Britain's medal heroes come out of the blocks for London's effort

For such Olympic heroes as Dame Kelly Holmes, Sir Steve Redgrave and Amir Khan, the scenario must have seemed familiar as they took their places in front of a hungry media.

For such Olympic heroes as Dame Kelly Holmes, Sir Steve Redgrave and Amir Khan, the scenario must have seemed familiar as they took their places in front of a hungry media.

But on this occasion the questions were not about race tactics, injuries or knock-out punches but concerned the rather more prosaic proceedings in a hotel conference room where the evaluation of London's bid to stage the Olympic Games in 2012 got under way yesterday morning.

This was no time to be divulging too much about how the inspection team from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had reacted to their presentations, for fear of handing rival cities an advantage. Instead, the assembled athletes told of their emotional commitment to staging the best Games ever. "During the presentation the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up and I was thinking that I wish I was 20 or 30 years younger and would be able to compete in a London Olympics," said Sir Steve Redgrave, who as bid ambassador observed the opening exchanges on the subject of Britain's sporting traditions and its venue proposals. "I think we got the message across very strongly."

In his enthusiasm he may have contravened IOC rules that ban negative comments about other bid cities when asked about the priority London gave the Paralympics - saying the event was an integral part of the presentation, unlike Madrid, which demoted that part of its programme at the IOC inspection.

The first working day of the evaluation commission had not begun well as the furore surrounding London's Mayor, Ken Livingstone, proved increasingly problematic. But they opened with their trump card, a bold statement from Lord Coe, the bid leader, on how the "golden games" would play to packed houses and be the best ever.

"I've seen many wonderful Games, seen them and taken part in them, but I am an athlete and I don't run to come second" said Lord Coe, typically incorporating his own success story in the bid pitch. "London's ambition is not just to be a good Olympic Games, it is to be the best."

The serious business of assessing a Games blueprint is a world away from the excitement and glamour of the event itself. In the sober surroundings of a ballroom-sized hotel room in Canary Wharf, the 13 IOC commissioners sat behind desks in a semi-circle opposite the bid representatives, while to one side a team of technical experts was on hand for supplementary questions.

A lunch for the IOC delegates attended by bid leaders, sporting ambassadors and the Princess Royal provided an opportunity for a softer sell.

Among the themes covered in a gruelling day of presentations were London's proposals for transport, environment and the inaugural topic of "concept and legacy" presented by Tessa Jowell, the Culture Minister, and Mr Livingstone.

The pair may be at odds over Mr Livingstone's remarks to an Evening Standard reporter but their presentation, as well as that given on sport, ended with the verdict "absolutely fantastic" from the IOC.

Much of the content of the 17 presentations that will be made during the visit are based on the 600-page "bid book" submitted late last year to the IOC. Improvements have been made and it is these that are emphasised during the pitches.

How well such innovations, including the proposal to build four collapsible venues and move them to the provinces after the Games, have gone down with the inspectors is difficult to say at this stage as the meetings were held behind closed doors.

London 2012, not wanting to hand an advantage to its arch-rival Paris which awaits the inspectors, has declined to discuss the points on which the plans were scrutinised.

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