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Sapporo takes lead in bidding for 2030 Winter Olympics

TOKYO (AP) — The city of Sapporo is the first to officially bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics and becomes the early favorite after the Japanese Olympic Committee approved its candidate file late Wednesday.

Sapporo was host to the 1972 Winter Olympics and could face competition from Salt Lake City in the United States, which is also being mentioned as a possible bidder, along with Barcelona and a bid tied to the Pyrenees.

Salt Lake held the 2002 Winter Olympics and Barcelona held the 1992 Summer Olympics. Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto got a strong endorsement earlier this month from International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. Sapporo has strengthened its case by stepping in at the the last minute and agreeing to hold the marathons for this year's Tokyo Olympics. The IOC abruptly made the change because of Tokyo's fierce summer heat.

There is no timeline for naming an Olympic host city under the IOC's new bidding procedures. But Bach has hinted the award could come quickly. Under heavy criticism the IOC abandoned its old practice of awarding Olympics every two years, and seven years ahead of the games themselves. The intense bidding was blamed for driving up costs, tempting corruption, and led candidates to overspend and build white-elephant venues.

The costs also drove away potential hosts, particularly traditional European winter venues. The new IOC procedure, which emphasizes a “rolling dialogue” with bidders, removes rank-and-file members from voting on candidates and leaves the decision with the IOC's leadership.

Beijing will hold the 2022 Winter Olympics, largely because many European cities withdrew from the bidding. Beijing won in a close final vote against Almaty, Kazakhstan. Milan-Cortina in Italy will hold the 2026 Winter Olympics.

On the summer side, the IOC has named Paris to hold the 2024 games with Los Angeles up for 2028. Tokyo's Olympics open on July 24. —- More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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