AP Sports Writer
Olympic leaders meet Monday to decide which cities make the cut in the race for the 2022 Winter Games. It should be an easy choice.
After a series of voter rejections and city withdrawals, only three contenders are left standing -- and the future of one remains uncertain.
The International Olympic Committee executive board is expected to keep all three remaining candidates: Almaty, Kazakhstan; Beijing; and Oslo.
Also on the agenda for the three-day meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, is an update on Rio de Janeiro's delayed preparations for the 2016 Olympics, possible venue changes for the 2020 Tokyo Games and a review of IOC President Thomas Bach's plans for the future of the Olympic movement.
Five things at play at the Olympic meetings:
WINTER OF DISCONTENT: The Ukrainian bid from Lviv dropped out of the 2022 race last week amid the continuing turmoil in the country and will focus on 2026 instead. Krakow pulled out earlier after Polish voters rejected the bid. Stockholm withdrew previously after politicians refused to give financial backing. Potential bids from Switzerland and Germany were abandoned after voters said no in referendums.
No need then for the IOC to pare the field any further. Almaty, Beijing and Oslo should be safe.
"I think the three can go through," IOC executive board member Sergei Bubka told The Associated Press. "Normally we do a short list. Maybe in this case, we don't need it."
Oslo's bid remains in limbo. The Norwegian government has yet to back the project and won't make a decision until the autumn. Polls have shown that more than half the population opposes the games. It's possible only two cities could be left in contention by the end of the year.
At this stage, Almaty, which hosted the 2011 Asian Winter Games, would appear the favorite. But plenty of things can happen before the host city is selected in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on July 31, 2015.
RIO DELAYS: The relatively smooth running of the World Cup in Brazil has alleviated some of the concerns about Rio's troubled preparations for the 2016 Games, recently described by IOC Vice President John Coates as the worst he's ever seen. Once the World Cup is over, the pressure will be back on Rio organizers. The IOC has already enacted emergency measures, including dispatching veteran administrator Gilbert Felli to work on site with local organizers.
In one positive sign, Rio finally began work this week on the long-delayed Deodoro complex, which is to host venues for 11 Olympic sports. Meanwhile, serious concerns remain over pollution in Guanabara Bay, venue for the sailing competition, and delays in building the course for golf's return to the Olympics after more than a century.
TOKYO TIME: Tokyo is experiencing turbulence in its preparations for 2020, just months after being awarded the games. Concerned by soaring costs, Japanese organizers have decided to review their venue plans and consider switching some sites. Plans for a new futuristic Olympic Stadium are drawing criticism and protests. About 500 demonstrators marched Saturday against plans to destroy the existing 56-year-old national stadium and replace it with a new one. Critics say the proposed 80,000-seat stadium, designed by British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, is too big, too costly and clashes with Tokyo's urban planning.
BACH'S AGENDA: A main focus of the meetings will be "Olympic Agenda 2020," Bach's blueprint for the future. Fourteen working groups recently met in Lausanne to begin formulating proposals. Key areas include possible changes to the bidding process, sports program and age limits for IOC members, and creation of an Olympic TV channel. Recommendations will be voted on in Monaco in December.
BACH's BACK: Bach has been on a whirlwind of trips around the world since becoming president in September. He just recently returned from Japan and South Korea. With the board meeting starting Monday morning, Bach didn't make it to Wimbledon for this weekend's finals. Former IOC President Jacques Rogge was in the Royal Box instead on Saturday to watch Petra Kvitova capture the women's title.
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