LONDON -- The Olympics have weathered world wars, boycotts and corruption scandals. These days, the International Olympic Committee has a new crisis on its hands: Finding cities willing to host the games.

The troubled race for the 2022 Winter Olympics is a case in point. High costs and internal political opposition prevented bids by several potential contenders. Two candidate cities withdrew, and others could still drop out. The way things are going, the winner could be decided next year by default.

"I have not seen anything like this before," senior Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg said. "This is urgent. ... We are at a crossroads."

It's a challenge the IOC and new president Thomas Bach need to resolve quickly to ensure the long-term viability of the world's most prized sports event.

Changes to the bidding process and efforts to reduce the cost of the games are among the key issues being addressed by the IOC as part of Bach's "Agenda 2020," his blueprint for the future of the Olympic movement that will be voted on in December.

The financial burden is worrying potential host cities. Specifically, the $51 billion price tag associated with February's Winter Olympics in Sochi. Concerns over Rio de Janeiro's delayed preparations for the 2016 Summer Games have further dampened enthusiasm for hosting the event.

The field for 2022 has taken one hit after the other. Munich and St. Moritz-Davos withdrew planned bids when voters in Germany and Switzerland voted "no" in referendums. Stockholm, one of the five declared candidates, pulled out in December after the city government declined to offer financial backing. On Monday, the Polish city of Krakow dropped out after voters rejected the bid in a referendum.

That leaves four cities in contention: Almaty, Kazakhstan; Beijing; Lviv, Ukraine; and Oslo, Norway. The bid from Lviv has been on hold because of the turmoil in Ukraine.

It's possible only three bids will still be in play when the IOC executive board meets in Lausanne, Switzerland, on July 7-9 to decide which cities go to the final stage. The host city will be selected by the full IOC in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on July 31, 2015.

The current crisis centers primarily on the Winter Games. But the attention will soon shift to the race for a bigger prize: the 2024 Summer Games.

The United States, which hasn't hosted the Summer Games since Atlanta in 1996, is weighing another bid after failed campaigns by New York (2012) and Chicago (2016). The USOC is expected to decide whether to put a city forward by the end of the year. Still in the mix are San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Boston, Washington and Dallas.

Paris, Rome and a city from Germany are potential contenders from Europe. Other possible bidders include Doha, Qatar; Istanbul, Turkey; and a city in South Africa.