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Olympics: World gymnastics chief Watanabe proposed as new IOC member

Lausanne, Switzerland (Kyodo) -- Japan's Morinari Watanabe is in line to become one of nine new International Olympic Committee members, the IOC announced Friday at the conclusion of its Executive Board session.

Watanabe is the first Asian to serve as president of the International Gymnastics Federation. The final decision to admit the three women and six men proposed by the IOC Executive Board will be made at October's IOC session in Buenos Aires.

The announcement was made at the conclusion of the Executive Board's three-day meeting.

"In line with the recommendations of Olympic Agenda 2020, the IOC is constantly aiming at a more diverse and inclusive membership," IOC President Thomas Bach told a press conference.

"The Olympic Movement would benefit significantly from the expertise of these nine candidates that we are proposing to the next IOC session. Their extensive knowledge of the sports movement will add extra strength and experience to the universal college of IOC members."

If Watanabe's membership is approved in October, he will become Japan's second IOC member after Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda.

In his comments about the Executive Board's proceedings, Bach announced that the procedure for selecting host cities is changing to produce "fewer losers," and that five cities have expressed interest in hosting the 2026 Winter Games.

Sapporo has been discussed as a possible candidate for 2026, but five other cities have also expressed interest, while Japan's northernmost major city would prefer to host in 2030. Sapporo previously hosted the Winter Olympics in 1972. In June, Bach indicated that two straight Winter Games in Asia following Pyeongchang, South Korea, this year and Beijing in 2022, would not adversely affect a Sapporo bid for 2026.

"We have discussed the candidature procedure for the Winter Games 2026," he said. "We are discussing with five interested cities about becoming candidates. We are trying to find the best possible host for 2026. We've always said we had to change the candidature procedure because the old style...is producing too many losers. It's not about having as many candidates as possible."

Bach touted the impact the Olympic Agenda 2020 are having in attracting candidate cities.

"They (the five cities) all benefit from the Olympic reforms. Today they stressed they could only be interested because of these reforms," Bach said. "We have an average of 80 percent use of existing facilities for these candidates. For 2018 and 2022, this figure was 60 percent."

"The budgets have also been seriously reduced. For 2018 and 2022, we had a budget of around $2 billion, and now the budgets for 2026 are around $1.7 billion. The contribution of the IOC has also been increased significantly, up to $925 million for 2026."

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