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Olympic leaders back TV channel, bidding changes

The Associated Press

Moving forward on IOC President Thomas Bach's reform process, Olympic leaders backed his proposals Saturday for setting up an Olympic television channel, reshaping the bid city procedure, and adding more flexibility to the sports program.

Bach convened a summit of 16 key IOC and sports officials in Lausanne, Switzerland, to press ahead with Olympic Agenda 2020, his strategic blueprint for the future.

The leaders supported the platform of changes that Bach will put to a vote at a special International Olympic Committee session in Monaco from Dec. 8-9. Bach, who was elected as Jacques Rogge's successor in September, has moved swiftly to enact his own policies in his first year in office.

Creation of an Olympic TV channel that would promote Olympic sports in the years between the games and help connect with younger people is one of Bach's main projects.

The officials at Saturday's meeting backed the idea, ''recognizing the potential to greatly increase the presence of sports and the promotion of the Olympic values year round and worldwide,'' the IOC said in a statement.

''The IOC will contact all the relevant stakeholders in the coming months to further develop the concept,'' it said.

Details of the project have yet to be announced, although the IOC has said it would act as a ''curator or moderator'' to develop digital content, using the National Geographic Channel as a model. Sports federations, national Olympic committees, broadcasters, and sponsors would be asked to take part.

The summit also produced agreement on a new procedure for cities bidding to host the Olympics. This has become a main priority in light of the reluctance of potential host cities to come forward, scared off by the $51 billion price tag associated with the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The IOC said the new process would give ''more flexibility'' to bid cities, allowing them to focus from the start on the long-term benefits the games can bring to the area and how the Olympics could fit into their development plans. The IOC and sports federations should also be ''flexible and open to reasonable adaptation'' to the bid concept.

Any changes would go into effect for the bidding for the 2024 Summer Games. Potential bids could come from cities in the United States, France, Italy, Turkey, Qatar, and South Africa.

The IOC is determined to make changes in the wake of the troubled race for the 2022 Winter Games. Cities in Switzerland and Germany abandoned plans to bid after voters said ''no'' in referendums, and three cities have pulled out. Three contenders remain - Almaty, Kazakhstan; Beijing; and Oslo. The future of the Norwegian bid is uncertain amid political and public opposition.

The officials also backed a more flexible approach on the Olympic sports program, focusing on ''an event-based rather than a sport-based approach.'' That would allow for more changes in disciplines and events within the sports, keeping to the current limit of 10,500 athletes.

The leaders also reviewed the $20 million fund set up by the IOC to combat doping and match-fixing - $10 million for each. The World-Anti-Doping Agency is seeking to convince governments to match the $10 million figure for drug-testing research.

The summit agreed on creation of an online database to coordinate the busy global sports calendar and discussed setting up an ''intelligence system'' to monitor good governance in the Olympic movement.

There was no mention of reinstating member visits to bid cities or raising the current age limit of 70 for IOC members - two ideas which appear to have been ruled out.

Formal proposals will be drawn up by the IOC executive board in October before being put to the full membership in Monaco.

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Follow Stephen Wilson on Twitter: https://twitter.com/stevewilsonap

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