The four cities bidding for the 2016 Olympics are set to find out how they shape up — on paper at least.
The International Olympic Committee will release its evaluation report Wednesday assessing the bids from Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.
The report — issued exactly a month before the secret vote in Copenhagen on Oct. 2 — won't grade or rank the candidates, focusing instead on technical criteria such as venues, budgets, transportation plans, accommodation, security and government and public support.
The report, based on visits by the evaluation commission earlier this year, is not expected to offer any dramatic findings or provide any clear-cut winner or losers. However, it should list some potential criticisms or concerns.
Among the issues under scrutiny could be Chicago's financial guarantees. Unlike other bid cities, Chicago's candidacy is not underwritten by the federal government. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has pledged to sign the host contract, requiring the city to take full financial responsibility for the games and the proposed $4.8 billion operating budget.
With IOC members still barred from visiting bid cities in the wake of the Salt Lake City scandal, the report is intended to offer guidance to the 100-plus delegates when they cast their ballots next month.
"It could be very important," said Gerhard Heiberg, an IOC executive board member from Norway. "At this stage there is no front-runner and no one lagging behind. All are on an equal basis. The report will be studied by IOC members perhaps more than before."
Especially decisive could be the appearance of government leaders backing the bids in Copenhagen.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Spanish King Juan Carlos have announced they will attend. Tokyo has invited Crown Prince Naruhito. However, the biggest question is whether President Barack Obama will lobby for Chicago.
The first IOC evaluation report made public was in 1993 during the bid process for the 2000 Olympics, which were awarded to Sydney. Some members have been critical of the reports for merely listing statistics and not making clear which bids are better than others.
"Unless you were a cryptographer of some sort, in the past it's been impossible to find out what the opinion of the commission was as to the suitability of each candidate," senior Canadian member Dick Pound said.
The four candidates, meanwhile, are hoping to make a good impression in the report.
Chicago, seeking to bring the Summer Olympics back to the United States for the first time since the 1996 Atlanta Games, has been promoting its plan for holding compact games on the downtown lakefront.
"As the least well known of the four cities hopefully the full membership will have a better understanding of the type of games Chicago would offer after this report comes out," bid leader Patrick Ryan said.
Tokyo, which held the Olympics in 1964, will have a new prime minister behind the bid after Taro Aso's Liberal Democrats were voted out of office by the Democratic Party over the weekend. The likely next prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, has voiced support for the bid.
"We offer the safest, securest, most risk-free and most dependable bid," Tokyo bid leader Dr. Ichiro Kono said. "This is especially critical considering today's uncertain environment."
Madrid, which is bidding for the second straight time after losing to London in the race for the 2012 Games, believes it is well placed.
"We have worked extremely hard on every aspect of our bid and all the hard work have put us in a strong position for the final run to the finishing line," bid leader Mercedes Coghen said.
Rio de Janeiro has made a strong case to take the Olympics to South America for the first time.
"We await this report with a little bit of anxiety but confident as well," bid chief executive Carlos Roberto Osorio said. "We think we have a very strong technical project."