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IOC closer to 2024, 2028 Olympic double vote

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — The International Olympic Committee has moved closer toward picking both Los Angeles and Paris to host a Summer Games in an unprecedented double vote this year.

IOC President Thomas Bach has repeatedly hinted at awarding the hosting rights for both the 2024 and 2028 Games at the IOC Session on Sept. 13 in Lima, Peru. Only the 2024 Games is currently scheduled to be voted on in Lima.

“All the options are on the table, and this includes also the ’24-’28 procedure and vote,” Bach said Friday when announcing a working group to study changing the candidate process.

The IOC executive board asked its four vice presidents to “explore changes” in Olympic bidding and report back in July.

“We have two excellent candidates there from two major Olympic countries,” Bach said at a news conference after a two-day board meeting. “This is a position you like to be in.”

Bach said the four-man working group will make proposals to the board and full membership. They meet from July 9-12 in Lausanne, Switzerland, where LA and Paris will make formal presentations of their 2024 hosting plans.

A full IOC meeting can change the Olympic Charter, which currently says host cities must be picked seven years in advance.

“You must always have room for interpretation to adapt to changing times,” said Bach, who noted that he co-wrote the current book of Olympic rules. “The charter is flexible enough also in this respect.”

Los Angeles and Paris are in a two-candidate race after several rivals dropped out facing public opposition to expected spiraling costs and doubts about the long-term value of being an Olympic host.

Since December, Bach has repeated warnings about a bid process that produces “too many losers,” suggesting concerns that the city which lost a 2024 vote would not return with a candidacy for the 2028 Olympics.

“We are in a comfortable situation. Now it will be up to the working group how to best explore, how to best exploit, the positive situation,” Bach said. “We should not miss the opportunity to explore this opportunity.”

The four vice presidents are John Coates of Australia, Yu Zaiqing of China, Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr. of Spain and Ugur Erdener of Turkey.

Bach returned his focus to curbing excessive spending by hosts by welcoming budget cuts by organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Talks between government and Olympic officials have reduced the expected costs to $15.2 billion from an initial $30 billion estimate, Bach said, adding that “even more savings can be made.”

A discrimination issue for the Tokyo Games could be resolved this weekend, Bach said.

The Kasumigaseki Country Club, which was picked to stage men’s and women’s golf tournaments, will have a board meeting to review its policy of not allowing women as full members.

“The Olympic Games are about non-discrimination in every respect,” Bach said, adding he hoped the club will “grant the same rights to women as for men.”

Also, Kenya avoided being suspended by the IOC after its national Olympic committee officials backtracked and agreed to pass a new constitution and hold elections.

Kenya had its funding from the IOC cut last week and faced a ban after refusing to make the changes the IOC called for. But the National Olympic Committee of Kenya wrote to the IOC this week promising to “rectify the situation,” the IOC said in a statement to The Associated Press.

NOCK must now adopt the new constitution at a meeting on March 28 and then organize elections.

The IOC executive board decided funding to Kenya would continue to be on hold “until further notice.”

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Chinese figure skating judges banned for biased Olympic scoring

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Two Chinese figure skating judges were suspended by the International Skating Union for biased judging at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Chen Weiguang and Huang Feng had “preferential marking” for top Chinese skaters Jin Boyang (fourth place in PyeongChang) and the silver medalist pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, respectively, according to the ISU.

Chen was banned two years and excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Huang got a one-year ban.

Chen awarded her highest grades of execution scores of the men’s competition to Jin, as well as her second-highest program components scores, trailing only gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Both sets of scores, in both the short and long programs, were out of line with the other eight judges.

“There is evidence of preference for the Chinese skater and prejudice against his strongest competitors,” an ISU report read. “Her marks were completely unrealistic.”

The pairs’ judge Huang “obviously favored his pair also vis-à-vis the other top candidates for the Olympic gold medal,” the ISU said in a report, referencing inflated scores for Sui and Han and lower scores for gold and bronze medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Huang was warned one month before the Olympics by the ISU for biased judging at the December 2017 Grand Prix Final pairs’ event.

Both suspensions are subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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