LONDON -- Three cities -- two from Europe and one from Asia -- have applied to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, the smallest bidding field in three decades.
The German city of Munich, the French lakeside town of Annecy and the South Korean resort of Pyeongchang submitted their preliminary bids to the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland, by Friday's deadline.
China had considered bidding but announced Wednesday that it had decided against submitting an application from Harbin or Changchun.
After an initial evaluation process, the IOC executive board will decide next June which cities to accept as official bid candidates. The full IOC will select the 2018 host city at its session in Durban, South Africa, on July 6, 2011.
It's the fewest number of Winter Games bids since 1981, when three finalists competed for the 1988 Olympics, which went to the Canadian city of Calgary. There were seven bids for 1992 (Albertville, France, won); four for 1994 (Lillehammer, Norway); six for 1998 (Nagano, Japan); nine for 2002 (cut to four finalists, won by Salt Lake City); six for 2006 (Turin, Italy); eight for 2010 (pared to four finalists, won by Vancouver) and seven for 2014 (reduced to three finalists, won by Sochi, Russia).
"What matters to us is the quality of the projects and we are confident that the three cities will propose solid candidatures," the IOC said in a statement to The Associated Press. "During these challenging times it is reassuring to see that only cities that are confident with the high caliber of their bids are entering the competition."
Munich, which held the 1972 Summer Olympics, aims to become the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games. The Bavarian city, which launched its bid logo Friday, proposes holding snow and ice events in the mountain resorts of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Koenigssee.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen hosted the Winter Games in 1936.
"Germany's bid can represent a milestone in the history of development of sport throughout the country," said Christoph Bergner, a deputy German interior minister. "Munich 1972 left many positive long-lasting benefits and Munich 2018 can continue that story."
Pyeongchang, located in the mountains 110 miles east of Seoul, is bidding for the third straight time after narrowly losing out for the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics.
The Savoy resort of Annecy is making its first Olympic bid, although France has staged the Winter Games three times -- Chamonix (1924), Grenoble (1968) and Albertville (1992).
Senior Canadian IOC member Dick Pound said the 2018 field may be smaller than usual because of a feeling that Pyeongchang is a prohibitive favorite coming back for a third time.
"There would be some view out there that Pyeongchang may get a relatively free ride," he told the AP by telephone.
The three applicant cities, which must each pay a fee of $150,000, are required to reply to a detailed IOC questionnaire by March 15, 2010. Their replies will be studied by IOC experts, and the 15-member executive board will decide in June whether to accept all three candidates or to cut the list.
The finalists will have to submit their detailed files by Jan. 11, 2011. An IOC evaluation commission will visit each city to assess the bids and prepare a written report to be issued a month before the vote in Durban.