Reedie the right man to be the right-hand man

BOA chief would not allow 2012 bid to be overrun by bandwagon politicos
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Hovering in the background as the Olympic bid for 2012 was formally, and finally, confirmed at Ken Livingstone's London eyrie on Thursday was the slight figure of Alec McGiven. Now the Government's chief adviser on all matters relating to sport, McGiven had a much higher profile three years back when he led the attempt to win the World Cup for England in 2006, which ended ininglorious defeat.

Once a political spin doctor, McGiven is a decent enough man, but he was out of his depth in the even more ferocious world of sports politics. Moreover, his then employers, the Football Association, themselves got it horribly wrong and ended up with the egg, rather than the Cup, on their faces.

McGiven is now well placed to advise his new bosses in Westminster and Whitehall how these lessons can be best absorbed in the run-up to the vote in Singapore two years hence. Sadly, McGiven's team, for all the FA's triumphalism, seemed to have little idea of how Fifa's jury operated, an admission made to us recently by one of its hand-picked "ambassadors", Garth Crooks. "Any bid, whether it is for the World Cup or the Olympics, must involve people who know the structure of the organisation and how it works," he said. The Germans, shrewdly spearheaded by the charismatic and well-connected Franz Beckenbauer, did, and it paid off, whereas England's bid was suffused with spin and cockiness.

Charisma and connections are the key ingredients if London 2012 is to ensure it does not fall into the same trap as England 2006. Which is why it must be steered by professionals, garnered and coached by the British Olympic Association chairman, Craig Reedie, rather than politicos and bandwagoning dilettantes. Arrogance is out; humility is in.

"We're in it to win it" is an admirable philosophy, and one would not expect an attitude any less positive, but any attempt to delude the nation into thinking London is home and dry just because Tony Blair has blessed the bid could turn into an embarrassing anti-climax in July 2005. As Sir Steven Redgrave warned: "Just because we are bidding it doesn't mean we have the divine right to think the Games will come here."

Redgrave, who surely has to figure prominently in any campaign, received his knighthood for reaching unprecedented Olympian heights. Sir Bob Scott got his in rather less glorious circumstances, twice leading unsuccessful attempts to get the Games to Manchester. But his message is the same. "Bidding is one thing, winning another. Will London win? Maybe. With Manchester we were able to play the unlucky loser's card. With London it could be seen as a national disaster. The IOC is a club that has rules, and you have to play by them. You can't sit there with long British noses looking down and muttering, 'These are awful people', because you need their votes.

"You have to get out there and go for it. The BOA have got to go for it, the Government have to go for it, the Mayor has to go for it and Princess Anne has to go for it."

Some believe that HRH, one of Britain's three current representatives, might be considered more a liability than an asset, as she has a reputation for sniffiness that does not go down well even with more gregarious fellow aristocracy on the IOC. We are assured, however, that she is "getting better" at the glad-handing game which will be so vital.

Matthew Pinsent, a new IOC member, is already well liked, and his fame as an awesome oarsman will stand the London bid in good stead among the clandestine clique who comprise the Five Magic Circles, for they are as star-struck as anyone, though these days a fair proportion of them are ex-Olympians themselves.

Which is why the yet-to-be-formed bid committee must have the likes of Redgrave, Sebastian Coe, Alan Pascoe and perhaps Trevor Brooking (who might have been an ideal 2006 bid leader) on board. But it is upon Reedie, Britain's most experienced and successful sports leader, that the bid outcome will ultimately depend. With the BOA's progressive chief executive, Simon Clegg, he will be responsible for deftly rather than heavy-handedly manoeuvring London into a winnable position.

Glaswegian Reedie may not swagger through the corridors of power, but he has more clout with the IOC than many think. He is a valued member of the team of progress-chasers now ensuring Athens gets it right next year, and he is on the commission for co-ordinating the 2008 Games in Beijing. He knows how to work the angles in that pernicious jungle of Olympic politics and, importantly, has the ear and friendship of the president, Jacques Rogge. He won't allow the bid to be run by the political punditry which could be its ruination. Whoever is appointed as the nominal bid leader will need Reedie at his or her shoulder.

Ideally, London's bid should be headed up by someone with the pizzazz and power of Athens' dynamic Gianna Angel-opoulos and the political muscle of Sydney's Olympics minister, Michael Knight. The personable former Washington ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer, who like his German wife, Caroline, is a multi-linguist, is the BOA's preferred choice. Barbara Cassani, who formerly ran no-frills airline Go, is also in the frame, alongside a host of business bigwigs including BT chief Sir Christopher Bland and Camelot's Michael Grade, who knows sportsbiz better than most.

As first revealed here, John Prescott is apparently Downing Street's nominee as the political heavyweight on the team, and one can only hope he watches where, and at whom, he throws his punches, verbal or otherwise. There are some sensitive noses on the IOC.

Getting the bid to this stage has been elephantine in its gestation period, and the task now is to ensure that it does not give birth to white elephants. As London's Olympic dream is now focused on a disused greyhound stadium at Hackney Wick, it seems an appropriate opportunity to teach an old dog-track new tricks.

Who's who among the London rivals

Despite what the London bookies say, Paris will be big favourites should Chirac throw his chapeau into the five rings on Wednesday. Last held the Games in 1924, before even London. For: Eighty per cent of facilities already in place, including Stade de France; successful World Cup hosts; Metro and Champs Elysées. Against: Not much – except land reserved for athletes' village has been sold off and and new site may be some distance away. Don't mention: Tony and Cherie amour.

New York
Might have been swept home on tide of 9/11 sentiment had the vote been taken before Iraq. For: Financial muscle of US TV networks; promotional expertise; profit potential; compact infrastructure; Manhattan. Against: Substantial Islamic vote on IOC; Salt Lake scandal; Atlanta's arrogance; worrying security risks; doping cover-ups. Don't mention: Weapons of mass destruction.

Only communist city ever to stage the Games – in 1980 – now sees 2012 as an opportunity for novel capitalist venture. Still to confirm but likely to before July deadline. For: Good sports traditions; existing facilities easily upgraded; a sports-fan president (Putin is a judo black belt); the Bolshoi. Against: Long-term concerns over political and economic stability; crime, corruption and terrorism. Don't mention: Russian Mafia, more powerful than the IOC's.

The rival which worries Ken Livingstone and the only western European capital never to have hosted the Games. As chic as Paris and not as expensive, Madrid could spring a Real surprise in Singapore 2005. For: Fond memories of Barcelona's 1992 showpiece; strong support from the IOC's many Latinos; the Prado. Against: Projected investment of only £530 million may prove insufficient; needs to stage more non-football events. Don't mention: Bullfighting and Basques.

Shock selection, doubtless because it represents German unification, which may appeal to the IOC's growing penchant for political correctness. For: Tried and trusted German efficiency with major events; potential for regeneration; Bach, Wagner, Katarina Witt. Against: Population of only 437,000 would make it the smallest- ever Olympic city, with less capacity than Manchester. Don't mention: Dr Ekhart Arbeit, steroids or Stasi.

The also-runners...

Havana produces great Olympians and this surprise bid could be Castro's final fling. Not much hope, though, even if the Olympic village was housed at Guantanamo Bay... Istanbul are perennial triers but never seem to get anywhere despite tremendous zeal and top-grade facilities. Rio or São Paulo, from whom Brazil will choose, need more than Pele's endorsement, while front-runners must keep an eye on Toronto, who came close last time and will bid if Vancouver do not get the 2010 Winter Games. Theirs could be the most attractive pitch of all. But don't mention Sars.