Daily Telegraph

PARIS has emerged as the clear winner after the first round of the IOC’s evaluation of the nine cities bidding to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

Not only are London third, and at times a poor third, but in almost every category, apart from accommodation and finance, they have been overshadowed by Paris, and at times even by Madrid. The Spanish city, who are ranked second, outscore London often — and sometimes Paris.

The 15 wise men who prepared this report after five months of study of the mini-bid books submitted by the nine cities, include an Englishman, Peter Ryan, who was commissioner of police and in charge of security at the Sydney Games, and several high-profile Australians, such as Sandy Holloway, chief executive officer of the Sydney Games, and the athlete Sergey Bubka, now an executive board member of the IOC.

These men have failed to be impressed with London’s bid. London had provided a public opinion poll which showed that 82 per cent of Londoners supported the bid and 81 per cent of the rest of the country.

The IOC conducted their own poll and found public support at 67 per cent, but what is more, of all the bidding cities the opposition is highest at 13 per cent — even more than in New York, where New Yorkers traditionally do not much care for the Olympics.

The IOC’s poll found that those who are against it are worried about the cost and the traffic. In contrast, only seven per cent of the French are opposed the Paris bid and a mere two per cent are against Madrid’s.

As expected, London’s transport is fiercely criticised. The contrast with Paris and Madrid, and even New York, is striking.

The report says: “Rail public transport is often obsolete and considerable investments must be made to upgrade the existing system in terms of capacity and safety. Urban expressways and main arterial road facilities lack the capacity to provide reasonable travel times and speed.”

The report concludes that London’s Olympic concept will work only if there are “rather substantial public transport major improvements [capacity and performance] in the east London section of the metropolitan area”.

The IOC are convinced that London 2012 have “over-estimated” the impact of the Channel Tunnel link between Stratford station and King’s Cross. They point out that the major priority of this line will be to provide high-speed passenger trains, “and not local traffic, unless operations are completely altered for the Olympic Games”.

London plan to have venues away from the East End and the IOC would like more study to show this could work.

The IOC are very critical of London 2012’s claims of how long it would take to get to venues and say: “With the exception of Olympic Park and some venues in east London, the average travel distances are among the longest of all applicant cities. In addition, the assumed average bus travel speeds of 55kph (34mph) appear unrealistic.”

East London, says the report, may be manageable but other venues “will be challenging for Olympic and spectator transport”.

Paris, in contrast, are commended for their “well-developed public transport system”, and Madrid’s transport is seen as one of their advantages.

New York are promoting their “x plan” for transport whereby 85 per cent of the Olympic traffic will use ferries on the East River. Nobody knows if the plan can work but the IOC experts praise it as “innovative”, a word that they could not apply to London.

One of the criticisms in the report concerns venues. Most of the sports for London will be round the Olympic Park in the Stratford area, although London also plans to use such iconic sites as Hyde Park and Horse Guards Parade. The report’s comment is damning: “The inclusion of Greenwich Park, Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, Swinley Forest and Horse Guards Parade as existing sports venues is unclear, given that no budget is allocated for upgrading/construction, or construction dates provided.”

Fine, says the report, that London plans to use Britain’s existing world-class venues for sailing, shooting, rowing canoeing and kayaking. But these venues are between 50 kilometres (31 miles) and 245 kilometres (152 miles) from the Olympic Village and the report feels it “further adds to the spread of venues from the Olympic Village”.

London is very proud of the Olympic Village, which would be less than a mile from the Olympic stadium in the East End and which athletes could walk to.

However, for certain sports such as shooting and rowing, athletes would have to stay in accommodation near the site and the report points out that “four venues are over 50 kilometres from the Olympic Village, making athletes’ travel in general quite challenging”.

Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, has said that London 2012 would be good for the environment — a truly green Olympics. The report acknowledges that but points out that “London’s heavy road traffic causes severe air pollution”.

On accommodation, London comes out well, but compared to Paris or New York, hotel rates are higher than the IOC benchmark in the four or five-star category. Paris only falls down in the five-star category.

While the overall message of London being a secure city is accepted, the IOC feel that the sheer number of venues and “their geographical spread could potentially entail complex planning for security forces”.

It is little surprise that London scores very poorly in holding major sports events, and the report says: “London’s international sports experience is rather limited, with no World Championships and few international events having been organised, with the exception of The Championships at Wimbledon and the equestrian events, for example.”

Paris, in contrast, “has excellent experience”. London matches Paris in finance and easily outscores New York, but this will come as cold comfort. While in overall project and legacy, Paris ties with Madrid on nine out of 10, London is tied on eight with New York with much work to do.

Overall project and legacy: Paris 9, Madrid 9, New York 8, London 8, Moscow 7.
Government support/public opinion: Paris 8, Madrid 8.3, New York 7.1, London 7.2, Moscow 7.5.
General infrastructure: Paris 7.8, Madrid 8.5, New York 7, London 7, Moscow 6.8.
Sports venues: Paris 8, Madrid 8.7, New York 7.7, London 7.1, Moscow 7.1.
Olympic Village: Paris 8.3, Madrid 8.7, New York 7.7, London 8, Moscow 8.
Environment: Paris 8.6, Madrid 8.6, New York 7.6, London 8.6, Moscow 7.6.
Accommodation: Paris 10, Madrid 8.4, New York 10, London 10, Moscow 7.4.
Transport: Paris 8, Madrid 9, New York 6.7, London 6.7, Moscow 6.2.
Safety and security: Paris 8.3, Madrid 7.4, New York 7.2, London 7.7, Moscow 6.4.
Sports experience: Paris 9, Madrid 7.4, New York 8, London 6.8, Moscow 7.
Finance: Paris 8, Madrid 8, New York 7.5, London 8, Moscow 7.2.

© Mihir Bose


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