Thu, Jul 03, 2003 - Page 20 News List

IOC to decide on venue for Winter Olympics in 2010

AP , PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC

A return to Canada for the first time since 1988? Back to Europe again after 2004 and 2006? Or an Asian first for South Korea?

That was the choice facing the IOC yesterday in the vote for the host city of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Vancouver, British Columbia, appeared to be the favorite against Salzburg, Austria, and Pyeongchang, South Korea.

"The choice will be a difficult one, as all three candidate cities have the potential to stage excellent games," International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said at the opening ceremony of the 115th IOC session.

The three bid delegations were allotted 60 minutes each for last-minute formal pitches to the IOC assembly.

The multimedia presentations can be crucial in winning over any undecided votes and are considered especially important in selection of winter games hosts.

Many of the 100-plus members come from countries with little or no interest or experience in winter sports. And, with visits to bid cities banned since the Salt Lake City scandal, the video presentations may be as close as the delegates get to the ice rinks and ski slopes.

"I think it's fair to say a number of members are counting on the final presentations to make a final assessment," Vancouver bid chief John Furlong said. "We want to give the most powerful message we possibly can."

Vancouver got a boost on the eve of the vote when the head of the international ice hockey federation issued a statement endorsing the Canadian bid.

"Any hockey person hopes for Vancouver because it's a hockey city in a hockey country," Rene Fasel, a Swiss IOC member, said on the IIHF's official Web site. "An Olympic hockey tournament in Canada would be something very special."

Fasel, who is also president of the Olympic Winter Sports Federations, is among the 113 IOC members eligible to vote in the first round of the secret ballot.

A simple majority vote is required for victory. If there is no winner on the first ballot, the city with the fewest votes will drop out and a second round of voting will take place.

A first-round victory was considered unlikely.

Vancouver, the scenic Pacific coastal city whose bid is paired with the ski resort of Whistler, has been considered the front-runner for most of the campaign.

Pyeongchang, the least known of the candidates and long considered the outsider, appeared to be gaining some support at the expense of Salzburg.

"I may have a bit of a calm outward look but my stomach is in knots -- high anxiety," Furlong said Tuesday. "We believe it's open and close. We haven't taken one vote for granted. For all the reasons that we might get it, we could also lose it."

The result could have major implications in the race for a bigger prize -- the 2012 Summer Olympics.

While there is no rule for continental rotation, geography is often a vital part of the equation.

Next year's summer games (Athens) and the winter games in 2006 (Turin, Italy) are being held in Europe and 2008 (Beijing, summer) in Asia. That puts North America in line for 2010.

A marquee field featuring New York, Paris, London, Madrid and Moscow, among others, is already in the race for the 2012 Summer Games.

European members -- about half the total membership -- would bolster their chances for 2012 by going to North America in 2010. That could also hurt New York's prospects.

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