London confident of clearing first hurdle as opening field of Olympic runners lines up

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The Independent Online

London's Olympic bid team is confident of good news today when the International Olympic Committee announces the shortlist of cities vying to stage the summer Games in 2012.

London's Olympic bid team is confident of good news today when the International Olympic Committee announces the shortlist of cities vying to stage the summer Games in 2012.

Members of the IOC's executive board meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, are believed to have been convinced by London's proposals to stage a safe, well-organised and profitable games. New York, Paris, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro are also expected to make it on to the shortlist ahead of the final vote in July next year.

Delegations from Istanbul and Havana were preparing for bad news, with sources close to the IOC tipping Moscow over Leipzig as a potential sixth survivor. Some sources suggested that the IOC would attempt to avoid confrontation by keeping all nine cities in until after this year's Games in Athens.

One IOC member said: "I expect Paris, London, Madrid and New York and Rio will definitely be left in. Either Leipzig or Moscow may also survive for political reasons. All the speculation is that London and Paris are front-runners. In Europe the dark horse is Madrid and you can never rule New York out.''

Elimination at this stage would be nothing short of an embarrassment to the London bid and its leader, Barbara Cassani, who was making the most of a rare lobbying opportunity permitted under IOC rules last night as she spoke to members of the committee.

Although London has twice come to the aid of the IOC by staging the Games in 1908 and 1948, it has not bid before. Ms Cassani and her team have benefited from solid backing from Tony Blair and the London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, and last week they identified 25 corporate sponsors who will contribute £10m towards the £28m cost of bidding.

A spokesman for London 2012 said: "We are confident but not complacent. We believe we submitted a very good blueprint in January. We have continued to work on the proposals since then so we can hit the ground running.''

Provided the bid succeeds in making the shortlist, the challenge for the 60-strong staff of London 2012 over the next year will be on two fronts. First, they have to tailor their manifesto to the electorate: the 124 voting members of the IOC. A diverse group of former Olympic greats and career sports politicians, they are eager to promote the higher principles of the Games as long as it is in the interests of the sport they represent, and to whose patronage they owe their positions.

Second, the London team must win popular support at home for the bid and convince people that London can win the right to stage the event.

To London's advantage its status as a major world capital, its iconic sporting venues such as Lord's and Wimbledon, and the historic sites that can be used as the photogenic backdrop to Olympic events.

Lack of representation at the highest echelons of Olympic sports is, however, sure to work against the bid. Britain is woefully short of presidents of international sports federations and has hosted few international events in Olympic sports recently.

A seasoned IOC observer said: "The World Athletics Championships were held in Paris last year but all we managed was the indoor equivalent and that was in Birmingham. We are good at taking money out of sport but not investing in venues and facilities. Now our chickens may be coming home to roost.''

London 2012 estimates that the Games would need a contribution from the public purse of £2.375bn, but expects to turn a profit thanks to income from broadcast rights, sponsorship, tickets and merchandise.

At a debate held at Imperial College London last night, Stefan Szymanski, a professor of economics, was less optimistic. Arguing against P Y Gerbeau, the former Dome chief and a London bid supporter, Professor Szymanski said the venture would be a tax burden to the less well-off, who would not be able to afford tickets.

"There is little evidence that mega-events such as the Olympics produce the macroeconomic benefits claimed for them," he said. "It is a myth that the Games will pay for themselves through economic stimulus; they place a huge burden on local taxpayers.''

Provided London makes the shortlist, the bid team will launch an immediate, high-profile publicity campaign, beginning with a celebration party at the London Eye tonight.

Mr Blair and Mr Livingstone are expected to join the campaign trail in Athens in August. London 2012 will also hope to promote the city to sporting VIPs attending events such as the FA Cup final, Test cricket and Wimbledon.

The executive board of the IOC will base today's decision, expected at lunchtime, on the recommendations of a group of experts it appointed. In case of disagreement, board members will hold a vote requiring a simple majority for a city to proceed. In this event three members from Germany, the United States and Russia will have to sit out the vote. Each city chosen will have to pay $500,000 (£280,000) to the IOC for advice on how to run a games. The scheme will start with a series of observer programmes during the Games in Athens.

Final written submissions have to be made by mid-November and in spring next year a team of IOC scrutineers will visit each city. Their reports will have to be ready at least a month before the decisive vote in Singapore in July.

CITIES COMPETING FOR THE GAMES

LONDON

London's bid to stage the Games focuses on a proposed Olympic park in Stratford, east London, which would host 17 sports. Barbara Cassani, the bid leader, is also stressing the international appeal of venues such as Greenwich Park and Horse Guards Parade, the improbable proposed site of beach volleyball. Written proposals submitted to the International Olympic Committee in January have clearly impressed, with London ranked as the front-runner, alongside Paris. A potential Achilles' heel for London is Britain's lack of representation at the presidential level of international sports federations that are often at the heart of sports politics. A further weakness may be the lack of major international events in Olympic sports staged in this country.

Odds: 9/4

PARIS

Currently the leading contender with London, the French capital has gained in gravitas after the successful hosting of the 1998 World Cup and last year's World Athletics Championships. The majority of the events would be staged in two clusters on the edge of the city, while the beach volleyball is due to take place under the Eiffel Tower. Critics argue that, while the Stade de France more than suffices as a main stadium, local transport built for the World Cup may not satisfy Olympic needs.

Odds: 11/8

MADRID

Timing is everything and the fact that Barcelona hosted the Games in 1992 is sure to count against Madrid which has been trying to stress how different it is from the Catalonian capital. Madrid has chosen as its unique selling point a plan to stage the most environmentally friendly Games. Bid leaders have also sought to stress the importance of public transport - much of which is already in place - over cars, a high-risk strategy in the face of a limousine-loving IOC.

Odds: 7/1

NEW YORK

The only major "world capital" not to have staged the Games, but parts of the IOC are anti-American due to the chaoticAtlanta Games and the scandal over the awarding of the 2002 Winter Games to Salt Lake City. Itis home to the TV networks that bankroll the Games.

Odds: 8/1

RIO

Rio will have to reassure the IOC about its crime rate. In its favour, the Games have never been held in South America and Brazil is in a time zone favourable to US broadcasters. But Rio's bid could suffer if, as mooted in Fifa, it is chosen to host the 2014 World Cup.

Odds: 8/1

LEIPZIG

New transport links built after reunification. Its track and field pedigree during GDR times stand in the city's favour. But critics say that Leipzig is too small and lacking in charisma. Two leaders of the bid have also quit over allegations of Stasi links and corruption.

Odds: 16/1

MOSCOW

Economic instability and the threat to security posed by Chechen rebels are reckoned to be the Muscovites biggest difficulties in surviving today's cut. However, Moscow's influence at the IOC continues due to its sports funding of the former Soviet satellite states.

Odds: 20/1

ISTANBUL

Under Turkey's "Olympic law", funding for venues is triggered each time a bid is made - so this is the fourth time in a row Istanbul has thrown its hat in the ring. But congestion and acommodation problems, which put off the IOC last time, will count against it again.

Odds: 33/1

HAVANA

Havana's bid will probably fail for the same reason as it did for the 2008 Games - poor infrastructure and accommodation. Seen by few as a serious bid also because its relations with the US would make immigration issues during the event a nightmare.

Odds: 100/1

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