Race for 2022 Games down to three

AP

Three cities look certain to make the final cut in the race to host the 2022 Winter Olympics after the withdrawal of the Ukrainian bid from Lviv.

Lviv pulled out Monday because of the continuing political, security and economic crisis in Ukraine, becoming the third contender to drop out of the campaign for an Olympics that no one seems to want.

Lviv officials said they will now plan on bidding for the 2026 Winter Games, a decision that followed talks between IOC president Thomas Bach, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Ukrainian Olympic Committee chief Sergei Bubka.

“We need to settle the main political and economic issues in Ukraine today,” Bubka, the pole vault great who sits on the IOC executive board, said in a telephone interview with AP. “We all agreed that it’s best to postpone and focus on 2026. We felt it was the right decision for all parties.”

Lviv’s withdrawal came exactly a week before the IOC executive board meets in Lausanne, Switzerland, to decide which cities will advance to the final stage.

The three remaining candidates are Almaty, Kazakhstan; Beijing and Oslo.

With Lviv out, the board is likely to retain all three and not reduce the field any further. The host city will be selected by the full IOC membership in Kuala Lumpur on July 31, 2015.

“I think the three can go through,” Bubka said. “Normally we do a short list. Maybe in this case, we don’t need it. We have three good candidates.”

The future of Oslo’s bid also remains uncertain. The Norwegian government has yet to back the project and won’t make a decision until the autumn. In addition, recent polls have shown that more than half the population opposes the games. It’s possible that only two cities could be left by the end of the year.

Almaty, commercial capital of the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan in Central Asia, hosted the 2011 Asian Winter Games and would shape up as the favorite.

Beijing proposes holding Alpine events 190 km away in the northern city of Zhangjiakou. And with Pyeongchang, South Korea, hosting the 2018 Winter Games and Tokyo the 2020 Olympics, the IOC would normally be reluctant to send the games to East Asia for a third straight time.

Lviv’s withdrawal follows the earlier pullouts of Stockholm and Krakow, Poland.

The Swedish capital dropped out after politicians declined to give financial support. The Polish city withdrew last month after 70 percent of residents rejected the bid in a referendum.

Even before the start of the official 2022 campaign, two potential serious contenders stayed away. St. Moritz-Davos and Munich canceled proposed bids after voters in Switzerland and Germany voted “no” in referendums.