Rarely, if ever, has so much been on the line at a single Olympic meeting.
When International Olympic Committee members gather this week in Buenos Aires, Argentina, they will be faced with three decisions that will shape the direction of the Olympic movement for the next decade.
At stake: Choosing the host city of the 2020 Olympics, electing an IOC president to succeed Jacques Rogge and selecting one sport to add to the 2020 program.
The favorites: Tokyo, Thomas Bach and wrestling.
Prime ministers, royalty, sports stars and celebrities will be part of the election extravaganza at the IOC session. The weeklong meetings will have the flavor of a political carnival replete with last-minute campaigning, backstage vote-chasing and round-the-clock lobbying by spin doctors, consultants and strategists.
While most IOC members are primarily interested in the Sept. 10 presidential election, the first big vote comes on Sept. 7 with a secret ballot on the 2020 host city.
It's a three-way contest among Tokyo, Madrid and Istanbul.
All three are repeat candidates: Istanbul is making its fifth overall bid, Madrid a third consecutive attempt and Tokyo a second try in a row.
Tokyo has been seen as a slight front-runner, though the leak of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant is causing concern. Madrid -- once counted out because of Spain's economic crisis -- has picked up momentum recently and looks like a legitimate challenger. Istanbul has slipped after the anti-government protests and doping scandals in Turkey and the escalating war in neighboring Syria.
With each bid facing political, economic or other drawbacks, the winner could be determined not for its positive attributes but for having fewer weaknesses.
"There's no obvious choice," senior Canadian IOC member Dick Pound told the Associated Press. "Where do you go? None of the three is risk free. Probably somebody ends up backing into it this time."
Each city offers a different narrative. Istanbul would bring the Games to a predominantly Muslim country for the first time, to a city linking Europe and Asia. Madrid has most of the venues ready and would spend the least. Tokyo offers safety and reliability at a time of global uncertainty.
In the end, the decision could center on which city offers the least risk. After taking gambles by sending the 2014 Winter Games to Sochi, Russia, and 2016 Olympics to Rio de Janeiro, some members think it's time to opt for certainty. Delays in Rio are causing serious concerns and the IOC is eager to avoid more headaches.
"We're looking for the city which we can look toward to be the most secure option at this stage, given global uncertainties and the fact that we're entering into a new era with a new presidency," longtime Australian IOC member Kevan Gosper said. "We're looking for a safe pair of hands."
That sentiment works in favor of Tokyo, which hosted the games in 1964 and has repeatedly played up its case as being the "safe" choice. Tokyo also received the best overall review in an IOC technical report this summer.
Three days after choosing the host city, the IOC will pick a leader who will lead the organization through the 2020 Games for a term of eight years -- and a potential second term of four years. Rogge is stepping down after completing 12 years in the job.
Making up the record six-man field are IOC vice president Bach of Germany, vice president Ng Ser Miang of Singapore, finance commission chairman Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico, executive board members Sergei Bubka of Ukraine and C.K. Wu of Taiwan, and former board member Denis Oswald of Switzerland.
It shapes up as a three-man race, with Bach the favorite and Carrion and Ng the challengers.
Bach, a 59-year-old lawyer, has long been viewed as the man to beat. He ticks the most boxes: former Olympic athlete and gold medalist (team fencing in 1976), long-serving member on the policy-making board, chairman of the legal commission, head of anti-doping investigations, negotiator of European TV rights, president of Germany's national Olympic committee.
"If you were handicapping, you'd have him in front, but whether it's by a nose or a neck or open water, I don't know," Pound said.
Wrestling, meanwhile, looks set to end its seven-month limbo and win back its place in the 2020 Games. The vote will take place Sept. 8, with squash and a combined baseball-softball bid also vying for the single spot on the program.
Wrestling, featured in every Olympics except for 1900, was dropped from the list of core sports by the IOC executive board in February, a stunning decision that provoked an international outcry. The United States joined with unlikely allies Russia and Iran in fighting to save the sport.
Wrestling governing body FILA responded quickly, replacing Raphael Martinetti as president and electing Nenad Lalovic, adding two new weight classes for women and enacting rule changes to make the sport more fan-friendly. In May, wrestling easily made it onto the shortlist for inclusion in 2020.