JUNE 4 - DOHA today controversially failed to make the cut for the short-list of the cities bidding for the 2016 Olympics despite being ranked above one of the four Candidate Cities chosen and equal with the favourite as insidethegames editor DUNCAN MACKAY reports from Athens.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board selected Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo to go through to the next round to challenge for the right to follow London 2012 as host city of the Olympics.
Prague and Baku also failed to make the cut, which was much less of a surprise.
insidethegames understands that of the 14 members of the Executive Board only two voted for Doha to be included on the short-list despite its own evaluation ranking it above Rio.
Its plan to stage the Olympics in October rather than the traditional July-August slot chosen to avoid televised football in Europe and the NFL in the United States was ultimately its downfall as it scored high enough in every other category.
The date was outside the IOC's recommendations.
Tokyo had the best overall score of 8.3 followed closely by Madrid at 8.1.
Chicago and Doha placed equal third with 7.0.
Rio scored 6.4 followed by Prague at 5.4 and Baku at 4.3.
Rogge praises bids but Doha upset
“It is a tribute to the health of the Olympic Movement that the field was so strong.
"I congratulate the Candidate Cities and I hope that those cities which were unsuccessful this time have benefited from the process."
The gas and oil-rich country of Qatar would have challenged to become the smallest ever city to stage the Olympics.
The smallest country to have hosted a modern Olympics since they were first staged in 1896 is Finland when Helsinki was the host in 1952.
But at 130,558 square miles that is a giant compared to Qatar, which is only 51 square miles and has a population of less than a million.
The failure to select the bid from Doha is a controversial one because many will see it as a snub to the first bid from an Arab and Muslim country.
Hassan Ali Bin Ali, the bid leader, said: "It is a great pity that they [the IOC] have closed the door on a bid from the Middle East.
"If the Games are only going to be held in Europe, Asia and America then I do not know why the IOC want us in the Olympic Movement."
The country had staged the 2006 Asian Games and an impressive portfolio of sports facilities, including an 80,000-capacity state-of-the-art stadium, but it failed to impress the IOC.
Later Bin Ali, said: "We want to offer our warm and sincere congratulations to all the Candidate Cities.
"We are confident that they would all stage memorable Games and we wish them the best in the coming months.
“Doha has been extremely honoured to be a part of this race and to have the opportunity to present its bid to the Olympic Family.
“We have gained considerable experience and learnt to work closely with the IOC during the Applicant City phase.
"During this time, the Doha 2016 bid reached out to and inspired millions of young people across the region with the Olympic values.
"This is, for us, one of the key accomplishments of our bid and a credit to the Olympic Movement."
Chicago is favourite
The favourite is Chicago, seeking to become the first United States city to stage the Summer Games since Atlanta in 1996, despite only being third in the initial IOC rankings.
When the IOC picked the finalists for the 2012 Olympics in 2004, London was ranked third behind first-place Paris and Madrid in the technical report.
"This is the first hurdle," American IOC member Bob Ctvrtlik said.
"This is Chicago's first time in this process.
"Our goal was to make it to this phase. We'll keep improving the bid until we submit our bid book later this year."
At the heart of Chicago’s bid is a proposal to concentrate almost all Olympics venues in an arc of neighborhoods near the Loop.
Included are stadium at Washington Park on the South Side; swimming at Douglas Park on the West Side; tennis and canoeing in Lincoln Park on the North Side, and gymnastics, rowing and other sports within walking distance of athlete housing next to McCormick Place.
Chicago was chosen unanimously by the IOC in 1901 to host the 1904 Olympics but, after behind the scenes politicking, the Games were then moved to St Louis to coincide with the 1904 World's Fair.
That, though, is unlikely to count much in Chicago's new bid.
Another American IOC member Anita DeFrantz said: "Chicago needs to show that it can do what it says it will do.
“We’ll need to size up our competition and see where our strengths are.
"It’s a matter of showing ability to execute the Games.
"That’s what IOC members are looking for.”
Madrid hoping for second time lucky
It is the second consecutive Games that Madrid have made the short-list.
Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, the Mayor of Madrid, highlighted the work of the bid's legacy commission, which he claimed has already started to improve the city's general environment.
He said: "We have transformed 50 hectares beside the River Manzaneres into parkland with more than 40,000 new trees and later this month Madrid will host its first-ever Sports Day, a new annual event that will enable all our citizens to experience a vast range of sports free of charge."
In a recent survey nearly 87 per cent of Madrid's citizens want the the city to host the Games.
But Mercdes Coghen, the bid's chief executive, refused to get carried away.
She said: "We have a lot to tackle and a great deal to learn from people around the world if we are to successfully build on the achievements of our 2012 bid and bring the Games back to Madrid in 2016."
It is generally accepted now that Madrid would have beaten London to the right to host the 2012 Olympics if they made the last round instead of Paris because many would have voted for them instead of the British bid out of loyalty to former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch.
The odds are not in their favour because Europe has not staged back-to-back Summer Olympics Helsinki followed the London 1948 Games.
But with Samaranch, even at the age of 87, still highly influential within the Olympic Movement they should not be ruled out. Rio seek World Cup and Olympic double
Rio failed to make the short-list for the 2012 Games but since then have hosted the 2007 Pan American Games.
South America has never staged the Games which gives their bid a strong emotional pull but against them is the fact that Brazil is already due to stage the 2014 World Cup.
Governor Sergio Cabral stated that the State of Rio will do whatever it takes to host the Olympic Games.
He said: “The presence of Rio de Janeiro among the finalist cities shows the level of trust of the international sports community in Brazil, especially after the Rio 2007 Pan American Games.
"The bid dossier is being prepared to meet all IOC’s requirements.
"The Government of the State of Rio de Janeiro will provide whatever is necessary for the 2016 Olympic Games."
Tokyo planning metropolitan makeover
Tokyo last staged the Games in 1964 and on paper have a strong bid.
Dr Ichiro Kono, the chairman and chief executive of Tokyo's bid, said: "A united Japan is delighted with today's historic news.
"Prime Minister Fukuda and Governor Ishihara of Tokyo have been notified and are thrilled.
"It is too soon to have read the Applicant City report in detail, but early indications are that the IOC values our unique plan to host the 2016 Games at the very heart of the world's biggest metropolis.
"The IOC also seems to believe in the legacy of the greatest urban and environmental transformation ever seen.
"Tokyo’s well known assets of innovative and efficient transport; wealth of quality accommodation; and unrivalled infrastructure have proved very strong for Tokyo 2016.
"Now it is full steam ahead for my team and the Japanese people.
"We have no time to lose.
The next major landmark for the bid cities comes on Feburay 12, when they all have to submit to the IOC its full “bid book,” a document that details what each intends to do to host the Games and how it would do it.
The IOC's Evaluation Commission will then visit each of the four cities and make a detailed inspection.
The IOC will select the host city for the 2016 Games October 2, 2009, in Copenhagen at its annual session.
To read the full IOC Evaluation report of the seven bidding cities visit Games of the XXXI Olympiad 2016 Working Group Report (PDF Download).
insidethegames will be profiling all the 2016 Candidate Cities over the next few days.