No Britons left on shortlist for running London's bid to host Olympics

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The Independent Online

London's bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games will be run by a foreigner after the last British candidate ruled himself out.

Sir Christopher Meyer, who had been favourite to land the job, cited his commitment as chairman of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) in withdrawing from the race.

Charles Allen, chairman of Granada and the only other British candidate, has also withdrawn in recent days, although he will still be interviewed for an advisory role.

Final interviews of the three remaining candidates will begin tomorrow. These are Barbara Cassani, the American founder of the budget airline Go; Kevin Roberts, a senior executive at Saatchi & Saatchi from New Zealand; and the new favourite, Gerry Robinson, chairman of the Arts Council for England, who is Irish.

Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said the absence of a Briton would not affect the bid. Speaking at the FT Business of Sport conference in London, she said: "The only important thing is that we have as chairman the very best person and the person who is going to give us the best chance of winning.''

However, sources close to the bid said it was important for the figurehead to have strong links with the host country in order to impress the International Olympic Committee, which delivers its decision in July 2005. The source added that the whole process was in danger of being torpedoed because there were only three remaining candidates and the three "principals'' - the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the British Olympic Association and the London Mayor - each had a veto. The source said: "We could end up back at square one at this rate unless there is a late entrant into the race."

Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British ambassador in Washington, withdrew partly because of pressure at the PCC due to the collapse of the trial of the News of the World's supposed "Beckham kidnap plot''. Charles Allen, an architect of last year's Commonwealth Games in Manchester, also said he was too busy for the job.

The interviews, conducted by senior civil servants at the DCMS, will take place tomorrow and Thursday. After that Daniel Bawden, head of the Government's Olympic Games Unit, will write profiles before a decision is announced next week.