ATHENS Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro were named on Wednesday as candidate cities to host the 2016 Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said.
Qatar's Doha, which was rated by the IOC's working group as the third best overall bid, Azerbaijan's Baku and the Czech capital Prague fell at the first hurdle.
"All the bids were of a very high standard," said IOC President Jacques Rogge.
"It is a tribute to the health of the Olympic movement that the field was so strong. I congratulate the candidate cities and I hope that those cities which were unsuccessful this time have benefited from the process."
The candidate cities must now compile an in-depth file of their Olympic project and submit themselves to a visit by the IOC's Evaluation Commission. The election of the host city will take place on October 2, 2009, at the IOC Session in Copenhagen.
"We wanted to make the next phase and we made a good bid but it is always a relief to hear your name read out," U.S. IOC member Bob Ctvrtlik, who was with the Chicago bid, told Reuters.
Tokyo, hosts of the 1964 Games, topped the IOC working group's overall technical evaluation with Madrid second. Chicago and Doha tied for third with Rio in fourth place, the report said.
"We are delighted with the evaluation but we have not seen it yet and we must now analyze it very carefully to strengthen our weak points and make our strong points stronger," Tokyo bid chief Ichiro Kono told Reuters.
IOC executive board members, who picked the candidate cities, had been divided for weeks whether Doha should be included in the shortlist.
Some members argued the city of about 500,000 was too small to deal with an event of such magnitude despite staging successful Asian Games in 2006.
Doha also planned to stage the Games in October instead of the usual summer months, due to the soaring desert heat.
"The weather was the main reason we were left off the shortlist," Doha bid official Aneesa Al Hitimi told Reuters.
An IOC official said the decision for the shortlist was unanimous among the 14 Executive Board members and Rogge, despite a 30-minute delay in the announcement that momentarily raised questions about whether there was a consensus.
IOC Communications Director Giselle Davies said Doha's decision to plan for Games in October had been a major drawback.
"The IOC Executive Board unanimously decided not to grant this exception as it conflicts with the international sporting calendar and would therefore be bad for the athletes and for sports fans," Davies said.
"Does this mean Doha or another country from the Middle East could never host the Olympic Games? No, not necessarily, especially given the IOC's desire to see the Games held around the world," she added.
The decision sparked wild celebrations among Chicago bid officials gathered at a downtown Chicago office with their cheers drowning out the other short listed cities.
(Additional reporting by Barney Spender in Athens, Ben Klayman in Chicago)
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by John Mehaffey)