Olympic 'agents' will gather intelligence for London bid

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The Independent Online

The team attempting to win the 2012 Olympics for London has recruited special advisers to be its "eyes and ears" around the world, feeding back information on rival campaigns.

But there will be "no dirty tricks", insists Keith Mills, who is leading the London campaign. No city is allowed to criticise its rivals publicly or reveal detrimental information about their plans under new rules introduced by the International Olympic Committee in the wake of the Salt Lake City scandal.

The mayor of Paris and Tony Blair have already been warned against electioneering by the IOC.

Details of London's campaign were launched on Friday. Since then, it has emerged that a global network of experts on sports politics has been enlisted to gather intelligence for London. It includes John Boulter, a former athlete who speaks fluent French and has worked as a senior executive for Adidas and Reebok. The agents will pass on anything members of the IOC are heard to say about London's chances ahead of the final vote next year ­ as well as the opinions of committee members on the proposals by Paris, Rio de Janeiro and other rivals.

But Mr Mills, chief executive of the London team, insisted: "As far as we are concerned, there will be no dirty tricks. We will certainly not go around rubbishing any other bid. It would be counter-productive."

Mr Mills, inventor of the Air Miles and Nectar card reward schemes, said: "There are new rules now and we are still learning them. Not only are we not supposed to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of other bids, but I do not think it is appropriate.

"We want to run a completely ethical bid, but we also need to ensure that London is not disadvantaged in what is clearly going to be a global lobbying exercise."

Mike Lee, communications director of the London team, said: "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 to our bid team, and there is no doubt all the other cities will be doing the same."

The IOC changed the way that host cities are selected after officials and members of the Committee were found to have accepted gifts and bribes in return for choosing Salt Lake City as the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Arrogance and a failure to gather information about the opposing bids are believed to have scuppered England's chances of hosting the 2006 football World Cup, which was awarded to Germany.

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