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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

Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Eliud Kipchoge will race the London Marathon on April 26 before he is expected to defend his Olympic title in Japan on Aug. 9, which would mark the shortest break between marathons of his career.

Kipchoge, who in his last 26.2-mile effort became the first person to break two hours at the distance, won all four of his London Marathon starts, including breaking the course record in 2016 and 2019.

His time this past April 28 — 2:02:37 — is the third-fastest time in history. Kipchoge has the world record of 2:01:39 set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna on Oct. 12 was not in a record-eligible race.

Kipchoge’s previous shortest break between marathons came in 2016, when he also ran London and the Olympics. The Olympics will be two weeks earlier in 2020 than in 2016.

Kipchoge, 35, has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He has yet to race the two most prestigious marathons in the U.S. — Boston and New York City — but has said they are on his bucket list.

MORE: Eliud Kipchoge opines on shoe technology debate

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Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless made luge history Saturday, becoming the first female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race.

The 16-year-olds from Whistler combined to finish 22nd in a field of 23 sleds, though that seemed largely irrelevant. There have been four-woman teams in what is typically called four-man bobsledding, but luge has never seen a pairing like this until now.

The German sled of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the race in 1 minute, 16.644 seconds. Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished second and the Russian team of Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov placed third for their first medal of the season.

The U.S. team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th.

But the story was the Canadian teens, who qualified for the World Cup event on Thursday. They were nearly a half-second behind any other finisher and almost 2.7 seconds back of Eggert and Benecken. But they’ll forever be able to say that they were winning the race at one point — a technicality because they were the first ones down the hill at the Whistler Sliding Center, but accurate nonetheless.

The only sled they beat was the Italian team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, who crashed in the second heat.

There are women’s singles and men’s singles races on the World Cup luge circuit, but there is no rule saying doubles teams must be composed of two men. There have been more female doubles racers at the junior level in recent years, and it was generally considered to be just a matter of time before it happened at the World Cup level.

That time became Saturday.

Canada had the chance to qualify a second sled into the doubles field because some teams typically on the circuit chose to skip this weekend’s stop, and Nash and Corless got into by successfully finishing a Nations Cup qualifying race on Thursday.

They were 11th in that race out of 11 sleds, more than a full second behind the winner and nearly a half-second behind the closest finisher. But all they had to do was cross the line without crashing to get into Saturday’s competition, and earned their spot in the luge history books as a result.

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