Three remain in 2018 race

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The news that Annecy, Munich and PyeongChang all successfully passed through to the candidate city phase of the race for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games was the least exciting bidding announcement in recent history and is emblematic of the issues facing the Olympic Movement at present, writes Rob Ridley.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Tuesday 22 June 2010 that the trio have all been selected as candidate cities to host the 2018 Games, although the French bid was asked to review its proposal. Whereas most Olympic bidding announcements generate excitement as intrigue surrounds who will make the cut, this type of buzz was distinctly missing this time with most experts predicting that the status quo would remain intact. The IOC announced back in October 2009 that only three cities had been put forward by their respective National Olympic Committees (NOCs) to apply to host the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the lack of interest took many observers aback. Indeed the man behind Sochi's ultimately successful bid for the 2014 Games, Dmitry Chernyshenko, expressed his disappointment that the city's bid to host the Games had not inspired more cities to do the same. "I'm surprised and a little bit disappointed that only three countries have bid for the Games, " Chernyshenko told The Sport Briefing in 2009. "I'm disappointed because it was our hope that Sochi would inspire other cities to bid for the Games. It's a big surprise. "Meanwhile, Sir Craig Reedie, an IOC executive board member and a key figure in London's successful bid to host the 2012 Summer Games, denied the Winter Olympics was losing its appeal as an event but added cities that initially showed an interest in hosting the event lacked the commitment to see their bids through. "One of the problems with the Olympic bidding process at the moment is that it is too long despite the IOC's efforts to keep it within a reasonable time schedule, " he said. "A lot of cities talk about wanting to run Olympic bids without really getting going. "A quick perusal of the facts behind recent bidding trends for the Winter Olympics provides worrying reading for the IOC. The three applicant cities for the 2018 Games were a considerable decrease on the seven that put forward bids at the same stage for the 2014 event. Eventual winner Sochi (Russia) was joined by PyeongChang and Salzburg (Austria) in the final vote, while Jaca (Spain), Almaty (Kazakhstan), Sofia (Bulgaria) and Borjomi (Georgia) failed to make it to the candidate city phase. Indeed the current field for 2018 represents the smallest pool for three decades, when Calgary (Canada), Cortina d'Ampezzo (Italy) and Falun (Sweden) bid for 1988. Those looking for answers to the current dearth of bids can point to a number of factors. Reedie's criticism of the lengthy bid process is entirely justified, while this also keys into another major issue – the uncertainty surrounding the global economic downturn, and the world's recovery from it. The 2010 Winter Games host Vancouver had to scramble to cope with the onset of a downturn it couldn't have foreseen when awarded the Games in July 2003, while London 2012 has also had to cut its cloth accordingly. The UK government has already announced cuts of £27m to the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) budget, and London 2012 leaders did their best to reassure the IOC during a recent report that everything was under control. "It affected us in every way you can imagine, except that it did not affect us immediately, " Vancouver 2010 chief executive John Furlong told The Sport Briefing when asked how February 2010's Games coped with economic challenges. "As the world economy went over a cliff, we saw the impact it was having and saw the behaviour of many of our partners trying to deal with the fall–out. We realised that we were going to start to be affected and something could happen to us. We needed to start rethinking all the 'what if' scenarios we could be confronted with. So basically we started to recalibrate the way we were managing the organisation. We took the company, turned it upside down, we shook it and everything that didn't matter and wasn't vital to the interest of the Games fell out. "Given the current economic uncertainty it is perhaps understandable for potential host cities to take a step back from bidding for an event that is still eight years away. Annecy, Munich and PyeongChang all now have until 11 January 2011 to submit their candidature file to the IOC ahead of a final decision by the full IOC membership on 6 July 2011 in Durban, South Africa. In assessing the relative merits of the runners and riders, it is perhaps wise to analyse the background behind their bids. The Administrative Council of France's National Olympic Committee (CNOSF) selected Annecy to lead the country's bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in March 2009. Annecy was selected ahead of Grenoble, Nice and Pelvoux after picking up 23 votes, ahead of Nice on 10 and Grenoble on nine. Pelvoux failed to pick up any votes. France has hosted three editions of the Winter Olympics, latterly in 1992 in Albertville. The country has also hosted the Summer Olympics on two occasions, but missed out to London in the final vote for the 2012 Games. Should Munich – together with the sporting facilities in Garmisch–Partenkirchen and the Berchtesgadener Land region – get the vote from the IOC in July 2011, the scene would be set for another chapter in Olympic history. A city has never before hosted both the Summer and Winter Games, and Munich is now attempting to duplicate its success in attracting the Olympics back after hosting the 1972 Olympics. Garmisch–Partenkirchen was also the site of Germany's only other Winter Olympics in 1936. A mountainous resort located approximately 180km east of Seoul, PyeongChang saw its bid endorsed by the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) in April 2009 to become the country's official candidate for hosting the 2018 Winter Games. The Korean city is aiming to make it third time lucky after it narrowly failed in its bids for 2010 and 2014, losing by three votes to Vancouver for this year's event and by just four votes to Sochi for the 2014 Games. This previous bid history, allied to the vagaries of Olympic geopolitics, are the key reasons why many have put PyeongChang in the box seat for 2018. This decade's Winter Olympics have seen the Games take in Salt Lake City (United States), Turin (Italy) and Vancouver (Canada), while the event is set to return to Europe in 2014 as the Russian resort of Sochi takes the reins. With Nagano (Japan) having staged Asia's last Winter Olympics in 1998, and Tokyo having missed out on the 2016 Summer Games, PyeongChang appears to be the 'right' candidate to host the event 20 years on. The official IOC report on the applicant city files highlighted four core strengths of Munich's bid: general infrastructure; sports venues; environmental conditions and impact; and experience in past sports events, while the city was awarded the highest or joint–highest grade in seven of the IOC Working Group's 11 criteria. Add the historic Summer–Winter Games first that its candidacy presents and Munich appears to be PyeongChang's strongest rival – especially considering the criticism meted out to Annecy. Annecy 2018 chief executive officer Edgar Grospiron has pledged to rapidly readjust its bid after it was flagged up by the IOC as having a "number of significant challenges and a higher degree of risk" than those from its rival cities. The IOC report added: "Annecy's proposal presents a very dispersed Olympic Games concept with 10 standalone venues and multiple athlete accommodation centres. This concept would result in a complex set of organisational, logistical and financial challenges for all client groups. The Working Group was particularly concerned regarding the "Olympic experience" for all client groups, especially the athletes. "Annecy can perhaps count itself lucky that it is only competing in a field of three, which the IOC couldn't possibly consider shortening further at this early stage. IOC president Jacques Rogge has dismissed conspiracy theories that the French bid was only retained due to lack of competition and believes Annecy can take inspiration from London 2012's ultimately successful bid, which itself had to address initial issues in its tilt for 2012. But despite Rogge's protestations, the 2018 Games are now seemingly PyeongChang's to throw away as this low–profile Olympics race continues. 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