Olympic bid: The final countdown

With the decision due today, the five cities bidding to host the 2012 Olympics were determined to do everything they could on the final day of lobbying to press their case. Matthew Beard in Singapore reports on a frantic 24 hours in the life of the greatest sporting event on Earth
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The Independent Online

01.15 Barbara Cassani, Lord Coe's predecessor and the forgotten woman of the bid, arrives on a late flight and slips into her hotel barely noticed. "I'm really nervous. But whatever happens I have no regrets," she says.

02.30 In the bowels of Raffles City - a multi-storey shopping and hotel complex - the Ink cocktail bar is an ideal venue for some discreet dealing over a glass of red wine. In the dimly-lit venue two nights ago Lord Coe chatted - or perhaps plotted - with his Madrid counterpart Juan Antonio Samaranch jnr. Tonight Alex Gilady, the millionaire Anglophile and IOC member for Israel, is holding court - as well as a large cigar - while revealing little about his voting intentions.

03.50 Bid officials cool off over a beer at the Chijmes courtyard bar and chat with a jet-lagged airline crew on a stopover from London. For the bid personnel - many of whom have become friends over past two years - it is a rare moment to escape talk of 2012.

04.15 London officials still working in offices in the Swissotel - the second tallest building outside the US - receive a boost when a poll of international sports federations by the influential website Sportcal concludes London has the best technical bid and has most impressed in its previous presentations to the IOC.

05.35 Today is rehearsal day for the presentations that precede the vote. Paris is first to practise and already Olympics roadies are having breakfast before setting up in the plaza ballroom.

06.00 The Australian swimming legend Ian Thorpe, in Singapore to back New York's bid, leaves his hotel for a training session. A nearby Olympic-sized pool is opened early for the "Thorpedo". He returns an hour later to conduct interviews for the American media - still dripping water.

07.20 Hungover lobbyists try to revive themselves with a few lengths in the hotel swimming pool.

08.05 Lord Coe chats in the lobby of the Swissotel to a Russian IOC member, Vitaly Smirnov, prompting speculation that London has something to offer the Russians if they vote for London when, as expected, Moscow is eliminated first. Lord Coe is reticent. "All I can say is that, at this stage, everyone is our friend," he says.

09.30 The Singaporean police show an uncharacteristically lenient approach to jaywalking when Hillary Clinton and her entourage stride out across a busy crossroads and into a press conference at the Singapore Sports Club. The New York senator is a late recruit to the campaign, an acknowledgement that the city's Mayor Michael Bloomberg does not have the gravitas to match Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac and Queen Sofia of Spain. Minutes after the meeting, Mrs Clinton learns the Big Apple's chances of landing a first Olympic Games have been improved by the IOC's last-minute approval of its revised stadium plans in Queens.

10.15 A sigh of relief from the Paris bid - who now realise the vote may be too close to call - when it learns that Prince Albert of Monaco will travel to Singapore at the end of the official mourning for his father. But the only other unexpected absentee, through severe illness, is a Greek IOC member - thought to be a Paris backer.

11.00 Luc Besson, the film director, relaxes in the Swissotel lobby after conducting a dress rehearsal for the Paris presentation, for which he has made a short film. Besson has been told to keep the contents and even the length of the film a secret.

12.50 The name Ron Walker may have little resonance outside Olympic circles but the appearance of the tall, bouffant-haired Australian in the lobby has some bid cities twitching. He is the organiser of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and has been engaged by London to shore up the Commonwealth vote - thought to be the bedrock of the city's support. He also runs Australian Formula 1 and confirms that F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has been calling in favours for London. Ecclestone's Croatian wife, Slavica, has secured a vote from the Balkan state's IOC member.

13.10 The marble-floored lobby of the Raffles Plaza, where the IOC members are staying, is by now filled with what appears to be the world's most elite club. Among the expensive suits is Real Madrid footballer Raul, wearing flip-flops and a YSL manbag, who exchanges pleasantries with Oligario Vazquez Rana, the Mexican IOC member and media figure thought to have influence over the 13 Latin American votes.

14.20 The 117th session of the IOC is about to begin. During the ceremony an hour later, the Singaporean President works his way along a line of members, beginning with the longest-serving, Marc Hodler, the Swiss member who blew the whistle on the Salt Lake City scandal in which some of his former colleagues were thrown out for taking bribes.

15.00 In parallel with the lobbying, the afternoon marks the start of the bid cities' final pre-vote media events - and New York holds an ace. Muhammad Ali shuffles across the marble floor of the Ritz Carlton hotel to a blaze of flashbulbs. Ali, the former Olympic gold medallist who lit the torch at the 1996 Atlanta games, is supporting the New York campaign. But because he has Parkinson's disease he is unable to speak and can barely even acknowledge his fans. Some are moved by the sight of an all-time sports legend while others wonder whether it is a public relations exercise too far.

16.20 Fresh from casting aspersions on British cuisine - a gibe likely to escape the IOC censors for all their insistence on fair play - Jacques Chirac arrives in town. In the final sprint to the line, the French President is thought to have made his burst too late - Tony Blair has already been in town for two days. After a photo-call at Raffles, the President goes into a series of private meetings with IOC members. According to the French, M. Chirac has personal relationships with the voters dating back to when he ran Paris's bid as mayor in 1987.

17.20 Many of the IOC members have been mobbed by lobbyists and retire to the sanctuary of their rooms. In the absence of voters to quiz, journalists and lobbyists once again resort to interviewing one another. "How do you call it?" is the refrain.

18.00 The frenzied activity shifts to the lobby of the Swissotel which becomes packed with VIPs waiting to be bussed to the opening ceremony. Rarely can there have been such a concentration of sporting greats. A moment of embarrassment for Sir Bobby Charlton and Sven-Goran Eriksson - hoping to impress the 37 IOC football members - as they are turned away by security.

19.00 The opening ceremony of the bid process, one IOC member says, is the first opportunity to sense any change in mood among voters. Accordingly, the foyer of the Esplanade theatre becomes a fashion parade with each bidding city's team resplendent in tailor-made suits. The London team stands out in beige linen creations by Jeff Banks while Paris and New York are in uniforms by Ozwald Boateng and Oscar de la Renta respectively.

20.10 The IOC risks the wrath of journalists and "minor" delegates by declaring the post-concert champagne reception off limits to all but VIPs. This denies many a chance to analyse the body language between the leaders of France and Britain.

21.15 Juan Antonio Samaranch Snr, the former IOC president and oligarch, makes a rare foray out of his hotel room to attend the party. His son, and leader of Madrid's bid, insists the presence of Queen Sofia will serve them well. "The royal family is very entwined in the Olympic movement. She knows how they think, she knows how they feel," he says.

22.05 Daley Thompson, a London bid ambassador, lets his famed informality get the better of him. He has arrived in Singapore without a suit and attended a party at the High Commission the previous night in shorts. But he is due on the podium for tomorrow's presentation and a suit is urgently sought.

23.30 The Blairs head for the airport, thought to have had one-to-ones with around 50 members. Meanwhile, in the absence of President Vladimir Putin, the Moscow bid seeks comfort in the supposed excellence of its presentation. Former Olympic swimming champion Alexander Popov says: "The thing is, if we didn't have a chance, we wouldn't be here."

00.00 The lobbying will continue throughout the night - the deal which gave Torino the 2006 Winter Games was finally sealed with a call to the room of the IOC's arch power-broker in Europe, the Italian Mario Pescante, at 3am on ballot day. Not until Paris takes the stage at 9am will it finally stop.

How the IOC selection process will unfold today

* All five candidate cities will give their presentations, followed by a report from the evaluation commission.

* There will then be a secret electronic ballot of all 116 IOC members. Members of countries with bidding cities cannot vote while their home country is still in the race, so only 99 members will be eligible to vote in the first round.

* The winning city needs more than 50 per cent of the vote so 50 votes would achieve victory in round one.

* If there is no absolute majority after the first round, the city with the lowest votes is eliminated and IOC members vote again. The process is repeated until an absolute majority is reached.

* The winning city will be announced by Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC, at 12.46pm British time.