2012 bid cities take campaign to Ghana

The race for the 2012 Summer Games moves to Africa this week, with the five bid cities taking their campaign to Ghana in the last major Olympic gathering before next month’s IOC vote in Singapore.

Less than three weeks before the decision on July 6, Paris, London, New York, Madrid and Moscow have sent top-level delegations to Accra to address the general assembly of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa.

Each city will be given 10-15 minutes on Friday to make formal presentations to the body, which represents 53 countries. The audience could include up to 20 International Olympic Committee members.

It’s the first Olympic meeting since the June 6 release of the IOC’s evaluation report assessing the five bids. Paris, which has been the favourite from the start, got the best overall technical review, but London, New York and Madrid were all rated as worthy contenders.

IOC president Jacques Rogge said this week he expects the secret vote will be tight, decided by half a dozen votes or so.

Standing most to gain from the Africa meetings is New York, which salvaged an 11th-hour revised stadium project last weekend to keep its bid alive.

The candidacy look doomed after the rejection of a proposed $2-billion stadium on Manhattan’s West Side, but, within a week, New York came up with an alternate plan—a stadium in Queens that would eventually replace Shea Stadium as home of the New York Mets baseball team.

“We right now are the athlete who falls, brushes himself off and moves forward more determined than ever,” New York bid leader and deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff said on Thursday.
“That’s the New York spirit.”

New York got a boost on Thursday when track and field’s world governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, signed off on the new stadium project.

“We were impressed that in such a short time such an impressive replacement could be found,” IAAF secretary general Istvan Gyulai said in Monaco.

New York is also running the stadium plans past Fifa, soccer’s governing body. The city hopes to submit the final package to the IOC early next week, Doctoroff said. The revised project requires approval of the IOC executive board before the Singapore vote.

Doctoroff said the way New York overcame the stadium setback offers a powerful new selling point for the bid.

“Nobody else has anything new to say—we do,” Doctoroff told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “This is a chance for us to establish that we’ve regained momentum. ... I can’t imagine any city going through a bigger test than we just did. It’s a pretty strong statement of our commitment, of our heart and our

ability to get things done.”

Doctoroff said the reaction of IOC members has been “extremely positive”.

He spoke with Rogge by phone on Monday and said the IOC president was “quite pleased that we’d been so speedy, so resourceful.”

Doctoroff is accompanied in Accra by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and, in a bid to appeal to the African audience, former Mayor David Dinkins and Houston Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo, who was born in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo).

“We want to demonstrate that Africans will really feel at home in New York City,” Doctoroff said.

London is taking Daley Thompson, the Olympic decathlon gold medalist in 1980 and 1984. London claims support of former South African President Nelson Mandela, as well as two-time Olympic 10 000m champion Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia and marathon world record-holder Paul Tergat of Kenya.

London held a news conference in Accra on Thursday to outline its offer to provide training facilities for African Olympic committees.

“We are here today to share in your concerns,” London bid chairman Sebastian Coe said. “Your concerns are our concerns. We are eager to do things to inspire young people here.”

Paris is sending Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, along with French Olympic Committee president Henri Serandour, IOC member Jean-Claude Killy and bid chief Philippe Baudillon.

Baudillon spoke of the “deep and historical relations which united France to Africa” and said he hoped the Paris project could help inspire Olympic bids from Africa. The games have never been held in Africa or South America.

The Madrid delegation includes Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, bid chairperson Feliciano Mayoral and IOC member Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr, son of the former IOC president. Madrid, which has been largely overlooked during the campaign, scored highly in the IOC evaluation report.

Moscow will be represented by Deputy Mayor and bid chairperson Valery Shantsev. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov will attend. - Sapa-AP

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