London Bid recruits BBC team to limit damage of exposé

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The Independent Online

The high command of the BBC has been recruited to attend the vote for the 2012 Olympic Games in an attempt to repair damage to relations with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) by a Panorama exposé.

The high command of the BBC has been recruited to attend the vote for the 2012 Olympic Games in an attempt to repair damage to relations with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) by a Panorama exposé.

The Independent understands that an executive-level BBC delegation is expected to be led by chairman Michael Grade, who will seek to convince voting members that the corporation is not against the Olympic movement.

Bid leaders hope his presence before the vote in Singapore on 6 July will limit the damage done to London's chances of winning by the programme " Buying the Games".

In the programme, filmed without the knowledge of the London bid team, undercover Panorama reporters gained assurances from so-called Olympic agents that votes could be brought. Broadcast on the eve of the Athens Olympics, it resulted in the suspension of Bulgarian IOC member Ivan Slavkov.

At the height of the fallout Craig Reedie, the chairman of the British Olympic Association, accused the BBC of undermining the bid by causing "irritation" at the IOC. In a letter to the BBC director general, Mark Thompson, he said he could not understand why a "highly-respected" broadcaster which has invested in the Games would make a programme exposing "previous faults".

The BBC invests heavily in its Olympic coverage and would stand to make tens of millions of pounds as the host broadcasters of a London Games in 2012. Bid leaders are concerned that their sales pitch will be undermined as members will vote at the end of the meeting on the expulsion of Mr Slavkov, a scenario that is expected to be filmed by Panorama.

"Grade is the man for the job because of his reputation and he is known to be a supporter of the bid" said a BBC source. "He won't be apologising for the Panorama programme but reassuring members that the BBC has no vendetta against the Olympic movement."

Under IOC rules each of the five bidding cities is limited to a party of no more than 100 in Singapore. Tony Blair is likely to appear a day or two before the vote, but will have to fly back to host the G8 summit in Scotland on 6 July.

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