Bid cities prepare to make cases


ACAPULCO, Mexico -- The race to host the 2018 Winter Olympics is set to take center stage at the start of a meeting of national Olympic committees from around the world.

More than 1,000 delegates from over 200 countries have arrived for the conference in Acapulco, Mexico. The first official presentations from the 2018 candidates -- German city Munich, French alpine resort Annecy and South Korea's Pyeongchang -- will be made Thursday.

The meeting opened on Wednesday with an address from Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

Doping issues and progress reports from the organizing committees of the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Summer Games are also on the agenda for the three-day assembly, which will be followed by a meeting of the International Olympic Committee executive board.

The 2018 bid cities will present 20-minute pitches to the Association of National Olympic Committees assembly -- officially unveiling the bids for the first time.

Pyeongchang is thought to be an early favorite, with Bavarian farmers objecting to giving up land for the Munich bid, while criticism has been leveled at the Annecy proposals for having venues too far apart.

Both the Munich and Annecy teams claim those problems have now been fixed.

Representatives of the IOC will visit Annecy and Pyeongchang in February and Munich in March ahead of a final decision in July.

Later in the conference, ANOC president Mario Vazquez Rana was elected for a further four years -- extending his reign over the organization to 35 years if he completes the term.

Vazquez Rana, a Mexican, was first appointed president in 1979 and was re-elected unanimously after no other candidates were put forward.

"Every four years I've been re-elected, I've had the same feeling of excitement and enthusiasm," he said.

Security was tight for Calderon's appearance on Wednesday, with armed federal police and soldiers guarding the streets around the hotel where the event was being held.

Vehicles entering the compound were searched and delegates were required to pass through metal detectors and have their bags checked upon arriving -- reflecting the tense security situation caused by the ongoing drug war in Mexico.

Calderon underlined the importance of cooperation between nations and the role of sport in building healthy societies during his speech.