The selection of a city to host each Olympic Games is made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). A host city typically is selected seven years before those particular games are scheduled to be held. This time buffer is intended to provide ample time for the chosen city to plan and prepare for the Olympics, which can be a daunting task given their enormity. The process for determining the location of the Olympic Games consists of two main phases, which involve cities applying for consideration and a smaller number of cities being selected as finalists, after which the winning city is chosen.
Phase 1: Applicant Cities
There are more than 200 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) representing countries, commonwealths, geographical areas, protectorates and territories. If a city wants to host the Olympics, a formal proposal must be made through its respective NOC. After the proposal has been received by the IOC, the city is placed on a list with other applicant cities.
Each applicant city receives a questionnaire from the IOC. The city's officials must respond in writing to a variety of topics, such as their motivation for hosting the Olympics and what venues they intend to use or build for each event. Each city also must list the kinds of accommodations that will be available and what types of transportation will be provided for athletes and spectators.
Applications are reviewed by IOC members and other experts to determine each city’s potential to host the Olympics. After reading all of the questionnaires, the IOC selects a group of cities — usually about four or five — that will continue on in the process. These cities are known as candidate cities.
Phase 2: Candidate Cities
Officials from each of the candidate cities has to respond to a new questionnaire about their plans to host the Olympics. The new questionnaire is more than 250 pages long and covers such topics as media operations, marketing and the structure and workings of the athlete’s Olympic Village, which is where competitors stay during the Olympic Games. After all of the completed questionnaires have been received, an evaluation commission within the IOC reviews the detailed documents and visits each potential host city for several days.
In the final part of the second phase, the IOC's evaluation commission prepares a report listing its recommendations. The report is made public one month before the final selection of a host city for the Olympics is made. A meeting of the IOC general assembly members is then held — in a place not on the list of candidate cities — to make the final selection.
Each active member of the IOC gets one vote to choose the location of the Olympic Games. Members who reside in a country that has a city on the final list cannot participate in the voting process as long as that city is in contention.
A first round of secret votes is taken. If no city wins a majority of votes, the city that received the fewest votes is removed from the list of candidates, and the members vote again. The results of each vote are made public as soon as the votes are counted. Voting continues in this manner until a selection is made and announced.