Olympic fever returns to Athens

The executive board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) returns to Athens today, almost four years after the city held the Olympics, to decide who will be on the short list to host the Games of 2016. Seven cities are in the running: Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro are the four favorites, while the three outsiders are Doha of Qatar, Baku of Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic’s capital, Prague. It is expected that two or three countries will be cut from the list, leaving the others to compete for more than a year until the IOC makes its final decision on October 2 next year when the full IOC will vote in Copenhagen, Denmark. Chicago is bidding to take the Games back to the USA 12 years after Atlanta hosted them in 1996. Tokyo is looking to host the Olympics for a second time, having staged the event in 1964. Madrid is back in the running after finishing third in the race to hold the 2012 Olympics, which was won by London. Rio is bidding to be the first South American city to stage the Olympics and will hope that the staging of the Pan American Games last year will help its cause. Prague, Baku and Doha are all newcomers and it appears that the capital of the Arab Gulf country, which claims to have 70 to 75 percent of its venues ready, is the most likely of the three to make it into the next round. IOC executive board member Gerhard Heiberg told The Associated Press yesterday that four or five cities would make it into the next round. The three-day meeting in Athens, which coincides with the SportAccord convention taking place at the Hilton Hotel, will be the IOC’s last before the Beijing Olympics begin on August 8. The Games in China will end on August 24.