Daily Telegraph

THEY WILL tell you in the Olympic movement that cities win games over many years of preparation not an hour of presentation on the day of the vote.

However, last night in Moscow the view of many International Olympic Committee members was that Beijing made sure of victory — the only surprise was the margin — when He Zhenliang, their most senior IOC member, concluded the presentation by saying: “No matter what decision you make it will be in history. One decision will help make history.”

The moment he sat down John Bitove, the leader of the Toronto bid which came second to Beijing, turned to his wife and said: “That’s it, Beijing have won.”

Toronto in the last few days had harboured the illusion that they might challenge Beijing, but as Bitove admitted: “We waited for them to make a mistake and they did not.”

It would be simplistic to say that Zhenliang’s closing words, or even the slick Beijing presentation, did the trick but IOC members were clearly moved by it. Beijing were asked 10 questions — ranging from human rights, to pollution, language problems and transport — but every speaker prefaced the question by talking of “the emotional presentation”.

Jean-Loup Chappelet, the IOC historian, said: “Zhenliang’s words were simple but spoken with emotion and very well done. He was speaking to fellow IOC members as friends and colleagues and telling them in effect we came once before and you rejected us, we have come back nine years later but we will not keep coming back.

“The members thought sending Beijing away empty-handed was a bigger risk than the human rights issue. IOC members’ feeling is that human rights is a global problem and China is not the only country that has it.”

Significantly, American business also wants to go to Beijing and Dick Eversol, president of NBC Sport, only turned up for the Beijing vote.

Another important consideration was that Beijing, having lost to Sydney by two votes, had come back to make another bid and this persistence deserved recognition. Dick Pound, a senior IOC member who led the Toronto presentation, said: “In the IOC, coming back to make a second bid counts for a lot. Yes, it was a political decision in part but in our Olympic movement China has been an exemplary member and the decision will help China and will help us.”

When asked about the Amnesty International report on the use of the death penalty by China, Pound said: “It wasn’t that long ago used in our country.”

In the days leading up to the vote, despite the aggressive campaigning of Toronto, there seemed little doubt that Beijing would win. The feeling was it would be after many rounds of voting. In the end it was after only two rounds.

Beijing, having learnt their lesson from the Sydney defeat, prepared meticulously relying heavily on western professional PR advice. So on Thursday, as IOC members returned to their hotel having watched Giselle at the Bolshoi, they found Cathy Freeman floating among them telling those who asked how her great grandfather had come from China.

The Chinese showed no sign of triumphalism until after they had won when they held up a banner proclaiming ‘Eternal Beijing — The Olympic Games Forever — The Dream Comes True’.

Beijing knew what they were doing and one must hope that the IOC know what they have done.

© Mihir Bose


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