Coe to lead London Olympics bid as Cassani steps aside

Lord Sebastian Coe was today appointed chairman and president of the London 2012 Olympic bid team in a dramatic reshuffle of the board which sees previous leader Barbara Cassani taking over his role as vice-chairman.

Coe, twice an Olympic gold medallist and an internationally-renowned sporting figure, will become the public face of London's campaign while Cassani will concentrate on developing the technical aspects of the bid.

The decision was announced this afternoon where it was also confirmed that chief executive Keith Mills will also take on the role as bid president (international) to boost the campaign's presence overseas.

It is understood that Cassani, an American businesswoman who founded the budget airline Go, believes London's bid will have a better chance with a Briton at the head of the organisation.

A statement from London 2012 said Cassani will take on a new role as a bid vice-chairman with specific responsibility for the development of the candidature file.

Cassani said: "I am so proud of what we have achieved so far. My job has been to create a winning team and to develop an exciting blueprint for London 2012 - together with colleagues those goals have been reached.

"Our focus must now be on winning the support of the international sporting community and demonstrating London is the right choice for 2012. The changes in our organisation reflect these priorities.

"I am looking forward to working with Seb Coe, Keith Mills and the rest of the team to win that crucial vote in Singapore next July."

Coe, who is also a member of the International Amateur Athletic Federation's board, said: "This is a great honour and a tremendous challenge. Barbara and the team have done a fantastic job in creating the building blocks for the bid.

"Through my work in international sport, I am looking forward to promoting London's bid to the sports community across the globe. As a former athlete and Olympian, the Olympic Games profoundly and positively influenced my life. I want to t opportunity to otd leave a legacyture generations."

Mills added: "Now that we're a candidate city, we aredy to take the bid to the Olympic movement. The bid focus on completing the technical bilding momentum both in Britain and internationally in the run-up to the crucial vote in Singapore next year."

Craig Reedie, chairOlympic Associat said:

"The BOA is delighted with the progress of the London 2012 bid at the end of this crucial first phase of the campaign, and we would like to pay tribute to the work of Barbara Cassani. Going forward, Seb, Keith and Barbara will form a great team to lead efforts in developing our proposal and on winning international support.

"I am confident about the next phase of our campaign and look forward to the BOA working closely with the London 2012 team towards success in the final vote."

The capital's bid was one of five shortlisted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) yesterday but the city's road and rail system was highlighted as a potential problem.

London 2012 communications director Mike Lee told the Press Association: "We are delighted to be going forward as a candidate city.

"Our announcement later today will set out our plans for the campaign and there are lessons to be learned from the IOC's evaluation but much of what they examined has moved on considerably in the work we have been doing since January.

"It's clear that we also need to explain in more detail the exciting transport plans for the capital that are being brought together by the Government and the London authorities.

"We are in very good shape and we are building momentum all the way to the vote in Singapore next July."

The IOC working party rated London's bid as currently third behind those of Paris and Madrid but ahead of New York's and Moscow's.

Ms Cassani told the press conference that she had made the decision to step down as chairman after a number of months of reflection.

"I asked myself whether I was the best person to be chairman and I concluded that (Lord Coe) was the perfect person to lead us into success next year."

She said she had never competed at an international level or at the Olympics, and did not have the number of contacts that Lord Coe has.

"I must say that it is a decision that I have come to after much reflection.

"I love what I am doing, I enjoy it immensely, but what is more important than enjoying what I do is also winning."

She said she felt that it was now the right time to "regroup, get the team back on the pitch and start going for gold".

She added: "As I have been able to attend conferences and meet people and understand more about the challenges of international sport, I realised that it is a world where if you have been part of it you have a special advantage and if you have never been part of it there is just so much to learn."

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