Almaty, Beijing and Oslo, the three remaining contenders in the race for the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympics, have all been put through to the candidature stage of the contest by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board today.
Kazakhstan city Almaty, the venue for the 2011 Asian Winter Games and 2017 Winter Unversiade, is widely seen as the early frontrunner, while Beijing is attempting to become the first city in history to host both the Winter and Summer Games, having staged a successful event in 2008.
A success for Oslo meanwhile, would mark the first Games in the Norwegian capital since 1952, although nearby Lillehammer was the location for the 1994 edition.
The news was announced by IOC President Thomas Bach after the opening session of three days of Executive Board meetings here this afternoon, where they extensively discussed the applications of all three based on a technical assessment of each by the IOC Working Group.
After outlining the individual credentials of each of the trio, Bach concluded by offering his congratulations and outlining how all three should produce an excellent Games for their city, region and host nation, as well as for the IOC.
But the news that all three remaining contenders had been put forward comes as little surprise following the withdrawal of half of the initial applicants earlier this year, in what had originally been a six-horse race.
Swedish capital Stockholm's withdrawal in January after an inability to gain Government support was followed by a No-vote in a referendum in Polish contender Kraków over whether the bid should continue, before Lviv pulled out last week as the bid was overshadowed by the political problems still engulfing Ukraine.
The IOC, therefore, had little choice but to put forward the three surviving applicants.
"The Executive Board was impressed by the legacy plans of each of the three cities, and will continue to support any future candidate or host city in developing them further," Bach said.
"This support will be practical, involving the detailed transfer of knowledge as well as financial.
"In this respect it was good to see that each of the bidding cities understood the difference between the Olympic Games budget and the long-term infrastructure and investment budget, which will benefit their communities for decades to come."
Bach also expressed the Executive Board's confidence that the future hosts can break even with the Olympic Games budget, as 2010 host Vancouver announced last week, or even make a considerable profit, as the most recent Games in Sochi claims to have done, despite it being widely reported to have cost $51 billion (£31 billion/€37 billion) to build the facilities and infrastructure necessary to stage the event.
"This is possible not least because of the extensive financial assistance given by the IOC. In the case of Sochi, this amounted to $750 million (£437 million/€552 million) and it is likely that figure will be even higher for the host of the Olympic Winter Games 2022," Bach said.
But the IOC Working Group reports, released alongside the announcement, does document some of the concerns with the remaining applicants.
This is particularly in relation to Oslo, where the report outlines how an "IOC poll in Oslo and the surrounding municipal areas shows 36 per cent support for Oslo hosting the Games, with 50 per cent against".
They currently do not have the Government guarantees necessary and, such is the public opinion against the campaign, there remains a real question mark over whether it will be granted.
The report added: "An opinion poll commissioned by the Bid Committee at the beginning of 2014 shows 36 per cent support in Norway".
In comparison, an IOC poll found support in Almaty and the surrounding municipal areas to be at 66 per cent with 13 per cent against, while in Beijing 77 per cent showed support, with just three per cent against.
But Almaty was also not without criticism, receiving several low scores in the Working Group Report: on criteria ranging from their overall Games concept to their plans for the Athletes' Villages and International Press Centre.
IOC Executive Director Gilbert Felli, who spoke following following the conclusion of the first day of the Executive Board meeting, insisted that Almaty's bid has "excellent raw materials. but is a bit behind in understanding the concept and what is needed to organise the Games".
He added that they will get support from the IOC as to how to do this, and that "everything is there for an excellent bid".
The Working Group report was the sole document used to select the Candidate Cities, IOC Executive Board member CK Wu claimed to insidethegames afterwards, insisting a decision was made based on the evidence provided rather than in the context of the three withdrawals.
Wu, the Taiwanese President of the International Boxing Association, claimed Oslo is a strong "Winter Games orientated" country, while Almaty has the commitment and passion to become a centre for Asian Winter sport.
He added that Beijing, seeking to jointly host the Games with neighbouring city Zhangjiakou, will utilise the legacy of the 2008 Games there and convert these attributes to snow and ice.
The next stage of the two-year process to decide the host city will now come on January 7 next year, when the Candidature Files from the three successful cities will be due.
The IOC President will then appoint an Evaluation Commission made up of IOC members and experts to visit each Candidate City in February and March and prepare a technical risk assessment to assist IOC members in electing the host city.
To read the full 2022 Working Group Report click here.
July 2014: It is important we convince Norwegians that Oslo 2022 will not be like Sochi 2014, admits chief executive
July 2014: Almaty 2022 opens "window to the world" by launching bid website
June 2014: Lviv pull out of race to host 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics
June 2014: Oslo 2022 target Norwegian youngsters as key supporters of faltering Olympic bid
May 2014: Kraków will lose billion dollars in investment after Olympic "no" vote, claims Mayor