London in final five to host Olympics

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The Independent Online

London made it on to a shortlist of five candidates to stage the Olympic Games in 2012 yesterday but was warned it must make significant improvements if it is to stand a chance of winning the bid.

The International Olympic Committee also gave its approval to Paris, New York, Madrid and Moscow to proceed to the final vote in July next year, and rejected four other cities which it ruled were not up to organising the Games.

Members of the IOC's executive board, meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, based their decision on a 100-page document which evaluated each city on 11 criteria then ranked them.

The report showed the frontrunner at this stage was Paris, followed closely by Madrid, with London and New York some distance behind in third and fourth place respectively and Moscow clinching the final place.

The strength of Madrid's performance - rated top in five of the 11 categories - confounded its position earlier this year as an also-ran. The inclusion of Moscow, previously considered too close to call, came with the warning that the Russian capital was the least prepared of the five to stage the Games and noted the "complex" task facing security forces.

The report warned that London needed to address shortcomings in transport, experience in hosting sports events and issues of public support. Ranking London fifth best in terms of transport, the report said the city's "extensive" rail and underground systems were "often obsolete" and considerable investment was needed to improve capacity and safety. The Olympic consultants said average travel distances outside the Olympic Park and surrounding area were among the longest of all applicant cities and doubted whether average bus speeds at 55km an hour were realistic.

The report noted the backing of London's bid by Tony Blair and Mayor Ken Livingstone but said its own polling had revealed 67 per cent public support compared to 82 per cent in a poll commissioned by the bid company. In a further broadside, the report's authors said London's international sports experience was "rather limited", with the exception of Wimbledon.

Among the strengths of the London bid were security arrangements, accommodation and plans for sports venues including a "very good" proposed Olympic village near Stratford which would host 16 sports.

Barbara Cassani, the bid chairman, said some of the criticisms were already being remedied because they were based on submissions made in January which critics say were more hurried than those of some rivals due to "government prevarication". The bid's chief executive, Keith Mills, said: "On balance we are happy with this. There are a lot of lessons to be learnt but this gives us a huge amount of confidence to go forward. We are pleased to be where we are."

Elimination of four cities ended in acrimony from Istanbul, which failed to make the cut for the fourth consecutive time, along with Havana, Leipzig and Rio de Janeiro. Istanbul's bid leader, Yalcin Aksoy, said the IOC had missed a chance to use his city's bid to build bridges between the Muslim world and the West. He said: "A unique opportunity offered to stage the Games for the first time in a country with a predominantly Muslim population dedicated to secular parliamentary democracy [has been] turned down."

Rio's to make the cut was considered a surprise as it was trying to become the first South American country to stage the Games. Its elimination prompted speculation it will be named by football's world governing body Fifa this week as the preferred host of the 2014 World Cup.

London 2012 held a party at the London Eye last night. A fireworks display from a boat on the Thames marked the unveiling of the bid's new logo. It incorporates the Olympic rings which each of the remaining cities can now use.