3 Sep 2009

Race for 2016 Olympics wide open

6:18 am on 3 September 2009

The race for the 2016 Olympics looks set to go right to the wire after an official report said all four bids were of an "extremely high level".

Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Chicago and Madrid are competing to host the summer Olympics which will follow London 2012.

International Olympic Committee members will have one month to digest the report before the vote to decide the 2016 host on October 2nd.

An IOC evaluation committee visited all four cities during April and May 2009.

The 13-member commission, chaired by Morocco's former Olympic 400m hurdles champion Nawal El Moutawakel, the first woman from an Islamic nation to win an Olympic medal, spent four days in each city assessing their suitability to host the Games.

Chicago, aiming to be the first city from the United States to host the Games since Atlanta in 1996, scored points with its compact plan, with most venues within 8km of the city centre.

Rio's bid to become the first South American city to host the Olympics scored well with its wider regeneration plan.

A shortage of hotel rooms and security were causes for concern but the IOC believes that hosting the 2014 soccer World Cup would accelerate infrastructure delivery, although could also challenge marketing strategies ahead of 2016.

Tokyo, which hosted the Games in 1964, won praise for the 5 and a half billion dollar fund it has already set up and for planning a compact Games, backed by an efficient public transport system.

Madrid, which failed in a bid for the 2012 Games, enjoys the highest domestic support among all bid cities, with 84.9% of the capital's residents backing the bid, according to an IOC poll.

It already has 23 of the 33 venues that will be required but the IOC expressed concern over a lack of "clear delineation" regarding the roles and responsibilities of the different stakeholders and their financial support.