London's bid to host the 2015 World Athletics Championships has been abandoned over the uncertain future of the 2012 Olympic Stadium.
The capital could instead be put forward to host the event in 2017.
The Government was unable to commit to a 2015 bid because a number of the tenders for the stadium have plans that would see the running track removed.
The decision means Beijing is the sole remaining bidder and they should be confirmed as hosts later this month.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) will announce their final decision on 20 November.
Some bids for the use of the stadium post-2012 Games, including the one from West Ham and Newham Council, include the retention of the track but others, including the one from American sports company AEG and Tottenham Hotspur, have plans that would see it removed.
Last month, UK Athletics said it had given its "formal support" to the West Ham/Newham Council bid while London Olympics chairman Sebastian Coe has also backed the Hammers' offer.
However, ministers feared if they committed to a bid for the 2015 Worlds with the stadium as the centrepiece, they would be open to legal action.
It is understood the decision to bid instead for 2017 has been made with the blessing of the IAAF.
Sports minister Hugh Robertson said he was now very hopeful the Government would underwrite the 2017 bid.
Robertson said: "That is still to be completely confirmed but I would be very disappointed if that were not the case."
The minister said the biggest danger would have been to make a bid and then pull out at a later date, as happened in 2001 when the then Government pulled out of London's Picketts Lock hosting the 2005 event.
"We are absolutely committed to staging the greatest sporting events in the UK and that of course includes the IAAF World Championships," he added.
"In our bid to the IOC for the 2012 Olympics we were clear that the games would produce a legacy for athletics and that has not changed. We cannot stress enough the importance of athletics as part of the Olympic legacy.
"The deadline for the 2015 bid falls before the conclusion of the stadium process in spring 2011, but that does not diminish our appetite to host the event. The UK Government and UKA remain keen and committed to a bid as soon as we are able."
UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner added: "Obviously we are disappointed not to be pursuing our 2015 bid, especially after securing the support of both the Government and the Mayor of London.
"However, we need to present the IAAF with a bid that is free of any uncertainties.
"That is not something we can commit to until the process regarding the future of the stadium, which we fully support, is concluded."
IAAF President Lamine Diack added: "We fully understand and respect the reasons for UKA moving their bid from 2015 to 2017. We are delighted that London are still in the race."