Baku's Organizing Committee launched a new promotional video yesterday showcasing the city and the venues.  Take a look:
The "Paris of the East" says it won't spare any cost, attempting to simultaneously dispell the idea that small countries can't host the games (Athens put that ball in motion) and the brush-off attitude some members of the IOC seem to have when it comes to Baku.  This may be what it takes for Baku to make it to the short list, but given the competition, the quest to host is going to be an uphill battle.
IOC Vice President Mario Pescante has resigned his post, claiming he is embarrassed by the withdrawal of the Rome 2020 bid.  From the article:

Pescante was pessimistic about the Games returning to Rome anytime in the near future for the first time since 1960, believing that Paris will be the clear favourites to host the 2024 Olympics, marking the centenary of the last occasion they were held in the French capital.

A bid from Paris is likely, and the city is experienced.  The French capital hosted the games in 1900 and 1924 and has bid several other times.  The most recent bid was for the Olympics coming this summer; Paris only lost to host city London by 4 votes (in contrast, the American candidate, New York, got knocked out in the 2nd round of voting--it only beat Moscow).  Given the Eurocentric nature of the IOC, any bid by the French would bear some serious weight.  And given that this would be the Centennial year, the Parisian cohort is likely to bring some strong emotions and arguments to the bidding table.

There isn't much chatter yet about Paris 2024, but Pescante's prediction is significant because of his (former) position in the IOC.  If the IOC and the USOC can resolve their fund sharing dispute in the next few years, whatever US city chooses to bid must have a stunning plan in place.
Last Wednesday marked the deadline for bid cities to submit their application files to the IOC.  Five cities have met the deadline to become bid cities:

Baku, Azerbaijan
On September 1, 2011, Azerbaijan announced its intention to bid for the 2020 Olympic Games.  Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, has already been the host of many high-profile events, including World Rhythmic Gymnastics championships and the FILA World Wrestling Championships.  Baku submitted an application for the 2016 Olympics, but the city failed to make the short list of candidates.  Given the IOC's penchant for choosing unique locations, Baku may be more appealing this time.  It would be the first host city in near-east Asia.

Doha, Qatar
Qatar's capital revealed in 2008 that it had plans to bid for the 2020 Olympics.  Like Baku, Doha made a bid for the 2016 games but failed to make the cut of candidate cities.  Doha hopes to capitalize on its success in hosting the 2006 Asian Games and on its successful campaign for the 2022 World Cup.  Doha would become the first host in the Middle East should it succeed, but its geography is also its curse.  Doha wants to avoid the hot desert summer by hosting the games in October, something the IOC is reluctant to agree to.

Istanbul, Turkey
Turkey's candidacy was officially announced in August of 2011 by Prime Minister Recep Tayypi Erdogan.  The European Capital of Sport for 2012, Istanbul has hosted the World Basketball Championships, the Euroleague final four, and many other world and European events.  Istanbul has bid four times before: 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012.

Madrid, Spain
The Spanish Olympic Committee nominated Madrid as their bid city on June 1, 2011.  Spain hosted the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, the only games that have been held in the country.  Other Spanish cities have bid unsuccessfully since then: Seville for 2004 and 2008, and Jaca for 1998, 2002, 2010, and 2014.  Madrid has bid several times as well, including its most recent bid for the 2016 games.  As the only European city, Madrid may have a leg up on the competition.

Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo announced in the summer of 2011 that it would pursue a 2020 Olympic bid.  Tokyo has bid many times before, first in 1940 (it won, but the games were cancelled because of WWII).  Tokyo bid again in 1960, losing to Rome.  Four years later, it finally hosted the games, becoming the first Asian city to do so.  If history has anything to say, Tokyo may just host again: it lost the 2016 bid to Rio de Janeiro.

On May 23, the IOC will reveal its official list of candidate cities.  There is much speculation about which cities will make that list, with some sources even claiming that all 5 will be selected as candidates.  Over the next few months, officials from the IOC will deliberate.

The official host for the 2020 games will be selected at the IOC Session in Buenos Aires on September 7, 2013.

My (Early) Pick:
Tokyo, Madrid, and Istanbul have the greatest chance of making the short list in May.  Of these three, Madrid has the greatest chance, given the strength of its bid for the 2016 games.  However, if Doha makes the shortlist, this signals that the IOC is willing to accept a summer games held in October, and in this case, Doha would be the most likely host.
Last week, the Italian Premier nixed Rome's chances at bidding for the 2020 Olympics.  The reason, he said, was the financial crisis gripping the country.  While some in the IOC apparently were surprised, there's no doubt that Italy made the right move.  The IOC requires bid cities to provide guarantees that their government will cover the cost of any deficit.  And given the austerity measures that Italy must enact to avoid going the way of Greece, it could be considered reckless to spend billions of dollars on securing the games.

Speaking of Greece...  It's difficult to look at the current debt crisis in Greece without looking at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.  The Athens games went wildly beyond their projected budget (the Guardian says they were at least €2.4 billion over), a tab that still haunts the tiny country's economy.  Greeks had emotional reasons for bringing the games to Athens--Greece is the birthplace of the Olympics, after all--but they don't have the stomachs for the austerity measures that now have to be force-fed by the government.

Lesson number 1: Regardless of their size, games MUST have the financial backing.

Which leads to Salt Lake City.  The projected budget was nearly that of the much larger summer games in Sydney 2000, but Salt Lake had the backing of the world's largest economy.  And the Salt Lake games paid off: "[Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce Spokesman Marty] Carpenter said the Salt Lake Chamber credits the Olympics witw(sic) $4.8 billion in sales, 35,000 job years of employment, $1.5 billion in earnings for Utah workers and, as well as $250 million in venture capital, from 1996 to 2002."  The 2002 games themselves cost $2.1 billion, but over a 5 year period from 1998 to 2003, they generated a net revenue of $76 million for the state and the country.  The lesson from Salt Lake: big games must have big backing.

The 2010 games in Vancouver will likely have the same effect, though it's too soon to tell for sure.  A few effects have been measured: "Two other reports released by the provincial and federal governments earlier on Friday said the 2010 Olympics created more than 45,000 jobs and generated as much as $2.5 billion in real gross domestic product."  What's more significant is this: VANOC reports that the games came in on budget and on time, something "remarkable" given the global economic climate of the years leading up to Vancouver 2010.  Likewise, Vancouver had the backing of a moderately sized and what is generally viewed as a responsible economy.  The lesson from Vancouver: well-managed games leave a positive legacy and can make money even in a poor economic environment.

Let this be the "no-duh" outcome of the story, for 2020 bids and future bids: Olympic bid cities must first show financial backing.
In the past week, the United States and Canada celebrated two anniversaries. 

Salt Lake City
Ten years ago last Wednesday marked the start of the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

These were the first Olympics with Jacques Rogge as the head of the IOC, the first after the September 11th attacks, and the first in what could be arguably a new age of global awareness for the entire world.  These games also proved to be a huge benefit to Salt Lake City and to Utah.  The state has been left with no debt; instead the ripple effect from the games have resulted in $56 million net revenue.

But these were also the last games in the United States.  And this could cause problems according to USA Today:
"Not having a home Games on the horizon, [USOC CEO Scott Blackmun] says, affects Olympic awareness among fans and impacts to some extent how much sponsor and donor money the USOC raises to train Olympians. Over time, it could diminish how well U.S. athletes perform."

Eventually the games will come back to the United States, and this site hopes that it will be in 2024 in Minneapolis.  But if this city isn't chosen, the Olympics are due for a return stateside.  Team USA is craving a home field advantage.

Our neighbors to the north still seem to be enjoying the afterglow of the latest Olympics: Vancouver 2010.  Two years ago today, Wayne Gretzky lit the Olympic cauldron marking the start of the Vancouver games.  The Canucks reigned supreme at the games, claiming their first official gold medal in a home Olympics (they were unable to do so in Montreal in '76 and Calgary in '88) as well as the first Olympics to honor first nations as host nations. 

Two years ago tonight audiences must have been wondering if the opening ceremonies could compete with the previous Olympics' ceremonies in Beijing.  While they couldn't compete with Beijing 2008 in size, it triumphed in its simplicity, flow, and technical effect.  David Atkins (known for the Sydney 2000 ceremonies) created a spectacular show--and did so in an entirely enclosed stadium.

What's next for Canadian Olympics?  There might be a Toronto bid on the table for 2024 (the mayor nixed the effort for the 2020 games).  For now, though, Toronto might just be content to host the next Pan-American Games in 2015