Salt Lake City group, USOPC pen letters to IOC president on potential Olympic bid

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The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and a group looking to bring the Winter Games back to Salt Lake City sent letters to IOC president Thomas Bach last month, continuing dialogue that could lead to a formal bid for the Olympics and Paralympics in 2030 or 2034.

LETTERS: Salt Lake City group to Bach | USOPC to Bach | Bach to Salt Lake City group

“That was really a formal step, as far as we’re concerned, in an informal process in order to officially signal and convey our enthusiasm and our intent to host a future Winter Olympic Games,” said Cindy Crane, chair of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games. “We are ready when they are ready.”

USOPC leaders said in December 2018 that if they bid for the next available Winter Games in 2030, it will be with Salt Lake City, but it hasn’t announced an official bid. The Utah capital was the last U.S. host for the Winter Olympics in 2002. The U.S. hasn’t put forth a formal Winter Games bid since.

The Salt Lake City committee has not set a deadline to decide on a bid nor on if that bid would be for the 2030 Olympics or for a later Winter Games. The U.S. will host the Summer Games in Los Angeles in 2028.

Last January, the IOC named Sapporo, Japan, Salt Lake City and Barcelona as interested potential 2030 bidders. Sapporo later became the first official bidder.

Host cities have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline.

The Salt Lake City committee held its second full meeting on Tuesday and its first since February. USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland joined the meeting by phone.

“The time will have to be right for all stakeholders, and we remain first and foremost committed to the success of the LA Games in 2028,” Hirshland and USOPC Chair Susanne Lyons wrote in an Oct. 30 letter to Bach. “Salt Lake City’s story stands as a testament to the power of the Games, as a model for legacy in action, and an example of the everlasting possibilities for host regions.”

The Salt Lake City group wrote in its letter to Bach that it has “political support at all levels” and an 80 percent public approval rating. It plans to send a small delegation to the IOC base of Lausanne, Switzerland, “sometime in the near future, when international travel resumes.”

Salt Lake City can offer a bid with 100 percent existing venues, thanks to continued use of sites from the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Crane said that Bach replied to the Salt Lake City group with a “very supportive” letter.

“We feel very good about a Games in 2030 or 2034, but we’re still doing our work,” Crane said Tuesday.

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Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

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Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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