Australian bid put on IOC fast track to host 2032 Olympics

GENEVA (AP) — The Australian state of Queensland became the strong favorite to host the 2032 Olympics after the IOC gave it the status of its preferred bidder on Wednesday.

The decision by the International Olympic Committee’s executive board puts the Brisbane-based bid on a fast-track to victory 11 years ahead of the games and before several expected rival candidates have publicly developed their plans.

Officials in Brisbane and the Australian Olympic Committee will now begin “targeted dialogue” with an IOC panel overseeing the updated bidding process, IOC president Thomas Bach said at a news conference.

“This decision is not a decision against anybody," Bach said. "This is just a decision in favor of one interested party at this moment in time.”

If Queensland is eventually approved by the full IOC membership, it would cap the second straight unconventional bidding process for the Summer Games.

In 2017, Paris and Los Angeles were awarded the 2024 and 2028 editions, respectively, at the same time when the IOC changed its rules mid-contest to allow a double award.

The process was changed again for 2032 to speed up the selection. The IOC wanted to move away from two-year bidding campaigns that ended with a host being picked seven years before the games. These were typically expensive for cities, often ended with rejection of the Olympic brand by voters in local referendums, and invited controversy including allegations of vote-buying.

In 2019, the IOC created panels for each of the Summer and Winter Games to enter into rolling dialogue with possible candidates and even approach bidders. The panels can recommend a host that may now be picked without a contested vote.

“We cannot, I suggest, continue to be damaged as we have in the past,” John Coates, Australia’s top Olympic official, said in 2019 while presenting the new bid process he helped shape at the invitation of Bach.

Queensland’s quick progress raised questions about possible conflicts of interest for Coates, who has led the Australian Olympic Committee for more than 30 years.

Coates returned to the IOC board last year as a vice president and is viewed as one of Bach's closest allies. He also leads the IOC's oversight of preparations for the postponed Tokyo Olympics this year.

The 2032 contest was expected to include Doha, Qatar -- which is hosting the 2030 Asian Games -- and Budapest, Hungary, which withdrew late from the 2024 contest to pave the way for Los Angeles being offered the 2028 edition.

Hungary's Olympic body said last month it set up a feasibility study for a 2032 bid to report back next year.

China, Germany, India, Indonesia and Russia were also working on possible bids for 2032.

The IOC urges hosts to avoid building white elephant projects and control spending which typically overshoots the budget target set during the bid.

Queensland’s government-backed bid was made more likely after hosting the Commonwealth Games -- a two-week multi-sport event for former British Empire countries -- at Gold Coast in 2018.

The 2000 Sydney Olympics, which Coates helped bid for and organize, was also a popular recent success for the Summer Games. The next year, Coates joined the IOC as a member.

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More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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