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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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Paris open to esports on 2024 Olympic program

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LONDON (AP) — Video gamers could be competing for Olympic medals by 2024.

Tony Estanguet, co-president of the Paris Olympic bid committee, told The Associated Press that he will hold talks with esports representatives and the IOC about the possibility of gaming joining the 2024 program.

The explosion in popularity of esports events, drawing large crowds of youngsters to arenas for tournaments, has already seen gaming embraced by the Asian Games. It will become a full sport by the 2022 edition, although details of which games will be contested are yet to be provided.

Paris will be confirmed as 2024 hosts at an International Olympic Committee gathering in Lima, Peru next month after its only competitor, Los Angeles, agreed to take the 2028 Games.

Estanguet believes that a contest of digital prowess should be considered a legitimate sport if the Olympics is to maintain its relevance for new generations of fans.

“We have to look at it because we can’t say, ‘It’s not us. It’s not about Olympics,'” Estanguet said in an interview with the AP in London. “The youth, yes they are interested in esport and this kind of thing. Let’s look at it. Let’s meet them. Let’s try if we can find some bridges.

“I don’t want to say ‘no’ from the beginning. I think it’s interesting to interact with the IOC, with them, the esports family, to better understand what the process is and why it is such a success.”

The 2024 program will start to be shaped in 2019 with a final decision on the addition of sports in Paris to be taken by the IOC after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“There is some time to look at it, to interact, to engage,” Estanguet said. “We will spend some time after (the IOC meeting in September) Lima to engage with new people and stakeholders. The IOC will have the last … say, if they want esports on the program. Let’s discuss among ourselves.”

Paris is gaining the 2024 hosting rights without the usual dramatic vote. The IOC decided to award two Summer Games at the same time and LA later abandoned its bid for 2024 during negotiations with the IOC and Paris.

“We feel that we are the winner because we have what we wanted,” said Estanguet, a triple Olympic canoe slalom champion.

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Watch Kobe Bryant close the LA 2024 Olympic bid presentation to IOC

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LA 2024 turned to one of the most clutch athletes in Los Angeles history as the final voice in its bid presentation to the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday.

That would be retired Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and double Olympic gold medalist.

Bryant was not with the bid presentation team in Lausanne, but he starred in the final pre-recorded video shown to IOC members during a 50-minute presentation.

IOC members later voted unanimously to approve awarding the 2024 and 2028 Olympics to LA and Paris later this summer, should the IOC and both cities come to an agreement on who hosts in which year.

“There are so many different cultures represented here, so many different ethnicities represented here. LA can be anything you want it to be,” Bryant said to open a two-minute video, adding later, “It’s an opportunity to learn no matter where you look.”

And then, Bryant’s final words as the video closed and IOC members began applauding: “To have the Olympics here and to have so many different cultures represented would be a beautiful story to tell.”

Bryant joined the LA 2024 Board of Directors and Athletes’ Advisory Committee two weeks ago. He had previously participated in LA 2024 promotional videos more than one year ago.

The last U.S. Olympic bid, Chicago for 2016, flew in President Barack Obama as its closer at an IOC session in Copenhagen in 2009 (video here). Chicago was eliminated that day in the first round of voting among four finalist cities. Rio eventually won.

Granted, Tuesday was under different circumstances as IOC members were not yet voting on which city gets the 2024 Olympics. They may not vote at all as LA, Paris and the IOC are due to negotiate to determine if one city is willing to bow out for 2024 and take the 2028 Games.

Paris 2024’s final speaker in its presentation Tuesday was triple Olympic canoe champion Tony Estanguet, a co-bid leader. French President Emmanuel Macron spoke immediately before Estanguet.

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