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IOC approves Oklahoma City to host Olympic softball, canoe slalom during the 2028 Los Angeles Games

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Los Angeles Olympics appear to be heading to Oklahoma — about 1,300 miles east of the host city.

In an effort to maximize existing facilities and keep costs down, Los Angeles organizers have proposed that softball and canoe slalom be held in Oklahoma’s capital city during the 2028 Games, organizers announced Friday.

The IOC executive committee has approved the venue assignments, pending approval from the City of Los Angeles. Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt said he looks forward to working with Los Angeles.

“Oklahoma City has hosted many international competitions at our unique, world-class whitewater and softball venues,” Holt said. “We are confident we will be an outstanding partner to LA28 in creating a dynamic environment for Olympians and fans. We are excited about the opportunity to support one of America’s great global cities, Los Angeles, and work closely with the LA28 organizing committee to ensure that the 2028 Olympic Games are a success.”

Softball would be held at the 13,000-seat Devon Park, which hosts the annual Women’s College World Series. No facility in the Los Angeles area seats more than 2,000 fans.

Giving the American team even more of a hometown advantage, Devon Park is on the grounds of USA Softball’s headquarters and the USA Softball Hall of Fame.

Little by little, improvements have helped make the facility stand out.

From 2013 to 2015, expanded dugouts, underground locker rooms and training rooms were among the additions. Renovations to the outer entrances and press box area began in 2018, adding a brick facade with new ticket windows and entrances. A three-story press box was added with new interview rooms around that time. About 4,000 permanent seats were added after the 2019 World Series.

Those improvements, along with smaller ones since, helped put Oklahoma City in position to host the Games.

“Things cost a lot of money these days,” USA Softball executive director Craig Cress said during the World Series earlier this month. “We’re fortunate the city’s been really gracious to us.”

The other venue set to be used in 2028 is Oklahoma City’s Riversport OKC, which hosted the 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials in canoe slalom.

Casey Eichfeld, a four-time Olympian, participated in the trials in April and had good memories of the event, even though there were storms in the area on the second day.

“The crowds are awesome,” he said. “And even with that weather, there were still a number of people that showed up to the race, and were there to cheer for us and to watch. They stuck it out the rain and the wind, and it was really cool to have have that environment, even though maybe the weather was a little less than ideal for an outdoor sport.”

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AP Olympics https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games

Cliff Brunt, The Associated Press