Austria looks into multi-country 2026 Winter Olympic bid

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A feasibility study has suggested Innsbruck could host the 2026 Winter Olympics on a budget of 1.175 billion euros ($1.3 billion), but the Austrian city will need the approval of its residents before deciding on a bid.

“If we stick to the strategy from the feasibility study, it could become doable and affordable games,” Innsbruck Mayor Christine Oppitz-Ploerer said Wednesday during a presentation of the 137-page report detailing financial, infrastructural and economic aspects of a potential candidacy.

The study said different sports could be spread over existing venues in the Tyrol region and in southern Germany, like biathlon in Hochfilzen, Nordic combined in Seefeld, and speedskating in Inzell, Germany. It would prevent Innsbruck from having to build new permanent infrastructure.

Also, the concept refrains from building a central Olympic Village as athletes would be located close to their respective venues.

The dispersion of events is possible under Agenda 2020, the IOC’s reform program that allows more flexibility in hosting the games, including the possibility of using venues in other cities, and even in neighboring countries.

Tyrol governor Guenther Platter said the study provided “a good chance” for Innsbruck to go ahead. Platter added he was planning to start an information campaign ahead of a referendum among the province’s residents, which will be held parallel to the Austrian parliamentary elections on Oct. 15.

In 2013, the last time Austrian citizens were asked about out hosting Olympics, Vienna had to drop plans to bid for the 2028 Summer Games after more than 70 percent of its residents rejected the idea.

Innsbruck hosted the Winter Olympics in 1964 and 1976, the only Olympics ever held in Austria. No city has hosted the Winter Olympics three times.

Austria bid for the 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics but never finished higher than third in International Olympic Committee member voting.

The next two Winter Olympics are in East Asia, which could boost the chances of a 2026 European bid, though Paris is likely to host the 2024 or 2028 Summer Olympics.

The lone confirmemd 2026 Winter Olympic bid so far is from Sion, Switzerland. Canada, Japan and Sweden have had various levels of exploration.

The 2026 Winter Olympic host city is expected to be chosen by an IOC members vote in 2019.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

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Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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