New York and four major European cities remain in the race to hold the 2012 Summer Games as the International Olympic Committee yesterday eliminated four cities from the competition.

Paris, London, Madrid and Moscow also survived the cut that ended the bids of Istanbul, Havana, Rio de Janeiro and Leipzig, Germany, setting in motion what is likely to be a close and politically charged race to the finish. The IOC chooses its final city on July 6, 2005, in Singapore.

"We're happy to be here," New York City 2012 bid founder Dan Doctoroff said by phone from Lausanne, Switzerland, where the decision was announced by IOC President Jacques Rogge. "We're pleased with where we are. Now, the really, really hard work begins. It's going to be very interesting."

Yesterday's cut was based on a 98-page report of an IOC working group that issued grades in 11 technical areas, from finance to general infrastructure to transportation. Paris received the highest marks overall, followed by Madrid, London, New York, Moscow, Leipzig, Rio, Istanbul and Havana.

With the decision to eliminate all of the cities with less experience holding international sporting events, the IOC executive board ensured that the last 14 months of what has been a six-year competition will not be decided purely on emotion -- as happened with the 2008 selection when many IOC members said they chose Beijing over Toronto simply out of a desire to send the Summer Games to China for the first time.

Politics, however, likely will play a part, as it almost always does in the 125-member IOC. Though many expect New York's bid to suffer from the anti-American sentiment that the war in Iraq has engendered and the fact that the 2010 Winter Games will take place in North America (Vancouver), it could benefit greatly from a split among the European members of the organization, which are often viewed as a unified voting block.

Doctoroff declined to speculate on New York's chances.

"If you study the Olympic bidding process, you do realize that conventional wisdom is more often than not wrong," he said.

In its summary, the working group stated that it had a "high level of confidence" in the bids of Paris, New York, London and Madrid. It stated that it was "less certain" that Moscow could successfully hold the Summer Olympics and that the other cities lacked the "requisite level of capability."

Given the high marks it received and the fact that it has already bid twice for the Summer Games (1992 and 2008), Paris seems to be the early favorite.

"Our experience with previous bids has taught us a great deal about the needs and aspirations of the IOC," Paris bid chief Philippe Baudillon told the Associated Press in Lausanne. "We firmly believe that Paris will meet those needs."

New York did worst -- finishing dead last -- in the category of government support, legal issues and public opinion; and it finished seventh in the Olympic Village category. However, it received high marks for accommodation (tie for first); past sports events (second); and legacy, sports venues and general infrastructure (third).

Paris was lauded for its experience putting on a number of world championships, the men's soccer World Cup in 1998 and the Tour de France. New York was also praised for staging a number of world championships and the Goodwill Games, and hosting soccer World Cup games and the U.S. Open in tennis. Madrid, too, received high marks in that area and many others; it finished first or tied for first in five categories, leading to some early celebration from the city's supporters.

"We have been placed on the same level as major cities," Madrid Mayor Ruiz Gallardon said, according to the AP. "From now on we are going to have to be more demanding with ourselves."

Paris and London have each held two Olympic Games; Moscow held one in 1980. Though neither New York nor Madrid have held the Games, they have taken place in the United States many times, including in 2002 (Salt Lake City) and 1996 (Atlanta). In 1992, they were held in Barcelona.

All signs of hope were eliminated for Leipzig, Germany. It was removed from Olympic consideration, along with Istanbul, Havana and Rio de Janeiro.