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IOC board to meet in Switzerland to finalize Thomas Bach's Olympic reform package

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LONDON — IOC leaders gather in the Swiss lakeside town of Montreux this week to put the finishing touches on a package of reforms, including changes to the bidding process and sports program and creation of an Olympic television channel.

IOC President Thomas Bach convenes his ruling executive board Wednesday for a private two-day meeting to finalize recommendations for "Olympic Agenda 2020," his blueprint for the future of the Olympic movement.

The meeting comes just three weeks after Oslo became the fourth city to drop out of the bidding for the 2022 Winter Games, leaving just Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, in the race.

The latest 2022 withdrawal adds urgency to the International Olympic Committee's plans for revamping its bidding system and making the games less costly and complicated to run.

Bach, who was elected Jacques Rogge's successor in September 2013, is determined to push through his platform of changes in his first full calendar year in office. The executive board will submit proposals to the full membership of the IOC at a special session in Monaco from Dec. 8-9.

Several working groups have been formulating proposals over recent months. The closed-door meetings in Montreux will allow the board to turn them into formal recommendations.

"The moment has come to transform the ideas into projects and to decisions," Bach told The Associated Press in a recent interview.

A look at some of the key issues:


BIDDING PROCESS

Bach is pushing for a more flexible system that will make the Olympics more desirable and attractive to a wide range of potential contenders, as well as making the games less expensive and easier to manage. With cities scared off by the $51 billion price tag associated with the Winter Games in Sochi, Bach is intent on distinguishing between the operational costs of the games and long-term capital spending. Bach wants cities to show creativity and sell their unique vision for the games rather than just adhere to strict IOC technical guidelines. The changes will apply for the bidding that opens next year for the 2024 Summer Games. Cities in the United States, France, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Qatar and South Africa are among potential contenders.


PHOTO: FILE - In this Wednesday, July 9, 2014 file photo, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach speaks during a press conference after an executive board meeting at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. IOC leaders gather in the Swiss lakeside town of Montreux this week to put the finishing touches on a package of reforms, including changes to the bidding process and sports program and creation of an Olympic television channel. (AP Photo/Keystone, Jean-Christophe Bott, File)
FILE - In this Wednesday, July 9, 2014 file photo, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach speaks during a press conference after an executive board meeting at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. IOC leaders gather in the Swiss lakeside town of Montreux this week to put the finishing touches on a package of reforms, including changes to the bidding process and sports program and creation of an Olympic television channel. (AP Photo/Keystone, Jean-Christophe Bott, File)

SPORTS PROGRAM

Bach is pursuing a more flexible approach focusing on events rather than sports. The IOC currently has a cap of 28 sports and 10,500 athletes for the Summer Games. Bach wants to keep the 10,500 limit but allow for more changes within sports, disciplines and events. For example, skateboarding events could potentially be added as part of the cycling program. New sports could be added by trimming disciplines or events. Baseball and softball — dropped from the Olympics since 2008 — could be brought back for Tokyo in 2020. The IOC recently said it would no longer make any unilateral changes to the sports program after a host city has been chosen.


TV CHANNEL

The IOC is moving forward with Bach's proposal to set up an Olympic television channel. A feasibility study by the IOC's Olympic Broadcasting Services has backed the project, which could be launched next year. The channel would promote sports and the Olympics in the years between the games and spread the message to a wider and younger audience. The network would include a mix of sports event coverage, archive footage and other programming. "We can promote both the sports and the values more consistently," Bach said. "This is very important."


AGE LIMIT

The IOC imposed a 70-year age limit for members as part of the reforms enacted after the Salt Lake City corruption scandal. As part of Bach's agenda, the IOC has been considering whether to raise the limit, possibly to 75. But officials told the AP there is no consensus for change and the limit will likely stay. However, debate is continuing over whether presidents of international sports federations who remain in office past 70 should also be allowed to stay as IOC members.


MEMBER VISITS

The IOC has also been mulling whether to lift or ease the ban on member visits to Olympic bid cities put into place after the Salt Lake affair. Many members believe that organized group visits should be allowed. But influential IOC leaders remain opposed to a change. Finding a way to allow more contact between bid cities and members could be a solution.


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

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