Inside Lines: London plans to stay ahead of the Games

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The Independent Online

London's Olympic planners clearly do not intend the 2012 bid to suffer the same fate as England's abortive attempt to wrest the 2006 football World Cup from the rightful clutches of Germany. This failed not only because they reneged on a gentlemen's agreement but also because of a combination of arrogance and lack of intelligence about the opposition. Lessons have been learned. Keith Mills, the chief executive and linchpin of the Games bid which was unveiled with theatrical splendour on stage at the Royal Opera House Friday, promises that not only will London play it strictly byehe new rules on electioneering but also that any hint of triumphalism will be stamped upon. Significantly, too, a small team of special advisers are being employed around the world to be London's eyes and ears, feeding back information on rival bids and what members of the International Olympic Committee may be saying about them. This "intelligence" will be collated in London by the bid's director of international affairs, Andrew Craig, a former sports marketeer who is well acquainted with the workings of the IOC. His network of advisers are all experts on international sports politics and among them is John Boulter, a former Olympic athlete who speaks fluent French and has worked as a senior executive for adidas and Reebok. Mike Lee, the bid communications director, insists: "There is certainly nothing underhand in this. It is not a question of spying on other bids or compiling dossiers. It makes sense to have this sort of feedback available and there is no doubt the other cities will be doing the same. The intention is simply to keep us fully informed and on the ball." And ahead of the Games, you might say.

No privates on parade at Wembley

London hosted another heavyweight launch last week, but this time the theme was fistic rather than Olympic or operatic. Boxing promoter Frank Warren hired the Imperial War Museum to introduce the big guns of his Sports Network stable, dressing the six-strong platoon in combat gear and giving them noms-de-guerre. Thus Danny "Dambuster" Williams and Michael "The Missile" Sprott engaged themselves in verbal warfare before Saturday's British heavyweight title battle at Wembley Conference Centre. Challenger Sprott has his own label for Williams. He terms him "Dirty Dan" following their last encounter when he was knocked out in five rounds amid considerable controversy after the champion had landed three apparently low blows. Williams counters. "Those punched were legal. They were not below the belt. He hads his shorts hitched up and I hit him on the waistband - the private parts are not on the waistband." Should be a belter.

Ping-pong and a lack of diplomacy

Audley Harrison, whose hopes of a British title fight with Danny Williams have been put on ice because of boxing politics, observed how nice it was to see so many politicians enjoying London's Olympic launch and enthusiastically endorsing Tony Blair's view that "this is a nation which recognises the power and joy of sport". Among them was Gerald Kaufman, who is on record as saying that the Olympics are a waste of time and money. Yet there was the old grouch applauding his leader's bons mots alongside his chum Charles Allen, the bid's vice-chairman. Big Audley later played a tidy game of table tennis with Matthew Syed for the assembled VIPs. Pity then, that the sport chosen to be exhibited should have had its funding savagely slashed by Sport England.

While the Prime Minister may not be inclined to take any advice from his former foreign secretary Robin Cook these days, he could do worse than heed the warning given over the reluctance to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece.

Failure to do so, Cook told us at last week's formation of the Anglo-Greek lobby group Marbles Reunited, could be "disastrous" for the London Olympic bid. "We will only win this if we get international support; what better way to demonstrate our spirit of cultural co-operation than committing ourselves to the return of the Marbles? Remember that all those who will make decisions about 2012 will be Athens for this year's Olympics and they will be exposed to a celebration of Greek heritage. It will be very damaging to to the London position if these people are shown around the new Acropolis Museum and there is a blank space where the Marbles should be." The Olympics are returning home to Athens. Shouldn't the Marbles accompany them?

Ex-cox and boxer Lord Moynihan, the lively Shadow sports minister, should be able to add valuable information to that now being gathered on rival bids by London's team.

He is already well acquainted with what is happening in Havana through business interests and this weekend he is meeting one of the New York bid committee, Jay Kriegel. Meantime Olympic anoraks who scour the various Games bid websites will have noticed a remarkable similarity between the newly-revealed "Leap for London" advertising images, and those of one of its lesser-fancied rivals, Istanbul. A coincidence, no doubt, though the shots of Turkish athletes straddling the Bos-porus are equally eye-catching and symbolic. Wonder who thought of it first?

Exit Lines

I know the position is in safe hands. David "Safe Hands" Seaman passes the Manchester City goalkeeping gloves to David James... When I was growing up in Australia if you played football you were either a wog or a poof, which is why I came to England. Former Liverpool player Craig Johnston. London has problems. We are not really a deeply popular nation. Sir Bob Scott, who led Manchester's two failed Olympic bids... Who is Bob Scott? Ken Livingstone.