When the International Olympic Committee meets this week to come up with a short list of finalists to host the 2012 Summer Olympics, the question is: How short?

With nine cities in the running, the IOC executive board is expected to eliminate at least three candidates and possibly as many as five today.

The IOC doesn't have a target number of finalists, but several members said in interviews that five is most likely.

Four cities are virtually ensured of making the cut: Paris, London, New York and Madrid.

One definitely won't stay in it: Havana.

That leaves four cities on the bubble: Moscow; Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul, and Leipzig, Germany. At least two of those could be dropped.

The 2012 host will be selected in July 2005 in Singapore.

Transsexuals Cleared to Compete

Transsexuals were cleared yesterday to compete in the Olympics for the first time.

Under a proposal approved by the IOC executive board, athletes who have undergone sex-change surgery will be eligible for the Olympics if their new gender has been legally recognized and they have gone through a minimum two-year period of postoperative hormone therapy.

The decision, which covers both male-to-female and female-to-male cases, goes into effect starting with the Athens Olympics in August.

The IOC had put off a decision in February, saying more time was needed to consider all the medical issues.

Some members had been concerned whether male-to-female transsexuals would have physical advantages competing against women.

Drug Cases Closed

The IOC closed the cases of two dozen U.S. Olympic medalists who failed drug tests in the 1980s and '90s.

The IOC executive board reviewed information that it was given by the U.S. Olympic Committee last September, when officials revealed the positive tests.

"The IOC medical commission is of the opinion that most of the cases were handled in accordance with the rules at that time," IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said.

All Sports to Remain

The IOC, which two years ago was threatening to cut baseball, softball and modern pentathlon, announced that all 28 sports now in the Summer Games will stay in the Olympics at least through the Beijing Games in 2008.