Tokyo, Madrid among seven applicants to host 2016 Games

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ATHENS, Sep 14 (Reuters) Tokyo, Chicago and Madrid are among seven cities that have applied to host the 2016 Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee said today.

The applications are the first step in a bidding process that will end in October 2009 when the winner is selected.

Brazil's Rio de Janeiro, Czech capital Prague, Doha in Qatar and Azerbaijan's Baku had also applied via their National Olympic Committees before Thursday's deadline.

Several are expected to drop out in June 2008 when the IOC officially announces the candidate cities.

''Cities are required to answer a questionnaire, and their answers are studied by the IOC,'' the committee said in a statement.

''At the end of this first phase, the IOC Executive Board selects the cities that will become Candidate Cities and therefore move on to Phase 2.'' The winner will be announced during the IOC vote in Copenhagen in October 2009.

With London hosting the 2012 Olympics, Prague and Madrid could be at a disadvantage. Back-to-back Summer Olympics have not been held on the continent since the 1948 London Games and the Helsinki Olympics four years later.

Madrid bid unsuccessfully for the 2012 Games.

Rio's application comes on the back of successful Panamerican Games hosted this summer, a fact not lost with the IOC, which is eager to spread the Games to all continents. No South American nation has ever hosted the Olympics.

Doha hosted last year's Asian Games, gaining much-needed experience in staging large-scale international sporting events.

Chicago beat San Francisco to get the national nod and given the Summer Olympics have not been hosted by any US city since the 1996 Atlanta Games, the windy city's bid could win points.

Tokyo, which hosted the Olympics in 1964, will attempt to bring back the summer edition to Asia, eight years after Beijing.

REUTERS BJR PM1720

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