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USOC evaluating 35 cities for potential 2024 bid

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The USOC sent letters to 35 mayors Tuesday in order to gauge interest and begin the process of hosting its first Olympics since 2002.

“Our objective in this process is to identify a partner city that can work with us to present a compelling bid to the IOC and that has the right alignment of political, business and community leadership,” USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said in the letter.

“This letter does not guarantee that the USOC will bid for the 2024 Games, but rather is an initial step in evaluating a potential bid.”

The letter detailed the necessary requirements for hosting the Games, including 45,000 hotel rooms, an international airport, public transit, and workforce of more than 200,000 people.

The cities that have already expressed interest include Dallas, Tulsa, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles, which hosted in 1932 and 1984. My vote still goes to Phoenix.

Paris is seen as a favorite to host its third Olympics, but first in a century. Rome, Dubai, Doha, and Durban, South Africa are also strong contenders to host. The final vote won’t take place until 2017.

The USOC failed to secure bids for New York in 2012 and Chicago in 2016, which was blamed on disagreements regarding revenue sharing between the IOC and USOC. Those disagreements have since been patched up through negotiations.

Here’s a full list of the 35 cities that recieved the letter:

Phoenix, Arizona
Los Angeles, California
Sacramento, California
San Diego, California
San Francisco, California
San Jose, California
Denver, Colorado
Washington, D.C.
Jacksonville, Florida
Miami, Florida
Orlando, Florida
Atlanta, Georgia
Chicago, Illinois
Indianapolis, Indiana
Baltimore, Maryland
Boston, Massachusetts
Detroit, Michigan
Minneapolis, Minnesota
St. Louis, Missouri
Las Vegas, Nevada
New York, New York
Rochester, New York
Charlotte, North Carolina
Columbus, Ohio
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Portland, Oregon
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Memphis, Tennessee
Nashville, Tennessee
Austin, Texas
Dallas, Texas
Houston, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
Seattle, Washington

WATCH LIVE: Simone Biles returns to U.S. Gymnastics Championships

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Simone Biles‘ comeback continues at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Friday night.

Biles enters her second meet since the Rio Olympics, where she earned four gold medals.

She is a clear favorite to win her fifth U.S. all-around title, which would break the record she currently shares.

LIVE STREAM: U.S. Gym Championships — 8 p.m. ET (for Olympic Channel subscribers)

Biles showed her comeback was for real at her first meet back three weeks ago, winning the U.S. Classic despite an uneven bars fall. Her all-around score was the highest in the world since Rio.

Friday marks the fifth anniversary of Biles’ first national title, when she was a braces-wearing, first-year senior gymnast oozing with talent but also unproven. She became so dominant that the prevailing notion was that everyone else was competing in a non-Simone division.

A new generation of women go up against Biles in the two-day meet that concludes Sunday.

That includes Ragan Smith and Morgan Hurd, who won the U.S. and world all-around titles in Biles’ absence last year, and Riley McCusker, who led the U.S. Classic going into the final rotation.

Gymnasts are competing to impress a world championships team selection committee. The five-woman world team will be named after an October selection camp.

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Ragan Smith defends U.S. gymnastics title, competing through pain

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BOSTON — When Ragan Smith won the U.S. all-around title last August, her margin of victory was greater than Simone Biles‘ average the previous four years.

At the world championships in October, Smith fell off the balance beam in qualifying and still posted the second-highest all-around score, just .001 off the lead. If Smith hit all four routines in the final, she would be crowned the world’s greatest gymnast of 2017 (during Biles’ break from the sport).

But as the all-around final began at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, Smith crutched out of the training gym. She suffered three torn left ankle ligaments on a warm-up vault, according to the Dallas Morning News, that needed four to five months to heal.

Smith is expected to compete in the all-around at the U.S. Championships on Friday and Sunday (broadcast schedule here), looking to impress a world championships team selection committee. The five-woman world team will be named after an October selection camp.

The ankle still hurts sometimes. So do her three or four broken toes. Smith doesn’t know the exact number because she doesn’t like to get medical check-ups before meets. She would think too much about the diagnosis.

In fact, Smith said she felt pain in practice every day for the last year.

“Everything starts hurting worse because we’re getting older,” said Smith, who turned 18 last week. Smith added that a coach joked to her recently, “You already have a 100-year-old body.” 

“Everybody I feel like has injuries here and there,” she said. “Everybody’s like banged up right now. We [gymnasts] are so strong mentally and physically that I feel like we push through it.”

Back home in the Dallas area, Smith marks her goals on a dry-erase board. The chief one for her two summer meets is this: Be the best Ragan I can be.

“That’s all I’m really striving for this competition,” she said Wednesday.

Smith did not do the all-around at the U.S. Classic three weeks ago, skipping floor exercise because she wants to debut it as a surprise this week. She called Classic “a practice run,” where her best result was third on beam.

Only two gymnasts per nation can compete in a world all-around final. If Biles is one of them, then Smith has to beat out Morgan Hurd (who won the 2017 World all-around title after Smith’s injury) and Riley McCusker (second to Biles at the U.S. Classic).

Smith, the youngest Rio Olympic alternate, is determined to compete on the elite level through 2020. She can take motivation from her bedroom wall and that dry-erase board, both of which had the same quote posted — “She believed she could so she did.”

“These coming up years, it’s definitely who’s in the game the longest. It’s definitely who’s not injured,” she said. “That’s pretty much who they pick, I feel like. You’re training your whole life for one year of gymnastics because that’s when you have to be at your highest peak. I definitely feel like it’s who’s in the game the longest and who can survive and who can help their body the best.”

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