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L.A., Paris Olympic bids await meeting on 2024-2028 hosting

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GENEVA (AP) — Los Angeles and Paris should edge closer Friday to both getting Olympic hosting rights.

Ahead of a key meeting of the International Olympic Committee executive board, the French capital is now seen as the favorite to host the 2024 Games. But that doesn’t mean that L.A. will get left out in the cold.

The strangest Olympic bidding race in four decades will take clearer shape when the IOC board weighs opening up the 2024 contest to also include the 2028 award in September.

The expected agreement would fulfil IOC President Thomas Bach’s wish to avoid making a loser of either world-class candidate, though it must be ratified by the Olympic body’s voting members.

By meeting on Friday, the IOC can give the required month notice to upgrade an already scheduled 2024 campaign event in Lausanne into a formal session with rule-changing power. On July 11, up to 95 members are due in Lausanne to see L.A. and Paris bid leaders present their projects.

The likely process lets IOC members retain their most important job of voting for Olympic hosts on Sept. 13 in Lima, Peru, to open the regular session. That’s because the issue of which city gets 2024 and which must wait four more years will not be resolved Friday.

Still, L.A. officials have set a tone suggesting they could accept 2028. That would help give the IOC clarity and security for the next decade after a turbulent period of cost overruns by Olympic host cities and local voters sinking potential bids, including some former rivals in the current contest.

“To be blunt, LA 2024 has never been only about L.A. or 2024,” Casey Wasserman, chairman of the LA 2024 bid, said in a statement Wednesday. “Even when the issue of a dual award for the 2024 and 2028 Games was initially raised, we didn’t say it’s ‘LA first’ or it’s ‘now or never’ for LA: that sounds like an ultimatum.”

Paris, however, has stood by its claim that land to build a 1.7 billion euro ($1.9 billion) athletes village is guaranteed only for 2024.

Los Angeles, Wasserman suggested, declined a similar strategy “because we thought it was presumptuous to tell the IOC what to do and how to think. We’re better partners than that.”

The Paris bid declined requests to react to Wasserman’s comments.

The IOC would prefer a consensus to emerge rather than impose a deal on the cities, and L.A. could be rewarded for being the most flexible.

“My dream is not so much just to bring the Olympics here, but is to bring youth sports for free to every zip code,” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said last week in confirming talks with the IOC to explore “what it would take” to agree which city would host first.

Both seek to follow London as three-time Olympic hosts. Paris hosted in 1900 and 1924, and Los Angeles in 1932 and 1984. Almost 40 years ago, L.A. was left as the only candidate when the Olympic hosting brand suffered in the 1970s.

Bach has sought to protect the IOC by driving the double award idea since December, though he asked his four vice presidents to draft a proposal for Friday’s meeting.

The IOC president “has done an excellent job of managing the process so far,” Michael Payne, the Olympic body’s former marketing director and a consultant to L.A., told The Associated Press in Lausanne this week.

“I think you will get three winners out of it — the IOC and the two cities,” Payne said, predicting that members would support a 2024-2028 award next month because “there is increasing recognition that this is what has got to be done.”

The 13-member board chaired by Bach has two American members — Anita DeFrantz and Angela Ruggiero. They should leave the room during the debate.

In other business Friday, the upcoming 2026 Winter Games bidding rules will be reviewed, with 2030 now also seeming in play if two strong candidates enter.

New medal events, led by 3-on-3 basketball, are also set to be added to the final 2020 Tokyo Olympic program. Some existing events could be dropped to make space after consultation with Olympic sports federations.

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Korea Olympic hockey coach takes high school job

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Sarah Murray, who coached the joint Korean Olympic women’s hockey team in PyeongChang, will coach the Owatonna High School girls team in her native Minnesota starting this fall.

Murray has not responded to a request for comment though the school on whether this means she is leaving the South Korean national team program.

Murray, 30, guided the joint Korean Olympic team to an 0-5 record. The tournament underdogs scored in three games and were within two goals of Switzerland.

Three weeks before the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee approved adding 12 North Koreans to the South Korean Olympic women’s hockey team, making it the first joint Korean team in any Olympic event.

Murray initially had mixed feelings.

“It’s exciting to be a part of something that’s so historic, to have two countries so divided come together through sports,” Murray said in January, according to Yonhap News Agency. “I think the story is great, and to be a part of it is important. But at the same time, it’s mixed feelings because it’s at the expense of, ‘We don’t get to play our full roster.’”

She expressed optimism after the Games.

“We have really enjoyed working with the North’s players and coaches, and we really do want to help them in the future,” Murray said, according to The Associated Press, adding that a possible “exchange game” was discussed to maintain the connection. “They want to get better, they want to keep learning from us and we want to help them. And there are things that we can learn from them, too.”

Murray won two NCAA titles as a player at Minnesota-Duluth. Her father, Andy Murray, spent 10 seasons coaching the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues in the 2000s.

She replaces an Otawonna coach who stepped down to focus on the girls lacrosse program and spend more time with his family.

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MORE: South Korea hockey team misses playing with North Koreans

Michael Phelps launches mental health campaign

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Michael Phelps was hanging at the pool on Tuesday.

No, he’s not planning another comeback.

He’s got a bigger goal to tackle.

Mental health.

After revealing the depths of his depression — and even thoughts of suicide after his second drunken-driving arrest — Phelps is hoping to make a difference for those who are dealing with similar issues.

The 23-time Olympic gold medalist announced a partnership with Talkspace, which provides online therapy, and said he considers it a higher calling than anything he ever did as a swimmer.

“Somebody told me yesterday about his daughter going through a very, very deep depression and not really wanting to be alive,” Phelps said in an interview with The Associated Press. “She read stories about me opening up. He told me how much that helped her. For me, that’s way bigger than ever winning gold medals. The chance to potentially save a life, to give that person an opportunity to grow and learn and help someone else, there’s nothing better in life.”

Despite his unprecedented success as an athlete, Phelps went through plenty of dark moments.

His first DUI arrest came when he was just 19, a few months after he won six gold medals at the 2004 Summer Olympics. He was briefly suspended after a picture emerged of him smoking from a marijuana pipe after his record eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games. He struggled to get motivated heading into the 2012 Olympics.

But his low point came in 2014, after he abandoned retirement to compete in a fifth Olympics only to be arrested again for driving under the influence. He checked into an Arizona rehab clinic and finally realized just how much he was hurting — so much so, he wasn’t sure he wanted to go on living.

“I thought it would make things easier,” Phelps recalled. “I almost felt like it would be better for everybody if I wasn’t there. But the more I thought about it, I wanted to find a different route. I wanted to see if I could find some help. I wanted to see if I could get better.”

Phelps said he’s in a much better place these days. He’s happily married and living in suburban Phoenix with two small children, 2-year-old Boomer and 3-month-old Beckett. He’s satisfied with his career, saying there’s nothing left to accomplish at the pool.

But there are times that he struggles with depression and anxiety.

He figures it will be that way for the rest of his life.

“I still go through times that are very challenging. I do break down and maybe have a bad day, where I’m not in a good mental state,” Phelps said. “I understand that. It’s who I am. I guess that will always be something that’s a part of me.”

He hopes that his deal with Talkspace, which helps connect those in need with therapists through a variety on online conduits, will help to remove some of the stigma associated with mental health — especially for those who are reluctant to seek out help in person or may not have the financial means.

Phelps said mental health is especially important when suicide rates are on the rise and a rash of school shootings have rocked the United States.

“I feel like with all the issues we have in this world, this is something where I can truly make significant impact,” he said.

The 32-year-old Phelps has kept himself in good condition since Rio. He rides a bike nearly every day and still works out at the pool at least twice a week. When he stepped on the scales Monday, he weighed 192 pounds — 3 pounds less than he was at his last Olympics.

“Could I come back? Yes,” he said. “I think it would be even easier than it was in 2014 (when he officially ended his first attempt at retirement). I’m in better shape now than I was then.”

But, with those tantalizing words, Phelps quickly struck down any thought of returning to competitive swimming.

He simply doesn’t have any motivation to add to his record haul.

“Would I like to break a world record? Yeah, obviously,” Phelps said. “But I also know what I did to prepare for Rio. I thought I did a pretty damn good job of getting myself ready to go. I didn’t want any what-ifs 20 years down the road. Twenty years down the road, I won’t have that. I’ll be able to say I was happy with how I finished my career. I was happy to be able to have my family there, to have my first-born there to watch. I’ll have those memories forever.

“All good things must come to an end eventually. That was the best way to go out.”

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