If the US Olympic Committee is proceeding deliberately about whether to bid for the 2024 Summer Games it’s because it doesn’t want a bunch of unhappy cities that spent millions on embryonic bids only to be passed over.
“I don’t think the previous two domestic bid processes [New York 2012 and Chicago 2016] worked effectively,” USOC executive director Scott Blackmun told a group of sports editors last week. “We made enemies . . . we don’t want to have losers in the process.”
While the committee won’t reveal the list of wannabes, there are believed to be seven — Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington. The easy choice would be LA, the two-time host that recently unveiled its venue plan that would use a number of its 1984 sites (most notably a renovated Coliseum), plus newer ones such as the Staples Center.
The good news for bidders is that the ante for most of them will be less than $1 million, a fraction of the usual amount. If there is an American nominee, its rivals likely will be Paris (with a centennial bid) and 2020 runner-up Istanbul. Madrid said “no mas” after consecutive failed attempts.
“We cannot present a better bid,” said Alejandro Blanco, president of Spain’s national Olympic committee.
No rust on Phelps
Any doubts about whether Michael Phelps has the stuff for a fifth Olympic trip were dispelled at last weekend’s Grand Prix meet in Arizona, where the 22-time medalist submitted the year’s fourth-fastest global clocking in the 100-meter butterfly in his first competition since the 2012 Games. Phelps hasn’t said whether he’s on the road to Rio or whether he’ll compete in this summer’s US championships that will determine the squads not only for the Pan Pacific meet in Australia but also for next year’s world meet in Russia. But he’s already in the mix after finishing second to archrival Ryan Lochte in a time (52.13) that was less than a second off his winning number in London. Phelps still is testing the waters but if he can get anywhere near his old form, he likely could make the 2016 team in four events — the 100 fly, the 200 freestyle, and the 4 x 100 medley and 4 x 200 freestyle relays. What he confirmed last weekend was that he still has the appetite. “I felt like a kid again,” Phelps said, “and I think that was the coolest thing about it.” . . . The Sochi Games turned up a record eight positive doping tests, one more than did Salt Lake City in 2002. Three of them were from hockey players — Latvia’s Ralfs Freibergs and Vitalijs Pavlovs and Sweden’s Nicklas Backstrom (albeit with an asterisk) — in addition to a couple of bobsledders — Italy’s William Frullani and Poland’s Daniel Zalewski — plus cross-country skiers Johannes Duerr of Austria and Marina Lisogor of Ukraine, and German biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle. Only Backstrom was a medalist and he was allowed to keep his silver because he’d listed his pseudoephedrine use on the medical form. There may yet be more positives — the IOC won’t close the book on 2014 for another decade while the samples are stored for later retesting.
Safety a big concern
Is slopestyle too dangerous for the Olympics? That’s what Lars Engebretsen, the IOC’s head of scientific activities, reckoned after checking the casualty list from Sochi, where the extreme sport made its Games debut both in snowboarding and freestyle skiing. “Slopestyle is exciting but it’s just become, right now anyway, too exciting,” said Engebretsen, who deemed the number of injuries “unacceptably high.” Two of his fellow Norwegians, Torstein Horgmo and Kjersti Buaas, suffered a broken collarbone and a ruptured abdominal muscle, respectively, and Shaun White withdrew after jamming a wrist in practice. “It is like jumping out of a building,” reported Canadian competitor Sebastien Toutant. The danger, of course, is what makes slopestyle a riveting TV attraction. While the sport clearly could use a few safety tweaks, there’s been no indication that the IOC might remove it from the Pyeongchang program . . . If Meb Keflezighi runs another five or six 26-milers before hanging up his shoes, which is his plan, that would take him through the 2016 Olympics when he’ll be 41. If he makes the US marathon team for Rio, the Athens silver medalist will be the oldest man ever to do it. The 38-year-old Keflezighi, who was the oldest Boston victor since Smiling Jimmy Henigan in 1931, shares a five-ringed résumé with the Medford resident. Henigan was a three-time Olympian who won a silver in team cross-country in 1924, when Clarence DeMar, the seven-time Boston victor, collected the marathon bronze.
Local talent on world stage
Boston College hockey players Johnny Gaudreau and Kevin Hayes, who’ve gone pro after descending from the Heights, will be doing a bit of patriotic duty along the way. They’ll be suiting up for the US team for the world championships that begin next week in Belarus. The Americans, who earned the bronze medal last time, will be bidding to make the podium in consecutive years for the first time since 1950. Also on the squad, which is coached by Peter Laviolette and is peopled primarily by off-duty NHLers, is Hayes’s older brother Jimmy and UMass-Lowell goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who recently signed with Winnipeg. After opening with the hosts, the United States will face 2013 runner-up Switzerland, Russia, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Finland, and Germany, with the top four advancing to the quarterfinals. Sweden will be bidding to win consecutive gold medals for the first time since 1992 . . . Gevvie Stone, who opted not to try for last year’s US rowing team while she was at Tufts Medical School after placing seventh in the Olympics, picked up where she left off last weekend at West Windsor, N.J., winning the women’s single at the trials for this summer’s world championships in Amsterdam just a few days after her last exam. The Newton native, who defeated last year’s entrant Elle Logan, can confirm her ticket by finishing in the top six at either of the upcoming World Cups in France and Switzerland. So can incumbent Steve Whelpley, who outrowed two-time Olympian Ken Jurkowski in the men’s trials, as can the women’s pair of Olympic medalist Megan Kalmoe and Kerry Simmonds if they’re among the top four.
Coast to coast
The US men’s basketball team, the reigning Olympic champions, have a dream draw for this summer’s World Cup (formerly the world championships) in Spain. None of the Americans’ five preliminary opponents — Finland, Turkey, New Zealand, Dominican Republic, and Ukraine — qualified for the Games two years ago. The US women, who’ll be going for their sixth gold medal in the last eight tournaments, also have an undemanding group for their global event this autumn in Turkey. The Americans, who breezed unbeaten in 2010 and bounced the Czechs by 20 points in the final, will face China (sixth at the Olympics), Angola (12th), and Serbia (did not qualify) . . . After the Indian team had to compete independently in Sochi until its suspended Olympic committee was reinstated, IOC president Thomas Bach has named Irish member Patrick Hickey as his new “autonomy czar” to deal with future problems with political interference. While the NOCs are supposed to be immune from government meddling, it has been on the rise in recent years with the IOC suspending Kuwait and Ghana and threatening to do the same to Pakistan, Egypt, and Sri Lanka . . . Australian cyclist Michael Rogers, who was awarded his first world time trial title and an Olympic bronze after rivals David Millar and Tyler Hamilton were busted for doping, got off the hook himself when the international federation concluded that Rogers’s positive test for clenbuterol at last fall’s Japan Cup came from his eating contaminated Chinese meat before the Tour of Beijing. While the “tainted” claim didn’t work for teammate Alberto Contador after he blamed his result on Spanish beef, so much Chinese meat is pumped up with steroids that it’s seen as a legitimate alibi. Still, sticking to noodles may be the safest way to go.John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; material from Olympic committees, sports federations, interviews and wire services was used in this report.