IOC sets up continent clash for 2016 Games
10 hours ago
ATHENS (AFP) — The International Olympic Committee on Wednesday set up a clash of continents for the right to host the 2016 Games, with Chicago, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and Madrid advancing to the next round of the selection procedure.
The IOC's 15-member executive board narrowed down a list of hopefuls that also included Doha, Prague and Baku, whose bids were eliminated.
The full IOC body will elect the 2016 Games host by secret ballot in Copenhagen in October 2009.
"All bids were of a very high standard," IOC President Jacques Rogge said in a statement.
"It is a tribute to the health of the Olympic Movement that the field was so strong. I congratulate the candidate cities and I hope that those cities which were unsuccessful this time have benefited from the process," Rogge said.
The announcement was delayed by 25 minutes. The cities' bids were evaluated by a 13-member technical working group headed by IOC executive director Gilbert Felli.
Tokyo's candidacy was deemend the best all-around under a combination of factors including local support for the bid, infrastructure quality, security and financial backing.
Madrid was next, followed by Chicago and Doha closely tied at third place, while Rio finished fourth.
But Doha's bid was effectively dashed by its proposal to host the Games in October, far outside the IOC's desired calendar of July 15-August 31.
The world sports programme is already overloaded by early autumn. "Four cities is better than five," reacted Chicago bid chairman Patrick Ryan.
"Three would have been better than four. But we're very proud to be one of the four...it's exhilarating," he said.
"There's a few things we've learned - don't assume anything, be humble, and work, work, work. And we're going to work right to the end," Ryan said.
Tokyo bid leader Dr Ichiro Kono said his team were "not expecting anything" but are happy to stay on in what remains a "very tough race".
Madrid, who had finished third in the effort to host the 2012 Games ultimately won by London, said their confidence never flagged.
"We had been told that we fulfulled conditions for the 2012 Games at the time, and since that time we improved our portfolio even further," she told a media huddle moments after the IOC's announcement.
Brazilian Sports Minister Orlando Silva said Rio can "guarantee the best venues, the best transportation services and a high level of security for the athletes."
"Our country has changed," Silva said. "It is stable economically, and we showed what we could do while hosting the (2007) Pan American Games."
Doha's representatives, on the other hand, were unpleasantly surprised but vowed to return with a new bid in future.
"We are really surprised by the IOC's decision, we thought our bid had all the benefits," said bid chairman Hassan Ali Ben Ali. "But this will not prevent us from preparing a future bid," he said.
The cities selected as candidates on Wednesday will take part in an observer programme at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games this summer.
The Olympics have never been held in South America or the Middle East. The closest to either region to organise the event was Mexico in 1968.
A pending issue for Chicago is the UNESCO international convention against doping which US lawmakers have not ratified, unlike the host nations of the other candidate cities.
Ryan on Wednesday said a solution to this problem is "imminent." For the other candidates, it remains to be seen whether the IOC will be willing to award the Games to the same continent so soon.
The next Olympics after Beijing 2008 will be in London, but both Tokyo and Madrid are confident that the 2016 Olympics could head back to Asia or Europe.
"Some say there is a rotation," Tokyo bid chairman Kono told AFP. "But the Games were in Athens in 2004, they will be (again in Europe) in London in 2012...we believe the IOC will decide the city on merit," he said.
The IOC executive board is composed of the IOC President, four Vice-Presidents and ten other members.
Also Wednesday, the Olympics elite provisionally suspended Iraq's national Olympic Committee over political interference by the Iraqi government.
IOC had warned of sanctions after Baghdad on May 21 disbanded its national Olympic committee, replacing it with a new organisation supervised by the Iraqi sports ministry.
Iraq has defended its actions by noting that the committee did not have a sufficient quorum and had not held elections in over five years.
The head of Iraq's national Olympic committee, Ahmed Al-Samarrai, was kidnapped in July 2006 and has not been heard of since.
During the June 4-6 meetings, the IOC is also expected to discuss the latest developments in the investigation by US officials into the activities of the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO), a San Francisco-based lab that supplied elite athletes with designer performance drugs.