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Volume 7 No. 79

Olympics

The rights of clean athletes at next month's Winter Olympics have been "undermined" by the "failure to confirm the criteria for neutral Russian competitors," anti-doping agencies said, according to the BBC. Russians were banned from PyeongChang 2018 by the IOC in December -- but "those who can prove they are clean would be allowed to compete under a neutral flag." The IOC is "yet to publish conditions for a neutral athlete" with the Games in South Korea three weeks away. A letter signed by UK Anti-Doping and 19 other national anti-doping bodies said, "The failure to announce these criteria and reach a decision more promptly is a missed opportunity that has undermined the rights of clean athletes" (BBC, 1/18).

IOC Exec Dir of the Games Christophe Dubi made it clear that he is "committed to reducing the financial burden on potential host cities" for the Winter Games, according to Shawn Logan of the CALGARY HERALD. Calgary has been "cautiously reviewing whether to bid" for the 2026 Games. Dubi on Wednesday said that the organization "continues to work on making the global spectacle leaner and more cost effective." Dubi: "We want to make sure, contrary to what we've done in the past, we don't start too early, too big. We have to make sure we can modify this so in the future we don't over-design or over-build. We have to be more agile and more flexible, and make sure we do things in the most appropriate way." Dubi added that the IOC has "made strong efforts to scale back its demands on host cities." He said, "We are going into every single detail to see if we can make them smaller or different. We don't necessarily need new venues. I think you see with the Paris and L.A. bids, they're using a lot of existing infrastructure" (CALGARY HERALD, 1/18).

TAKING IT DOWN A NOTCH: The GLOBE & MAIL's Carrie Tait reported the IOC is "willing to relax its standards related to everything from spectator-capacity requirements to security plans in an effort to lure potential host cities." Dubi is "confident Olympic costs can drop -- a step necessary to convince skeptical cities to jump into auctions for the Games." He said that the IOC will "no longer dictate minimum spectator capacity at venues." Dubi added that the size of the areas around venues will "also be flexible" and security checks with magnetic wands and bag searches "could be redesigned." Dubi: "You cut one mag-and-bag, you cut energy, you cut technology" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/18). The CP's Lauren Krugel reported IOC officials have "already visited other potential contenders" for the 2026 Games -- Sion, Switzerland, and Stockholm -- and plan to go to Sapporo, Japan, "just before" the PyeongChang Games (CP, 1/17).

North and South Korea "agreed on four sports in which North Korean athletes will compete at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics," POCOG President Lee Hee-beom revealed Thursday, according to YONHAP. Lee said that North Korea will send athletes in pairs figure skating, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and women's ice hockey. Lee added that the agreement was reached during "working-level inter-Korean talks" on Wednesday. He declined to disclose the number of North Korean athletes agreed by the two sides because the IOC "will have the final say on the matter" (YONHAP, 1/18).

'PEACE' EVENT: YONHAP also reported the countries' agreement to conduct joint training at a ski resort in the North reflects Seoul's wish to make the Games a "peace" event, a government official said Thursday. The two sides agreed on Wednesday to hold a "joint cultural event" at Mount Kumgang in North Korea. The news "sparked a heated debate" in South Korea as critics said that the joint exercise would "promote the ski resort," one of North Korea leader Kim Jong-un's "pet projects" (YONHAP, 1/18).