Supporters of Salt Lake's effort to win the 1998 Winter Games weren't surprised that the Soviet summer resort community of Sochi has withdrawn its bid.

The decision Tuesday night by the Sochi City Council, reported on Soviet television, leaves Aosta, Italy; Jaca, Spain; Nagano, Japan; and Ostersund, Sweden in the race with Salt Lake City."I don't think anybody is surprised," said Tom Welch, chairman of the Salt Lake City Bid Committee for the Olympic Winter Games.

A spokeswoman for United States Olympic Committee President Robert Helmick in Des Moines, Iowa, said he also believed it was generally expected that Sochi would drop out of the running.

No reason was given by Sochi officials for withdrawing just a month before the International Olympic Committee makes its choice in England, but the Soviet city was widely recognized as the least ready to host a Winter Games.

A report by an IOC evaluation commission released Tuesday listed a number of concerns, including the lack of any firm plans and the political unrest in the USSR.

According to an announcement from Sochi officials, the community will try for the 2002 Winter Games. Salt Lake City has a commitment from the USOC to be America's choice in 2002 if it doesn't get the 1998 Winter Games.

The IOC chooses a site for an Olympics by eliminating competing cities one at a time until only one city is left. With Sochi out of the race, there will be one less round of voting.

No one can be certain, however, how Sochi's decision will affect the voting in the remaining rounds.

"The impact, obviously, is that it will release in the first round some votes that otherwise might have been obligated," Welch said. "The challenge of the bid cities is to see how we can take advantage of that."