2018 Winter Games: Final three bids

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- There was no transcendent Rio moment this time, no dramatic shift in momentum to swing the Olympic bid race. The campaign for the 2018 Winter Games goes into the final stretch much as it was before -- with the South Korean bid from Pyeongchang in the front and Munich pushing hard to overtake the favorites.

Bid leaders from Pyeongchang, Munich and Annecy, France, made their case to International Olympic Committee members Wednesday and Thursday, and will focus on preparing for the final presentations and vote on July 6 in Durban, South Africa.

The two days of meetings with IOC members consolidated Pyeongchang's longtime status as the city to beat, but also provided Munich a tangible boost as a serious challenger and gave Annecy hope to believe it still has a chance.

"The French are working well and trying hard, but I think very honestly it will be between Germany and Korea," Swiss IOC executive board member Rene Fasel told The Associated Press.

Another senior board member, Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico, agreed.

"I think this one is a close race between the top two," he told the AP.

Fasel said there is "no question" that Pyeongchang remains the favorite. The South Koreans, bidding for a third consecutive time after narrow defeats for the 2010 and 2014 Games, are pushing the case of taking the Olympics to a new winter sports market in Asia.

"I don't think it's that easy," said Gerhard Heiberg, an executive board member from Norway. "It's closer than what people say."

Munich says it's time to bring the event back to winter sports-loving Germany for the first time in 80 years, while Annecy proposes "authentic" village-style games in the heart of the Alps.

In many ways, the decision comes down to whether the IOC wants to continue the trend of moving to new territories or return to its European roots.

The geographical argument has pull with Fasel who, as head of the international ice hockey federation, is eager to promote his sport in Asia.

"When the Germans are organizing something, it's 100 percent, no doubt," Fasel said. "It's very precise, well done and well presented, but the Koreans are here three times. It's time to go a little bit to Asia. Running a third time is for sure an advantage."

The bid cities made closed-door presentations to 88 of the IOC's 110 members on Wednesday. On Thursday, more than 60 members visited the candidates' exhibition rooms at a Lausanne hotel, viewing high-tech digital videos and maps and asking detailed questions about the bid proposals.

The members have less than two months to absorb the information before casting their secret ballots in Durban.

A voting majority is required for victory. Pyeongchang led both times after the first round of previous ballots, but ended up losing in the final round to Vancouver for the 2010 Games and Sochi, Russia, for 2014. The Koreans would hope to secure enough votes in the first round this time.