Peter Corrigan: London joins top table of bowing and scraping

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It will take a strong stomach not to curdle this weekend as London's 2012 Olympic bid reaches a crescendo.

It will take a strong stomach not to curdle this weekend as London's 2012 Olympic bid reaches a crescendo. Not a climax, unfortunately, because we won't know whether the bid is going to be successful until next July, but a crescendo of noise and activity surrounding the delivery of the bid to the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne by tomorrow's deadline.

We can understand them not trusting the Royal Mail to see it gets there on time, but the palaver involved in effecting the delivery with an eye-catching flourish is typical of the whole ludicrous business.

You can be sure that London's rivals - Paris, Madrid, New York and Moscow - will be making similar elaborate efforts to outdo the others in the razzmatazz of dispatching techniques. The time, effort and financial outlay involved in the simple operation of dropping five bids on a Swiss doormat is obscene.

At least we've reached the end of another stage in the painfully formalised and drawn-out process. So far, we've tended to speak of the bid in an abstract sense, but now it is a physical entity. The bid, henceforth to be referred to as the Candidate File, comprises 600 pages - 300 in English, 300 in French - outlining in considerable detail why London deserves to be appointed hosts of the 2012 Games.

Contained in a box file, the bid made its public bow on Float No 18 in yesterday's Lord Mayor's Show. The float was dressed in spectacular fashion, contained our Olympic boxing star Amir Khan and his younger brother Haroon, was escorted by youngsters handing out flags and followed by two London taxis branded with "2012". The Ark of the Covenant could not be paraded with more reverence.

After the Lord Major's Show, the file will next appear tomorrow in the possession of the bid chairman, Sebastian Coe. But it will not be Lord Coe who hands in the file when they get to Lausanne, but a 14-year-old Newham schoolgirl basketball player. It will be a proud moment for the young lady and a possible heart-tugger for the IOC, although, judging on past experience, that organisation possess the least tuggable hearts in sport.

It is easy to scoff. It is not the bidders' fault that the IOC insist on persevering with this ridiculous rigmarole. They have cleaned it up since the old corrupt days, but an inordinate amount of kowtowing and smarm is still required.

We have yet to come to the worst of the obsequiousness. In February, the IOC Evaluation Committee will arrive to be fussed and feted by everyone from the Prime Minister down. We're even having a rehearsal of the visit to ensure all get the bowing and scraping right.

As an opportunity for the IOC to demonstrate their might and power and patronage it is faultless, but as an exercise in selecting the best and most deserving host city it is heavily flawed.

Where would the UK feature in a list of countries who have done most for sporting development in the past 50 years? We do less for sport than any country in the civilised world, and many in the uncivilised world.

Lord Coe reckons that staging the Olympics would create the change in governmental attitude to sport that we all crave. I wish I could share his optimism. This Government are mindful, if not shameful, of how badly they have neglected sport, and the bid provides them with a great opportunity to display an interest; although they seem more interested in what the Games can do in regenerating the East End and improving London's transport.

I was a keen supporter of the bid to take the 2004 Olympics to Athens, because the Greeks deserved to take their creation back to its birthplace. Against all the odds and after years of torment, they made a great success of the event. Would we have the will and the determination to survive that sort of trial?

If nothing else, the British have a reputation as patriotic punters. Whether it's our football or rugby teams or Tim Henman to win Wimbledon, we like a bet on ourselves. Bookies William Hill report that they have hardly taken any money on London at 2-1. Almost all the money has gone on Paris, who are clear odds-on favourites at 4-7. More Brits have backed New York at 12-1 than London. Mind you, the IOC haven't placed their bet yet.