Daily Telegraph

WHEN the International Olympic Committee release the report compiled by the evaluation commission today, the five cities bidding for the 2012 Games will have to employ code-breakers to glean even the most minor critical judgments the commission may have made.

Such is the secrecy surrounding this all important technical report that the cities — Paris, London, Madrid, New York and Moscow — will only be given their section of the report, they will not see it in its entirety until half an hour later, the same time it will be released on the IOC website. The IOC sees this secrecy as necessary to prevent any of the cities gaining an advantage.

For London, the news will be encouraging. The report is likely to list London as good as Paris. Even though London still has to build new stadiums, and Paris has them in place, the fact that London is preparing to construct an Olympic Park — in the style of Sydney and Athens — will count in its favour.

The two cities, which are widely seen as favourites, will use the report for different ends. London to demonstrate how far it has come after a bad start and Paris to re-emphasise that it deserves the Games, bidding as it is for the third time.

As one IOC member put it to me: “Let us face it. All the five cities can stage the Games, even Moscow which held the Olympics in 1980. The report will tell us nothing we do not know about the cities. What the cities have to do is demonstrate over the next month why they, and not their rivals, should have the Games. What added value they bring to the Olympic movement if we give them the Olympics.”

Paris was the first to try to demonstrate that added value yesterday when they used the French Open men’s singles final at Roland Garros to organise what they called Fêtons l’Amour Des Jeux, “to celebrate the love of the Games”.

Elsewhere in the city, three-quarters of the Champs Elysees was converted into an Olympic Park with a 700-metres athletics track at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe. Along the Champs Elysees, temporary stands staged Olympic sports.

This meant importing sand and water for sports such as beach volleyball and sailing, along with equestrianism and the modern pentathlon. Just under a million people gathered as French Olympic champions instructed young people in the various Olympic sports.

The French have used the French Open to extensively publicise their bid and this continued during yesterday’s men’s final when the leaders of the rival Madrid bid had to sit through publicity in favour of Paris. As Juan Antonio Samaranch, the former IOC president, and King Juan Carlos of Spain, both of whom are actively lobbying for Madrid, watched their champion Rafael Nadal beat Mariano Puerta, they also faced posters publicising Paris 2012.

Juan Carlos sat next to Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor and leader of the Paris bid, who said: “It shows the brotherhood of sport that the King of Spain is here while we celebrate Olympics in the Arc de Triomphe.” Juan Carlos could only manage a weak smile.

London will not be able to use the Championships at Wimbledon which finishes the Sunday before the July 6 vote in Singapore, in quite the same fashion because of advertising restrictions at the All England Club.

However, London will festoon the roads leading to Wimbledon with posters and placards, and there will be an overhead balloon hovering above the All England Club, publicising the bid.

It all adds up to a tumultuous 12 months for the London bid. A year ago the IOC issued their interim report which ranked London third behind Paris and Madrid. The report was also critical of the bid’s transport claims, forcing London to adopt the explanation favoured by defeated politicians that its policies had not been fully understood.

Within 24 hours, London had replaced Barbara Cassani as bid leader with Lord Sebastian Coe. Although, thanks to the media handling that has earmarked London’s campaign, the move was presented as a planned event and not related to the report.

Since then Lord Coe has proved an excellent campaigner. London has transformed its transport plans with the help of advice from the organisers of the Sydney Games, there has been the crucial involvement of Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is proving popular with IOC members, and the bid has won the public relations campaign, even if at times its PR has been a bit too aggressive for everyone’s liking.

London will now use the final weeks of the campaign to announce plans for an Olympic Institute which will be set up if the capital wins the bid. This is seen as the sort of added value that could swing crucial votes in what is the tightest ever bidding race in the history of the Olympics.

© Mihir Bose


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