Cherie Blair played a pivotal role in securing the 2012 Olympic Games for London, Sebastian Coe has claimed.
According to Lord Coe, who headed Locog, Mrs Blair launched an “Exocet” attack on then French President Jacques Chirac over disparaging remarks he made about British food, forcing him to leave a party early and allowing her husband to woo Olympic officials.
She went at Mr Chirac “like a banshee”, Lord Coe has claimed in his autobiography. He said that her attack “played straight into our hands” as the President beat a hasty retreat from the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) reception for delegates.
Mrs Blair took offence to Mr Chirac’s comments which mocked Britain’s food as being better only than that of Finland. Mr Chirac reportedly joked to President Putin of Russia and Gerhard Schröder, Angela Merkel’s predecessor as the German Chancellor: “You can’t trust people who cook as badly as that. After Finland, it’s the country with the worst food.”
And, in the book Running My Life, Lord Coe wrote: “I spotted Cherie heading like a heat-seeking missile towards the French contingent. Above the hubbub her voice rang loud and clear. ‘I gather you’ve been saying rude things about our food’, she said, at a volume that would have done justice to a packed courtroom. Her husband, who could hear as well as I could, had assiduously turned away.”
He said Mr Chirac advised her not to “believe every-zing you read”, but Mrs Blair shot back: “I didn’t read it. I saw it on television.” He said Mrs Blair was “really getting stuck in” and he wrote: “‘The thing about my wife,’ Tony said, still turned away from the action, ‘is that when she says something, she really means it.’”
Mr Chirac, whose country’s bid to hold the Games in Paris was turned down at the expense of London, left quickly without meeting anyone “who really mattered”, Lord Coe wrote. He added: “he couldn’t get out of that building fast enough”.
London eventually won the right to host the Games and the British delegation “just erupted”, Lord Coe wrote. In the book, which is being serialised by the Times newspaper, he added: “My first thought was, ‘have I heard this correctly?’ ... Everybody was jumping around, hugging each other. I will never forget the expression on the faces of the IOC members looking down on us from the stage. Some of them looked utterly shell-shocked.”