A day in the life of an Olympic bid inspector

They met Sir Steve Redgrave, visited Lords and watched Wembley stadium being built. It was a capital day's work for the men and women who will decide whether London is to stage the 2012 Games
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The Independent Online

11.30am: Stratford railway station

The day began early for the committee with a chilly 8am rendezvous at the Lower Lea Valley, the site of the proposed Olympic Park. The 13-strong contingency then split into three groups to take in numerous sites across the capital.First up was a test of the capital's public transport system. The London bid leaders took some of the inspectors four stops on the Underground from Stratford (site of the Olympic Park) to North Greenwich on the Jubilee Line, one of the newest stretches on the network. They were joined by Mayor Ken Livingstone, who uses the line to commute to work. Unlike most ordinary commuters though, who are crammed into packed carriages, the Olympic visitors had an entire train to themselves, save for a few police guards.

The train, plastered in London 2012 branding, left platform 13 at 11.57am and arrived without any glitches at its destination, North Greenwich, nine minutes later where inspectors were be greeted by a brass band.

Noon: The Dome

At North Greenwich they were treated to a visit to the Millennium Dome, in an attempt to prove that Tony Blair's pet project was not the white elephant it has regularly been labelled.

Beneath the gigantic roof, a couple of mechanical diggers performed a bizarre dance for the guests to illustrate how the venue is being transformed. The Greenwich peninsula's least-loved structure is being turned into a music venue by the Anschutz Entertainment Group. But if Lord Coe and his team have their way, it will be further rehabilitated by hosting the boxing and gymnastics competitions in 2012.

On the way back to the Olympic coach, Patrick Jarvis, the Canadian former paralympic skier who is one the visitors, stopped at a pre-arranged basketball match being played among a group of teenagers from the local borough.

Encouraged to join in, he scored a basket at his first attempt, to loud applause from onlookers.

12.45pm: Wembley stadium

Meanwhile, the second group of Olympic inspectors - accompanied by Lord Coe - was treated to a tour of Wembley.

Out of the remains of the old stadium, with its famous twin towers, the new national stadium is rising. What exists of the £757m venue - of which two-thirds has been built - was viewed yesterday by inspectors from the vantage point of the project's HQ, York House. After a presentation, the inspectors were taken to a viewing platform at the top of the building to take in the entire extent of the work.

The stadium has been dogged by delays, but if all goes well (it hasn't so far) the stadium will host next year's FA Cup final.Welcoming the VIPs yesterday was Sir Bobby Charlton, England's 1966 World Cup winner and dependable face of British football. He knows some quick moves but was astonished by the speed of the Olympians' forwards. "We had a lunch today that lasted five minutes - that's the pace they've set themselves," he said.

12.55pm: All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon

Craig Reedie, the chairman of the British Olympic Committee, took his third of the panel to London SW19 and the All England Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon. On arriving, they were greeted by a guard of honour of ball boys and girls in a scene reminiscent of finals' day in the championships.

This, possibly, was the easiest pitch of all - you might quibble about the price of strawberries but no one is going to doubt the quality of the tennis facilities, are they?

Yesterday, against an unsettlingly familiar backdrop of grey skies, the delegation made its way towards the legendary Centre Court before a presentation was given on the merits of the venue as an Olympic site. The Olympic flame has already visited Wimbledon - it began its London leg here for the Athens Olympics last year. But although disappointment is an annual event at Wimbledon for the British, yesterday just might have been an important step towards a London victory.

2.30pm: Greenwich Park

The Dome delegation continued by making their way to Greenich Park. Thousands of tourists visit the Royal Greenwich Observatory every year to ponder the significance of time - come 2012, there may be a different attraction.

The park is earmarked for equestrian events and yesterday the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, was on hand to ask the visitors to envisage the sight of dressage horses prancing outside the Maritime Museum. The ground sloping down from the observatory was said to be ideal for three-day eventing.

The only action yesterday, however, was provided by 100 or so junior schoolchildren who were brushing up on their football skills with the help of a conveniently located contingent from the local Premiership side, Charlton Athletic. The notion of equestrianism in the park may seem fanciful, but to the IOC the devil is in the detail. One inspector, intriguingly, wanted to know where the grooms would be housed.

2.40pm: Lord's cricket ground

Next stop Lord's cricket ground. MCC members may raise a few eyebrows, but if the London bid succeeds, the world-famous ground will be home not to cricket, but to another quintessential English sport - archery.

The IOC delegation stepped on to the outfield to watch an archery display by Maggie Woolf, of the Grand National Archery Association, followed by a coaching session. The South African IOC member, Sam Ramsamy, had a go himself - hitting the target on the second attempt, to the applause of colleagues.

The inspection team was taken to the showpiece media centre to view detailed plans of the Lord's competition. The archery will take place in front of the pavilion - an £8m makeover is planned which will restore some of the original Victorian features to the Grade II-listed building. The inspectors were told of the "portable pitch" system which will allow groundstaff to protect the wicket - by moving it to the Nursery End. Any traditionalists listening in would have been relieved.

3pm: Eton Dorney

After visiting Wimbledon, Sir Matthew Pinsent and the IOC inspectors went to the sports facilities at Eton Dorney, the proposed Olympic rowing venue near Windsor Castle. There seemed to be a lot of laughter but the subject of the mirth, which appears to have originated from a smiling Craig Reedie, chairman of the British Olympic Association, was not revealed. The quality of the rowing facilities is no joke, however. The Eton College Rowing Centre at Dorney Lake has undergone a 10-year development project and is due to stage the 2006 World Rowing Championships. The 2,200m course, funded and built by Eton College, offers a year-round competitive environment - unlike the less reliable river Thames. The proposed site is an established venue for rowing, canoeing, triathlon and dragon-boating. Sir Matthew, a four-times Olympic gold medallist and former Etonian, was the perfect companion for the inspectors, who then moved on to Hyde Park.

4.20pm: Horse Guards Parade

Horse Guards Parade will be the venue for an altogether unmilitaristic event if London's bid is successful: beach volleyball.

The delegation met Cherie Blair, local resident and bid ambassador, and were given a further presentation at the Wellington Office, from where the Queen views Trooping the Colour on her official birthday. From this spot, they were able to view the site where beach volleyball competitions would be held.

And so the tour came to an end. The inspectors later returned to their Canary Wharf hotel for dinner. Under the rules, delegates can only be entertained at one official function, and that will be hosted by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace tonight.

Meanwhile, Mr Blair issued a statement making the case for London: "I don't believe any has a stronger case to be seen as a true world city in terms of the many nations represented, or the diversity and vibrancy of cultures here." He will get the chance to say it all again today.