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banner Wednesday, 11 July, 2001, 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK
Final countdown for Olympic hopefuls
Moscow hosts the IOC's 112th Session
The votes will be held in Moscow - but who will win?
BBC Sport Online's Alex Gubbay examines the forthcoming elections for the 2008 Olympic city and the next IOC president.

For four countries, Friday's vote to decide which city has the honour to host the XXIX Olympiad will be a heartbreaking one.

But for one nation, it will mean the start of seven hard years of preparations for the Summer Games in 2008 - as well as the start of one huge party.

Beijing remains the outright favourite to win the vote of the IOC in Moscow, but Paris and Toronto officials are still optimistic of challenging the Chinese capital.

Istanbul and Osaka make up the other bidding cities, but neither are considered front runners.

Click here for more on each bidding city

Three days later, on Monday 16 July, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will also elect a successor to president Juan Antonio Samaranch.

Retiring IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch
Samaranch steps down after 21 years in charge

The Spaniard has held world sport's top job for 21 years and by design finally steps down in Moscow, the same place he was appointed Olympic chief ahead of their winter Games in 1980.

Under Samaranch, the Olympic movement has evolved into a formidable commercial empire, with its president an increasingly powerful authority figure.

This vote will also be a five-way battle, fought by some of the IOC's 'leading lights'.

However, it is thought only three candidates have a realistic chance of following directly in Samaranch's footsteps.

Kim Un-Yong, Dick Pound and Jacques Rogge are the names in the frame, with Anita DeFranz and Pal Schmitt unlikely to challenge.

Click here for more on each candidate

Both votes work on a round-by-round basis, with one city or candidate eliminated at each stage until two are left for a straight head-to-head fight, or one achieves 51 per cent of the vote.

The cities contest usually results in wild celebrations and deep disappointments in equal measure across different parts of the globe.

Timetable - 112th IOC Session, Moscow:

Moscow's Bolshoi theatre
The Bolshoi theatre hosts the opening ceremony
12.07.01: Opening ceremony
13.07.01: Cities present bids, Vote for the 2008 Olympic City (approx. 16:00 BST)
14/15.07.01: Other IOC business
16.07.01: Vote for the new IOC president (approx. 08:00 BST)

Some nations are in it to win, others just hope not to lose badly, though it is every city's fundamental aim to promote itself, its economy and its cultural identity on the world stage.

In the past, particularly close bidding battles have provoked prolonged post-mortems and resentment between feuding factions and continents within the Olympic body.

The 'gifts for votes' scandal that surrounded Salt Lake City's bid for the 2002 winter Games, and the more recent fiasco regarding football's World Cup in 2006, merely serve to increase scrutiny on the voting procedures themselves.

So the IOC will be especially keen to ensure the right choices are made for the right reasons in Moscow next week.

BBC Sport Online has full coverage of the IOC's 112th Session from Moscow, including live webcasts of the two results.

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