Paris Olympic athletes’ village key issue in fight with LA

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PARIS (AP) — Paris leaders of their latest Olympic bid stressed to IOC inspectors on Monday that their planned 1.7 billion euros ($1.86 billion) athletes’ village had guaranteed funding only for the 2024 Games and not 2028.

The International Olympic Council is assessing the possibility of giving Paris and Los Angeles the next two Olympics in September, and the athletes’ village has become a hot topic because Paris officials say their site will not be available after 2024.

“We are committed with the public authorities on this project for 2024, after that it’s not guaranteed,” bid leader Tony Estanguet said on Monday.

Michael Aloisio, the deputy general director of the Paris bid, added it would be difficult for Paris to freeze the project for four extra years “because there’s a need for the people around this area for housing.”

“All these projects have now been launched, and so they will take place before 2024, and so we can’t just freeze them and kind of sideline them for four years.”

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo insisted the village in the Seine-Saint-Denis will help develop an area where unemployment remains high. A total of 3,000 new homes should be built in the district after the Olympics.

“We believe in the regeneration of this area,” Hidalgo said.

Bid officials showed inspectors the planned village site in the Pleyel area, a 50-hectare (125-acre) site next to the river Seine. They said 84 percent of the athletes would be able to reach their competition venues in less than 25 minutes, and the Olympic stadium and aquatics center were within two kilometers (1.2 miles) of the proposed village.

MORE: With new president on board, Paris 2024 bid is ‘ready right now’

In addition, the bid committee said new public transport infrastructure will make the village more accessible, with the creation of a new train station, and a road interchange that should make it accessible from the center of Paris in about 20 minutes by car.

The inspectors were impressed by the village plans.

“This site is extremely well located and (close) to all competition venues,” said Patrick Baumann, the head of the IOC evaluation commission. “We received all the necessary information to understand how the site will be developed. We also spoke with the architect, who told us how the future housing project will be done.”

The other main construction requirements include an aquatics center close to the Stade de France, and the media center.

Because existing infrastructure was at the heart of the project, Paris leaders promise to limit spending, with an infrastructure budget of 3 billion euros and operational costs of 3.2 billion euros. They estimate 70 percent of the village costs will come from private funds.

“We have received all the guarantees we needed,” Baumann said.

On the second day of their visit, the IOC inspectors divided in three groups and toured the proposed venues, including the Eiffel Tower, Roland Garros, the National Velodrome, and the Stade de France.

Many Parisian landmarks including the Grand Palais and Champ de Mars will be used if Paris wins. The road cycling races would finish at the Arc de Triomphe, equestrian next to the Versailles Castle, and beach volleyball at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

Asked to compare the Paris planned venues with those of Los Angeles, Baumann dodged the question.

“The venues have a different history, but they are equally mind-blowing,” he said.

Evaluation commission members will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday for breakfast at the Elysee Palace before final discussions with Paris bid leaders.

Paris and Los Angeles will have another opportunity to present their bids to IOC members in Lausanne in July after they receive the evaluation commission report. The host city election will take place on Sept. 13 in Lima, Peru.

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MORE: Paris 2024 bid welcomes new French president Emmanuel Macron

Mo Farah likely to retire this year

Mo Farah
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British track legend Mo Farah will likely retire by the end of this year.

“I’m not going to go to the Olympics, and I think 2023 will probably be my last year,” the 39-year-old Farah said, according to multiple British media reports.

Farah, who swept the 5000m and 10,000m golds at the Olympics in 2012 and 2016, was announced Tuesday as part of the field for the London Marathon on April 23.

Last May, Farah reportedly said he believed his career on the track was over, but not the roads.

London might not be his last marathon. Farah also said that if, toward the end of this year, he was capable of being picked to run for Britain again, he would “never turn that down,” according to Tuesday’s reports.

It’s not clear if Farah was referencing the world track and field championships, which include a marathon and are in Budapest in August. Or selection for the 2024 British Olympic marathon team.

The fastest British male marathoner last year ran 2:10:46, ranking outside the top 300 in the world. Farah broke 2:10 in all five marathons that he’s finished, but he hasn’t run one since October 2019 (aside from pacing the 2020 London Marathon).

Farah withdrew four days before the last London Marathon on Oct. 2, citing a right hip injury.

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah’s best London Marathon finish in four starts was third place in 2018.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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