Coe's team present case for the capital as long Olympic race enters its final lap

It has been described as the equivalent of a state visit and the most important chapter in Britain's relations with the Olympic movement for a lifetime.

It has been described as the equivalent of a state visit and the most important chapter in Britain's relations with the Olympic movement for a lifetime.

At nine o'clock this morning a team of inspectors from the International Olympic Committee will take their places in a conference room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Canary Wharf to begin the painstaking process of assessing London's bid to stage the 2012 Olympic Games.

The Evaluation Commission has to pick apart the 600-page blueprint submitted three months ago and cut through the marketing hype that has seen London lit up like a Christmas tree.

The 100-strong London bid team have been preparing for the visit since sending off their "candidate file" and in the past few weeks they have completed two mock inspections led by Craig Reedie, the chairman of the British Olympic Association, who was among the inspectors for the 2008 Games won by Beijing. Since being criticised in an IOC report last May for "often obsolete" transport the bid team have recruited Jim Sloman, organiser-in-chief of the Sydney Games, to fine-tune their technical bid and are in confident mood.

All that effort has gone into impressing a team of 13 inspectors who have recently visited Madrid and will travel to New York, Paris and finally Moscow in mid March.

Although the IOC has among its 125 members some of the biggest names in their sports, the evaluation commission is packed instead with experts in law, the environment and transport. The only "names" from sport are the commission's leader Nawal el Moutawakel, the Moroccan former Olympic hurdles champion, and the Namibian sprinter Frankie Fredericks, who replaced Matthew Pinsent as the athletes' representative on the IOC. Alongside them Phillippe Bovy, a professor of transport, and his fellow Swiss Gilbert Felli, the IOC's chief technocrat, are every bit as important.

Their inspection begins this morning with the most arduous and least glamorous part of the four-day visit - a series of presentations lasting nine hours. Concerned that the commissioners' powers of endurance may fail, bid leaders have recruited guest presenters. On the opening themes of concept, legacy, sport and the Paralympics, Sir Steve Redgrave, Dame Kelly Holmes, Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson and Jonathan Edwards will each make their pitch. Elsewhere in the schedule speakers lined up to stress high-level support include the culture secretary Tessa Jowell, on the subject of political support, Sir Martin Sorrell (marketing), Britain's most senior police officer Sir Ian Blair (crime), and the chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson.

So packed is the schedule that the opportunity to view all the existing or proposed venues in central London has been squeezed into one frantic day.

On Thursday the bid leader, Sebastian Coe, and London 2012's chief executive, Keith Mills, will lead the inspectors with their fingers crossed that the weather and transport co-operate, while anti-Olympic protesters based around the proposed Olympic hub near Stratford and Fathers4Justice opportunists stay away.

On their rounds, Lord Coe will offer the IOC evidence to back his claim that like no other bidding city London has the right mix of famous venues and new structures, delivering the lasting benefits that the IOC cherishes.

Yesterday it was confirmed that a £22m cycling complex including a velodrome will be built in the Lower Lea Valley regardless of the result of the bid. Work on an aquatic centre within the proposed park, comprising two 50-metre pools has already begun as bid leaders attempt to put an end to negative claims about the capital's sports infrastructure.

The commissioners will be given a bird's eye view from the top of a high-rise pensioners' home of the proposed 500-acre Olympic Park of nine new venues, including an 80,000-capacity main stadium. They will then don hard hats for a journey by Land Rover through the unfinished stretch of the channel tunnel link between Stratford and Kings Cross. It is along this route that the proposed Olympic Javelin train, billed as the panacea to spectator transport problems - will reach the Games site in seven minutes.

In the afternoon the IOC party will split into three and travel by mini-coach, its way smoothed by specially adjusted traffic lights, to cover the other venues. (There is the option of visiting those further afield on Saturday). Little will be left to the imagination. At Lord's the famous pavilion will provide the backdrop to an archery competition and at the vast ExCeL centre in the Docklands some of Britain's finest in the martial arts will do battle for the benefit of the IOC commissioners.

Although they may be involved in Games minutiae, the commissioners are like any other visitors to the capital in that they want to have some fun. In the one permitted social function, they will have dinner with the Queen on Friday night. Earlier in the day, at Downing Street, the Prime Minister will assure them that Government support for the project is beyond doubt.

Tessa Jowell said: "It's going to be a tough week and our proposals will be subject to great scrutiny. But I am confident we are going to be able to put on a good show and most of all to leave them in not a shadow of doubt about how much we want to do this."

In their spare moments the commissioners will start work on the 20-page report on each city to be published a month before the final vote on 6 July. The report, which will not rank the cities, will form the basis of a presentation to the 117 voting members just before the Singapore ballot.

Under the new anti-corruption rules which prevent day-to-day contact with IOC members, the evaluation is said to be more important than ever. That remains to be seen but most IOC members agree on one thing - that a good report cannot win a bid, but a bad one can certainly sink one.



The 13 commissioners, led by Nawal el Moutawakel, who won the women's 400m hurdles in Los Angeles in 1984, face nine hours of presentations, each about an hour long and interrupted only by a private lunch, in their hotel at Canary Wharf. By the end of the week these presentations will have covered 17 themes.


In the morning the commission will be taken on the first part of the tour of the so-called "River Zone" of venues. These include the Dome, Greenwich Park and the ExCeL centre. Commissioners then split into three groups to view sites including Wembley (football), Lord's (archery), Horseguards Parade, Wimbledon (tennis) and Eton Dorney (rowing). The IOC will be able to see athletes in action at most venues.


More presentations followed by lunch at Downing Street with the Prime Minister, Tessa Jowell, Ken Livingstone and leaders of the opposition. Dinner with the Queen at Buckingham Palace follows.


Optional venue tours to see proposed sites for Canoe Slalom in Broxbourne, Herts, mountain biking in Weald Country Park, Essex and sailing in Weymouth. In the afternoon the commission gives its only press conference.


Commission departs in the afternoon for inspection of New York, beginning on Monday.

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