Calgary explores possible 2026 Winter Olympic bid

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CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — Calgary is looking at hosting another Winter Olympics.

The city council voted Monday to spend up to $5 million on an exploration committee to study a possible bid for the 2026 Winter Games.

Calgary was the host city of the 1988 Winter Olympics.

The Canadian Sport Tourism Authority says it will raise private funds to defray the cost of the exploration committee’s work.

“What council heard today is it’s time. It’s time to explore this bid in detail,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said.

“What council endorsed today was an opportunity to go forward, spend a little bit of money, gather more data.”

The International Olympic Committee will select the 2026 host city in 2019.

Venues from 1988 such as the Olympic Oval, Canmore Nordic Centre, and the sliding track at Canada Olympic Park still host international competition and serve as training centers of national teams. The ski jump at COP, however, is obsolete.

Calgary’s 1988 legacy and proximity to mountains has kept the city in conversations about future Winter Games bids.

The Canadian Olympic Committee sent query letters earlier this year to seven cities drawing populations more than 750,000.

The COC inquired if those cities were interested in, or wanted information about, hosting either the 2026 Winter Games or the 2028 Summer Games. The unidentified cities have until June 30 to respond.

Speculation about a Calgary bid accelerated when other cities lost interest in hosting. Quebec City said in May it was no longer considering a 2026 bid.

Toronto Mayor John Tory declared after last summer’s Pan American Games that the largest city in the country would not throw its hat in the ring for the 2024 Summer Games.

When cities dropped out and left only Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, competing for the 2022 Winter Games, the IOC adopted a series of reforms called Agenda 2020 to make bidding for an Olympic Games less expensive.

Any Olympic bid requires support from both the federal and provincial governments. Nenshi said he received no red lights from either.

“We have not had a flat-out ‘no,'” Nenshi said. “If we’d had a flat-out ‘no’ I would not have brought this proposal to council today.”

A 2013 study concluded the 2010 Vancouver Olympics cost roughly $7.7 billion when taking into account construction and operations. The Games organizing committee said it “broke even.” The cost of bid was $34 million.

The drop in oil prices has hit the Alberta economy hard, but Calgary councillor Richard Pootmans pointed out Calgary was in a deep recession when it bid in 1981 for the 1988 Games.

“The city was looking for projects to inspire them, was looking for projects to help stimulate the economy,” he said prior to council debate.

“This is almost exactly the same circumstance. We have a troubled economy at the moment. Why not have an inspiring large project to re-energize the city?”

Important elements of a Winter Games bid are a modern stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies and a hockey arena. Scotiabank Saddledome was built in 1983 and McMahon Stadium in 1960.

The Calgary Flames have pitched an $890 million arena/stadium/fieldhouse project to city council with taxpayers covering $200 million of it.

A city report pegged the project’s bill at $1.8 billion, however. Council asked the Flames to look at other locations and options to bring down costs. The two sides are scheduled to meet again next week.

But Flames Sports and Entertainment president Ken King has said their project isn’t tied to an Olympic bid because of a bid’s long timeline and uncertainty.

The Flames want shovels in the ground sooner than 2019.

“Our project is a bonus to a bid as opposed to a bid necessarily being a bonus to our project,” King said after a city council meeting in April.

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Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

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Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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