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Frank Fredericks leaves 2024 Olympic bid role, waives vote

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GENEVA (AP) — IOC member Frank Fredericks has stepped down from his role overseeing the 2024 Olympic bidding process after a $300,000 payment from a banned track official was revealed.

“Paris and Los Angeles are presenting two fantastic candidatures, and I do not wish to become a distraction,” the four-time Olympic silver medalist from Namibia said Tuesday in a statement.

Stepping aside as IOC evaluation chairman was “in the best interests” of the bidding process, the former sprinter said.

Fredericks, who won his Olympic medals in the 1990s, would have led an April 23-25 visit to Los Angeles. Paris will be evaluated by an IOC team on May 14-16.

“(I)t is essential that the important work my colleagues are doing is seen as being carried out in a truthful and fair manner,” Fredericks said, adding he will waive his right to vote in the September hosting contest.

Fredericks also will not take part in July meetings in Lausanne, Switzerland, that are a key stage in the voting contest. IOC members will hear from city campaign leaders and about the evaluation visits.

Fredericks has denied wrongdoing after his integrity — and the 2016 Olympic hosting vote — was questioned by French daily Le Monde last Friday.

Fredericks previously said he contacted the IOC Ethics Commission ahead of Le Monde revealing that a company linked to him was paid $299,300 on Oct. 2, 2009, the day Rio de Janeiro won 2016 Olympic hosting rights.

The money was transferred by Papa Massata Diack, the son of Lamine Diack, a disgraced former IAAF president and former long-time IOC member.

The elder Diack is in France where state prosecutors are investigating alleged corruption in the IAAF. His son, who has been banned for life by the IAAF, is evading questioning and thought to be in his native Senegal.

Le Monde reported that Papa Massata Diack’s marketing company received $1.5 million from a Brazilian businessman days before Rio’s victory in a four-city contest. Fredericks, a senior IAAF official, has said he had a marketing contract with Papa Massata Diack’s agency, Pamodzi Sports Consulting, from 2007-11.

“I reiterate that I was never involved with any vote manipulation or for that matter any other inappropriate or illegal practice,” said Fredericks, who joined the IOC in 2004 as an athlete representative and was a member of the IOC executive board at the time of the Rio vote.

“The articles do not only target me, they target the integrity of the International Olympic Committee bidding and elections process for host cities altogether,” he said. “This is why I have been and am still actively cooperating with the IOC Ethics Commission in order for them to conduct a proper and independent investigation.”

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Erin Hamlin to run New York City Marathon

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Erin Hamlin, the first U.S. Olympic singles luge medalist and Team USA flag bearer at the PyeongChang Olympic Opening Ceremony, will run the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4.

Hamlin, a 2014 Olympic bronze medalist who retired after her fourth Olympics in PyeongChang at age 31, is running to fundraise for the Women’s Sports Foundation. So is Marlen Esparza, who in 2012 became the first U.S. Olympic women’s boxing medalist (flyweight bronze).

Hamlin has no marathon experience, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation.

“Being challenged in sport is something I am very familiar with,” Hamlin said in a mass email Wednesday, according to TeamUSA.org. “Long distance running is something I most certainly am not!! It will be difficult, mentally and physically daunting, but a way to test my abilities in a sport so far out of my comfort zone.”

Many Olympians in non-running sports have raced the New York City Marathon.

Bill Demong, the 2010 U.S. Olympic Closing Ceremony flag bearer and only U.S. Olympic Nordic combined champion, ran the 2014 NYC Marathon in 2:33:05, crushing eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno‘s 3:25:14 from 2011.

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Softball set to return to Olympics as first event on Tokyo 2020 schedule

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Softball, returning to the Olympics after a 12-year absence, is scheduled to kick off the 2020 Tokyo Games, two days before the Opening Ceremony.

The preliminary master schedule for the Tokyo Olympics was published Wednesday, with the first softball game scheduled for 10 a.m. local time on the Wednesday before the Opening Ceremony.

The first game is scheduled to be held in Fukushima, the site of 2011 nuclear plant meltdowns caused by an earthquake and tsunami 155 miles north of Tokyo. The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organizers have been eager to use the Games as a symbol of recovery from the 2011 disaster

Traditionally, soccer has been the first sport to have action at a Summer Olympics, one or two days before the Opening Ceremony. While soccer is again scheduled to have matches that same Wednesday, they start later than 10 a.m.

The Tokyo 2020 schedule is subject to change and certainly not a final version — swimming, diving and synchronized swimming schedules are still to be determined, but those sports do not typically start before the Opening Ceremony.

Softball was added in 1991 to the Olympic program to debut at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The U.S. won the first three gold medals before softball and baseball were narrowly voted off the Olympic program in 2005/06 (a 52-52 IOC vote for softball, with a majority needed to stay in the Olympics), with the 2008 Beijing Games being the last edition. Japan won the last Olympic softball gold medal 10 years ago.

Then on Aug. 3, 2016, baseball and softball were among five sports added for the 2020 Tokyo Games only, at the request of Tokyo Olympic organizers. Baseball and softball are not guaranteed to remain on the Olympic program in Paris in 2024.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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