Nawal's even hands hold the key

London has four days to impress Morocco's former champion

London need have no fear that Britain's involvement in the Iraq war will prejudice the Muslim woman who heads the International Olympic Committee's inspection team when they visit the capital next week to assess its capabilities for hosting the 2012 Games.

Although she is now forbidden to comment as chair of the Evaluation Commission, Nawal El Moutawakel, a 43-year-old mother of two from Casablanca, has previously made it clear that she does not believe the IOC will be influenced by events in Iraq.

Two years ago, she told me: "I have heard there could be this Islamic vote against London because of the Iraq war, but I will be surprised of such a feeling does exist among IOC members. I am certain that whoever gets the 2012 Games will be decided on sporting issues, not politics, in the true spirit of Olympism."

This was before Nawal knew she would be in charge of the 12-person jury now sitting in judgement on London and its four rivals. But one doubts that her views have changed. She also said at the time: "Personally I welcome London back in the Olympic race. Britain is a nation of great athletes and sporting traditions. If the bid is the best, it will win. I say, 'Good luck to London'."

Nawal, the first woman to head an Evaluation Commission, is best remembered as the young girl who, in 1984, became the first North African woman, and first female Muslim, to win an Olympic gold medal - in the 400m hurdles in Los Angeles. Since then she has continued leaping barriers as the only Muslim woman on the IOC. She speaks four languages and is the chief executive of a banking organisation in Morocco.

Interestingly, Nawal is by no means the only Anglophile on the commission, who are currently in Madrid on the first leg of their five-city break. The Namibian athlete Frankie Fredericks is a good friend of both London's bid leader, Sebastian Coe, and vice-chairman, Alan Pascoe, while South Africa's Sam Ramsamy was exiled in London while he fought apartheid and ran Sanroc (the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee).

The commission also include two Australians, two Canadians, an Argentinian, a Swiss, an Algerian, a Singaporean and a Dutchwoman. They will find London's team in defiantly upbeat mood. While the popular notion seems to be that London has about as much chance of pipping Paris as Manchester United have of overhauling Chelsea in the Premiership, Coe, even as a true-Blues brother, strongly demurs. Paris, he insists, is catchable, although he acknowledges that it could go to the wire, with the political nuances of the voting in Singapore on 6 July even swinging in the direction of Madrid, or possibly even New York. Moscow, at this stage, seems out of the equation.

If London's bid is falling down, as one newspaper speculated last week, there is no evidence of this among those preparing meticulously to receive the Evaluation Commission. Coe dismisses it as "total bollocks - a mischievous piece of journalistic imagination.

"I am in regular touch with all our board members, and not a single one has expressed a shred of doubt that we are in with a great fighting chance."

As we reported last week, Coe himself acknowledges that Paris is in front, and have been from the off, but believes the favourite is beginning to feel the heat, which London will certainly turn up when the commission drop by for their four-day inspection. Key London 2012 ambassadors such as Kelly Holmes, Jonathan Edwards and Tanni Grey-Thompson will be on hand to press the flesh, as will IOC member Princess Anne. One hopes in her case the handing will be uncharacteristically glad.

Nothing has been left to chance. Last week saw a rehearsal, and next week there will be what amounts to a full dress-rehearsal before the real drama begins on Wednesday week. Details of the itinerary are a secret, not only because of security measures to foil any anti-Games demos, but because the IOC demand it that way.

What we do know is that the inspection party will spend most of the time at pres-entations, examining 17 aspects of the bid listed in London's outstanding Candidature File, which is thought to be the best of those submitted to the IOC. They will visit proposed Olympic venues, including (one hopes not ominously) the Dome, freshly draped in London 2012 banners; drive through the new Channel tunnel rail-link with east London; have a working meeting with the Prime Minister and Cabinet members at Downing Street; and dine with the Queen at Buckingham Palace on the one permitted social occasion.

One wonders whether commission members will take the opportunity to quiz HM about her reported view that Paris is the best bet for 2012. Could be a fascinating discussion, but recording devices are banned.

Apart from this soirée, there can be no other wining or dining. And certainly no proffering of gifts. Coe himself was on the commission which reformed IOC visits after the freeloading which tainted Salt Lake City. Last week the British Olympic Association chairman, Craig Reedie, led a dry run by a specially selected shadow squad which Coe described as "choreographed to the last detail".

Reedie said: "It went extremely well and gave us the opportunity to nail a few wrinkles. We replicated the real visit as far as we could, and everywhere we went we found people rooting for the bid, and sayingit is a bloody good one. We hope and believe the commission will get the same impression."

With the formidable Nawal directing the jury, London at least can be assured a fair trial.

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
newsChester Zoo have revealed their newest members
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
News
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape