Key information for IOC session in Buenos Aires

Jacques Rogge
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Three major Olympic decisions will come down in the coming week at the 125th International Olympic Committee session in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Here’s what you need to know:

1. The host city for the 2020 Olympics will be named Saturday. Remember four years ago, when Chicago was a finalist to host the 2016 Olympics? On that Friday morning (U.S. time) in October 2009, Chicago was surprisingly eliminated in the first round of voting in Copenhagen. Of course, Rio de Janeiro went on to win the bidding to become the first South American host of the Games.

The other two finalists from four years ago, Madrid and Tokyo, are the two favorites from this year’s final list of three. The other candidate is Istanbul, which was seen as a much more popular pick nine months to a year ago, before it began dealing with anti-government protests and massive doping issues.

Madrid would give Spain its first Olympics since Barcelona 1992. Tokyo would bring the Olympics to Japan for the first time since Nagano 1998. Turkey has never hosted the Olympics.

Tokyo may hold the slight lead going into the session, where each city will make 45-minute presentations to the IOC followed by a question-and-answer session. Here’s how the voting will go down, via The Associated Press:

Voting begins at 2:45 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday. Nearly 100 IOC members will vote by secret ballot until one city gets at least 50 percent of the vote, so there could be two rounds of voting. IOC president Jacques Rogge, who opts not to vote, will open a sealed envelope and announce the winners shortly after 4 p.m. Saturday.

City previews: Istanbul | Madrid | Tokyo

Here are the promotional videos from the three cities published by the IOC on YouTube two months ago:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HI3ErDjr4BY

2. Baseball/softball, squash or wrestling will be added for 2020 in a vote Sunday. The vote for which sport to include in the 2020 and 2024 Olympics became a major issue in February, when wrestling was dropped from the program.

In May, wrestling was given hope, along with a baseball-softball joint bid and squash, as the finalists for one available spot. Wrestling is still in the 2016 Olympics and the heavy favorite from the trio, so it’s likely the sport won’t miss any Games at all.

Baseball and softball were medal sports in 1992 (baseball only), 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 and cut from the Olympics beginning with the 2012 Games. Squash has never been part of the Olympics, though it made failed attempts for inclusion beginning in 2012 and 2016.

The sports will begin presentations (a half-hour each) at 9:30 a.m. Sunday. The vote will be held from 11-11:45 a.m.

Sport previews: Baseball-softballSquash | Wrestling

3. A new IOC president will be elected Tuesday. Jacques Rogge, the current president and eighth overall, is stepping down after 12 years at the helm. These are the six candidates to replace Rogge:

Thomas Bach (Germany)
Sergei Bubka (Ukraine) 
Richard Carrion (Puerto Rico)
C.K. Wu (Taiwan)
Ng Ser Miang (Singapore)
Denis Oswald (Switzerland)

Bach, a fencing gold medalist at the 1976 Olympics and IOC member since 1991, is seen as the favorite. The election will take place from 10-11 a.m. — voting the same format as with the host city, so there could be multiple rounds — with an announcement due at 11:30.

Video: Messi promotes Madrid 2020

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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