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SF, NYC Named Olympic Finalists

New York and San Francisco were selected Tuesday as the U.S. finalists to host the 2012 Summer Olympics, while Houston and Washington, D.C. were eliminated as contenders.

The decision was announced this afternoon in Chicago by the head of the task force that evaluated each city. Charles Moore said all four cities were "more than qualified" and each deserved to win.

The USOC's board of directors will pick the U.S. candidate for the 2012 Games at a Nov. 3 meeting. Then comes the international competition, where things really get serious.

As many as a dozen cities including possibly Toronto, Rome, Paris, Moscow, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — are expected to be in the mix. The International Olympic Committee will pick the host in 2005.

The USOC's task force spent hundreds of hours analyzing each of the bids. It made two visits to each city, with every member scoring the individual bids.

In New York, the task force chose a city that had been seen as the sentimental favorite following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The panel overlooked the nation's capital, which also was a target of the attacks.

Whether New York or San Francisco is chosen as the finalist, the U.S. entrant might be a long shot.

IOC members might have some lingering resentment from the Congressional hearings in the Salt Lake City bribery scandal. Congress even grilled former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch after it was discovered that Salt Lake City organizers had plied IOC members with more than $1 million in gifts and scholarships, Congress got involved.

The USOC's task force spent hundreds of hours analyzing each of the bids. It made two visits to each city, with every member scoring the individual bids.

New York, whose bid has a $2.7 billion Olympic budget, still needs to build or renovate most of its venues. There also are questions about traffic and transportation, though organizers say the city is best equipped to handle and move large crowds.

All of the venues would be accessible by either rail or water, with organizers saying athletes would never even have to be on a roadway.

Organizers also tout the city's legacy of diversity and immigrant history, likening it to the Olympic movement itself.

San Francisco's weather, waterfront and scenic vistas were the strong points of its bid, which has a budget of $2.4 billion. Organizers hope to use the Golden Gate Bridge as a signature emblem, the way Sydney's Opera House was used during the 2000 Summer Olympics.

Though it initially spread venues from the Bay Area to Sacramento, organizers reorganized their plan over the last few months and moved several sites. Now 92 percent of the venues would be within 32 miles of the Olympic Village. But that could still be too spread out to please the IOC.

Washington's bid had the biggest Olympic budget at $2.8 billion. The city's plan centered around an Olympic Sports Complex at the current site of RFK Stadium on a cleaned-up Anacostia River.

Houston had the strongest technical bid, with most of the venues close to each other and 90 percent already complete or under construction. The bid had a budget of $2.4 billion, and organizers also promised an $87 million renovation to make the Astrodome an elite track and field facility.

The cities weren't ranked against each other, but rather against a neutral number. The biggest portion — 54 percent — was based on the IOC's criteria for host cities. Another 15 percent was related to the financial stability of the bid.

The final 31 percent was something Charles H. Moore, the former Olympic gold medalist who heads the task force, called "what it takes to win." That includes everything from how attractive the city is to the international community to how it would stage the paralympics.

Washington D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams says he "couldn't be more disappointed." Williams says "we will never stop" efforts to eventually win an Olympic games for the Washington region. However, he added that he's very proud of the effort Washington put forward, and he says Washington will continue its Olympic quest in years to come.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley also expressed disappointment, but he says no one can begrudge New York for moving forward in the selection process after what that city has been through.