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2014 games: Get out the atlas

Bidders are off the beaten path

After choosing from among five of the world's most storied cities for the 2012 Summer Olympics site, the Lords of the Rings will have to sift through an unusually funky bunch for the 2014 winter edition. The seven bidders applying by last week's deadline included Salzburg (Austria), Sofia (Bulgaria), Pyeongchang (South Korea), Sochi (Russia), Jaca (Spain), Almaty (Kazakhstan), and Borjomi (Georgia).

Two were runners-up for the 2010 Games that went to Vancouver two summers ago: Pyeongchang (which came within three votes of winning on the first ballot) and Salzburg (which was sandbagged by European voters who wanted the 2012 Games for the continent). Sofia and Jaca are both third-time bidders; the Bulgarian capital lost the 1992 bid to Albertville on the final round.

The US, which hosted the last Games, didn't bother entering this time.

The International Olympic Committee likely will chop the field to a handful by next June and will pick the winner in July 2007.

Strong field

The US team for the upcoming Outdoor World Track and Field Championships in Helsinki has more than two dozen Olympic medalists, including champions Justin Gatlin, Joanna Hayes, Jeremy Wariner, and Dwight Phillips (Shawn Crawford withdrew with a foot injury). Eight athletes have world bests this year, including 19-year-old phenom Kerron Clement in the 400 hurdles. Local athletes on the roster include Shalane Flanagan (Marblehead) and Amy Rudolph (Providence) in the 5,000, Blake Russell (Acton) in the 10,000, Emily LeVan (Wiscasset, Maine) in the marathon, and Joanne Dow (Manchester, N.H.) in the 20-kilometer walk. Missing the time standard in the 1,500 were Jen Toomey (Salem, Mass.) and Amy Mortimer (West Roxbury) . . . Five-ringed field for the annual Falmouth Road Race a week from Sunday. Besides three-time women's victor Lornah Kiplagat and defending champion Alevtina Ivanova, there will be Olympic marathon medalist Deena Kastor and Athens teammates Colleen De Reuck and Abdi Abdirahman.

Bloody mess

The appeal hearing for cyclist Tyler Hamilton, who was banned for two years in April for blood doping, won't take place until Sept. 6, nearly a year after the Marblehead native tested positive for mixed blood cells during the Spanish Vuelta. Hamilton, who says he has never taken transfusions, is likely to expand on his original argument, which was that the flow cytometry test, used for the first time on athletes last year, is flawed and doesn't account for false positives that can result from blood from an intrauterine ''vanishing twin" or from ''chimerism," in which a person can have two distinct sets of cells. The original Court of Arbitration for Sport panel, which ruled 2-1 against Hamilton, said the chances of a vanishing twin were ''extremely remote" and there was a ''negligible probability" of chimerism . . . Now that the rules have been changed to allow one dolphin (i.e. butterfly) kick per turn, look for faster times in the breaststroke events. ''The new rule is going to crush my world record [in the 100]," predicts Brendan Hansen, who won both the 100- and 200-meter races at the recent world meet. ''There'll be lots of guys going under a minute." The new rule comes after last summer's Olympic controversy, when double winner Kosuke Kitajima was accused of dolphin-kicking when he beat Hansen twice . . . Nice comeback by the US divers, who won three medals at the worlds after being blanked at the Olympics for the first time since 1912. Laura Wilkinson claimed gold in women's platform and Troy Dumais took silver in men's 3-meter springboard, then teamed with brother Justin for a synchronized bronze. As usual, the Chinese dominated, winning half of the 10 golds and a dozen medals in all, as many as their next four rivals combined . . . Mixed results for the US water polo teams at the World Championships. Though they lost their title in overtime to the Hungarians after coming from four goals down at halftime, the women improved on their bronze-medal finish at the Olympics. The men, though, had their worst showing ever, finishing 11th after placing seventh in Athens. ''We have a lot of work to do," acknowledged coach Guy Baker. Serbia won its first men's title, upsetting defending champion (and Olympic gold medalist) Hungary.

Out of synch

Nothing shiny for the US synchronized swimmers, who were third in Athens last summer but finished fourth with a rebuilt squad in both the team and duet events at the World Championships. As expected, the Russians captured both of those titles, with France's Virginie Dedieu winning the solo, a non-Olympic discipline . . . Double shocker for the US women's softball team at the recent World Cup in Oklahoma City. After having their 85-game winning streak snapped by the Canadians in their opener, the three-time Olympic champions were spanked, 3-1, in the final by the Japanese, whom the Americans hammered, 7-0, in a mercy-rule decision in the prelims. ''These are really good teams," said US coach Mike Candrea. ''I laugh every time someone says that there isn't any competition around the world." . . . Eight former Olympians, including two-timers Bill Guerin, Mike Modano, Keith Tkachuk, and Doug Weight, are among the 39 players from 21 NHL clubs invited to next month's orientation camp for the US men's ice hockey team for Turin. The invitees include Bruin defenseman Hal Gill.

Doubling the effort

For the first time in memory, the US rowing team will be doubling athletes at the World Championships in Japan at the end of the month. The men's straight four of Athens gold medalists Bryan Volpenhein, Beau Hoopman, Matt Deakin, and Dan Beery will also row in the eight, as will the women's pair of Caroline Lind and Lindsay Shoop. It's not a radical concept; the Romanians and Canadians, among others, have won both gold medals doing it. It's part of the federation's new emphasis on small boats, with an eye toward winning more medals in Beijing. This time, the priority boats for the women will be the quad (with Radcliffe's Caryn Davies aboard) and the pair. All but four of the US entries met the qualifying standards, with sculler Wyatt Allen and the women's lightweight quad making it on the final day. Missing out were lightweight sculler Tim Larson, the men's lightweight pair and eight, and the women's four . . . Encouraging finish by the young US women's field hockey team, which beat Spain twice to finish fifth (for the third straight time) at the recent Champions Challenge in Virginia Beach, a testing ground for next year's World Cup. Scoring twice in the finale was forward Kelly Doton of Greenfield.

Material from Olympic committees, sports federations, interviews, and wire services was used in this report.

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