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Olympic candidates await IOC decision

Beijing has emerged as the favourite to win the IOC host city vote

(Keystone Archive)

The five cities bidding to host the 2008 Olympic Games are anxiously awaiting the decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Moscow. The result of a secret ballot is expected to be known by 1830 Moscow time on Friday.

Beijing has long been regarded as the city most likely to win the right to stage the games. But it faces stiff competition from Paris and Toronto. Osaka and Istanbul are also in the running.

Before the start of voting IOC members heard final presentations from all five Olympic candidates. Osaka was first to put its case, followed by Paris, Toronto, Beijing and Istanbul.

The Chinese delegation was said to be very confident as the start of voting approached.

Beijing failed by just two votes to win the nomination for the 2000 Summer Games and has shown great determination to succeed this time around. The Chinese government has spared no expense with its commitment to sink $14 billion into the venture.

And the outgoing IOC president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, has gone on record to say that he wants to see China host the games.

But the Chinese bid has aroused a great deal of controversy. Human rights groups in particular have opposed the bid, pointing to China's rough treatment of dissidents and its suppressive policy towards Tibet.

Last week anti-Beijing protestors disrupted an international athletics meeting in Lausanne. That protest was followed by a demonstration in Moscow on Wednesday, when nine protestors - including five Swiss - were arrested.

Marc Hodler, a Swiss member of the IOC, said before the vote that politics would influence the way the ballot went, but he said no recommendations or direction had been given to IOC members on how they should cast their ballot.

The Swiss Olympic Committee is expected to decide later in the year whether to put forward a bid from either the mountain resort of Davos or the Swiss capital, Bern, to host the 2010 Winter Olympics.

But analysts say that if the 2008 Summer Olympics go to Paris, it is unlikely IOC members would award the 2010 Winter Olympics to another European city.

Friday's vote is to be followed on Monday by the election of a new IOC president to replace Samaranch, who is stepping down after 21 years at the helm.

Five candidates are vying to become only the eighth president in the committee's history, with Belgium's Jacques Rogge and South Korean diplomat Un Yong Kim tipped as frontrunners.

In Switzerland, attention will be focused on the former Swiss defence and sports minister, Adolf Ogi, who is standing for a place on the committee. But as Switzerland already has five elected members, Ogi is likely to face opposition from IOC members who feel the country is already over-represented.

swissinfo with agencies

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