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London set to greet IOC inspectors

By Kate Holton in London
February 14, 2005 19:02 IST
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Based around the capital's historical landmarks, a London Olympics in 2012 would enjoy passionate support from a racially diverse community, Games inspectors will be told this week.

Bid leader Sebastian Coe will show a team of 13 International Olympic Committee (IOC) inspectors around London on the second stop of their five-city tour from February 16-19.

The inspectors will be offered dinner with Queen Elizabeth and meet Prime Minister Tony Blair. The country's Olympians will also be on hand to greet the inspectors, with five-times Olympic rowing champion Steve Redgrave expected to take a leading role.

The IOC team, which started in Madrid, will next travel to New York, then Paris before finishing in Moscow in mid-March. The IOC will announce the winning city in Singapore on July 6.

The London bid has been hampered in recent months by negative press reports and the belief that Paris is the front runner to host the Games in 2012 but Coe will look to regain momentum with a tour across the capital.

Huge posters and signs are draped across the city, urging Londoners to "Make Britain Proud".

"London is looking at its best to welcome the IOC, and it is important that they are left in no doubt that this is a city and a country who really want to host the Games in 2012," Coe said.

"Our aim is to create a growing and lasting image of London as an Olympic city that gets people excited about backing our bid. We want the whole of London and the UK to help us make this the most vibrant and colourful bid in the 2012 race."

FULL SUPPORT

Crucially, Blair and London's Mayor Ken Livingstone have given their full support to the bid.

"I am determined to do all I can to bring those Games to the United Kingdom," Blair said.

"The cultural and social benefits are also exciting. We would be welcoming the world to this country during an Olympic Games."

A London Games would combine modern venues, such as the Olympic park which would be built in the heart of London's deprived East End, with established tourist landmarks such as Hyde Park, Wimbledon and Lord's cricket ground.

The IOC team hope to visit all the proposed venues and will see the plans to regenerate the run-down 500-acre area in the Lee Valley in the east of the city which will be popular with the IOC.

The team will also see London's transport plans for the Games, including 'Crossrail', the rail link between east and west London.

Transport had been seen as a weakness for the London bid, with an early IOC report referring to it as "often obsolete", and this will be a vital element of Coe's bid if he is to impress the inspectors.

Environmental protestors who plan a series of demonstrations during the four-day visit could also do damage to the bid.

London faces tough competition from Paris, Madrid, New York and Moscow to win the right to host the 2012 Games.

The inspectors spent four days in Madrid in the beginning of February, declaring themselves impressed by the overwhelming public enthusiasm for the Games.

Coe will cite the thousands of fans who line up for the Wimbledon tennis championships and the millions of supporters who watch football matches every weekend as evidence that Britain can easily match this passion.

 

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Kate Holton in London
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