Coe, Blair behind London's 2012 upset

Bid leader Sebastian Coe and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are being credited with masterminding London’s stunning upset victory over Paris for the 2012 Olympics.

As Paris bid chiefs start an inquiry into how they fell from being firm favourites to end up losers, IOC members were singing the praises of the London leaders.

“Tony Blair is a genius,” said Italian IOC member Ottavia Cinquanta. “He managed to get Italians, Latins, Asians to vote for London. They did not win just with the Commonwealth vote.”

Blair’s decision to come to the IOC Session two days before the crucial vote paid rich dividends.

The London team drew up a selected list of IOC members who would be invited to have one-on-one talks with Blair in a special suite hired in the Raffles Convention Centre.

Not all of the IOC members who were invited accepted the invitation, but enough did, allowing Blair to use all his political savvy and charm to get the votes needed to pull off a major victory.

“He was very charming.
There is no doubt some members would have been swayed by him,” said one IOC member who accepted a private meeting with the British prime minister.

New York bid member and IOC member Bob Ctvrtlik had no doubt of the importance of Blair.

“Tony Blair was extremely effective. He was here for the last four days, he’s made appearances, wrote letters, made phone calls to quite a few members and he is good at what he does,” said the American.

“He’s got a good personality and he was very active. I think he was one of their major keys.”

Blair’s biggest success was using his closeness with other world leaders.

He managed to get Silvio Berlusconi to put pressure on Italy’s three IOC members and although not all voted for London it was enough to help London cross the line.

Mario Pescante, president of the European Olympic Committees (EOC) and one of the most powerful men in the Olympic movement was a Paris supporter but because of his close ties with Berlusconi, did not campaign for the French capital.

London’s victory was secured in the fourth round when the old Soviet Union countries switched to London after Madrid went out. If Pescante had used his clout as EOC president some of those votes could have made the difference for Paris.

Coe was also impressive, especially in London’s final presentation.

“I think this was won by Sebastian Coe because normally, in the presentation, 10% of the votes moved and Sebastian Coe in my opinion gained it,” said Pescante.

“His message was very strong. Ten percent of the votes were moved by the presentation,” he added.

Gunilla Linberg, IOC executive board member and the most powerful woman in the movement, was equally impressed by Coe’s performance.

“He gave his all and it showed. He was very, very effective,” she said. - Sapa-AFP

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