Daily Telegraph

THE London team were in bullish mood after a frantic day of lobbying, involving Prime Minister Tony Blair, in an effort to beat Paris in the 2012 Games ballot here today.

Paris continued to behave like front-runners who feel they cannot lose unless they make a mistake and as Blair ended his round of meetings with 25 IOC members, French President Jacques Chirac arrived.

The use by London and Paris of their big hitters shows the different needs of the two cities. London used Blair to convince wavering IOC members that his Government, who had reneged on the 2005 World Athletics Championships, were fully behind the bid.

Blair, asked about this at his press conference, said: “No one actually has mentioned that. This is a different order of commitment. The guarantees are in place at every level.”

The French will use Chirac in their presentation this morning, introducing him as an old friend of the Olympics. Chirac had a long association with the Olympics, having been Mayor of Paris during their unsuccessful bid, for the 1992 Games. Paris, now bidding for the third time, will present their case as the supplicant who have learnt from past mistakes and deserve the Games more than London, who are bidding for the first time. They will try to reinforce their message as the country of the modern Olympics, founded by Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin.

London, who have not missed a public relations trick, distributed a booklet which quoted de Coubertin but had images of British Olympic feats, and Blair brushed aside any problems of being a newcomer to the Olympics.

Blair and his wife Cherie, who also met IOC members, joined London-born David Beckham in a tour of a Singapore-British sports science exhibition. Such is the appeal of the Real Madrid midfield player here that while the visit had been kept secret to avoid crowds, word soon spread. As the group prepared to leave, Blair had to turn around and rescue the footballer, who had become stranded in the crowd. London believe this combination of Blair talking to IOC members and celebrities like Beckham making media headlines is the ideal way to promote the bid — a view shared by New York who flew in Senator Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady, and boxing icon Muhammad Ali, to join Mayor Michael Bloomberg in wooing the IOC. Ali appeared alongside Bloomberg, who described him as a true Olympic champion. “He was a gold medal-winner and a true hero to an awful lot of us,” he said.

“This is a great bid from a great city for the greatest international event there is,” Clinton said before adding a reference to the September 11 attack. “We’re standing here a little less than four years from the time when we were attacked and we’re telling you that New York City is the place to bring the 2012 Olympics — because the people of New York are resilient, they are extraordinary in their capacity to pull together and plan for the future.”

At around 7.30pm local time (12.30 in Britain), when IOC President Jacques Rogge opens the envelope given to him by 13-year-old Griselda Khng who has been specially chosen for this task, we will know which city has had the right approach.

© Mihir Bose


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