Blair denies breach of Olympic rules by raising London bid

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Indy Politics

Downing Street insisted yesterday that Tony Blair had not broken Olympic rules by raising London's bid for the 2012 games at the Commonwealth summit in Nigeria.

No 10 said the Prime Minister had not breached a ban on lobbying after the International Olympic Committee issued a rebuke to Mr Blair in a letter to a committee member, Matthew Pinsent, the British rower.

IOC rules prevent cities lobbying to promote their bids until the final stage of the process to choose a venue for the Games. But Mr Blair raised the London bid during an informal sports breakfast at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Nigeria.

The Prime Minister praised the "extraordinary success" of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. He said: "It is partly the success of the Commonwealth Games last year that inspired us to make our Olympic bid."

Mr Blair's audience, which included two Olympic officials, was also shown television highlights of last year's event.

In a letter to Mr Pinsent, leaked to the BBC, the IOC said: "It appears the Prime Minister Mr Tony Blair used the weekend's talks in Nigeria to boost London's chances of hosting the Olympic Games. As you know, the Olympic parties, such as cities wishing to host the Olympic Games undertake to respect and ensure respect of the ethical principles, their Code of Ethics and its Implementing Provisions.

"All forms of promotion are forbidden until IOC acceptance of the Candidature File and the cities must refrain from taking advantage of any international event held outside its NOC's (National Olympic Committee) territory."

The British Olympic Association said the IOC accepted that no rules were broken. Downing Street said Mr Blair had not lobbied for London's bid and no rules had been broken.

Craig Reedie, the association's chairman, told the BBC: "I do not believe that the Prime Minister made any errors and I don't think there was any breach of the rules and that was the point I made to the IOC.

"The IOC have acknowledged my letter and they have written to all of the candidate cities setting out an interpretation of their rules."

Julie Kirkbride, shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, said: "I, like most people in the country, really want us to get the Olympics. So I obviously want the Prime Minister to be backing it and using the relevant forum in which to back it.

"That being said, it is, of course, important that the Prime Minister obeys the rules because we don't want our bid to be jeopardised by the wrong moment in which he spoke about the bid.

"I very much hope if the International Olympic Committee are quick to criticise Mr Blair, that they are maintaining an equally vigilant response to all other leaders who might also be pushing their own bids."

Mike Lee, spokesman for London's 2012 bid, said: "Once we were able to provide a clear and full explanation of the context in which the Prime Minister was speaking and what he said, they have accepted the explanation, the matter is closed and we have moved on. We feel his remarks were appropriate. We believe an explanation has now been provided."