Mike Rowbottom: No delays, no cricket and no canapés: Paris has no chance

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The Independent Online

It has become increasingly clear in the last week that Paris has no serious chance of securing the 2012 Olympics.

It has become increasingly clear in the last week that Paris has no serious chance of securing the 2012 Olympics.

During the course of the World Athletics Championships which are being held here, London's rival bid has fallen apart like a messy French salad thing with walnuts on it. (Sub-editor, please take in copy when get to Paris).

Early indications that the French are unable to cope with the demands of staging the world's biggest sporting event were evident in a press reception at the Hotel de Ville.

Visitors were kept waiting for almost 10 minutes in the main square and forced to listen to a brass band. None of the music was recognisable and all requests for standard classics such as the Hovis one from the television were flatly ignored.

Once inside, guests were expected to stand under chandeliers which, had they come loose, could have seriously injured or even killed them.

Champagne at the reception was often poured in short measure, and it sometimes took two or three attempts to persuade the blazered bar stewards to top glasses up. Also the smoked salmon canapés soon ran out.

Gate T at the Stade de France, self-styled venue to the 1998 World Cup final and the current World Athletics Championships, is directly opposite Entrance U, but upon arrival at Entrance U men in red-and-white shirts block the way and point towards Entrance T. This entails an extra walk of some 15 metres which, if multiplied by the duration of the Championships - nine days - represents several miles.

A beer tent in the Stade de France precinct lost pressure on its pump for up to five minutes during the break between the morning and afternoon sessions last Tuesday, inconveniencing several thirsty people who were forced to wait in temperatures reaching up into the high 20s. It is sadly evident that many football followers here are still harking back to the time when the French last won the World Cup, five years ago, and the European Championship, at the turn of the millennium.

French impact on sports such as cricket, ten-pin bowling and curling in recent years has been negligible.

It has perhaps escaped the notice of those bidding to bring the 2012 Games to Paris that the city has already had its turn at hosting an Olympics. If they look back through their record books they will see that the Games came to their capital in 1924.

Paris' much-vaunted transport system regularly imposes huge strain on travellers heavily loaded with bags and backpacks. Such is the tiny margin of time between trains on the Metro and RER routes that passengers have insufficient opportunity to get comfortable on the platform seats provided.

Signage in the rail system could prove confusing to the Olympic visitor. It is all in French, with a series of odd coloured numbers and initials.

Bars and restaurants in the city are frequently so crowded that customers are obliged to eat at tables set out on the pavements. Unwary diners often find themselves ordering meals that bear no resemblance to what they were expecting, and coffee is served in tiny little cups.

The Eiffel Tower, supposed symbol of France throughout the world, is on closer inspection nothing more than a steel infrastructure. If Paris can't complete this project after 114 years, what hope is there for their plans to construct the huge range of facilities required for a Modern Olympic Games?

Some visitors to the French capital have reported that women in shops have given them funny looks.

The streets of Paris teem with miniature poodles which constitute a severe tripping hazard for the unwary pedestrian. Their owners, characteristically women of a certain age, display no regard for the potential dangers of their insistence on being accompanied by a dog at all times. The authorities clearly have a major task of public re-education to perform if this perilous practice is to be rectified in time for 2012.

These dogs are also allowed to go to the toilet on the pavements, spreading germs which could threaten the health of every visitor to the Games.

Cars travel at high speed throughout the capital day and night. If Olympic visitors were to step off the pavement at the wrong time, the result could be mayhem. Much hotel lift music in Paris is more than 20 years old, featuring artists such as Paul Young and Duran Duran whose songs are no longer relevant to today's charts.

Many members of the press have lost pens while staying in Paris, and some have reported that their breakfast croissants have been stale.

Taking into consideration all these factors, members of the 2012 London bid who have visited Paris this week will be able to return home with a growing sense of confidence.

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