Even though the Beijing Olympics are practically upon us, the International Olympic Committee is always focused on the future. The IOC just recently announced the shortlist for the XXXI Summer Olympiad, to take place in 2016. Four hopeful cities, Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid, and Rio de Janeiro are now vying for the ultimate sports blazon: being an Olympic host. So we took a moment to handicap the contestants.
Rio is the only candidate in a country which hasn't yet hosted the event, but it is no stranger to big sports competitions, having successfully staged the XV Pan American Games last year. A winning bid for Rio would also mark the first time for the event to be held in South America. Chicago and Tokyo have both won previous bids—Chicago's bid, however, was transferred to St. Louis to coincide with the World's Fair that year (1904)—and the Japanese capital served as host to the Games in 1964. A Madrid win would come 24 years after Barcelona bore that torch for Spain's first Olympics in 1992.
If sports tourism is your thing, you'll be happy to know your destination choices will be narrowed down in October of 2009, when the winning city is announced. In the meantime, you can enjoy more statistics and catch up on bid standings here and here. And if 2016 is too far ahead, and your team-spirit cravings need more immediate satisfaction, you can start planning right away for any of these upcoming global sports events after the jump: