AP

Lillehammer rules out 2026 Winter Olympic bid

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TOKYO (AP) — The man who organized the most popular Winter Olympics 24 years ago in the Norwegian ski resort of Lillehammer says it’s too soon to return in 2026.

But watch for Lillehammer in 2030.

“2026 would have been best for us, but I have to acknowledge the timing is not there,” Gerhard Heiberg told the Associated Press on Thursday.

He said organizers and politicians had too little time to work out details and financing, but called 2030 “more likely.”

“I’m a little sad,” said Heiberg, a former International Olympic Committee executive board member, and former chairman of the IOC marketing commission. “If we come forward, we will have a very strong bid.”

Lillehammer might have been the instant favorite for 2026, and its absence opens the race.

Bidders have until Saturday to let the IOC know of their interest. In October, the IOC will trim the field to serious contenders and pick the host next year.

At least five serious bids are likely to be on the table: Calgary, Canada; Stockholm, Sweden; Sapporo, Japan; Sion, Switzerland; and Milan-Torino, Italy. Interest might also come from Austria and Turkey.

The Italian Olympic Committee announced Thursday it sent a letter to the IOC stating its plans with a joint bid from Milan-Torino.

The IOC is trying to avoid what happened in bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Six European cities pulled out of official or possible bids, balking at soaring costs, political unrest, and the lack of public support expressed in rejected referendums.

That left proposals from two authoritarian governments: Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Beijing. Beijing narrowly won.

The IOC is trying an about-face, talking up austerity and the use of existing or temporary venues.

Costs have scared away bidders. So have white-elephant venues, which still litter Rio de Janeiro, the most recent Summer Olympics host. Empty venues also threaten PyeongChang.

IOC President Thomas Bach has said flatly: No more experimenting with non-traditional winter sports areas like Sochi, Russia, and PyeongChang.

“We have to think that now is the time to go back with the Winter Games to a traditional winter sports country,” Bach said a few weeks ago in Stockholm.

All four likely bidders suit that bill.

The United States seems primarily interested in 2030 with possible bids from Salt Lake City — the 2002 host — Denver, or Reno, Nevada.

Stockholm hosted the 1912 Olympics, but has never held the Winter Games. Richard Brisius, the CEO of Stockholm’s exploratory committee, told AP he does not expect a public referendum in Sweden — a death knell for many bids.

Sion must get approval in a regional referendum in June to move forward. It could also face a national referendum, two large hurdles. It plans to stage events all over the country.

Calgary city’s council will have to approve any bid. That decision is expected in late June. Calgary staged the 1988 Winter Olympics. A statement to AP from the office of Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the council would need “much more information about the costs and benefits” of holding the Winter Olympics.

Sapporo held successful Winter Olympics in 1972. Its problem is geography, with the IOC likely to shift back to Europe or North America after three straight Olympics in East Asia: PyeongChang, Tokyo in 2020, and Beijing in 2022.

A Sapporo bid official said citizens would be surveyed in a questionnaire before any bid goes forward. Officials say the cost will be about $4 billion, to build facilities and operate the Games.

If Stockholm were picked, that could almost rule out neighboring Lillehammer for 2030. Back-to-back Scandinavian Games seem unlikely.

“We have time now to try to find the right concept and start discussing the economy of this,” said Heiberg, who described Lillehammer as nearly ready to go after holding the 2016 Winter Youth Olympics.

“The investment will not be too high, but we will see,” he said.

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‘Race and Sports in America: Conversations’ primetime special covers social justice, combating inequality

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Athletes, including Olympians, discussed social justice, locker room conversations about race and ways that sports can help combat inequality in “Race and Sports in America: Conversations,” airing Monday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, Olympic Channel, Golf Channel and NBC Sports Regional Networks.

NBC Sports’ Damon Hack hosted roundtables with active and retired athletes at the American Century Championship Golf Tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, last week.

Panelists, including Olympians James Blake and Charles Barkley and Tokyo Olympic hopeful Stephen Curry, also reflected on personal experiences.

Barkley, an Olympic gold medalist in 1992 and 1996, said coaches recently reached out to him to speak to their teams.

“First of all, relax and breathe,” Barkley said. “This crap started 400 years ago. We can’t do nothing about that. We can’t do anything about systematic racism. What I challenge every Black person, every white person to do: What can I do today going forward?

“You have to ask yourself, I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Because if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Blake, a retired former top-five tennis player and 2008 Olympian, was wrestled to the ground, handcuffed and arrested by a plainclothes New York City police officer in 2015 in a case of mistaken identity caught on video. The police officer’s punishment was a loss of five vacation days.

“The first thing I said when I got tackled was, I’m complying 100 percent,” Blake said. “And that shouldn’t have to be your response the first time you interact with a police officer. And because that’s the way my dad taught me is stay alive. Do whatever you can to stay alive. Sort it out later with lawyers or however you want to do it, and stay alive in that moment. The fact you have to have those rules in 2020 means maybe we have to do something drastic to change the way police interact with the African-American community and the way the community interacts with the police.”

Curry said his daughters, 7-year-old Riley and 5-year-old Ryan, asked questions about the images they recently saw. He’s not shielding them, but rather being honest about society, going back centuries.

“We have to continue to double down and double down and keep people accountable in all walks of life, all industries, all forms of leadership, the judicial system, all those type of things,” Curry said. “And hopefully for my kids’ generation, their kids, we will see change. I’m hopeful and optimistic about, but I understand how much work will need to go into that.”

The full list of athletes who participated in the “Race and Sports in America: Conversations” roundtables:

• Charles Barkley – 1992 and 1996 Olympic basketball champion
• James Blake – 10-time ATP tennis champion, 2008 Olympian
• Stephen Curry – two-time NBA MVP, two-time FIBA world champion
• Troy Mullins – World Long Drive competitor
• Anthony Lynn – Los Angeles Chargers head coach
• Jimmy Rollins – World Series champion shortstop
• Kyle Rudolph – Minnesota Vikings tight end
• Ozzie Smith – Major League Baseball Hall of Famer

Additionally, Hack was joined by Super Bowl champion running back Jerome Bettis for an extended interview that will be published on NBC Sports’ digital and podcast platforms.

MORE: Elana Meyers Taylor’s claims of racism in bobsled being investigated

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Shelby Houlihan shatters American 5000m record

Shelby Houlihan
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Shelby Houlihan chopped 10.52 seconds off her own American 5000m record, clocking 14:23.92 at a Bowerman Track Club intrasquad meet in Portland, Ore., on Friday night.

Houlihan, who was 11th in the Rio Olympic 5000m, has in this Olympic cycle improved to become one of the greatest female distance runners in U.S. history.

She first broke Shannon Rowbury‘s American record in the 5000m by 4.47 seconds in 2018. In 2019, she broke Rowbury’s American record in the 1500m by 1.3 seconds in finishing fourth at the world championships in 3:54.99.

On Friday, Houlihan and second-place Karissa Schweizer both went under the American record. Schweizer, 24 and three years younger than Houlihan, clocked 14:26.34, staying with Houlihan until the winner’s 61-second final lap.

“I knew Karissa was going to try to come up on me and take the lead. She does that every time,” Houlihan told USATF.tv. “I had decided I was not going to let that happen.”

Houlihan improved from 41st to 12th on the world’s all-time 5000m list, 12.77 seconds behind Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba‘s world record.

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