Attack and travel ban put Olympic bids on defense

It was supposed to be a day for showing off visions of what the Olympics could look like seven years down the road.

Instead, Friday turned into an uncomfortable look at the world right now, with leaders in Paris and Los Angeles forced to deal with issues that make both their bids for the 2024 Games feel like something less than safe bets.

A knife attack on a soldier outside the Louvre in Paris and more fallout from recent U.S. foreign policy decisions coincided with the deadline for cities to present their Bid Books - the last major filing with the International Olympic Committee before it awards the games in September.

''To say these are uncertain times in the world is an understatement,'' is how LA bid chairman Casey Wasserman opened his remarks to reporters Friday.

It was a virtually identical quote contained in the lead-in to the city's 110-page bid book .

In Paris, which endured a terrorist attack that killed more than 350 people in November 2015, Prime Minister Bernard Cazenueve spun Friday's violence as an example of ''our security forces' ability to react very quickly.''

And, in a thinly veiled reference to President Donald Trump's policies, Cazenueve said: ''In France, from now and all the way until 2024, we shall actively open our arms to build friendship. We want to build bridges, not walls.''

The LA bid leaders should expect those sort of broad swipes between now and September, both publicly and in the boardrooms and hallways where this deal will be brokered.

France could have its own issues, however, if far-right nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen wins elections this spring.

Also in the mix is Budapest, Hungary, which has been viewed as little more than a long shot, but could be getting another look now.

''We want to be judged on the merits of the bid, not politics,'' Wasserman said.

To the notion that the U.S. wouldn't be welcoming to athletes from all countries, Wasserman pointed out ''we've been talking about diversity and unity of LA since the day this process started.''

Bid CEO Gene Sykes pointed out that shortly after Trump issued a travel ban that affected people from seven countries, including Iran, the government reassured the U.S. Olympic Committee that the ban wouldn't impact international athletes looking to compete in the United States.

Since then, however, tensions with Iran have escalated further; the U.S. responded to Iran's testing of a ballistic missile by sanctioning more than two dozen people involved in helping develop the weapon.

Iran reacted by barring U.S. wrestlers from an upcoming World Cup meet - a sure sign that sports were being dragged into politics, much the way they have been for decades.

''Sabers are rattling for sure, to some extent,'' Rich Bender, the executive director of USA Wrestling told The Associated Press. ''It's really unfortunate.''

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