Faster, higher, stronger? Rival cities stake their claims to Olympics

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The Independent Online

Paris

The city attempted to jump the gun on London and other cities yesterday by putting forward an Olympic bid based largely on world-class venues which already exist.

The French capital would concentrate activities in 2012 on two areas on the northern and western edges of the city, revolving around the Stade de France, Parc des Princes and Roland Garros football and tennis stadiums.

The Olympic Village would be constructed half way between the two main sites, just north of Gare St Lazare. Otherwise, the only large new buildings needed would be an Olympic swimming pool and an indoor cycle stadium.

The bid has gambled heavily on the International Olympic Committee meaning what it says about the 2012 Games. The IOC let it be known that it wanted a compact event, easily accessible to sports fans, which avoided the extravagance of some recent Olympics. After failing in its bids for the 2008 and 1992 Games, Paris hopes that its successful hosting of the 1998 World Cup and 2003 World Athletics championships will give it a head start.

"We have the know-how of how to organise things on a large scale," Jean-Francois Lamour, the French minister for Sport and a former Olympic fencing champion told a press conference on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower yesterday.

"We know how to do it, and what's more, we want to keep on doing it. The government will support the bid to the highest level, right up to Jacques Chirac. We have total support, at every level, whether financial, or in terms of security."

Most of the 30 sites proposed by Paris are 10 minutes away from the planned Olympic village. The Stade de France, the 80,000-seat football and athletics stadium just north of the city, would be the main venue, surrounded by new sites for swimming, boxing, wrestling, and table-tennis.

The Roland Garros tennis complex, the Parc des Princes football stadium and the Longchamps race course, close together on the western edge of the city, would be part of a cluster of venues adapted for show-jumping, hockey, badminton, archery and weight-lifting.

Paris will sell itself as the low-cost, risk-free choice. It also hopes to avoid the mistakes of the 2008 bid, which French officials accept was flawed by arrogance and an attempt to provide facilities for Paris, rather than the Olympics.

John Lichfield

Madrid

If Spain succeeds in bringing the Olympics to its capital, it will be the second time in 20 years that the country has played host to the world's premier sporting event, following the hugely successful Barcelona Games of 1992.

Madrid, the only major European capital never to have held the Games, is branding its bid as a "green" Olympics.

"Respect for the environment governs all aspects of this project," Madrid's mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardon said yesterday, claiming it would be the first Olympics "without private transport". He added: "Madrid will use the opportunity of this candidacy to introduce renewable energies in all installations and hydrogen in public transport."

Eighty-two per cent of Madrid's Olympic facilities will be accessible by train, bus or the city's recently-upgraded metro system, he said. Work on around three-quarters of the proposed communication and infrastructure projects has already begun.

Speaking in support of the bid yesterday, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar acknowledged that winning the contest would be "difficult", but that the city had an "excellent foundation", thanks to its relatively compact size and the proximity of the venues.

"Madrid will be in the summer of 2012 the window from which the world can see the amazing transformation taking place in Spain in the last decades," he said. "This is a great bid, as befits a great city and a great nation."

Madrid's last Olympic bid was for the 1972 Games, hosted by Munich, and it is seen as a stronger candidate than Seville, which bid for the 2008 Games.

But while hosting the Games relatively recently boosted Spain's sporting profile, it may deter the Olympic committee from awarding them to Madrid.

Harvey McGavin

New York

The Big Apple is asking supporters to "Imagine the Olympics in New York" . If their aspirations are to be realised, the city will have to convince the Olympic committee it has the organisational skills to back up its ambitious bid.

Few places in the world can match the international profile of New York and, following the terrorist attacks of 11 September, it may attract some emotional support. However, countries opposed to the United States' subsequent foreign policy may be more inclined to cast their votes elsewhere.

Its proposal includes plans to stage the triathlon in Central Park and the boxing matches at the legendary venue of many world title fights, Madison Square Gardens. All venues would be within 20 miles of the Olympic village - an X-shaped complex planned for the heart of the city which would be criss-crossed by fast ferry and commuter rail services. A lot of building work, including the main 86,000 capacity stadium by the Hudson river, is yet to begin.

Even so, bid organiser Alex Garvin is bullish about the Big Apple's chances. "This is the first time in history that virtually every competition will be within 25 minutes or much less from the Olympic village."

The fact that Vancouver has been awarded the 2010 Winter Olympics, may hamper New York's chances of staging the summer games two years later, and make the Olympic organisers reluctant to hold two consecutive high-profile sporting events in north America.

Security, which IOC president Jacques Rogge has said will be of "paramount importance" in any bid, will be a concern given current world events and the bombing incident at the Atlanta Games of 1996, which killed one person and injured 110. "By the time 2012 rolls around, we are going to have even more advanced security devices," Mr Garvin has said. "Of course we are concerned about it. Anybody who has planned any bid after Munich has to be. The state of security is already different from what it was before 9-11."

The Atlanta Games were also roundly criticised for their poor transport arrangements, which affected spectators and competitors, something Mr Garvin is adamant will not be a problem in New York. "Of course, there were things there that left a bad taste in people's mouths," he said. "And of course we are going to try to do better."

Harvey McGavin

From Leipzig to Rio: The other hopefuls

The other cities competing to host the 2012 Games are Moscow, Leipzig, Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro and Havana. Moscow is the frontrunner, which, having hosted the Olympics in 1980, would need to update its existing facilities.

Its bid has the support of the President, Vladimir Putin, who recognises that the Games could help rejuvenate the once-mighty reputation of Russian sport, which has been in the doldrums since the break up of the Soviet Union. But its weak economy and reputation for bureaucratic inefficiency could be their bid's downfall.

The location and spectacular scenery of Rio de Janeiro invite comparison with Sydney, host of the most recent and much lauded Olympics. But the resemblance ends there. Brazil has poor infrastructure and security would be an issue in a city whose social problems are well documented. If there were medals for trying, Istanbul would be laden down - it is making its seventh successive attempt to win the nomination. Facilities have already been built, and its location on the cusp of Europe and Asia would meet the IOC's push for inclusion. But accommodation and security concerns could be its downfall.

Giving the Games to Leipzig would do wonders for the regeneration of the former East German city, but allegations of nepotism and links between bid officials and the former secret police have harmed its chances.

Despite producing world-beating athletes, Cuba's political isolation leaves Havana the rank outsider.

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