Blair joins 2012 Games charm offensive

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, will seek to further London's bid for the 2012 Olympics this morning through a Downing Street meeting with the president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge.

Officials stress this is an impromptu arrangement, made possible by Rogge's visit yesterday to Wimbledon, a venue he described as "a temple of sport" and a potentially prestigious part of London's bid for the Games.

Rogge's enthusiasm was welcomed by John Crowther, chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association, who said he thought the IOC president's suggestion was spot-on and added that talks over the SW19 venue hosting Olympic competition were already under way with the International Tennis Federation.

Rogge, who watched Roger Federer's victory from a seat in the Royal Box alongside the British Olympic Association chairman, Craig Reedie, raised the question of whether the federation would want any Olympic tennis in London to be played on grass or clay. "I would prefer Wimbledon on grass because it adds to the prestige of the Games," Rogge concluded.

Crowther was happy to confirm that the LTA had already consulted the ITF on the subject of the surface, and the world governing body had had no objection to the Olympic tennis tournament being played on grass. He added that using Wimbledon would make far more sense than building a new tennis complex for the Olympics in east London, where the bulk of the Games will take place if the bid is successful. But the legacy to a city is a major concern to IOC members when voting for an Olympic host and the use of Wimbledon would mean no tennis venue legacy

Such detail is unlikely to be on the agenda at Downing Street, where Rogge and Blair's broad-brushstroke chat will be complemented by Britain's other key stakeholders in the 2012 bid, including London's Mayor Ken Livingstone, Reedie, three-times Olympic champion Matthew Pinsent, and Barbara Cassani, the recently appointed head of Britain's bid.

Cassani, who takes up her post next month, will be using the opportunity to operate in what a spokesman described as "listening mode". She will fulfil the same role on Thursday, when she meets chief executives of all potentially relevant east London borough councils.

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