Refugee crisis, money issues in background of 2024 bid race

LONDON (AP) With the race for the 2024 Olympics now officially underway, the five bid cities face a two-year campaign to convince IOC members that they offer the best project.

The International Olympic Committee announced the official list of candidates Wednesday. As expected, they were: Budapest, Hungary; Hamburg, Germany; Los Angeles, Paris and Rome.

IOC President Thomas Bach described it as a world-class field - something he was determined to get after the debacle for the 2022 Winter Games when only two candidates (Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan) were left following a spate of withdrawals.

Of the five bidders for 2024, Budapest is considered a longshot. Hamburg faces a referendum on Nov. 29 and, even it passes that test, is viewed as an outsider.

That leaves three core candidates in Paris, Rome and Los Angeles. Paris and Los Angeles stand out as the two early front-runners.

The IOC will not cut the field to a short list of finalists this time, meaning all can go to the final vote in Lima, Peru, in September 2017.

Here's a look at some key issues:

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BYE-BYE BAKU

A few months ago, seven bid candidates were expected. But Toronto, which hosted the Pan American Games this summer, decided this week not to bid because of uncertainties over the costs. And the Azerbaijan capital of Baku, which looked set to bid after staging the inaugural European Games in June, also stayed out of the race.

Bach said the IOC consulted with Baku about a bid but both sides concluded that 2028 was a more viable target - a decision that should serve Bach politically.

A Baku bid would have presented a headache and image problem for the IOC: A former Soviet republic with an authoritarian leader and a poor human rights record. After being criticized over Sochi and Beijing, Bach and the IOC will be happy to avoid more human rights controversy.

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REFUGEE FALLOUT

The 2024 contest involves two countries at the heart of the refugee crisis in Europe: Hungary and Germany.

Budapest's bid will hardly be helped by the international criticism that Hungary and Prime Minister Viktor Orban have faced for their tough stance on migrants.

While the city's bid was being confirmed by the IOC, Hungarian police used tear gas and water cannons on hundreds of migrants who broke through a razor wire fence on the border with Serbia.

Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, have been praised for a more welcoming policy.

''This humanitarian challenge is going beyond Olympic candidatures,'' Bach said in a conference call. ''While we speak, political leaders in Europe and in the world are discussing how to address this great humanitarian challenge. I hope they will come together to a solution ... which allows these refugees to live at home in peace and prosperity.''

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DEUTSCHE DOUBLE

Germany is not only bidding for the 2024 Olympics, it is also a strong contender to host the 2024 European soccer championship in the same summer. Previously, the IOC told Turkey it should not bid for both events in 2020. But Bach, who is German, said there is no reason it can't happen in this case.

''This definitely can be possible because time-wise they are couple of weeks apart from each other,'' Bach said. ''I also think nobody has a real doubt about the organizational skills of Germany and German sport in particular.''

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FINANCIAL GUARANTEES

One of the stumbling blocks for previous U.S. Olympic bids has been the IOC requirement to provide financial guarantees for any cost overruns. The host city contract can leave taxpayers on the hook for any deficit. The U.S. federal government does not underwrite the cost of the games, as do most other countries.

Bach defended the IOC policy as essential to a level playing field: ''It is just part of a fair competition that the candidate cities are guaranteeing the delivery of the project.''

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NO SPENDING CAP

Bach has been pushing for more affordable games, a response in part to the outcry over the $51 billion associated with the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. Bach said the IOC had considered, but ultimately ruled out, the idea of imposing a spending cap for 2024 bidding and hosting.

''It is not possible because all the cities are starting from a different starting point,'' he said. ''In one country you already have the infrastructure, in another they are using the games as a catalyst for this infrastructure. We cannot control this and could not enforce a cap.''

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Follow Stephen Wilson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/stevewilsonap

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