Four years ago, it was a two-horse race.
London and Paris were the runaway contenders for one of sport's most valued prizes. They battled to the wire for the honor of hosting the 2012 Summer Olympics.
London prevailed, winning by a nose.
Now, with only a week to go in the 2016 sweepstakes, four horses are within a neck as the finish line approaches.
On Oct. 2, the International Olympic Committee will convene in Copenhagen, Denmark to make its final decision.
Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid, and Rio de Janeiro—all in a full lather—are drawing on every reserve to claim the bittersweet prize.
Bitter, because the victor will be forced to extricate from its citizens the monies and patience necessary to undertake such a huge project.
Sweet, because the winner will lavish upon itself the immense influx of tourist spending, local employment and worldwide publicity.
Since June of 2008, when all the bidding cities were reduced to the present short list, a feverish campaign of persuasion has been launched by the four contenders. In the spring of 2009, a 10-member committee visited each venue, evaluating the feasibility of hosting such a prestigious event.
Three cities had high marks in that evaluation. Tokyo fell just short of an "A" due to a perceived lack of local support.
Now the time has come for all parties involved to make their final presentation before the 115 voting members in Copenhagen.
Heads of State have been beseeched by rabid citizens to attend on behalf of their prospective host nations.
American president Barack Obama, a Chicago native, has been non-committal. However, several hundred Chicago citizens, including Oprah Winfrey, will make the trek to Copenhagen. UPDATE: Associated Press is reporting Obama will join his wife, Michelle to plead Chicago's case in Copenhagen.
Former IOC chairman, Juan Antonio Samaranch and Spain's King Juan Carlos say they will be present to add their gravitas to Madrid's cause.
New Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama expressed a desire to make the trip on Tokyo's behalf, but it was not set in stone as of this writing. UPDATE: Associated Press now reports Hatoyama will indeed make the trip.
Brazilian president Luiz Ignatio Lula daSilva will be present to lend his clout in support of Rio.
Although the formal presentations and arguments have already been made, next Friday's meeting will be a time of summation and passionate oratory on the part of each city's representatives.
And although Olympic regulations forbid any political pressuring of the 115 voting members, which of them can escape the flurry of texts and tweets flooding in from common people around the globe?
In one week, one city will collectively rejoice as if...well, as if they had won Olympic gold.
Chicago - Was awarded the Summer Games in 1904 but the Games were moved to St. Louis to coincide with the World's Fair.
Tokyo - Hosted the Games in 1964. They won the bid in 1940 but the Games were cancelled due to World War II.
Madrid - Has never hosted a Summer Games. Barcelona was the host city in 1992.
Rio de Janeiro - Brazil, let alone South America, has never hosted an Olympic Games.
UPDATE: Universal Sports will have live online coverage of each city's final presentation followed by the ultimate decision.