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Asian Olympic leader backs Sapporo for Winter Games bid

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SAPPORO, Japan (AP) Asia's Olympic leader thinks the continent could stage three consecutive Winter Games and Sapporo would be an ideal location to follow Pyeongchang and Beijing.

Olympic Council of Asian president Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah said Sapporo has all the facilities needed to organize the Winter Olympics for a second time.

Sapporo hosted the Winter Games in 1972 and city officials are considering a bid for 2026, but nothing official has been decided. It would mean the IOC would return to a city in Asia for a third straight time following Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018 and Beijing in 2022.

''Sapporo is capable and ready,'' Sheikh Al Fahad said while in Sapporo for the Asian Winter Games.

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While Sapporo does have many advantages, several of the facilities being used for the Asian Winter Games were built for the `72 Games and are showing signs of age.

The Japanese Olympic Committee would have to determine whether it is wise to move forward with a Sapporo bid before it submits its application. Japan is hosting the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.

The IOC is set to launch the 2026 Olympic bid process with an invitation stage this year. Applications are expected to be due early in 2018 with the IOC electing a winner in 2019.

Other cities working with their National Olympic Committees on a potential bid include Innsbruck, Austria, Sion, Switzerland and Calgary, Canada.