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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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MORE: 2026 Olympic bidding news

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Richard Callaghan, figure skating coach, banned for life

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Richard Callaghan, a figure skating coach best known for helping Tara Lipinski earn 1998 Olympic gold, was ruled permanently ineligible for violations including sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Callaghan can still appeal the sexual misconduct violation, according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations that updated Callaghan’s status Wednesday.

He was first suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into allegations first made against him more than 20 years ago.

Earlier this month, another former skater, Adam Schmidt, said in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested as a teenager by Callaghan starting in 1999.

Callaghan was previously accused of sexual misconduct in April 1999 by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students and later an assistant to him in San Diego and Detroit.

Maurizi told The New York Times that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with him beginning when he was 15 years old. The alleged misconduct had begun nearly 20 years earlier. Callaghan denied the allegations.

In March 2018, Callaghan told ABC News: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”

Maurizi’s previous grievance against Callaghan with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the precursor to U.S. Figure Skating, was dismissed on procedural grounds.

He was Callaghan’s assistant at the Detroit Skating Club until they split after Lipinski turned pro, left Callaghan and decided to train with Maurizi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, finishes last in kayak debut

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Pita Taufatofua, the Tonga Olympic flag bearer who went viral in Rio and PyeongChang, began his quest to make a third straight Olympics in a third different sport with a last-place finish in his opening-round heat at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary on Wednesday.

The start of the heat appeared delayed as Taufatofua struggled to get his kayak into position in the water. He was left at the start as the other six kayakers raced out and finished between 33 and 40 seconds. Taufatofua took 58.19 seconds, the slowest of 53 finishers among seven total heats.

“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing,” was tweeted from Taufatofua’s account. “Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life.”

Taufatofua, 35, was the oldest athlete in the heat by nearly a decade. He is also entered in doubles races with Tonga canoe federation president Malakai Ahokava with heats Thursday and Friday.

Taufatofua hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo, where he competed in Rio, and in sprint kayak.

But he hasn’t competed in taekwondo in three years and just started training kayak this spring. At worlds, Taufatofua told the BBC he is still having trouble staying afloat in the water.

Taufatofua said in announcing the new sport in April that it would be “largely impossible” to qualify for Tokyo. He could be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

“It’s certainly going to be the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had to embark on,” he said then.

Taufatofua’s results at worlds this week has little bearing on his Olympic qualifying prospects. Rather, he just needed to compete in Hungary to stay eligible for the Olympics.

The key will be an Oceania qualifying event early next year, where one Olympic bid is available. He will likely have to beat the best kayakers from Australia and New Zealand to grab it. Australian Stephen Bird placed eighth at the Rio Olympics and 11th at the 2018 World Championships.

If Taufatofua fails, he could receive a special tripartite invitation sometimes offered to smaller nations like Tonga.

Taufatofua became a social-media celebrity by marching into the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony shirtless and oiled up. He then lost in the first round via mercy rule in his taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient qualifying requirements for nations with a lack of Winter Games depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang, he said last year.

MORE: Five-time Olympic kayak medalist banned four years

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