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Five cities in race for 2012 Games


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LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- The International Olympic Committee has named a shortlist of five cities as possible hosts for the 2012 Olympics.

The five -- London, Madrid, Moscow, New York and Paris -- become official candidates, beginning a 14-month race that will end with the selection of a winning bid by the IOC's assembly in Singapore in July 2005.

Havana, Leipzig, Rio de Janeiro and Istanbul were the victims on Tuesday as the field was trimmed down from nine applicants.

Geography would appear to favor a European city after the 2008 Summer Games in Asia -- Beijing -- and the 2010 Winter Games in North America -- Vancouver.

IOC president Jacques Rogge said the list could be further cut next May if any of the bidding cities fall short of IOC expectations.

"What we have done today is retained five cities which we believe will deliver, but we will have to check if they do deliver," said Rogge.

"I do not like the word 'rejection' but those cities we have not retained this in no way reflects that we do not trust these countries."

Bids launched

The nine original contenders launched their bids in January with the emphasis on compact and easily accessible venues.

Favorites Paris and London promoted the attractions of their landmarks, Madrid promised an environmentally friendly Games while New York dubbed itself the "world city."

Paris bid organizers say they will stage beach volleyball at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and host many of the events at two clusters on the edge of the French capital.

"Our experience with previous bids has taught us a great deal about the needs and aspirations of the IOC," Paris bid chief Philippe Baudillon said.

"We firmly believe that Paris will meet those needs."

London organizers countered by promising to hold the beach volleyball competition in Horse Guards Parade.

Seventeen sports, including athletics and swimming, would be staged at a new venue in the city's deprived East End.

"I am very pleased that London has been named a candidate city for the 2012 Olympic Games. But I am not surprised we have cleared this most important hurdle," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in a statement.

Green Games

Madrid is proposing a green Games, concentrating on public rather than private transport, New York is focusing on its energy, drive and spirit while Moscow promises to stage "the best, most compact Olympics ever."

"We managed the first step which has involved a lot of people. Let's see if we can get the whole of Spain hooked," Chema Martinez, winner of 10,000 meters at the European Championships in 2002, told Reuters in support of the Madrid bid.

"We're going to beat (the other cities' bids) because not just Madrid but the whole of Spain wants to organize the Olympics Games and it's going to be a terrific bid."

New York bid chief Daniel Doctoroff said he was thrilled to make the shortlist.

"New York's designation puts us in select company with the other great candidate cities on the road to 2012," he said.

"We look forward to an exciting international competition in the months ahead."

Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov said he was optimistic about the Russian capital's chances.

"Moscow is preparing very seriously for the next round of the competition," said Luzhkov.

Three of the five contenders have previously hosted the Games.

London was host in 1908 and 1948, while Paris staged the event in 1900 and 1924. More recently, France hosted the football World Cup in 1998.

Moscow was Olympic host in 1980, although the event was overshadowed by a U.S.-led boycott following the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.

New York has never hosted the Games, although the U.S. last staged them in Atlanta in 1996, and also hosted last year's Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

Madrid's only previous bid for the Games was in 1972, when it lost to Munich. But Barcelona was host in 1992.

Unlucky losers

While Havana was rejected for the second straight time because of inadequate infrastructure and Leipzig was considered too small, there was dismay in Istanbul which had previously been shortlisted for the 2008 Games.

"Only three years ago Istanbul was accepted as a candidate city for the 2008 Games and not now," said Istanbul bid general director Yalcin Aksoy.

"Were there any negative developments? No. On the contrary. What has changed? I find it difficult to answer this at this moment."

"A unique opportunity to stage the Games, for the first time in history, in a country with a predominantly Muslim population dedicated to secular parliamentary democracy is turned down."

Rio de Janeiro's failure to make the shortlist of candidates came as a "monstrous surprise," a Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB) official said.

"Nobody expected this," COB technical director Marcus Vinicius Freire told Reuters.

"This was a monstrous surprise for us. It wasn't just a bucket of cold water, it was a complete shower.

"Brazil had a very well-designed project and we didn't expect this at all."

Rio de Janeiro mayor Cesar Maia cancelled a news conference which was due to take place one hour after the IOC announcement in Lausanne.

COB president Carlos Nuzman hinted Brazil might try again for 2016.

"I'm convinced these Games (2012) will be in Europe, which opens the doors for the 2016 Games to be in South America," he said


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