By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

HAVANA—Havana formally entered its bid to host the 2012 Olympics after a special meeting Friday of the Cuban Olympic Committee.

Havana Mayor Juan Continou said Cuba’s strong international sports program makes it worthy of hosting the showcase event. The last major sports event staged by Cuba was the 1991 Pan American Games.

In choosing an Olympics site, “athletic merits should be a priority, not the wealth of a country, nor sponsors, nor television,’’ said Jose Ramon Fernandez, president of the Cuban Olympic Committee.

Cash-strapped communist Cuba traditionally has opposed the commercialization of sports.

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque also was on hand to lend the national government’s backing of Havana’s bid.

Cuba would be a long shot in a strong field of bidders, including New York, Moscow, London and Paris. Havana also bid on the 2008 Olympics, which went to Beijing.

The deadline for bids is in July and the host will be selected in 2005.