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Close call for 2016 candidate

PARIS, September 25- One of the tightest and most hard-fought battles to win the right to host an Olympic Games will come to its eagerly-anticipated climax in Copenhagen next week when 2016 Summer Games are allocated.

JACQUES_ROGGE_It is not the only difficult choice the 100-plus International Olympic Committee (IOC) members face as they must decide by majority vote whether rugby and golf deserve to be included in the Games that year.

They will be relieved that they will not face a tough decision as to who is their president for the next four years as Jacques Rogge is to stand unopposed – others waiting in the wings for the election in four years time when the Belgian is to stand down.

However, it is the choice between Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo that will be first on the menu on October 2.

What is at stake is the prize of hosting the most treasured and high profile event in the global sporting world – although with it comes all the stress and financial burdens it can bring over the seven years in between the euphoria of winning and the opening of the Games themselves.

For the bid teams involved it has been an incessant 18 months of lobbying and presentations since they were shortlisted and with a week to go it remains to be seen how they can make any difference with more of the same in a vote that Rogge – who does not have a vote except in the event of a tie – believes will be close.

"Beijing won by a wide margin in Moscow in 2001 (for the 2008 Games) but then London edged Paris in 2005 (for the 2012 Games) and it only came down to a couple of members," said the Belgian, who was elected in 2001 to succeed Juan Antonio Samaranch.

"This could probably be down to two to four votes."

Many believe that the first round vote in Copenhagen could prove crucial as to how the eventual winner emerges with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva pledging that should Rio go out in the first round their votes should go to Madrid and vice versa.

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Rio’s bid may well not have been done any favours by former FIFA president Joao Havelange commenting publicly he had already garnered 20 votes for them and worse named the members who had pledged themselves to the cause of bringing the Games for the first time to a South American city.

Chicago, having been originally the rather uncomfortable frontrunners, have fought back in style since Rio replaced them in that role.

But they still have to fight against the hangover of bitterness against the Americans since the Salt Lake City bribes for votes scandal exposed how rotten the then IOC membership was.

Both Tokyo and Madrid may have to just hope that they are seen as the compromise candidates or to put it another way the safe and secure pair of hands that would guarantee a sound Games.

The vote with regard to the sports should also prove to be of interest with rugby almost certain to win the approval of the members but with golf seen as still having some work to do.

"They are both regarded as middle class and well-off sports and that is not altogether the image that some IOC members want to see the Olympics become," a source told AFP.

"They would rather that the Games retain an image of highlighting other sports that only get an opportunity once every four years to show themselves to the world and reap the financial rewards to keep them going in between times."

The only point of interest regarding Rogge’s re-election will be if there are a significant amount of abstentions, but the Belgian former Olympic yachtsman, boxing doctor and orthopaedic surgeon has earned his extension of four years and in his humble way insists there will be no trying to change the system so he can seek another term.

"Better to be regretted than to be regrettable," he told AFP in August about that possibility.

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