The rival firms now have just a few weeks to submit more detailed proposals for how they want to transform the Lower Lea Valley, London's designated site for the Olympics.
But the decision on who will actually write the masterplan for the Olympic bid will not be based on any designs for sport venues or the Olympic Village.
Instead, applicants have to demonstrate how well they understand the "regeneration issues" for London's East End and the logistical challenges and budgetary constraints of Britain's application to the Olympic Committee.
The selection panel, which includes representatives of the London Development Agency, Greater London Authority and British Olympic Association, as well as Barcelona's city architect Josep Acebillo and Sir Howard Bernstein who worked on Manchester's 2002 Commonwealth Games, will chose the successful consortium in late July.
Richard Rogers Partnership / WS Atkins
London's mayor Ken Livingstone said he was "very impressed by the calibre of the consortia competing for the masterplanning work".
RIVALS FOR THE 2012 GAMES
London: 7-4 favourites
New York: 8-1
The London Development Agency said the candidates were chosen because of their track record of major regeneration projects and "multi sports events".
Work on the masterplan is scheduled to start in August, and has to be finished by January 2004, in time to complete the International Olympic Committee's "questionnaire" to all candidate cities.
Some of the candidates designed Olympic sites before
Architects and design bureaus have a hard act to follow. The Olympic Games in 2000 in Sydney were deemed a resounding success, both for the sporting event itself and the fact that they made a multi-billon dollar profit.
London's mayor hopes that the infrastructure for the Olympics - covering the London boroughs of Newham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney - will generate 40,000 jobs and 15,000 new homes.
But worries about security and London's creaking transport system will make the bid a huge challenge.
The International Olympic Committee will chose the host city for the 2012 Olympics in two years' time.
The track record
Arup and Foster have collaborated on previous projects, like the Millennium bridge in London, and are currently working on building a new railway station for Florence, a project scheduled to last until 2008.
HOK is working, among many other things, on developing the Dubai Marina, which will accommodate 120,000 people, and the George Bush presidential library. Its partner EDAW is behind the Central Milton Keynes Development Framework, Manchester's city centre redevelopment, and Atlanta's Centennial Olympic park.
MBM Arquitectes worked on large-scale sea front developments in Benidorm, Rio de Janeiro and Salerno, and the Bute Avenue and Square in Cardiff Bay.
Swiss-based Herzog & de Meuron are probably most famous in the UK for the development of London's Tate Modern gallery, and have been given the job to create the main stadium for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
The Richard Rogers Partnership is famous for the Lloyds building, the Pompidou Centre and the Millennium Dome, while WS Atkins is an engineering firm and global technology consultancy.
Terry Farrell & Partners are known for urban design and regeneration projects like Newcastle's Quayside, the Edinburgh Exchange District and the Kowloon Peninsula, Hong Kong.