AP

Lillehammer rules out 2026 Winter Olympic bid

Leave a comment

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: 2026 Olympic bidding news

U.S. Olympic women’s tennis qualifying already looks intense

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Serena Williams is in strong early position to make the 2020 U.S. Olympic team. For everyone else, including older sister Venus Williams, every set of ranking points could be crucial over the next 10 months, including at the upcoming U.S. Open.

The U.S. has seven women in the world top 36 — not including 52nd-ranked Venus — but only four singles players can go to an Olympics from any one country come the rankings cutoff next June.

Serena Williams leads the way for Americans in second place overall in Olympic qualifying — which counts WTA rankings points starting after the 2019 French Open and running through the 2020 French Open. She has 1,885 points despite playing just two events the last two months, taking runner-up at Wimbledon and the Canadian Open.

Only Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, who has already been named Romania’s Opening Ceremony flag bearer, has more Olympic qualifying points (2,395).

After Serena, three more U.S. women are in the top 10 in Olympic qualifying — Sonya Kenin (No. 5), Madison Keys (No. 8) and Alison Riske (No. 10).

Keys, a quarterfinalist or better at all four Grand Slams in her career, jumped from outside the top 20 among Americans to the No. 3 American by notching her biggest title in Ohio last week.

Notables who must improve their ranking start with Venus Williams, who moved from 18th on the U.S. list to eighth by reaching the Cincinnati quarterfinals. She turns 40 before the Tokyo Games and could become the oldest Olympic singles player since the sport returned to the Olympic program following a 64-year break in 1988. She already owns the modern-era record of five Olympic tennis medals from her five previous Games and could still get to the Olympics in doubles if she doesn’t qualify in singles.

Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, is 12th in U.S. Olympic qualifying, winning a total of three matches among four tournaments in the window.

The veterans Williams sisters, Keys and Stephens, who made up the 2016 U.S. Olympic singles team, must fend off an emerging class.

Kenin, 20, backed up her French Open upset of Serena Williams by winning a lower-level event in June and then beating the world Nos. 1 and 2 the last two weeks.

Riske is playing some of the best tennis of her career at age 29. She beat world then-No. 1 Ash Barty to make her first Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon, a week before her wedding.

Then there are two of the phenoms of the year. Coco Gauff, 15, is ninth in U.S. Olympic qualifying after a run to the Wimbledon fourth round. Gauff was granted a wild card into the U.S. Open, after which she can’t play in more than five senior tournaments (and possibly no more than three) until her 16th birthday in March due to WTA age restrictions to keep young teens from burnout.

Amanda Anisimova, 17, is 13th in U.S. Olympic qualifying. Her best results this year — French Open semifinal, Australian Open fourth round — came before the Olympic qualifying window.

It’s looking like the toughest U.S. Olympic women’s singles team to make outright since 2004. Back then, the U.S. had Nos. 4 (Lindsay Davenport), 7 (Jennifer Capriati), 8 (Venus Williams), 11 (Serena Williams) and 18 (Chanda Rubin). Davenport, Capriati and Serena didn’t play at the Athens Games, opening the door for Lisa Raymond to play singles and doubles in Athens.

In 2000, Serena Williams didn’t make the Olympic singles field despite being ranked eighth in the world. A max of three players per nation were taken to Sydney, and the U.S. had Nos. 2, 3 and 6 in Davenport, Venus Williams and Monica Seles.

An Olympic rule mandating a minimum of Fed Cup appearances could affect Tokyo 2020 eligibility. However, the fine print allows for that to be bypassed in discretionary exceptional circumstances.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Tokyo 2020 Olympic master competition schedule

U.S. Olympic Women’s Singles Qualifying Standings (Max. 4 can qualify)
1. Serena Williams — 1,885 points
2. Sonya Kenin — 1,081
3. Madison Keys — 972
4. Alison Riske — 802
5. Jennifer Brady — 356
6. Jessica Pegula — 348
7. Madison Brengle — 344
8. Venus Williams — 302
9. Coco Cauff — 298
10. Bernarda Pera — 280
11. Lauren Davis — 245
12. Sloane Stephens — 238
13. Amanda Anisimova — 230

U.S. athletes qualified for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The U.S. Olympic team roster for the 2020 Tokyo Games will eventually reach more than 500 athletes. It is currently at seven.

Qualifying competitions and Olympic Trials events dot the schedule from now into early summer 2020.

Athletes qualified so far:

Modern Pentathlon
Samantha Achterberg
Amro Elgeziry

Sport Climbing
Brooke Raboutou

Swimming
Haley Anderson
Ashley Twichell
Jordan Wilimovsky

Triathlon
Summer Rappaport

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Tokyo 2020 Olympic master competition schedule