Olympics 2012: The Final Countdown

At last, the bell is sounded for the final lap in the race to host the Olympics 2012. The IOC reports on the competing bids today, with the victor selected on 6 July. So, can London really come from behind and win it? Matthew Beard reveals all
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The Independent Online

At last, the bell is sounded for the final lap in the race to host the Olympics 2012. The IOC reports on the competing bids today, with the victor selected on 6 July. So, can London really come from behind and win it? Matthew Beard reveals all

LONDON

The plan

The Olympics would be centred around a new park in the Lower Lea valley near Stratford, east London, fulfilling Mayor Ken Livingstone's aim of regenerating one of the poorest parts of the capital. After initial concerns that venues were too far afield, Games planners brought proposed venues such as shooting and mountain biking closer to the East End. Bid officials will attempt to convince the IOC that 2012 represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as such an area of land may not be available again

Where they started

Previous bids from Birmingham and Manchester failed to impress the IOC, who strongly advised the UK's only chance of success would come if the capital threw its hat in the ring. However, government prevarication meant London was one of the last to declare its candidature. Subsequently, its plans were hurriedly put together. IOC ranking last May - 3rd

What impressed the judges

Today's evaluation report is likely to reflect a broad satisfaction among IOC experts with the soundness of London's bid. The thorniest of issues - public transport - was subject to greatest scrutiny. The IOC transport expert, Phillipe Bovy, even went undercover to ride on buses, trains and tubes well before the official delegation arrived. During the visit, the IOC took a brief journey on the Jubilee Line and viewed the unfinished Channel tunnel line to link King's Cross with Stratford

What were they less impressed with?

The IOC was not prepared to share its thoughts publicly. They cannot have been impressed, however, with the way that London Mayor Ken Livingstone became embroiled at that time in a row over a "racist gibe" he allegedly made to a newspaper reporter. Despite urgings from Tony Blair, Mr Livingstone refused to apologise and the affair dominated the headlines at the start of the visit

High point/low point

High: Securing the visible support of Tony Blair who was the only leader to attend a city's launch party, the only leader in Athens for the Olympics and the host of IOC president Jacques Rogge at a party last month in the Houses of Parliament.

Low: In an overzealous attempt to outsmart Paris, London recently unveiled sweeteners for athletes, such as preferential flights to the Games but Sebastian Coe was promptly forced to withdraw most of them after Rogge declared he did not want to see a "bidding war"

Other factors

London bid leaders must fear IOC members opposed to London will ask Ken Livingstone about his "racist" remark to an Evening Standard reporter at the question-and-answer session. Mischief-makers may also wonder if the mayor, who called Ariel Sharon a war criminal, would want to see him go on trial

What is left to do?

Among its delegation in Singapore, the BBC chairman Michael Grade will seek to convince the IOC the corporation is not carrying out a vendetta. A Panorama investigation, "Buying the Games'', resulted in the suspension of a Bulgarian IOC member, Ivan Slavkov.

Odds

3-1

PARIS

The plan

The majority of the events would be in two "clusters" to the north and west of the city centre and athletes and officials would be ferried to events along an existing orbital road. Midway between them, the athletes' village would be built on the site of a disused railyard in the Batignolles district - one of the few undeveloped areas of greater Paris. Bid officials emphasise the relatively high proportion of existing venues, such as the Stade de France, built to host the 1998 football World Cup. With a capacity of 71,000, it would serve as the main stadium

Where they started

Any IOC member will tell you the French capital had an advantage because it has bid twice in 15 years, losing out to Barcelona in 1992 and finishing third behind Toronto and Beijing for 2008. Paris, the first city to throw its hat in the ring for 2012, has had to finesse its plans from previous bids while others start from scratch. When the IOC cut the field of candidates five last May, it put Paris in first place. IOC ranking last May - 1st

What impressed the judges

Not even a strike by tens of thousands of workers managed to disrupt the IOC's visit. The leader of the commission, Nawal el Moutawakel, said the IOC "appreciated the work between the labour movement and the bid committee" in keeping disruption to a minimum

What were they less impressed with?

The Stade de France, the proposed Olympic stadium, had recently hosted a football match and had not been reconfigured into an athletics stadium for the visit of the IOC

High point/low point

High: Paris is past master at behind-the-scenes lobbying of IOC members. Having staged two previous bids it has a contacts book the envy of other cities.

Low: So concerned are the French at losing their favourite's status, that their campaign has occasionally been leaden-footed

Other factors

Most IOC members say the "no" vote in France's referendum on the European Union will have little impact on voting. However, they acknowledge that it may undermine the authority of Jacques Chirac, who is due to attend the Singapore session and make a presentation before the vote

What is left to do?

Word on the IOC grapevine remains that it is Paris's to lose, which means learning from the mistakes it made at the vote for 2008 when it made its final pitch in French alone, adding to an impression of arrogance

Odds

2-9

NEW YORK

The plan

Under its so-called "X plan", almost all venues are situated along two routes that intersect at the Olympic village at a waterfront site across the river Hudson. One route stretches from north Manhattan to Staten Island. The other goes east to west from Long Island to New Jersey. Seventeen out of the 28 sports are in three main clusters. Proposals to build - in Manhattan - a main Olympic stadium continue to be the subject of legal wranglings

Where they started

New York, which has not staged the Games before, benefited from a compulsory internal competition with other cities, including San Francisco and Cincinnati, for the right to bid for the Games. In the early stages of the bid two years ago, that gave it an advantage over rivals such as London.

IOC ranking last May - 4th

What impressed the judges

IOC inspectors met Meryl Streep, Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg and had dinner at the home of the Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, where guests included Henry Kissinger and Matt Damon

What were they less impressed with?

Protest groups opposed to the bid complained they were being ignored by the IOC. "Perhaps they should meet with us rather than Meryl Streep" said John Fisher of the Clinton Special District Coalition, a local opposition group. The visit was also overshadowed by continuing doubts over the proposed main Olympic stadium

High point/low point

High: Charm and charisma of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and deputy Dan Doctoroff. In Dubrovnik, Mr Bloomberg won friends by sitting through the general assembly of the European Olympic Committees.

Low: Fiasco over the proposed Olympic stadium. Mr Bloomberg said it was "an outrage" that the site was, in effect, up for auction, as the owners of Madison Square Garden have tabled a bid

Other factors

It is difficult to say to what extent the war in Iraq will affect voting from Muslim countries. New York bid leaders insist it won't but at the same time they are eager to point out that their campaign does not - and will not - feature the American President, who will be notable by his absence in Singapore

What is left to do?

Without firm proposals for an Olympic stadium, the New York bid appears dead in the water. But it would be unwise to underestimate the deal-making powers of Mayor Bloomberg and Charlie Battle, a lawyer who helped bring the Games to Atlanta. New York, without the bloc of geographical support London, Paris and Madrid may benefit from, could be particularly vulnerable in the first round of voting

Odds

16-1

MADRID

The plan

With a bid slogan "ready for you", the Spanish capital boasts 90 per cent of venues already built and many have hosted international competitions in recent years. It is also a compact model, with three main clusters within a six-mile radius. With one of the best public transport networks in Europe, Madrid has pledged a car-free Games. An existing stadium will be upgraded to a capacity of 70,000 to host athletics and the Bernabeu, home of Read Madrid, will host football. Its budget of £1.85bn is the lowest of the five candidate cities

Where they started

Madrid's only previous bid for the Games came in 1972 when it was beaten by Munich. A summer Olympics was hosted by Barcelona as recently as 1992 which makes it less likely that the Games will return to Spain so soon. Madrid stresses the IOC awards the Games to a city - and Madrid is much different to the Catalan capital. Already the Spanish capital has improved on the performance of the southern city of Seville.

IOC ranking last May - 2nd

What impressed the judges

Nawal El Moutawakel, the chairman of the visiting IOC team, noted the "strong support" among the Spanish population which - according to one poll - is as high as 90 per cent. The IOC team was at the Bernabeu stadium when the city's bid ambassador, Raul, scored twice in Real Madrid's 4-0 victory over Espanyol

What were they less impressed with?

Just days after the commission's visit, Madrid's mayor accused Eta of trying to derail the bid by detonating a car bomb near Madrid's main convention centre, which was visited by the IOC. Alberto Ruiz Gallardon said: "This does not help us and I have no doubt that the people who carried out this attack, the terrorist group Eta, know that perfectly well"

High point/low point

High: Strong support among the Spanish population and from the government for a bid that is generally considered to be technically among the best of the five candidate cities

Low: Racial abuse of black players during England's friendly against Spain seriously jeopardised Madrid's chances, many believe. Chanting at the Bernabeu happened just hours after details of the Olympic blueprint were unveiled. Racial tolerance is a fundamental aspect of the Olympics

Other factors

Madrid officials will remain concerned about any threat from the basque separatist group, Eta

What is left to do?

Word among many IOC members is that Madrid has been saving the best to last, deploying Juan Antonio Samaranch, the former IOC president, in a lobbying role. His son runs the Madrid bid, so expect him to be working hard

Odds



25-1

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