Rome Colosseum
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Rome 2024 Olympic bid plan includes Colosseum, Vatican, Circus Maximus

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ROME (AP) — The marathon route winding through St. Peter’s Square and finishing under the Arch of Constantine in front of the Colosseum. A medals plaza set up inside the Baths of Caracalla. Beach volleyball played at the Circus Maximus.

Since Italian Premier Matteo Renzi announced Rome’s bid for the 2024 Olympics last year, the details have been something of a mystery.

But, in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press, bid chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo revealed a list of “iconic venues” that will take full advantage of Rome’s historic settings and Italy’s television-friendly backdrops.

Among other plans, cyclists could finish the road race with a sprint on the majestic Via dei Fori Imperiali and sailing would take place off Sardinia, Sicily or the Amalfi coast. The marathon route would run alongside Rome’s synagogue and mosque to promote interfaith peace.

“With television today, to have the possibility to put together the sport, the emotion, with the (surroundings) is fantastic,” said Montezemolo, the former Ferrari president and current Alitalia chairman.

The center of the bid project is the Foro Italico, which features the Stadio Olimpico used for the 1960 Games with an adjacent aquatics venue.

“We can do the opening ceremony and the athletics tonight,” Montezemolo said. “(We’re) ready. Swimming tonight. … Seventy percent of the venues are existing.”

Another main area will be at Tor Vergata, a university zone on Rome’s ring road that would be used for the athletes village, basketball, volleyball and perhaps the velodrome.

Gymnastics, boxing, fencing, judo, taekwondo and some other sports would be held at the Fiera convention center near the main airport

With Tor Vergata currently in a state of abandonment. Montezemolo wants the athletes village to be turned into university housing and a hospital after the games.

“I don’t want to present a town that puts in the window only history and (the) past,” he said.

A drawback might be the distance — 33 kilometers (20 miles) — from Tor Vergata to the Foro Italico. That could impact athletics and swimming competitors who often return to the village between morning heats and evening finals.

Rome would like to host the games in August (sometime between Aug. 5-25) when the locals go on vacation — so traffic might not be as much of a problem as usual.

“It could be 40 minutes without traffic,” Montezemolo said.

One of the biggest challenges to Rome’s bid remains concern over corruption in construction contracts.

Dozens of suspects have been ordered to stand trial in November for a widening corruption scandal in Rome labeled “Mafia Capital.” Phone conversations intercepted by police and published in the media described how local criminal bosses managed to cement ties with city politicians over lucrative public contracts.

“I don’t accept that it’s automatic to do a big event together with corruption,” Montezemolo said.

At a flashy funeral send-off for a reputed mafia chieftain last month, there was a gilded horse-drawn carriage and “Godfather” theme music.

“I was astonished,” Montezemolo said of Vittorio Casamonica‘s funeral. “If this happened, it means that somebody did not (police) enough.”

With “Mafia Capital” in mind, Montezemolo is appointing Renzi’s anti-corruption czar Raffaele Cantone to a place on the bid team, and he’s also naming a handful of prominent judicial figures to oversee the contracts process.

“This is the best way to clean,” said Montezemolo, who is running the bid committee without a salary. “This is the process. For many years that was not the process.”

In line with the IOC’s new cost-cutting agenda, Rome is also promoting a thrifty bid.

Plans call for a games budget of 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) — or roughly half of what London spent in 2012

The bid budget is 10 million euros ($11 million) — a fraction of the 60 million euros ($65 million) that rival Paris is spending. Los Angeles — the other main contender — raised $35 million in a single week for its bid campaign.

The other bidders are Hamburg, Germany, and Budapest, Hungary. The IOC will select the host city in 2017.

Rome hasn’t launched a website yet — although that’s in the works.

Having witnessed Boston’s withdrawal from the race after a public backlash, Rome is being extra careful.

“I prefer to announce when things are confirmed,” Montezemolo said. “It’s very easy to say we will do soccer in the Colosseum and maybe swimming in the Tiber. But that is not realistic.”

MORE 2024 OLYMPICS: A look at the five cities bidding for 2024

Richard Callaghan, figure skating coach, banned for life

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Richard Callaghan, a figure skating coach best known for helping Tara Lipinski earn 1998 Olympic gold, was ruled permanently ineligible for violations including sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Callaghan can still appeal the sexual misconduct violation, according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations that updated Callaghan’s status Wednesday.

He was first suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into allegations first made against him more than 20 years ago.

Earlier this month, another former skater, Adam Schmidt, said in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested as a teenager by Callaghan starting in 1999.

Callaghan was previously accused of sexual misconduct in April 1999 by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students and later an assistant to him in San Diego and Detroit.

Maurizi told The New York Times that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with him beginning when he was 15 years old. The alleged misconduct had begun nearly 20 years earlier. Callaghan denied the allegations.

In March 2018, Callaghan told ABC News: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”

Maurizi’s previous grievance against Callaghan with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the precursor to U.S. Figure Skating, was dismissed on procedural grounds.

He was Callaghan’s assistant at the Detroit Skating Club until they split after Lipinski turned pro, left Callaghan and decided to train with Maurizi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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MORE: Eight matchups to watch in figure skating Grand Prix Series

Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, finishes last in kayak debut

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Pita Taufatofua, the Tonga Olympic flag bearer who went viral in Rio and PyeongChang, began his quest to make a third straight Olympics in a third different sport with a last-place finish in his opening-round heat at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary on Wednesday.

The start of the heat appeared delayed as Taufatofua struggled to get his kayak into position in the water. He was left at the start as the other six kayakers raced out and finished between 33 and 40 seconds. Taufatofua took 58.19 seconds, the slowest of 53 finishers among seven total heats.

“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing,” was tweeted from Taufatofua’s account. “Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life.”

Taufatofua, 35, was the oldest athlete in the heat by nearly a decade. He is also entered in doubles races with Tonga canoe federation president Malakai Ahokava with heats Thursday and Friday.

Taufatofua hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo, where he competed in Rio, and in sprint kayak.

But he hasn’t competed in taekwondo in three years and just started training kayak this spring. At worlds, Taufatofua told the BBC he is still having trouble staying afloat in the water.

Taufatofua said in announcing the new sport in April that it would be “largely impossible” to qualify for Tokyo. He could be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

“It’s certainly going to be the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had to embark on,” he said then.

Taufatofua’s results at worlds this week has little bearing on his Olympic qualifying prospects. Rather, he just needed to compete in Hungary to stay eligible for the Olympics.

The key will be an Oceania qualifying event early next year, where one Olympic bid is available. He will likely have to beat the best kayakers from Australia and New Zealand to grab it. Australian Stephen Bird placed eighth at the Rio Olympics and 11th at the 2018 World Championships.

If Taufatofua fails, he could receive a special tripartite invitation sometimes offered to smaller nations like Tonga.

Taufatofua became a social-media celebrity by marching into the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony shirtless and oiled up. He then lost in the first round via mercy rule in his taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient qualifying requirements for nations with a lack of Winter Games depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang, he said last year.

MORE: Five-time Olympic kayak medalist banned four years

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