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Budapest withdrawing 2024 Olympic bid; now L.A. vs. Paris

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Budapest will withdraw its bid to host the 2024 Olympics, leaving Los Angeles and Paris as the two candidate cities for an IOC vote to determine the host in September.

The decision was made to avoid “a loss of international prestige” for Hungary, with its governing party saying the bid had a very small chance of success, according to The Associated Press.

The move comes five days after Budapest’s mayor said he may propose withdrawing the bid due to more than 250,000 signatures collected urging a public vote on whether to bid. The Hungarian prime minister and Budapest mayor were to meet Wednesday to discuss the bid.

Previously, Hamburg and Rome withdrew their 2024 Olympic bids. Hamburg’s bid ended in November 2015 after 51.6 percent of voters in the port city were against the bid. Rome squashed its bid in October after opposition from its new mayor.

The last time two or fewer cities were finalists for a Summer Olympics was 1988, when Seoul beat out Nagoya, Japan, in an IOC vote.

The 2022 Winter Olympics also came down to two cities, with Beijing defeating Almaty, Kazakhstan.

It is possible that both the 2024 and 2028 Olympics could be awarded at the IOC session in Lima, Peru, in September.

“This is a discussion,” IOC president Thomas Bach said on Saturday, according to the AP. “It also depends on the timing. This is, you know, why I appreciate also the public discussion.

“There are many options.”

Los Angeles and Paris are bidding to host the Olympics for a third time, which only one other city has done — London. Los Angeles previously hosted in 1932 and 1984. Paris hosted in 1900 and 1924.

The U.S. is in the midst of its longest stretch between hosting the Olympics since the 28-year gap between 1932 and 1960. It last hosted a Summer Games in 1996 and a Winter Games in 2002.

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Budapest mayor may propose withdrawing 2024 Olympic bid

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The mayor of Budapest said Friday he may propose withdrawing the city’s bid for the 2024 Olympics as soon as next week.

Speaking to news site Index.hu, Istvan Tarlos said he could make his proposal to the Budapest Assembly as soon as Wednesday, once he has confirmed the position of the government and the Hungarian Olympic Committee, both of which said a decision on withdrawing the bid rested with city authorities.

Tarlos’ statement came after the apparent success of a petition launched by opponents of the bid, who presented election officials with forms containing 266,151 signatures seeking a referendum, far more than the minimum of 138,000 valid signatures needed.

Budapest City Hall did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

“Over a quarter million signatures have come together so this money is spent on modern hospitals and well-equipped schools instead of on the Olympics,” said Andras Fekete-Gyor, chairman of Momentum Movement, a new political group behind the initiative.

He added it would be “cowardly” if authorities tried to block the referendum or withdrew the candidacy without allowing the referendum to take place.

“We emphatically request Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Mayor Istvan Tarlos to hold the referendum and refrain from blocking it from being held,” Fekete-Gyor said at Budapest City Hall. “Not asking people’s opinions about organizing the Olympics in Hungary was a huge omission on their part.”

Earlier Friday, Tarlos said he would consider withdrawing if enough people backed the referendum but said it was “treason” on part of the opposition to abandon its support for the bid.

The head of the Hungarian Olympic Committee said the decision was up to the Budapest Assembly and blamed the opposition parties, some of which helped gather signatures for the referendum, with splitting Hungarian society.

“With this activity, they have greatly weakened and constantly weaken Budapest’s chances and weaken Hungary’s bid,” committee chairman Zsolt Borkai said in a statement.

The bid has received strong backing from Orban, an avid sports enthusiast, though last year he compared Budapest to David competing against the Goliaths of Los Angeles and Paris, the remaining bidders after Hamburg and Rome withdrew their candidacies.

Fekete-Gyor said election officials had 45 days to review the signatures and determine whether the valid number had been reached. Several earlier attempts to hold similar referendums in Budapest or nationally were either blocked by the courts or abandoned.

The International Olympic Committee will select the host city in September.

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Michael Phelps, Katinka Hosszu win Swimmer of the Year; Katie Ledecky also honored

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As Katie Ledecky‘s dominance has grown the last three years, the same woman has earned FINA’s Female Swimmer of the Year three straight times.

That would be Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu.

Michael Phelps and Hosszu were named this year’s Swimmer of the Year honorees on Sunday, the awards based largely on Rio Olympic performances (with a set points-based criteria).

Phelps earned five golds and one silver in Rio. He was the most decorated athlete of the Games across all sports for a fourth straight time and was the only male swimmer in Rio to earn three individual medals.

Phelps also received a special “Aquatic Legend, the Greatest of All Time,” award from FINA after retiring with a record 28 Olympic medals, including 23 golds. This came four years after FINA handed Phelps a trophy at the London Olympics declaring him “The Greatest Olympic Athlete of All Time” upon his first retirement.

Hosszu was the only swimmer to bag four individual medals in Rio, and three of them were gold. She is unquestionably the world’s best all-around female swimmer, sweeping the 200m and 400m individual medleys at the 2013 and 2015 World Championships and the Rio Games.

Ledecky’s mastery comes in a different form. She won the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyles in Rio, smashing her world records in the latter two. She also earned two relay medals, including anchoring the U.S. 4x100m freestyle relay with the sixth-fastest split of the field.

FINA’s criteria states that only individual events are taken into account for Swimmer of the Year purposes.

Outside of the Olympics, Hosszu holds an edge over Ledecky in World Swimmer of the Year consideration because the Hungarian cleans up at international World Cup stops, often swimming several races per day. Ledecky does not swim World Cups.

Ledecky did win Swimmer of the Year in 2013 (over Missy Franklin, after Franklin won six golds at the 2013 Worlds) and earned the female Performance of the Year for 2015 and 2016.

Other 2016 award winners included Great Britain’s Adam Peaty for male Performance of the Year, after he broke his 100m breaststroke world record twice in Rio.

Divers of the Year were Chinese gold medalists Chen Aisen and Shi Tingmao.

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