Down and almost out: then London worked its magic

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Seconds later, and in front of an estimated global television audience of one billion, Lord Coe leapt to his feet and hugged his colleagues, the exhaustion of a two-year campaign lost in the adrenaline of the moment.

As jubilation engulfed the London bid team, its chairman - a double Olympic champion - summed up his feelings in four short words. "This is our moment," said Lord Coe.

The unlikely alliance of British sports stars, politicians and members of the Royal Family embraced as the enormous significance of the bid team's achievement began to sink in.

"Happiness is a moment like this," said Sir Bobby Charlton. "I thought we had the best bid and that everything was in place but you still wonder.

"When the last name came out it blew my mind. I had never had a moment like it."

Colin Jackson, the hurdler, hugged the champion triple-jumper Jonathan Edwards, then Denise Lewis, the 2000 Olympic heptathlon champion, before turning around and embracing David Beckham. "I know I hugged other people but I can't remember who," said Jackson.

Just a few feet away the Paris team, their dark uniforms in contrast to the summery beige of London, simply stared ahead at the stage, wondering how the race which they apparently led from the front had been lost.

Henri Sérandour, the president of the French National Olympic Committee, could not suppress his disappointment. "It will be a while before we become a candidate again," he said.

More than 6,000 miles away, Tony Blair, clearly distracted from his duties as host of the G8 Summit, had been watching the drama in Singapore unfold on television in his Gleneagles hotel. Nerves had begun to get the better of the Prime Minister who decided to go for a stroll in the hotel grounds with his chief of staff, Jonathan Powell. At 12.47pm - 7.47pm in Singapore - his mobile phone rang. Mr Powell handed it to Mr Blair, saying: "I think this will be the news we didn't want to hear."

But the switchboard operator told Mr Blair: "We've won!" The Prime Minister ran back to the hotel and in the lobby was hugged by his staff. "We all ran down and greeted the Prime Minister," said a senior official. "It was a very special moment. He was reasonably calm but I haven't seen a smile as wide as that for a long time. There were quite a few hugs. This was genuinely a big moment for everyone concerned. It was a very tense hour for all of us."

Mr Blair declined to gloat about London's triumph, though there was a sense of smugness surrounding his praise towards Paris's "very strong bid". He said he did not expect the decision to affect his relationship with the French President who he said had offered useful support on climate change and aid for Africa.

Meanwhile, Parisians started blaming Jacques Chirac's unguarded comments about not trusting a nation that cooks as badly as the British, which are unlikely to have overly impressed the judges.

The bitter blow will have been made more painful because of rival Mr Blair's detached stance over the affair, and his refusal to comment on such undiplomatic comments. M. Chirac needed a victory to lift his political fortunes after the French "No" vote on the European constitution left him sorely wounded.

"I am of course, like all French people, disappointed by this decision," he told reporters on arrival in Scotland, where he said he would have the chance to pass on "warm and personal congratulations" to Mr Blair and Queen Elizabeth.

As the triumphant London team headed last night for the Indochine restaurant on Singapore's waterfront with their new best friend, Jacques Rogge, those original architects of the bid were starting to reflect on a remarkable turnaround in fortunes. A two-year campaign consistently dogged by domestic doubters and repeated setbacks culminated in securing the right to stage the greatest show on earth.

The London campaign, the phoenix that has risen out of the ashes of failed bids from Birmingham and Manchester, was conceived in October 1996 over a glass of wine by Richard Sumray, who was vice-chairman of the London Council of Sport and Recreation at the time and is now chairman of the London 2012 Forum that supported the bid, and Craig Reedie, the British Olympic Association's chairman.

Four years later they formally approached the Government and things began moving when Ken Livingstone, London's Mayor - not an instinctive sports fan - backed the idea on condition that it was used to regenerate the Lower Lea Valley, a deprived area near Stratford, east London. A Government-commissioned cost analysis by Arup, the architects, concluded that a London Games could reap an £82m profit but the final spur to Whitehall backing came with the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester. Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and Richard Caborn, the Sports minister, began to force the pace, but the start of the Iraq war forced Mr Blair to delay.

In mid-May, the Government agreed to the bid backed by £20m of public money, but the prevarication combined with disillusion over large projects such as the Dome, Wembley and Pickett's Lock - not to forget the bungled bid for the 2006 football World Cup - had already sown a deep-rooted cynicism. Not only were the public unenthusiastic but candidates of the calibre needed to run the show were not keen to get involved. These included Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British ambassador to the US, and numerous captains of industry, while Sebastian Coe was not considered to have the required skills. Into the void stepped Barbara Cassani, the American founder of Go!, British Airways' budget airline, and the preferred choice of Mr Livingstone.

She was unveiled to the media at City Hall but the signs for her tenure were not good as the occasion was marred by a group of schoolchildren protesting at playground closures.

She suffered because, despite declaring from day one "I am a Londoner" - her nationality was an issue among IOC members wondering why a Briton could not found to be international salesperson. She also suffered from an uneasiness in IOC circles where late nights in bars and hotel lobbies were not the forte of the fitness-conscious business graduate from Boston. But when the gongs are handed out to the bid team, it would be harsh if Ms Cassani is excluded.

From a office at the top of a Canary Wharf tower block, she hired some of the key players that took London past the line, using her contacts in the airline industry to lure a marketing director from easyJet and hire Keith Mills, the inventor of Air Miles, who held the bid together in the early stages.

But by early in 2004 rumours were circulating that Ms Cassani, concerned that her brand name in the City may be damaged by overstaying in the bid, was about to go. The London bid suffered a low point in Lausanne, Switzerland, in May last year when, despite making the cut to become one of the five candidate cities, it was ranked third behind Paris and Madrid. The IOC said that London's rail system was "often obsolete" and it criticised unrealistic travel times to venues and a low level of public support.

Bid strategists identified the IOC's cut of nine cities to five in Lausanne as the ideal opportunity for a handover. As journalists flew back to London they were told to attend a press conference at offices near Trafalgar Square but were unaware until the last minute that Lord Coe, the former vice-chairman, would be taking up the baton.

It proved to be the turning point. Although doubts lingered about Lord Coe's political ability, having lost his seat as Conservative MP for Falmouth in the 1997 Labour landslide and having acted in an unheralded role as adviser to former Tory leader William Hague, his gravitas in IOC circles as a double gold medallist was beyond doubt.

Around the same time London snapped up Jim Sloman, the chief architect of Sydney 2000, after Rio de Janeiro, was eliminated from the 2012 race. It was the Sloman, a world leader in the nuts and bolts of organising a Games, who created London's 600-page blueprint, or "bid book", which, if not properly researched and written, leaves any campaign dead in the water.

With the technical side in safe hands, Lord Coe and Mr Mills could set to work as a formidable double act, criss-crossing the globe to attend IOC meetings in Doha, Melbourne, Accra and Berlin to sell the bid. Their advisers had worked out that to upset the frontrunner, Paris, which was presenting itself as a safe pair of hands with an Olympic plan founded on existing facilities, they would have to make a virtue out of their chutzpah.

This appeared to have erred on the side of pushiness at an IOC summit in Berlin when they were forced to withdraw part of an incentive package to athletes, with a warning from Mr Rogge ringing in their ears that he did not want to see a "bidding war".

Even so, the London bid team had worked out that not all of the IOC members saw eye-to-eye with Mr Rogge - rumoured to be a Paris supporter. Indeed at their presentation to the general assembly before last night's vote some of their plans had the look of audacity, such as a proposal to ship temporary venues post-Games to developing countries.

The London bid also sought to promote the capital's multiracial make-up as a major selling point. Presentations, such as the one that secured the 2012 Olympics at yesterday's event, frequently stressed the city's diversity, highlighting the 200 languages spoken by its residents. Arriving in Singapore as the first bid team, the London representatives shut themselves away for days of rehearsals on the island of Sentosa. By this time it was clear that the momentum was with them - and that was before Tony Blair arrived.

The Prime Minister had glad-handed his way around the Athens Olympics and - with his wife - he was here to renew acquaintances. The lobbies of the Raffles Plaza buzzed with tales from gleeful IOC members, about their one-to-one meetings with the Blairs. "I have been saying for weeks and months that Blair could be a crucial factor," said Pat Hickey, the Irish IOC member who voted for London, not least because of the dividend Ireland will get.

But the truth about the behind-the-scenes lobbying and deal-making may only emerge in weeks to come. London and Madrid were open about their friendship but what both sides deny is that they had a tacit agreement to swap votes should either city find itself going head-to-head with Paris. The theory has gained credibility because Juan Antonio Samaranch Snr, the former IOC president, was at one time grooming Lord Coe as his successor. Juan Antonio Samaranch Jnr, the leader of the Madrid bid who shared a late-night drink with Lord Coe earlier in the week, may now count on London's support should he stand for the IOC presidency in two years. "I would not say that there is a special relationship between Madrid and London but I respect Sebastian Coe and I admire him" Mr Samaranch Snr said last night.

The night before the vote, informed opinion suggested that London and Paris had pulled clear of the rest. The first three rounds of voting provided few surprises, with Moscow, New York and then Madrid being eliminated. London had gained 39 votes as leader in the penultimate round and crossed the line with 54 votes, compared with 50 for Paris. As IOC members filed out of the ballroom, it became clear they had been impressed with Lord Coe, especially in his role as anchor of the 45-minute presentation.

Lord Coe said: "It's a decision about which city will help us show a new generation their sport matters, that in a world of many distractions that Olympic sport matters, in the 21st century why the Olympic ideal matters so much."

As the London bid team began celebrating, the French were left licking their wounds. The Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, said: "It is an immense disappointment that I cannot explain. Yesterday, when I was going up to my room to sleep, there were people coming down the stairs who had been at meetings with Tony Blair and Sebastian Coe.

"I didn't think that was what it was about, myself. I thought you needed the right bid dossier, the right spirit, and I think an immense majority of the IOC thought that about Paris. It is fair play that made us lose."

Such bitterness will have little impact on the London team. Asked whether the team felt sympathy for President Jacques Chirac, a Downing Street official managed to retain a semblance of diplomacy. "You feel sympathy but it's not the first thought you have," he replied.

Tony Blair, Prime Minister: It's not often in this job you punch the air and do a jig

Tony Blair used his renowned personal charm to try to win over around 50 Olympic delegates before yesterday's crucial vote.

The Prime Minister's brand of one-to-one sofa diplomacy is admired even by his political enemies, and was used in a string of 20-minute meetings with IOC delegates.

Yesterday he said he still planned to step down as Prime Minister before 2010 despite the British Olympic victory which will seal his legacy. Asked whether he still intended to stand down, Mr Blair said there would be "no change of plans".

The Prime Minister said he was so thrilled by the result from Singapore that he spontaneously hugged Jonathan Powell, his chief of staff.

"It's not often in this job that you punch the air and do a little jig and embrace the person next to you," said Mr Blair. "It's a fantastic thing and I am absolutely thrilled."

Mr Blair has repeatedly beaten home the message of his personal backing for London's Olympic bid and the Government's support over the past two years, helping overcome Britain's reputation for major sporting bungles such as the Wembley saga and the Pickett's Lock stadium fiasco.

He reinforced the symbolic message by devoting two days from his crucial G8 summit week to the last-minute diplomatic push in Singapore.

Mr Blair's wife Cherie has also taken a leading role in the bid, working as an ambassador for London alongside figures such as Sir Elton John and Sir Mick Jagger.

Mrs Blair has won plaudits from inside the bid team for her work, and joined the Singapore charm offensive, lobbying IOC members alongside her husband in the final hours before the vote.

Mr Blair was criticised for delaying the Government's support for the bid before the Cabinet gave its approval to the capital's Olympic ambitions in 2003. But he swung squarely behind the bid, insisting that the Government would back it "to the hilt".

There was a spring in the Prime Minister's step as he prepared to host the G8 summit last night at Gleneagles. He will have to chair daunting discussions on climate change and relieving African poverty and there will be the tricky question of commiserating French President Jacques Chirac, who will feel bruised by Paris's Olympic defeat.

Although winning the Olympic bid pales into insignificance besides the issues on the Gleneagles table, Mr Blair can allow himself some quiet satisfaction over one of the most striking coups of his premiership.

Ben Russell and Colin Brown

Sebastian Coe, chairman, London 2012 bid: A bid by athletes for athletes

Asked how bringing the Games to London compared to his feats on the running track, Lord Coe said it was "on an entirely different planet".

Having taken over at the helm of the bid last May, he decided that the needs of the athletes were not being addressed and appointed Sir Steve Redgrave to a commission to create a bid that was "by athletes for athletes".

Scepticism about his ability to cut it at the peak of sports politics was fuelled by a CV which included a single term as Tory MP for Falmouth and adviser to William Hague, with whom he famously engaged in judo.

Lord Coe was vice-chairman of the bid when he was appointed to the top job and made it clear he was to be no fall guy for a bid that was faltering. As a millionaire with a lucrative endorsement deal from Nike and a chain of health clubs to his name, he says he did not need the job for its six-figure salary. Instead, many saw the job as his calling ever since he retired from athletics with a double Olympic 1,500 metres gold.

Before yesterday's triumph he was being talked about as the next leader of the International Association of Athletics Federations. Instead he has pledged to run the organising committee of the London Games for the next seven years.

"It was typical Seb, he came from behind and took them on the bend." said Neale Coleman, London 2012 board member.

Matthew Beard

Keith Mills, London bid: My job is to make it all happen

Perhaps the warmest tribute Lord Coe paid to his team while addressing the IOC assembly was aimed at Keith Mills, the campaign's chief executive.

The millionaire businessman and founder of the Air Miles, and Nectar loyalty schemes, has travelled the globe with Lord Coe, clutching a briefcase containing the profiles and likely voting intentions of the IOC. It was with this knowledge that he marshalled the lobbyists in Singapore.

Mr Mills, 53, an enthusiastic yacht racer who had never been to an Olympic Games prior to his appointment, settled quickly into the IOC lobbying scene and has pledged to continue working alongside Lord Coe for the next seven years. He describes his task in simple terms: "It's my job to make it happen."

He left school aged 15 to wrap printing blocks on Fleet Street, before joining the marketing department of The Economist. Having found his niche he progressed to ad-land where he flourished, eventually buying out the UK office of the US agency Nadler and Larimer before founding Mills Smith and Partners in 1985. Three years later he devised Air Miles, selling his 49 per cent share to British Airways in 1994. Nectar followed, establishing him as one of British marketing's keenest brains.

That London had a chance of success says much for the way that Mr Mills has turned around the bid. An outsider for the post - he was not on the list of favoured businessmen generated by the Government - he owes his position to the support of Barbara Cassani, the bid's first chair.

Matthew Beard

Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London: A great opportunity

Ken Livingstone might have hated sport at school, but that did not stop the Mayor of London from devoting his energy to achieving London's Olympic dream. London's success will leave behind a monument to his two terms as mayor, previously best known for the introduction of the congestion charge.

Mr Livingstone forged an unlikely alliance to secure a deal to fund the Olympics using £1.2bn from the London Development Agency and a surcharge on council tax payers and business rate payers. He was instrumental in securing the funding package alongside the Lottery operator, Camelot, which won over the Chancellor Gordon Brown by ensuring that the exchequer would not foot the bill for the Games.Mr Livingstone insisted the 38p-a-week charge was value for money. "You couldn't buy a walnut whip with 38p," he said.

Mr Livingstone has stressed the regeneration of east London and improvements to the capital's transport system. He threw his weight behind the idea of a bid as early as 2002, insisting that "this opportunity will not come around again during the lifetime of anyone around here".

Ben Russell

David Beckham: I want to have the Olympics on my manor

The presence of David Beckham - the east London boy who became a global brand - in Singapore in the final days before the vote was among the crucial factors in bringing the victory home.

Although there has been some criticism of his current form for both England and Real Madrid, he remains a massively popular figure in many parts the world. This is particularly true in Asia, where his former team Manchester United have a huge following and where the England captain's public profile remains high through his various sponsorship deals.

His name and image will have been instantly recognisable to IOC members who might have struggled to place, say, Tessa Jowell. And his impact in support of London will have been far more significant than that of his much more low-profile Real Madrid colleague, Zinedine Zidane, who was backing Paris.

Beckham first learnt to play football on Hackney Marshes, close to where the Olympic complex will be built. When Beckham said he wanted to see the Olympics on "my manor", he was clearly speaking from the heart.

And while the London bid team were concerned that the arrival of Beckham and his wife Victoria might have annoyed IOC officials anxious not to turn Singapore into a celebrity circus, they will have certainly felt any damage to be outweighed by the benefit of his presence, particularly as it came only a couple of days after he appeared on stage at Live8 in front of millions of people watching on television.

Terry Kirby

Small screen view, by Thomas Sutcliffe

You need huge powers of endurance for the last lap of any Olympic event, and the live coverage of the decision on the 2012 Olympics was no exception - a marathon of protocol and ceremonial pomp. When it finally came to the crucial announcement Jacques Rogge declined to introduce the cliff-hanging hiatus that has now become obligatory. There was not a beat between the phrase "the games of the 30th Olympiad in 2012 are awarded to the city of..." and the word "London". But then he hardly needed to spin it out any further. Even when it was down to just Paris and London the IOC had further torments in store. They had to endure a Eurovision-style multi-lingual introduction, complete with the traditional Flattering of the Speakerene, pictured left: "Before we carry on tonight Vivien I'd just like to say that you look exceptionally stunning in that dress". Most channels went for a multi-screen composition - a live-feed from Singapore on one side, and from Trafalgar Square and the Hotel de Ville on the other. In London the cameras homed in on Kelly Holmes, wringing her hands furiously. Over in Stratford, snaggle-toothed old ladies were already practising their cor-lov-a-duck EastEnders act and CGI animations showed us how the Good Olympic Fairy would wave its wand to transform apocalyptic blight into a sylvan paradise of fully-specced sporting facilities. President Chirac may not like British food, but he will have discovered that when we find something to our taste we can't half make a meal of it.

The Story of the Bid


* 15 May: The Government, the British Olympic Association and Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, announce that London is to bid.

* 18 June: Barbara Cassani, an American businesswoman, is appointed bid chairman.


* 16 January: Campaign is officially launched. Tony Blair promises "100 per cent support" and jokes that pitching beach volleyball in Horseguards Parade outside the prime minister's window would ensure any prime minister is "truly involved".

* 18 May: London makes the final shortlist along with Paris, New York, Madrid and Moscow, but there is criticism of London's "obsolete" transport system. Rio de Janeiro is the shock loser, missing out along with Havana, Leipzig and Istanbul.

* 19 May: Ms Cassani steps down as bid chairman and is replaced by double Olympic champion Lord Coe.

* 26 June: The Olympic torch relay (including Tim Henman) crosses London as thousands line the streets ending with five-time rowing champion Sir Steve Redgrave lighting a cauldron before 70,000 people.

* 6 July: Jane Willacy, the London bid's campaign project manager, leaves in protest at the downscaling of Ms Cassani's role. She attacks the bid's management complaining there is "no apparent decision-making process, and no leadership".

* 6 July: Lord Coe defends the campaign's leadership, insisting that the team is in "good shape."

* 16 July: Former Millennium Dome boss P Y Gerbeau resigns as a London 2012 ambassador in response to what he describes as the "shocking" treatment of Ms Cassani, now working one day a week as a vice-chairman.

* 4 August: A Panorama programme, "Buying the Games", screened just before the Athens Olympics, claims to show evidence of corruption. IOC members are upset that a spotlight is being shone on a problem they felt they had solved.

* 18 October: Britain's Olympic heroes, including Dame Kelly Holmes, are saluted with a victory parade through London. Fewer people turn out than for the 2003 rugby World Cup parade but organisers are happy.


* 12 January: The Queen makes a gaffe and is reported as saying at a Buckingham Palace reception that Paris will win because there is "a serious lack of support among Londoners".

* 11 February: London Mayor Ken Livingstone becomes embroiled in a row, refusing to apologise after likening a Jewish reporter to a Nazi war criminal. There are embarrassing questions about it throughout a crucial four-day visit by IOC inspectors.

* 18 February: The Queen breaks with protocol to wave farewell to the IOC inspectors from the Buckingham Palace balcony after a royal banquet.

* 6 April: Nelson Mandela - who of course enjoys unrivalled standing and recognition worldwide - backs the London 2012 campaign. His endorsement is probably a reward for Britain's support for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

* 17 April: The London Marathon, one of the last large-scale homeland sporting events before the IOC's final decision, is a success complete with bright sunshine and a record-breaking win by Paula Radcliffe.

* 18 April: London 2012 announces a £15m incentives package to athletes, sporting federations and national Olympic committees.

* 20 April: Olympic president Jacques Rogge warns the candidate cities not to become involved in a "bidding war".

* 23 April: London 2012 makes a U-turn and withdraws its incentives package in the face of possible censure by the IOC's ethics commission.

* 27 May: The bid is boosted with the announcement that London is to stage the 2009 World Gymnastics Championships at the Millennium Dome.

* 6 June: IOC's evaluation report, based on visits to all five cities in February and March, indicates that Paris and London are the frontrunners.

* 4 July: French President Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair arrive in Singapore, where the final announcement is to be made, and walk into a diplomatic spat over remarks M. Chirac, right, reportedly makes about British food.

* 5 July: England football captain David Beckham joins a host of British sporting stars in Singapore.

* 6 July: Moscow, then New York and Madrid are voted out of the contest. Jacques Rogge announces that London has beaten Paris to host the 2012 Olympics.