The world may be increasingly unstable, riven by economic woes and political upheaval. Yet still they come. Perhaps not in such great numbers as when the global economy was soaring to new heights, but they come all the same: the world's great cities and their leaders, lining up in a beauty pageant to secure the event that has become all things to all people – a panacea that can distract from a country's woes or underline their ambition on a global scale.
At the International Olympic Committee's session in Buenos Aires next weekend, protests and turmoil will seem a world away amid the polite protocol and arcane traditions of the body that will bestow the gift of the 2020 Olympics on Madrid, Istanbul or Tokyo.
The first is still in the grip of economic meltdown, the second made global headlines as the centre of political revolt in Taksim Square and the third has convinced many of the 104 voting IOC members that it can host the Games, but has much work to do persuading them why.
The six candidates to replace Jacques Rogge as the IOC president and arguably the most important person in world sport, in a vote that will also be decided in Buenos Aires, have lined up to argue that the costs of bidding for and staging the Olympic Games must come down. Yet there appears no sign of the bidding circus and the media frenzy that surrounds it being reduced in scale.
The swisher hotels of the Argentinian capital will this week hum to the sound of fevered speculation and last-minute lobbying as the three cities hone their final presentations before Saturday's vote.
The IOC instigated stringent rules in the wake of the Salt Lake City scandal, which tend to place greater importance on the inspection reports compiled by a team led by the British IOC executive board member Sir Craig Reedie.
Yet those same reports leave plenty of room for interpretation and, in 2005 and 2009, it was a late drive by a bid that did not begin as favourite but was able to time a last-ditch lobbying push to make a compelling emotional as well as logistical case that came through to win.
In 2005 in Singapore Lord Coe and Tony Blair helped London to victory with their stirring legacy pledges. Four years later in Copenhagen Rio swayed the IOC members with promises of beach volleyball on Copacabana and the bald fact that the Games had never been held in South America.
The shortlist may not be as long as in previous years – ambitious but flawed bids from Doha and Baku were chopped at an earlier stage and Rome bowed out as Italy's economic woes deepened – but the competition is as keen as ever. The success of the 2012 London Games was a huge relief for the IOC, as the lavish tributes paid by the various presidential candidates have made clear.
Dr CK Wu, the sometimes controversial president of the Association of International Boxing Associations, said London was "probably the most successful Olympic Games in history", adding: "The public support for the sport was so impressive. You have left a legacy in so many ways." Sergey Bubka, the International Association of Athletics Federations vice-president who is also standing, said it was "unforgettable". The Singaporean IOC vice-president Ng Ser Miang called the 2012 edition a "huge success".
The legacy rhetoric has allowed the government and the organisers, on the back of sometimes fairly flimsy figures, to declare that the Olympics were not only a success on their own terms but delivered long-lasting reputational and economic benefits.
In some ways London 2012 rebooted the Olympic movement after the money-no-object spectacle of Beijing, making governments around the world gaze longingly at the feelgood fillip it provided to a country suffering economically and the extent to which it effectively rebranded London and the UK.