Britain should do a Radcliffe and pull out of the Olympics

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Once again, the Olympic Games have captivated the world. People who normally eschew all matters of a sporting nature have been confounded, finding themselves unexpectedly engrossed by Kelly Holmes, Amir Khan, Matthew Pinsent, Ben Ainslie and others. In this country, nearly everyone has an opinion on the late surges of Holmes - executed to thrilling perfection last night - on Khan's father's Union-flag waistcoat and on the merits of the BBC coverage. Today, as the games draw to their close, we are also required to have an opinion on the next big question: do we want to stage the Olympics in this country? Of course we do, and more so now than at the start of this month.

Once again, the Olympic Games have captivated the world. People who normally eschew all matters of a sporting nature have been confounded, finding themselves unexpectedly engrossed by Kelly Holmes, Amir Khan, Matthew Pinsent, Ben Ainslie and others. In this country, nearly everyone has an opinion on the late surges of Holmes - executed to thrilling perfection last night - on Khan's father's Union-flag waistcoat and on the merits of the BBC coverage. Today, as the games draw to their close, we are also required to have an opinion on the next big question: do we want to stage the Olympics in this country? Of course we do, and more so now than at the start of this month.

The doom-merchants who predicted disaster in Athens have been disproved. In the end the games were a resounding success - and not just on track, field and water. The stadium was ready on time, the infrastructure did not collapse, and there was no terrorist attack.

Staging the Olympics is - if well done - a great opportunity for a country to advertise itself to the world; and for a city to upgrade and revitalise itself, while putting on an uplifting and self-financing event. Sydney, four years ago, was perhaps more exuberant and cheerful, but Athens certainly compen-sated by playing on its special history.

So what next, after Beijing in 2008? Do we want the Olympics in London in 2012? Unfortunately not. It would be great to stage the games in Britain, but in Manchester, Newcastle, Cardiff, Glasgow or Belfast, where regeneration would mean something on a national scale, as opposed to east London, where it would simply mean trying to spread the benefits of the capital's growth more fairly.

The capital's bid is critically compromised. The transport network is sadly not up to it. A Eurostar stop at Stratford in east London cannot make up for the failure to build Crossrail, a fast east-west rail link, on time. Even on London's own terms, the cost-benefit analysis is not decisive enough to justify such a complex venture.

On Friday, Paula Radcliffe was foolish to run off the track - yet again. All she had to do was walk to the finish to retain her dignity. But, notwithstanding our current enthusiasm for our medal-winning Olympiads, London should "do a Radcliffe" and pull out of the bidding for 2012 rather than limp on until the decision is made in Singapore in July next year. Britain wants the Olympics for sure, but not in London - not this time.

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