VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Away from the slopes and rinks of the Vancouver Games, another competition is quietly taking place: for an Olympics still eight years away.
Representatives from Annecy, France; Munich, Germany; and Pyeongchang, South Korea, have come here to push their bids to host the 2018 Winter Games.
Vancouver gives the cities a chance to observe the organization of the games and to start getting their message out to IOC members, international sports federations and the media in a campaign still in its early stages.
The candidates must submit preliminary plans to the International Olympic Committee by mid-March, and the IOC executive board will meet in June to confirm the official bid cities. The full IOC assembly will select the host city by secret ballot at its session in Durban, South Africa, on July 6, 2011.
On paper, Pyeongchang is the early front-runner as this is the city's third straight bid after narrow defeats to Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics and Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Games.
"We have had our disappointments in the past but we never gave up on our hopes and dreams," said Kim Jin-sun, governor of Gangwon Prince and co-chair of the bid. "This is a a more advanced Pyeongchang, a new Pyeongchang."
Or, as co-chair Cho Yang-ho put it in Pyeongchang's new catch phrase: "Right time, right place and right now."
The South Koreans paint their bid as offering a new winter sports mecca in Asia, noting that the continent has hosted only two Winter Games, both in Japan -- Sapporo (1972) and Nagano (1998).
Pyeongchang's bid is based around the Alpensia ski report in what officials claim would be the "most compact games in history."
At a news conference, Pyeongchang officials seemed testy when asked about the role of convicted ex-Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee in their bid. Lee was reinstated as one of South Korea's two IOC members last week after being pardoned by the South Korean government in a financial and tax evasion case.
"Like in your country, when somebody is pardoned we are moving forward," Cho said tersely.
Munich, which hosted the 1972 Olympics, is trying to become the first to city to stage both summer and winter games. The ice events would be held in Munich and snow competitions in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, about 80 kilometers (49 miles) away.
Munich will always be associated with the massacre of Israeli coaches and athletes in 1972. But bid officials insisted that security would be assured, citing Germany's successful hosting of the 2006 World Cup.
"Of course we remember the incident in '72 but this was the rise of international global terrorism and every country of the world has had its experience with terrorism in the meantime," Munich Mayor Christian Ude said. "We learned from this incident."
IOC vice president Thomas Bach is president of the bid, with former downhill skier and movie maker Willy Bogner -- who filmed ski scenes in four James Bond movies -- as the CEO. But Munich's secret weapon may be Katarina Witt, the popular and photogenic two-time Olympic figure skating champion who is chair of the bid.
"In Germany, it seems winter sport is in our DNA," Witt said. "Every winter we deliver the magical atmosphere that every Olympian deserves."
Annecy -- a picturesque lakeside town in the shadow of Mont Blanc and the Savoy Alps -- got off to a late start in the bid process but has now moved into full swing with 1992 Olympic moguls gold medalist Edgar Grospiron as its leader.
"We have exceptional spectacular scenery with Mont Blanc, economic strength with 1 million tourists every year and so we believe that our bid is credible," Grospiron said.
France has held the Winter Games three times, including twice in the Savoy region (Chamonix in 1924 and Albertville in 1992).
Annecy's media presentation was marked by the absence of France's two IOC members, Jean-Claude Killy and Guy Drut.
Yet, for all the determination and effort being exerted now by the three cities, it's unlikely to have much of an impact on the final vote a year-and-a-half away.
Australian IOC member Kevan Gosper summed up the feeling of most of the committee:
"It's not on my radar screen yet."