Top marks for London as Bid team are warned to 'behave'

Given the Government's current difficulties with the Gambling Bill, odds are likely to be a sore point with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Tessa Jowell. But the fact is that London's chances of hosting the 2012 Games, after a week in which they have played host to the International Olympic Committee's evaluation commission, have shortened to 2-1, leaving them only marginally behind the favourites, Paris.

Given the Government's current difficulties with the Gambling Bill, odds are likely to be a sore point with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Tessa Jowell. But the fact is that London's chances of hosting the 2012 Games, after a week in which they have played host to the International Olympic Committee's evaluation commission, have shortened to 2-1, leaving them only marginally behind the favourites, Paris.

As the Olympic jury prepare for a similar week of activity in New York, the task which now faces the London Bid team as they await the day of judgement on 6 July was succinctly expressed by the evaluation commission's departing chair, Nawal El Moutawakel: "To behave."

That command might most usefully be directed right now towards the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who is expected to produce some sort of apology today following his late-night row with a Jewish Evening Standard reporter whom he likened to a "concentration camp guard".

For Livingstone to fall short of an acceptable form of words would not just indicate a tragic flaw in the character of a man who was described earlier this month as the bid's strongest supporter by the British Olympic Association chairman, Craig Reedie. It would also leave a potentially inflamed point of weakness on the face of a British effort which, by all indications, has been enormously persuasive.

Predictably, the question of Livingstone's suitability as Mayor of a bidding city was raised by a Standard reporter during the evaluation commission's concluding press conference. Equally predictably, El Moutawakel fended the question away. "We are not here to comment on this," she said. "We are here to assess the technical merits of the London Bid."

El Moutawakel's guarded statements, nevertheless, extended to a clear enthusiasm for what the commission had encountered on the second stage of a journey which had already taken in Madrid, and will now embrace fellow bidders New York, Paris and Moscow.

"We have been very, very pleased to meet with the Queen, who expressed her full support for the Olympic bid," El Moutawakel began. "The commission also noted the strong Government support for the bid."

The Queen's reported comment that London could not beat Paris in the bid for the Games was not referred to during Friday's banquet at Buckingham Palace. But if commission members were left with any doubt about the monarch's commitment to the national cause, it was surely dispelled by the fact that she broke with tradition to wave them off from the balcony. No wonder that the bid's chief executive, Keith Mills, described the week as "mission accomplished".

Sitting alongside the double Olympic champion and bid chairman, Lord Coe, Jowell spoke with genuine warmth about the process she had witnessed.

"I for one will never forget the experience of going through this week and discovering at a new level just what the Olympic experience means," she said, before going on to underline the fact that a Games in 2012 would fit in perfectly with current planning conditions. "Vast tracts of brownfield sites are ripe and ready for Olympic development in Stratford," Jowell added.

Coe - an increasingly assured and convincing ambassador for London's fortunes - carefully steered away from the notion that it was a case of "now or never" for the capital, substituting the felicitous phrase "golden opportunity" before adding: "We have momentum, direction, strategy. But I lean quite heavily on my former occupation. You worry only about things that are within your grasp."

For all that, the news that New York will welcome El Moutawakel and her fellow commissioners with the development that their guaranteed site for the main stadium has now been put into jeopardy by a commercial bidding process must have occasioned a little private glee in the Canary Wharf offices of the London Bid team.

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