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Salt Lake City among 3 cities interested in Winter Olympic bids

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Salt Lake City, Sapporo (Japan) and Barcelona are interested in potential Winter Olympic bids for 2030, 2034 or 2038.

IOC member Octavian Morariu, chair of the IOC Future Host Commission for Winter Games, said the IOC has been in dialogue with “a number of interested parties” for the last two years and specifically named those three cities.

All cities previously expressed various levels of interest in bidding, either for 2026 (which was awarded to Italy’s Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo over Sweden’s Stockholm-Are on June 24) or for 2030. Olympic host cities have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years beforehand, though that timeline can be shortened under recent reforms.

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said in December 2018 that if it bids for the 2030 Winter Games, it will be with Salt Lake City. 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. Morariu said Salt Lake City would use 100 percent existing venues.

Sapporo, which hosted the 1972 Winter Games, took part in the dialogue stage for the 2026 bid race before withdrawing in 2018 to focus on 2030. IOC president Thomas Bach was asked about Sapporo’s interest in 2030 on Thursday and said there’s no doubt it could organize an “excellent” Winter Games. Morariu said Sapporo, which will hold the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks, would use 92 percent existing venues.

The IOC labeled the third interested party as “Pyrenees-Barcelona.” Morariu said sliding sports and ski jumping would be held outside Spain, as the nation does not have existing venues for those sports. Morariu also said Spain’s Olympic Committee still has to finalize its wish to enter into dialogue with the IOC.

Lillehammer, Norway, the 1994 Winter Olympic host, was reportedly planning a 2026 or 2030 Winter Olympic bid as recently as 2018, but was not mentioned by Morariu.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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Sapporo wants to push back 2026 Winter Olympic bid

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Sapporo, one of seven 2026 Winter Olympic bids, told the Japanese Olympic Committee it prefers to bid for the 2030 Winter Games instead, according to Japanese media.

Officials from Sapporo and the Japanese Olympic Committee are expected to hold talks soon, according to Jiji Press.

If Sapporo, which hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics, remains in the 2026 race after the IOC invites cities to the official candidate phase in October, it faces one clear obstacle, reportedly indicated by Sapporo mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto: The 2018 Winter Olympics were in PyeongChang and the 2022 Winter Games will be in Beijing.

IOC president Thomas Bach said he hopes the Winter Olympics can return to a more traditional location in 2026, which USOC chairman Larry Probst called “code for Europe or North America.”

2030 might not be much easier. The U.S. and Norway could both put forth strong bids.

Sapporo, which has been talked about as a potential 2026 bid city for more than three years, hosted the Asian Winter Games in 2017, as well as in 1986 and 1990.

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