Commons party for Olympic chiefs ahead of 2012 vote

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The Independent Online
THE HIGH command of the Olympic movement is to be entertained in the Houses of Parliament just weeks before the vote to decide the host of the 2012 Games.

In a significant boost to London's chances of winning the bid, a "who's who" of the International Olympic Committee, including its president, Jacques Rogge, will attend a party in the House of Commons to mark the 100th anniversary of the British Olympic Association.

Plans for the event on 24 May have been made by the BOA and the Sports minister, Richard Caborn, but have been kept secret amid concerns that they could be scuppered by London's rivals. But The Independent has learnt that they were finally approved on Monday by the IOC's anti-corruption unit.

Invitations have been sent to the leaders of the Olympic committees of each continent as well as to Dr Rogge who does not exercise his vote but will be able to influence his members in the most competitive Olympic bid in living memory.

Those also expected to attend are Mario Pescante, the head of the European Olympic Committee, its general secretary, Patrick Hickey, and Gunilla Lindberg and Mario Vazquez Rana of the Association of National Olympic Committees.

Their presence at the event, which includes a lunch and a party in the Commons where the BOA was formed 100 years ago, will be envied by the other four competing cities as IOC rules designed to eradicate corruption from the bidding process all but prohibit contact with the 118 IOC members who will decide the host city in a secret vote in Singapore on 6 July.

Instead, bid leaders are restricted to presentations at a handful of IOC meetings remaining before the vote or selling their cities with videos, e-mails and letters.

The ethics commission based at the IOC's headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, has agonised over the BOA centenary event and only gave its permission in an eight-page ruling on Monday. Members of the London 2012 bid team, including chairman Sebastian Coe, are prohibited from attending.

The chairman of the BOA, Craig Reedie, an IOC member and member of the bid board, is the host named on the invitation, but will be under instruction not to discuss London's merits.

"This is a `who's who' of the Olympic movement coming to London and meeting at the cradle of democracy just weeks before the vote and it is a huge coup for London," said one veteran of the bidding process.

"Although the rules prohibit selling the bid to an IOC member, it is not inconceivable that key messages can be conveyed. That's the way of the world."