Princess Royal defended against Olympic bid critics

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Indy Politics

Political Correspondent

Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for National Heritage, yesterday hit back at suggestions that the Princess Royal, a British representative on the International Olympic Committee, had not "pulled her weight" on behalf of Manchester's failed bid to bring the 2000 Games to Britain.

Mrs Bottomley defended the Princess's refusal to engage in "wheeler-dealing" to the National Heritage select committee, which is conducting the post- mortem examination as part of an investigation into British attempts to host international sporting events. She said: "I don't think it would have done our international reputation any good to have been involved in nefarious practice. We should behave like good sportsmen and women in these matters and abide by the Queens- berry Rules."

The Princess and Dame Mary Glen Haig, a fellow IOC member, were criticised last week by Joe Ashton, Labour MP for Bassetlaw and a member of the select committee, for regarding the business of lobbying "rather beneath them". There are suggestions that some IOC members have been offered inducements from cities bidding for the Games.

Gerald Kaufman, the select committee's Labour chairman, last week suggested that the Princess should perhaps resign if she was too busy for her IOC duties. But yesterday he read extracts of a letter from Dame Mary saying: "Both the Princess and I regard lobbying in the style practised within the IOC as exceedingly distasteful, not in line with Olympic philosophy and certainly outwith all the ethics of fair play. We were never shy to make those views clear within Olympic circles."

She added: "The Princess openly declared her distaste for the valuable and too-readily accepted 'perks' seemingly directed at influencing votes, hence perhaps her alleged unpopularity with those reported to be 'powerful men in sport'."

Mr Kaufman said Barcelona and Atlanta had succeeded in hosting the Games without bid teams engaging in "nefarious practices". He added that when George Bush was US President he had telephoned every member of the IOC to help Atlanta win the 1996 Games.

Sebastian Coe, Tory MP for Falmouth and former Olympic gold medalist, said: "Bad bids do us no good at all and bids which are successful but are run badly are almost terminal."