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THE initial assessment of the International Olympic Committee’s evaluation commission could not have come at a better time for London. The five cities bidding for the 2012 Olympic Games are entering a most hectic campaigning phase over the next few weeks and the leaked draft report will give London the ammunition to sway IOC delegates.

The 13 members of the evaluation commission have spent the last month visiting the five cities. They do not decide the race, indeed only six of the members will even be eligible to vote when the IOC meet in Singapore on July 6 to decide the 2012 race. However, the report the group finally publishes will provide a pointer as to how they assess the technical ability of the cities to host the Games.

Less than a year ago, when another IOC focus group made an assessment of the bidding cities, London came third behind Paris and Madrid. The group made withering criticism of London’s transport. London bid organisers were forced to say their plans had not been understood and moved swiftly to make changes.

These included Barbara Cassani moving aside to allow Lord Coe to take over as chairman, although London claimed this had been planned long before the damning report. However that crucial change led to many others in the London campaign, including Jim Sloman, the chief executive of the Sydney Games, being brought in to overhaul strategy.

The leaked draft assessment from Lausanne suggests the changes have had the desired effect. The draft emerged after a week-long meeting between the members of the commission last week when they locked themselves in the vast Coubertin Hall at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne and swapped notes about their visits to the five cities.

The full report will not be released until June 6 and is likely to be largely the work of the 14th member of the commission, Gilbert Feli, the IOC director of Olympic Games, and the only paid official in the group.

However it is unlikely that Feli would depart too substantially from the mood that dominated the Coubertin room last week. This showed that members felt that Paris, London and New York were all capable of staging excellent Games but that Madrid and Moscow would have problems. That Moscow should struggle is no surprise but that Madrid, which has considered Paris its only rival, should fall behind is a surprise.

The commission were clearly impressed with New York despite the fact that public support there is the lowest compared to its rivals. But this assessment for New York comes with a rider that they will solve the problem of their planned Olympic stadium, which remains a huge headache.

London’s presentations are believed to have impressed the commission. These included the contribution of Peter Salmon, the head of BBC Sport. London will go further in Singapore. Following a conversation between Coe and Michael Grade, chairman of the BBC governors, Grade will be in attendance. This is important for London as it emphasises to the IOC, who were upset by a Panorama exposé of IOC corruption, that the BBC are committed to the Olympics.

The inspectors were not that impressed with Paris’s presentation, feeling it was dominated by politicians. This may explain why the French will now give a much higher profile to their IOC members, including Guy Drut. He is currently involved in a corruption trial unconnected with the Olympics but relating to a political scandal dating back to the 1990s. The French are keen to emphasise that the fact that Drut will lead the presentations shows he has nothing to hide.

The first of the presentations comes on Friday in Brisbane to the Oceania Olympic Committee.

Two weeks later comes a presentation in Berlin to the Association of Summer Games, when the cities will also have booths to publicise their bids. Then comes the gathering of the African Olympic Committee in Accra before the final vote in Singapore.

London will now be able to go into them aware that the criticisms levelled a year ago have been answered.

However, it is important not to get carried away. The vote in Singapore remains a close call and will depend on wider Olympic political factors.

As already revealed in The Daily Telegraph, no city is likely to gain the 51 per cent of votes needed in the first round. At each round, the city with fewest votes will be eliminated, so the second or third preferences of delegates ultimately becomes the decisive factor.

London know that the leaked report has given them the ammunition to convince IOC members whose first choice is another city to make London their second.

© Mihir Bose

      

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