Italy wins bid to host 2026 Winter Olympics

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Italy wins bid to host 2026 Winter Olympics

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Italy will host the 2026 Olympics in Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo, taking the Winter Games to the Alpine country for the second time in 20 years.

International Olympic Committee members voted for the long-favored Milan-Cortina bid over Stockholm-Are from Sweden that also included a bobsled track in Latvia.

Milan-Cortina's jubilant delegation broke into chants of "Italia! Italia!" when the result was announced.

Italy last hosted in Turin in 2006, and the Alpine ski resort Cortina previously hosted the Winter Games in 1956.

Sweden's spirited late campaign effort was in vain, including the mayor of Stockholm appealing to voters from the stage by singing a lyric from Abba song `Dancing Queen'.

A sign of simmering Swedish frustration came minutes later when IOC board member Gunilla Lindberg pushed the limit of Olympic diplomacy ending her team's 30-minute presentation.

Lindberg challenged her colleagues to reward a new kind of creative, cost-effective bid the IOC has said it wanted -- "Or is it just talk?"

Instead, IOC members picked Italy despite a debt-hit economy which faces increasing European Union scrutiny.

"We submit with full confidence to your judgment," Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told voters.

Both candidates would likely have failed to get this far in previous Olympic bidding contests.

The IOC has relaxed previously strict rules that demanded financial guarantees and government support earlier in the process.

It was an attempt to revive Winter Games bidding with just two candidates on the ballot paper for the second straight time, since Russia spent $51 billion on venues and infrastructure for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Now, the IOC seeks to avoid costly new venues -- and potential white elephants -- while encouraging regions and multi-nation bids to share the load. Hence, Sweden teamed with Latvia, across the Baltic Sea, rather than build its ice sliding sports venue.

"We have budget problems in Italy but I think that this is something that everyone has," Italy Undersecretary of State Giancarlo Giorgetti said at an earlier news conference, citing the wealth of the Lombardy and Veneto provinces underwriting the games costs.

"They are two of the richest provinces in Europe," Giorgetti said. "They certainly have the capacity, they have the readiness, they have the finances in order to be able to support the event."

The IOC will contribute at least $925 million toward Italy's games operating costs of up to $1.7 billion. Building athlete villages in Milan and Stockholm shaped as the main capital investment and most uncertain ventures in the projects.

Last week, the IOC flagged Stockholm's village as a risk, and asked for more details of guarantees underwriting the project.

"A letter of intent is as important to us as any contract," Volvo chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said in the formal presentation, in what seemed a rebuke to the Olympic body.

The day-long meetings began with each bid in closed-door sessions with IOC members. The Swedish bid was challenged to prove its support from a Stockholm city authority coalition formed last October and a national government only five months ago.

Sweden Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said he assured voters "it's in the Swedish model, it's in our DNA" to deliver a stable Winter Games.

Still, a big plus for the Italian bid -- uniting Milan, the Alpine ski resort of Cortina d'Ampezzo, and several towns in between -- was the IOC's own polling. It found support from local residents around 85% compared to 60% in Sweden.

The 2026 contest meets the IOC President Thomas Bach's long-stated wish to return to traditional heartlands for winter sports after major construction projects from 2014-2022 in Russia, South Korea, and China.

The signature Swedish feature using the ice sliding sports track in Sigulda, Latvia, that meets the IOC's demand to use established sports venues.

The IOC has praised both candidates for projecting sports budgets "on average 20% lower" than spending on the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics and 2022 Beijing Olympics.

During the traditionally slick and emotional pleas to be awarded the games, Stockholm mayor Anna Konig Jerlmyr reminded voters of Sweden's most famous music act.

"Abba is everywhere," she said, before singing the lyric: "You can dance, you can dance, having the time of your life."

With more gravitas, Nobel Foundation executive director Lars Heikenstein spoke of Olympic values being an inspiration. Olympic leaders have long coveted a Nobel Peace Prize for the organization.

Sweden's heir to the throne, Crown Princess Victoria, joined a 100-plus delegation at the Swisstech convention center though did not take part on stage.

Italy's bid was livened by two Olympic champions, downhill skier Sofia Goggia and snowboarder Michela Moioli, doing a dab gesture and talking of their hopes to compete on home snow in almost seven years' time.

Sweden's wait for a first Winter Games goes on.


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Katie Ledecky's impact away from competition at the 2018 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships

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Katie Ledecky's impact away from competition at the 2018 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships

The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics are officially under two years away, which will mark Japan's fourth time hosting the Games. 

Just this week wrapped up the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships from Tokyo serving as a preview for not only next year's world championships, but the 2020 Games itself. 

21-year-old American swimming phenom Katie Ledecky continued to make her dominant presence felt finishing with three individual gold medals (400-, 800- and 1,500-meter freestyle races) in the meet.  The 1,500-meter wasn't even close. 

What she did with her time away from competition, though, was just as impactful. 

The Washington, D.C. native held a Sports Diplomacy swimming clinic in Setagaya Ward. This will be the site of Team USA training camps ahead of Tokyo 2020. 

The U.S. Department of State thanked Ledecky for "deepening US-Japan cultural bonds & educational exchanges." 

So far Ledecky has won five Olympic gold medals and 14 world championship gold medals, the most in history for a female swimmer. 

2019 World Swimming Championships are set to be held in Gwangju, South Korea next July. 

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Would Olympic participation have cost the Capitals the Stanley Cup?


Would Olympic participation have cost the Capitals the Stanley Cup?

Whether or not the NHL would allow its players to participate in the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang was a major storyline surrounding the 2017-18 season. Alex Ovechkin was one of the most outspoken supporters of Olympic participation, but in the end, had he been allowed to play in the Olympics, it could have conceivably cost him the Stanley Cup.

On the team’s breakdown day, general manager Brian MacLellan was asked if not participating in the Olympics was beneficial for the team’s playoff run.

“Oh for sure, yeah,” MacLellan said. “We would've had quite a few players playing in the Olympics and that takes a lot of energy, a lot of wear on the travel, the two weeks off,” MacLellan said. “It would have been an extra two weeks to the season.”

Had NHL players been allowed to participate, the Caps would have potentially seen a sizable number of players go. Braden Holtby (Canada), Jakub Vrana (Czech Republic), Philipp Grubauer (Germany), Evgeny Kuznetsov (Russia), Alex Ovechkin (Russia), Dmitry Orlov (Russia), Nicklas Backstrom (Sweden), John Carlson (USA) and T.J. Oshie (USA) all would have been potential candidates to represent their national teams.

The tournament stretched from Feb. 14 to Feb. 25. That’s two weeks of travel and highly competitive play. As one of the more skilled rosters in the NHL, there’s no question it would have had a greater effect on the Caps than most other teams.

Would someone have suffered an injury? Would the tournament have worn down some of the players over the course of the long playoff run?

Winning the Stanley Cup is not just about assembling the right team and playing well, there are a number of factors involved and all of them have to go right. That’s what makes it so difficult to win. The Olympics would have presented just another factor that would have had to go the Caps way.

There’s no way of knowing what the exact effect of the Olympics would have been, but the point is it would have had some effect and that could have potentially cost the Capitals their only Cup run.