London may well benefit from a winning bid

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The Independent Online

The signs commanding us to "Back the Bid" have gone up across London; the nation's celebrities are weighing in to lend their glitz, and yet the capital's inhabitants remain lukewarm about the prospect of hosting the 2012 Olympic Games. Many even hope that the 600-page blueprint handed to the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland yesterday will fail to win over its members when they cast their votes early next year.

The signs commanding us to "Back the Bid" have gone up across London; the nation's celebrities are weighing in to lend their glitz, and yet the capital's inhabitants remain lukewarm about the prospect of hosting the 2012 Olympic Games. Many even hope that the 600-page blueprint handed to the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland yesterday will fail to win over its members when they cast their votes early next year.

Public support in London is lower than in all the other rival cities except New York. Even among Londoners who support the bid, pessimism is high about the city's chances against Paris or Madrid, the bookmakers' favourites. Yet this cannot, as Lord Coe and his organising committee have suggested, be blamed on a defeatist "British psyche". There are well-founded concerns, of which the biggest is that the capital's decrepit transport system will be unable to cope with the increase in numbers.

This newspaper initially opposed the bid on the basis that if Britain were to host the Olympics, then a venue outside London would be preferable. But it is London that is making the running now. Yesterday's submission of detailed plans brings the competing cities to the final stages of this contest; it is a good moment to consider the prize for Britain. Here at last is an opportunity to rectify the chronic under-investment in transport that has been dragging the capital down for years. Olympic cities such as Barcelona and Sydney have demonstrated that the regenerative legacy for a host city can be immense. The benefits for housing, transport and sport in London's East End could be impressive.

But London also deserves a fair hearing on its existing strengths. Hyperbole of the organisers notwithstanding, it is one of the world's great cities, and one that can offer the Olympic movement a truly global Games. The millions of tourists who come here every year already know that the capital, for all its faults, is one of the most exciting places on earth to visit. Olympic visitors can also be assured that the city's much-maligned inhabitants are a more stoical, tolerant and welcoming bunch than their reputation suggests.

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