USOC returns to Boston for Road to Rio event

Boston
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BOSTON (AP) — More than two months after Boston’s bid for the 2024 Olympics collapsed under the weight of fierce public opposition, the United States Olympic Committee is returning to the city with a much different goal in mind.

The organization is sending several athletes and former Olympians to Boston this weekend as part of its Road to Rio Tour, an effort to drum up support and enthusiasm for Team USA as the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro draw closer. The visit is timed to coincide with the Head of the Charles Regatta, one of the world’s premier rowing events that annually attracts some 400,000 spectators to the banks of the Charles River.

The stop was planned well before the USOC dropped Boston in July as the U.S. bid city for the 2024 Games, USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said, and isn’t meant as a fence-mending attempt in a region where emotions are still raw after months of sometimes bitter debate.

“I do think the USOC really trashed the Olympic brand in Massachusetts and in Boston,” said Evan Falchuk, a former candidate for governor who was leading the drive for a ballot question that would have barred the state from using public funds in support of the 2024 games, had the bid gone forward.

Falchuk and other critics contended that the USOC forced Boston 2024, the private group spearheading Boston’s Olympic bid, to shield details of its bid from the public and later pressured city officials to sign an agreement that could have left taxpayers holding the bag for future cost overruns.

With support for the bid lagging in public opinion polls and Mayor Martin Walsh ultimately refusing to sign the guarantee, the USOC severed ties with Boston and later pinned America’s hopes for 2024 on Los Angeles. In August, a report from a state-funded consultant suggested the Boston organizing group underestimated by nearly $1 billion the costs of hosting the games.

Nastia Liukin, the individual all-around gymnastics champion in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is among eight U.S. athletes coming to Boston as part of the tour.

While the anger surrounding the demise of the bid was “unfortunate,” Liukin said, she expects nothing but strong support for the athletes during the weekend promotion.

“It’s about Rio and the road to Rio,” said Liukin, who is engaged to former Boston College hockey player Matt Lombardi and believes fans can easily separate their admiration for U.S. athletes from any sour feelings over the botched bid.

Other tour participants include Ryan Lochte, an 11-time Olympic medalist in swimming; Caryn Davies, a three-time medalist in rowing; and Lolo Jones, a three-time track and field Olympian.

Boston is the third venue on the tour in 2015 after earlier visits to Philadelphia and San Diego. Six stops are scheduled for next year, including the final one in Los Angeles in August.

Boston was selected in part because it is a “great sports city” with a long history of producing and backing Olympians, said Sandusky.

“This isn’t about bidding for the Olympics but supporting Team USA,” he said, adding that the USOC enjoyed a strong working relationship with Boston officials though “ultimately it didn’t work out.”

Another local connection: The lead sponsor for the Road to Rio tour is Boston-headquartered insurance giant Liberty Mutual.

“People love the athletes,” agreed Falchuk, who ran for governor under the United Independent Party banner in 2014. But he believes an apology should come from bid organizers and politicians he contends waited too long to question the financial underpinnings.

“You would like to see someone say, ‘I’m sorry we did this,” but everyone says ‘let’s pretend this didn’t happen,’” he said.

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U.S. men’s gymnastics team named for world championships

Asher Hong
Allison and John Cheng/USA Gymnastics
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Asher Hong, Colt Walker and world pommel horse champion Stephen Nedoroscik were named to the last three spots on the U.S. men’s gymnastics team for the world championships that start in three weeks.

Brody Malone and Donnell Whittenburg earned the first spots on the team by placing first and second in the all-around at August’s U.S. Championships.

Hong, Walker and Nedoroscik were chosen by a committee after two days of selection camp competition in Colorado Springs this week. Malone and Whittenburg did not compete at the camp.

Hong, 18, will become the youngest U.S. man to compete at worlds since Danell Leyva in 2009. He nearly earned a spot on the team at the U.S. Championships, but erred on his 12th and final routine of that meet to drop from second to third in the all-around. At this week’s camp, Hong had the lowest all-around total of the four men competing on all six apparatuses, but selectors still chose him over Tokyo Olympians Yul Moldauer and Shane Wiskus.

Walker, a Stanford junior, will make his world championships debut. He would have placed second at nationals in August if a bonus system for attempting difficult skills wasn’t in place. With that bonus system not in place at the selection camp, he had the highest all-around total. The bonus system is not used at international meets such as world championships.

Nedoroscik rebounded from missing the Tokyo Olympic team to become the first American to win a world title on pommel horse last fall. Though he is the lone active U.S. male gymnast with a global gold medal, he was in danger of missing this five-man team because of struggles on the horse at the U.S. Championships. Nedoroscik, who does not compete on the other five apparatuses, put up his best horse routine of the season on the last day of the selection camp Wednesday.

Moldauer, who tweeted that he was sick all last week, was named the traveling alternate for worlds in Liverpool, Great Britain. It would be the first time that Moldauer, who was fourth in the all-around at last fall’s worlds, does not compete at worlds since 2015.

Though the U.S. has not made the team podium at an Olympics or worlds since 2014, it is boosted this year by the absence of Olympic champion Russia, whose athletes are banned indefinitely due to the war in Ukraine. In recent years, the U.S. has been among the nations in the second tier behind China, Japan and Russia, including in Tokyo, where the Americans were fifth.

The U.S. women’s world team of five will be announced after a selection camp in two weeks. Tokyo Olympians Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles are in contention.

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Paris 2024 Olympic marathon route unveiled

Paris 2024 Olympic Marathon
Paris 2024
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The 2024 Olympic marathon route will take runners from Paris to Versailles and back.

The route announcement was made on the 233rd anniversary of one of the early, significant events of the French Revolution: the Women’s March on Versailles — “to pay tribute to the thousands of women who started their march at city hall to Versailles to take up their grievances to the king and ask for bread,” Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet said.

Last December, organizers announced the marathons will start at Hôtel de Ville (city hall, opposite Notre-Dame off the Seine River) and end at Les Invalides, a complex of museums and monuments one mile southeast of the Eiffel Tower.

On Wednesday, the rest of the route was unveiled — traversing the banks of the Seine west to the Palace of Versailles and then back east, passing the Eiffel Tower before the finish.

The men’s and women’s marathons will be on the last two days of the Games at 8 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET). It will be the first time that the women’s marathon is held on the last day of the Games after the men’s marathon traditionally occupied that slot.

A mass public marathon will also be held on the Olympic marathon route. The date has not been announced.

The full list of highlights among the marathon course:

• Hôtel de ville de Paris (start)
• Bourse de commerce
• Palais Brongniart
• Opéra Garnier
• Place Vendôme
• Jardin des Tuileries
• The Louvre
• Place de la Concorde
• The bridges of Paris
(Pont de l’Alma; Alexandre III;
Iéna; and more)
• Grand Palais
• Palais de Tokyo
• Jardins du Trocadéro
• Maison de la Radio
• Manufacture et Musées
nationaux de Sèvres
• Forêt domaniale
des Fausses-Reposes
• Monuments Pershing –
Lafayette
• Château de Versailles
• Forêt domaniale de Meudon
• Parc André Citroën
• Eiffel Tower
• Musée Rodin
• Esplanade des Invalides (finish)

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