French sign up London's stars to kick-start their Olympic bid

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The rivalry between London and Paris in the bid to stage the 2012 Olympics may not have reached the mudslinging stage yet. But yesterday the French took the gloves off with a cheeky dig at their closest rival on the first day of presentations to inspectors from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The rivalry between London and Paris in the bid to stage the 2012 Olympics may not have reached the mudslinging stage yet. But yesterday the French took the gloves off with a cheeky dig at their closest rival on the first day of presentations to inspectors from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The footballers Didier Drogba, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira were shown singing the praises of the Paris bid in a video presentation shown to the inspectors. All of the players are based in London. They were joined by Chelsea's Claude Makelele and William Gallas and the Saracens rugby players Thomas Castaignede and Rafael Ibanez.

But, with the smooth-running of the inspection crucial, Paris was stung by news of a scandal involving one of the most important members of its bid team. The French launched a damage limitation exercise after it was disclosed that Guy Drut faces charges of corruption. M Drut, an IOC member and former sports minister is among 47 politicians who will stand trial in Paris on 21 March over alleged corrupt political party finances. He denies the allegations.

Another bid team member, Jean Paul Huchon, Socialist president of the Paris regional council, is being investigated over claims that his wife and others were paid for bogus jobs.

"Both stories have nothing to do with the Paris bid at the moment. We are concentrating on presenting our case to the evaluation commission and we are 800 per cent focused on that," said a bid spokesman, Jerome L'Enfant.

Officials in Paris will be confronted by another problem today when the IOC takes to the road to view the venues at the same time as a protest march. In the culmination of a week of nationwide industrial action, thousands of members of French unions will participate in a march in the south of the city ­ away from the IOC ­ in protest against government economic and social policies.

The Paris bid committee is hoping that the main CFDT union honours an "Olympic truce". To display their support for the bid, protesters have been urged to wear T-shirts and baseball caps bearing the Paris 2012 logo.

The business of assessing the merits of the bid began at breakfast when French officials outlined to the IOC team their concept and the Games' legacy. The bulk of the action would take place in two clusters of venues to the north and west of the city linked by the existing eight-lane orbital road. With events taking place at the "city gates", the city centre would remain clear for visitors to enjoy such attractions such as the Louvre, the Champs Elysées and the Eiffel Tower.

"The venues will be at the city gates, leaving the centre free for an Olympic party" said Jean Claude Killy, a French IOC member and former ski champion in his address to the inspectors.

"It's the best way of delivering a Games that is compact and not constrained and which is also affordable."

By stressing that much of its sporting instrastructure is already in place, including the Stade de France, earmarked as the main stadium, Paris has invited criticism that its legacy would be minimal.

Much therefore has been made of the plan for an athletes' village on the site of a disused railyard in the deprived Les Batignolles area.

Comments