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By Steve Keating
VANCOUVER (Reuters) - The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) said on Friday it will back a possible Toronto bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics ahead of a potential Quebec City bid for the 2022 Winter Games.
"There is no doubt, no doubt that what the country needs most is a Summer Olympic Games," COC chief Marcel Aubut told Reuters ahead of the organisation's Sochi media summit this weekend.
"Toronto is going to deliver a great 2015 Pan Am Games and it should be the first step in going higher for the Olympics like Brazil did.
"If not we are going to look again at the Winter Games and Quebec is a very good possibility but the first goal is to convince people to go with Toronto in the Summer."
Until securing the 2015 Pan Am Games, Toronto had never hosted a major multi-sport event and Aubut feels establishing a sporting infrastructure in Canada's most populous city is key to improving the country's future performance in Summer Olympics.
Canada has previously hosted the Winter Games in 1988 (Calgary) and 2010 (Vancouver) and staged the Summer Games in 1976 (Montreal).
If Toronto does bid for the 2024 Games it will likely face a strong challenge from the United States, which has not hosted a Summer Olympics since 1996 in Atlanta.
Having mended fences with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) following a bitter revenue-sharing dispute the U.S. appears ready to make another run at hosting an Olympics after stunning rejections for the 2012 and 2016 Games.
Los Angeles, which has twice hosted the Games, has expressed interest in hosting the 2024 Olympics while Philadelphia and Tulsa are believed to be among several other cities exploring the possibility of throwing their hats into the ring.
With Summer Games having been held in Athens (2004), Beijing (2008) and London (2012), headed to Rio de Janerio for 2016 and with Tokyo, Madrid and Istanbul finalists for 2020, there is strong sentiment that the Summer Olympics will return to North America in 2024.
Rome, Paris, Doha, Dubai and Durban, South Africa, are also believed to be ready to test the Olympic waters but Aubut maintains that IOC would welcome a Toronto bid.
"There won't be any political problems, there won't be a problem with terrorism. They love Canada. It's close to America. They love our country," said Aubut, a lawyer and former president of the National Hockey League's Quebec Nordiques.
"I can tell you what people think of our country and it is all positive, that is why I believe the IOC in Lausanne they dream to have a country like Canada hosting the Games.
"But we have to make sure the interest is there, the government support is there."
While a bid committee has not yet been formed, Toronto has called for study to examine the possibilities of hosting the 2024 Games.
Toronto, ranked North America's fourth largest city behind Mexico City, New York and Los Angeles, will host the 2015 Pan American Games in what many view as a dress rehearsal for an Olympic bid.
Rio used the game plan to great success hosting the 2007 Pan Am Games before landing the 2016 Summer Olympics.
"Each time we have done that, in Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver we delivered the goods and more," said Aubut, recently re-elected to a second four-year term as COC president.
"The Pan Ams will also deliver the goods and then they will see the place is safe and that sport is a passion for Canadians and also they will see the country can deliver.
"It is the perfect plan.
"A Pan Am Games close to the Olympic level then you have chance to FIFA, the Olympics, you have a chance to get everything you want after that."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)
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