Olympic Newsdesk - World Cup Bid Popular in Russia; Austrian NOC Lifts Bans

(ATR) Leaders for Russia's 2018 World Cup bid tell Around the Rings that public backing for its campaign will eclipse that of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi... The Austrian Olympic Committee has lifted the ban on all 12 officials linked to the blood doping scandal of the 2006 Turin Games

Leaders for Russia’s 2018 World Cup bid expect more support than Sochi received during its bid for the 2014 Olympics. (Getty Images)Public Support Rises for FIFA World Cup Bid

Bid leaders for Russia’s 2018 FIFA World Cup bid tell Around the Rings that public backing for the campaign will eclipse the support shown for the successful Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics campaign.

“We expect people’s backing to be even more visible and bigger than with the Sochi Olympics [bid] because football is really the number one sport in Russia,” Alexei Sorokin, general secretary of the Russian FA, told ATR.

Russia’s bid for the Sochi Olympics tapped into the passion for winter sports country-wide. Now the World Cup bid aims to harness the country’s enthusiasm for football that was most evident during the national team’s run to the semi-finals of the UEFA Euro 2008 championships. Russia finished third.

He says a World Cup bid promotion at the Russia-Liechtenstein game in St. Petersburg Sept. 5 showed the strength of support.

“We had a 60-meter banner in support of our bid and 5,000 people in bid t-shirts in the tribune. People were very enthusiastic,” he says.

Russia’s bid to win the right to stage the World Cup in 2018 or 2022 is progressing well ahead of an official launch in October, Sorokin adds.

A FIFA bidding workshop in Zurich last month, involving representatives from the 11 bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, was “very helpful”.

“There are no blank spots in the bid plan. We are firmly on our way,” he says.

“We are getting information from the regions and working with architects,” says Alexei Sorokin. “We already have full government support.” Russian FA president Vitaly Mutko is also the sports minister.

Russia’s proposals call for 15 host stadiums in 14 cities. Nine new stadia need to be built from scratch in Russia and the construction budget is expected to run to several billion dollars.

A new website dedicated to the campaign will be unveiled before the end of September ahead of next month’s bid launch when Russian football legends and sports stars are to be named as ambassadors.

An international public relations consultant is also to be announced.

Last month, Russia’s World Cup bid leaders announced a partnership with U.S. sports consultancy Helios Partners. Helios, which also led Sochi’s Olympic bid, is responsible for the development of Russia’s bid book due for submission to FIFA in May. Rival bids come from Australia, England, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Qatar, South Korea and the US, with joint bids coming from Belgium-Netherlands and Spain-Portugal.

Austrian NOC Lifts Olympic Ban on Officials

Austrian biathlon sports manager Markus Gandler was among the 12 officials whose lifetime doping bans were removed by the Austrian Olympic Committee. (Getty Images)The Austrian Olympic Committee tells Around the Rings it has now removed a lifetime ban on all 12 biathlon officials linked to the blood doping scandal of the Turin Olympics. However, no decision has been made if they will travel to the Vancouver Olympics.

A further meeting may decide their fate for 2010.

The AOC lifted the ban for five biathlon coaches and trainers in July and today cleared the remaining seven who allegedly had closer links to the scandal.

Charges were dropped against a group including biathlon sports manager Markus Gandler, doctor Peter Baumgartl, biathlon coach Andreas Eder and cross-country coach Gerald Heigl.

The 12 officials were named in a scathing 2007 report by an IOC disciplinary commission. The IOC levied a $1 million fine on the AOC, actually paid by the Austrian Ski Federation.

New Boxing Weight Classes

The International Boxing Association (AIBA) Executive Committee Bureau reduced the number of weight classes from 11 to 10 for men at a meeting during the AIBA World Championships in Milan. The new weight classes will go into effect on Sept. 1, 2010.

The change was made due to the addition of women's boxing to the 2012 Olympics, which the IOC unanimously approved last month.

There were 286 boxers at the Beijing Olympics. In London, the total number of boxers will AIBA is reducing the number of men’s weight classes from 11 to 10, effective Sept. 10 of next year. (Getty Images)remain the same with 250 men and 36 women. In order to reduce the total of number of men, the four lightest weight classes were condensed into three. The new male classes will be composed of 16 to 28 boxers in London.

Security, Workers Deaths Concerns for Commonwealth Games

Indian Minister of Home Affairs P.Chidambaram said in a TV interview on Monday that there will be "full and comprehensive security" for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

Chidambaram said he doesn’t want to see a security concerns tarnish an international sporting event.

Last month, English players pulled out of the World Badminton Championships in Hyderabad due to security concerns. In the end, the championships went smoothly without an incident. The British Badminton Federation and British Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe later apologized for England's withdrawal.

"I make this promise that the Commonwealth Games will be conducted under full and comprehensive security. Nobody need fear, no country need fear," he said.

Security concerns are not the only problems facing the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The London Times reported that at least 10 construction workers have died and more than 100 have been injured during the construction process.

It's already a high death toll for a major sporting event. The Beijing Olympics had six workers die, Athens 2004 had 14 deaths and Sydney had one. No one died during construction for the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

An Indian civil rights group, People’s Union for Democratic Rights, issued a report alleging poor safety standards and living conditions for workers.

Indian Union Official said the accidents are the result of quickly approaching deadlines. Nine venues are less than half built.

The Commonwealth Games will be the largest sporting event on Indian soil and will cost the government $1.6 billion.

Written by Mark Bisson and Sam Steinberg .