(P145) London on Olympic short-list

Capital Gains
Coe takes up the running
Countdown to Final Verdict


The Guardian, Wednesday 19 May 2004 - by Duncan Mackay

London is capable of staging the Olympic Games in 2012, but first it must convince Londoners, an influential games committee warned last night, writes Duncan Mackay. The capital was one of five applicants to be short listed as a candidate city by the International Olympic Committee at a meeting in Lausanne yesterday. Madrid, Moscow, New York and Paris joined them.

by Fabrice Coffrini

But IOC members who assessed London's bid queried how much support there was really for the bid in Britain. London 2012 officials claimed 82% of Londoners were behind the bid, but a private poll carried out by the Lords of the Rings found the figure to be significantly less.

"The IOC poll is lower with 67% in favour, 13% against. The main reasons for opposition are concerns about the cost and traffic," said the report.

"It is vital that we engage with the British public to ensure that our plans fully reflect their needs and wishes and that they understand the potential impact of a successful bid," said Sebastian Coe, a double Olympic 1500 metres champion and vice-chairman of London's bid.

The biggest shock was that Rio de Janeiro, considered the dark horses due to the fact that South America has never staged the Olympics, did not make the cut along with Havana, Istanbul and Leipzig. The IOC executive board trimmed the field based on a report assessing the technical capabilities of the nine cities. London scored relatively poorly and over all was ranked only equal third with New York behind the favourites Paris and Madrid. The assessment report established ranking criteria in 11 categories. These ranged from government support to what legacy the Olympics would leave.

London came top in only one section - accommodation, where it was ranked equal first with New York and Paris. Embarrassingly for the government, when it came to experience in staging past sporting events it ranked only equal sixth with Leipzig. It also scored poorly in its Olympic Village plans and transport, but officials are not troubled. "There are 10 lines at Stratford," said Neale Coleman, special adviser to the London Mayor Ken Livingstone. "Sydney, when it hosted the games in 2000, had only one."

London did score encouragingly highly in environmental conditions and impact - something that has become increasingly important to IOC members - as well as security and finance. What will boost London officials is that these scores are based solely on the questionnaires the bidding cities submitted in January; cities that have performed poorly in the past have gone on to win most notably Athens seven years ago.

Ranking Criteria

Ranked first

London Ranking

Government support, legal issues and public opinion



General infrastructure



Sports venues



Olympic village



Environmental conditions and impact




London, Paris, New York





Safety and security



Experience in past sporting events






Overall projects and legacy

Madrid, Paris


Overall Ranking

1 Paris
2 Madrid
=3 London, New York
5 Moscow

6 Leipzig
7 Rio de Janeiro
8 Istanbul
9 Havana

The candidates now have six months in which to compile their full bid dossiers to be submitted to the IOC by November 15. These will be subjected to intense scrutiny before the IOC evaluation commission visits each city next February and March. The commission's report will be distributed to IOC members next May ahead of the final vote by the full membership in Singapore on July 6, 2005.

"Today marks the beginning of a new and critical phase in our voyage towards the 2012 London Olympic Games," said Barbara Cassani, the chair of London's bid. "For the next six months we will be intensely active on all fronts to ensure that we submit the best possible dossier to the IOC in November. We recognise that we're competing against strong rivals, so nothing can be left to chance."

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Coe takes up the running in fresh attempt to defy the odds

The Guardian, Thursday 20 May 2004 - by Duncan Mackay, on the urgent promotion of Britain's double gold medalist

It is ironic that London is pinning its hopes of winning the 2012 Olympic Games on Sebastian Coe, of whom Margaret Thatcher once said: "That young man doesn't understand the politics of sport."

But, if the International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge stands on a podium in Singapore on July 6 next year, rips open the envelope and reads out "London", it will surely represent the greatest victory of Lord Coe's career.

Coe won four Olympic medals and smashed 12 world records but he has never faced an opponent as formidable as Paris. The report of the IOC assessment committee ranks the French capital's bid so vastly superior to London's that Coe appears to have been drafted in as the new chairman and president because even Barbara Cassani acknowledged that she could not close the gap.

Coe, now 47, compares the situation with 1983 when he was laid low with a viral ailment which included a state of incessant tiredness.

Lord Coe, twice Olympic 1500 m champion, ponders the challenge of being promoted to head London's bid:
Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

He pulled out of the world championships but the following year in Los Angeles defied the odds to win his second consecutive Olympic 1500m title ahead of his team-mate Steve Cram. Coe sees his latest challenge in similar terms. "It's pace, judgment and making sure no stone is unturned," he said. "Mental confidence is about proper underpinning. It's very important in any event to understand your competition."

That L.A. triumph cemented Coe's position in the Olympic pantheon and made him a favourite of Juan Antonio Samaranch, then IOC president. "He thinks the sun shines out of Seb's backside," a senior Olympic official once said.

Samaranch was such a fan of Coe that in 1988, when he was controversially left out of Britain's Olympic team, the Spaniard tried to change the rules - unsuccessfully - so he could compete in Seoul.

Coe has regularly accompanied Samaranch in private jets to major events around the world and the two remain so friendly that they are due to spend time together in a private capacity in June.

It is certain, therefore, that Coe will take the opportunity to ask Samaranch to help him bring the Olympics to London. Though Samaranch stood down as president in 2001, he still wields plenty of power among IOC members.

It is estimated that, if a vote for 2012 were held today, London would poll 24 to 30 votes. That is not enough but, if Coe can persuade Samaranch to help deliver another 20 members, then suddenly London's chances look much rosier.

"Even when it was unpopular with the BOA, I have only ever believed that London is our only chance, "said Coe.

"I come to this with an advantage. I was born in London but I've not lived exclusively in London. I was brought up in the North, I was educated in the East Midlands. I know this country extremely well. I'm not someone who views this through the wrong end of a telescope."

Coe finally appears to be fulfilling his destiny as Britain's leading sports politician. He came out of his blocks quickly. As long ago as 1984 he began to serve on various sporting committees, became vice chairman of the Sports Council (now Sport England) and even a member of the Health Education Authority.

He is widely credited during his time at the Sports Council with introducing the world's first widespread out-of-competition drugs-testing programme, something else that will be useful to point out to IOC members who may doubt Britain's commitment to drug free sport following the disgraceful sacking of Britain's anti-doping head Michele Verroken earlier this year. He is also a member of the ruling council of the International Association of Athletics Federations, a position which will help him influence where the Olympics may be heading.

Nevertheless this morning Coe must still feel as he did in the LA Coliseum 20 years ago when on the final lap everyone predicted the favourite Cram would pull away from him. He defied the odds then and will be hoping to do the same again in July 2005 in Singapore.
Top of page; Coe takes up the running


13 August 2004

The five cities short listed as candidates for the 2012 Olympics - Paris, Madrid, London, New York, Moscow - will each send a team to observe the games this summer.

15 November 2004

The deadline for each city to submit a "candidature file" - detailed plans of their bids - to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

February/March 2005

Each file analysed in detail by an IOC Evaluation Commission which will visit each of the candidate cities

June 2005

IOC Evaluation Commission issues report.

July 2005

Final decision on host city for 2012 Games by the full IOC membership during the 117th IOC Session in Singapore.

The Guardian, sports pages 19 May 2004

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24/5/04 Last Updated 24/5/04