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Sports leaders flock to Seoul for Olympic preparation

Written by: Staff

ATHENS, Apr 1 (Reuters) Sports chiefs and Olympic officials will meet for four days in Seoul next week to chart progress of Olympic preparations for future Games, while several bid cities will work to improve their image.

The South Korean hosts would have wanted to promote the country's bid for the 2014 Winter Games in Pyeongchang during the April 3-7 SportAccord conference.

Instead it will have to assess the damage done to the nomination after Park Yong-sung became the second South Korean to lose his International Olympic Committee (IOC) membership in less than a year.

He was temporarily suspended last month following his conviction for embezzlement.

''If world sports leaders come here and get a good impression of Korea, it will be of great help for Pyeongchang's bid,'' South Korean Olympic Committee chief Kim Jung-kil said this week.

More than 1,500 officials and delegates are expected at the annual conference as well as the meeting of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) and the IOC Executive Board.

Representatives of all sports federations affiliated to winter and summer sports associations, as well as broadcasters, lawyers and marketing executives will discuss key sports industry issues, including staging and financing major sports events.

ASSESS DAMAGE The IOC will meet with the association of the 203 NOCs, the international sports federations and get progress reports on the Beijing 2008 Olympics, the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games and the London 2012 Games.

''Given that it is so close to the Turin Olympics, many issues have been discussed less than a month ago,'' an IOC official told Reuters.

Among the issues the IOC is not expected to touch upon is the progress of a recently-launched disciplinary commission regarding Austrian athletes and coaches under investigation for anti-doping rule violations at the Turin Winter Games.

This case could also potentially foil the Austrian city of Salzburg's bid for the 2014 Games, given that one of the coaches under investigation has already sued the World Anti-Doping Agency. The coach has said he will also sue IOC chief Jacques Rogge over comments he allegedly made.

Salzburg, also present at the conference, was the frontrunner until the doping scandal in Turin involving Austrian biathlon athletes and cross-country skiers threatened to derail its bid.

The mayor of Salzburg appealed to the coach a few days ago to drop the lawsuits.

Sochi (Russia), Jaca (Spain), Almaty (Kazakhstan), Borjomi (Georgia) and Sofia (Bulgaria) are also bidding for the the 2014 Winter Games.

The IOC will decide on the host city in July 2007.

Reuters PM RL DS1140

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