The Olympics Race Is On: Which City Will It Be in 2004?

Like four other cities bidding to host the 2004 Olympics, Stockholm has turned on the charm to sway world public opinion before Friday's vote of the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Proof of the city's wide-reaching effort arrived in the Monitor's mail box just days ago in the form of a beautiful postcard. One side carried a picture of Stockholm, the other a personally written message from a 12-year-old Swedish girl expressing her desire to dance and perhaps compete in these future Games.

No mention was made of several violent acts in Stockholm presumably meant to discourage the 109 Olympic members, who will cast secret ballots tomorrow. Bombs have gone off and fires been set at several sports facilities, including the stadium used when Stockholm hosted the Games in 1912.

The Olympic movement has worked to protect itself from terrorism since 11 Israeli athletes were killed at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

The recent disruptions in Stockholm, therefore, could have just the opposite effect of what was apparently intended. They could strengthen resolve not to let cowardly acts influence the city selection process, either now or in the future.What role the bombings play in this week's vote, however, may never be clear. Stockholm has not been considered the favorite. Rome is supposedly the front runner, with Athens its chief rival.

Several rounds of voting are anticipated. The city with the fewest votes in each round will be eliminated until one achieves a majority. Here is an annotated candidates' list:

Rome: Owns a strong record of holding successful international sports events.

Athens: Overestimated its historical pull in pursuing the 1996 Games. Learned from its mistakes and now boasts much-improved infrastructure. Proposes a five-continent Olympic torch relay.

Stockholm: A "100 percent financial guarantee," a strong environmental orientation, and 19 hours of daylight are selling points.

Cape Town: Has played up the fact the Olympics are due in Africa, one of the continents represented by the five Olympic rings that's never hosted the Games.

Buenos Aires: A sleeper, it hopes to bring the Olympics to South America for the first time. Has proposed a 9-mile Olympic "corridor" along the River Plate.

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