September 16, 2015 / 7:18 AM / 2 years ago

IOC unveils five candidates for 2024 Summer Games

President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach attends a news conference in Seoul, South Korea, August 19, 2015.Kim Hong-Ji/files

(Reuters) - Los Angeles is in the running to host a third Olympics while Hamburg, Paris, Rome and Budapest will battle to bring the multi-sport extravaganza back to Europe after the five cities were officially unveiled as candidates to host the 2024 Summer Games on Wednesday.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), which will select the winning bid in 2017, announced the final list after the deadline for submissions ended at midnight (central European time) on Tuesday.

"The IOC welcomes five outstanding cities to this strong competition," IOC President Thomas Bach said in a conference call.

Bach added that Azerbaijan's Baku, which hosted the inaugural European Games in June, had also considered running and held talks with the IOC before deciding to wait for a possible 2028 bid.

After a disappointing campaign for the 2022 Winter Games, where just two candidates -- Kazakhstan's Almaty and eventual winner Beijing -- stayed in the race after four others pulled out due to financial concerns or a lack of public support, the IOC is keen to restore the image of the Olympics as a lucrative prospect.

It adopted a series of reforms under the banner 'Agenda 2020' which were aimed at making it easier to bid for, and cheaper to host, the Olympics.

In a bidding race predicted to be the most hotly contested for at least a decade, Los Angeles, the United States' second choice after Boston pulled out amid fears over cost overruns, is hoping to stage the Games for a third time after 1932 and 1984.

Paris, which had a failed bid for the 2012 Olympics, is eager to host a centennial Summer Games after the city staged the event for a second and last time in 1924. It is being seen as an early frontrunner along with Los Angeles.

Rome, the 1960 hosts, had briefly campaigned for the 2020 Olympics before the government pulled the plug over budget concerns, while Budapest is seeking to join Russia as the only Eastern European countries to land the Summer Games.

Hamburg, which will hold a referendum in November on whether the city actually wants the Games, is proposing an inner-city Olympics with venues within walking distance for athletes after it beat out Berlin in Germany's bid race.

The German port has never hosted the Games before.

"What is important for the IOC is that we want to send athletes to cities where they are welcome, where the population is clearly supporting the Olympic Games and is welcoming the athletes," Bach said when asked if all cities should hold a referendum.

"How the candidate cities are showing this culture of welcome ... is up to them."

Bach also ruled out suggestions that an informal rotation of continents may influence the vote in two years' time, with the United States not having staged a Summer Games since 1996 while Europe held the 2012 Olympics in London.

"I do not think this plays a major role," Bach said. "We have now three Olympic Games in a row in Asia (Pyeongchang 2018, Tokyo 2020, Beijing 2022). So this shows that this informal rotation which we always saw in the past is losing importance."

Editing by Peter Rutherford

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