.

Calgary city’s council will have to approve any bid. That decision is expected in late June. Calgary staged the 1988 Winter Olympics. A statement to AP from the office of Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the council would need “much more information about the costs and benefits” of holding the Winter Olympics.

Sapporo held successful Winter Olympics in 1972. Its problem is geography, with the IOC likely to shift back to Europe or North America after three straight Olympics in East Asia: PyeongChang, Tokyo in 2020, and Beijing in 2022.

A Sapporo bid official said citizens would be surveyed in a questionnaire before any bid goes forward. Officials say the cost will be about $4 billion, to build facilities and operate the Games.

If Stockholm were picked, that could almost rule out neighboring Lillehammer for 2030. Back-to-back Scandinavian Games seem unlikely.

“We have time now to try to find the right concept and start discussing the economy of this,” said Heiberg, who described Lillehammer as nearly ready to go after holding the 2016 Winter Youth Olympics.

“The investment will not be too high, but we will see,” he said.

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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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