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Daily Telegraph

THE London 2012 team and the entire International Olympic Committee reacted to the terrorist attacks on London with horror and bewilderment.

Keith Mills, chief executive of the London bid, trying to take in the grim news, said: “We are devastated, completely and utterly devastated. It’s our town, our city. We’re praying for the people who have been affected.

“It just shows that no city is safe at the moment. It’s a terrible tragedy. It underlines that no city in the world, even London, which has probably the most sophisticated security system in the world, is safe from terrorists.”

Mills confirmed that a farewell ceremony at the airport for his delegation had been cancelled.

The first reports that something dreadful had happened reached here in late afternoon. At that stage members of the team, or at least those who had got over their hangovers from the celebrations of the night before, were doing the sort of things most of us do before leaving foreign parts.

The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, was out doing some last-minute shopping, while many were still pinching themselves, unable to believe that London had won the right to host the 2012 Olympics. Others were planning to bid a boisterous farewell to Singapore before catching the midnight flight to London and then a joyous victory tour on arrival in the capital this morning.

Livingstone was in a taxi returning from his shopping trip when he heard the news. Once back at his hotel he rushed past reporters and went up to his room to try to find out what exactly was happening. He emerged to say: “London has been the target of a cowardly terrorist attack. Londoners have responded calmly and courageously. I commend the professionalism, courage of the Metropolitan Police, Transport for London staff, the ambulance, fire and other emergency services.”

Before the awful news, the IOC members — who had voted by the narrow margin of four votes to give the Games to London — were trying to work out just how the city had carved out the victory. There was much discussion on how the French, angry and bewildered by their defeat, might react and what revenge they might take on the IOC, who for the third time have denied Paris the Games.

Paris’s mood had been summed up by the mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, when he said: “When you race in athletics or in swimming the most important thing is to achieve the best possible performance, without kicking your rival.

“I am not sure that the reasons for London’s victory are fully relevant to sport. There was a marketing effect. Either we are engaged in a sporting competition or a commercial competition.”

The IOC had moved on to other business, debating whether to expel the Bulgarian member, Ivan Slavkov, for corruption following an investigation by BBC’s Panorama last year. IOC members watched the programme yesterday afternoon and were beginning to debate Slavkov’s fate when the news began to emerge from London.

Initially, it was felt to be more a reflection of the state of transport in the capital as the first reports spoke of the entire London Underground having been shut down.

But as reporters abandoned their vigil outside the closed doors of the IOC session and gathered round the television sets of the convention centre, where the session was being held, it became clear this was a much more serious issue which put into the shade anything that had happened or might happen in Singapore.

By this time, though the IOC had voted for the expulsion of Slavkov by the necessary two- thirds majority, it was far less important than the events in London. The IOC president, Jacques Rogge, spoke to the session about his sadness at hearing the news.

He also sent messages of condolence to the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and Livingstone and said: “I’m a very sad person. It’s a tragedy. I’m deeply saddened that this should happen at the heart of an Olympic city.

“Unfortunately there is no safe haven. No one can say their city is safe. Others already have experience of this, like New York and Madrid.” Both cities had also bid to stage the 2012 Games.

IOC members will decide whether they should keep all the existing 28 sports that make up the Olympic programme or replace any of them with new ones like rugby sevens. This could affect the sports programme for London 2012 and a campaigner for rugby sevens was distributing little rugby balls and badges saying “Rugby Sevens 2012”.

© Mihir Bose

      

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