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.

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