Sun, Nov 21, 2004 - Page 23 News List

London keen on being host of the 2012 Olympics


From David Beckham to Roger Moore to Tony Blair, London is rolling out the big names to promote its campaign for the 2012 Olympics.

London's 600-page bid dossier was publicly released Friday -- two days after rivals Paris, Madrid, New York and Moscow unveiled their plans.

British officials insisted the capital's aging transport network would cope and that the public around the country wanted the Olympics.

"I can't see how anyone could suggest that London couldn't hold an Olympics, in eight years' time, that is every bid as memorable -- and indeed better -- than the Athens Games," Prime Minister Blair wrote in an editorial in the London Evening Standard.

A video promoting the bid featured cameo appearances by England soccer captain Beckham, former James Bond actor Moore, two-time Oscar nominee Helen Mirren and numerous British sports stars.

Beckham, who plays for Real Madrid, grew up in the east London area where a new Olympic Park would be developed.

In one film scene, a pensive Beckham sits in a cafe working on a crossword puzzle -- spoofing his image.

After initial lukewarm support, Blair's government has pledged full support for the bid.

"We are absolutely committed to the Olympics coming to London in 2012," he said Friday at his 10 Downing Street residence. "It is important because we can achieve a tremendous sporting legacy for this country through the investment in the Olympics. The Olympics will bring a lot of people, a lot of visitors, a lot of tourism to the country.

"And also this is a nation that is passionate about sport. I think it is increasingly clear that people see now the London bid is a very strong bid and the government is 101 percent behind it."

London has staged the Olympics twice, in 1908 and 1948. Birmingham mounted an unsuccessful bid for the 1992 games, while Manchester lost bids for the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.

The IOC's evaluation commission will visit London on Feb. 16-19, forwarding its recommendations to the 100-plus members before the vote in Singapore on July 6.

The British capital ranked third in an initial IOC technical report in May -- behind Paris and Madrid and ahead of New York and Moscow.

Bid leader Sebastian Coe, who won 1,500m Olympic gold medals in 1980 and 1984, said his committee had been "listening and learning" since then.

He said venue changes in response to the IOC's first review would mean 80 percent of athletes will live within 20 minutes of their competition venues.

The Olympic Park would feature nine of the 28 sports, including the main stadium, aquatics center, velodrome, four indoor sports arenas and the Olympic Village.

The river zone, south of the Olympic Park, will use the Millennium Dome for gymnastics and basketball and Greenwich Park for equestrian.

The central zone would use well-known London landmarks as backdrops for the marathon, triathlon and road cycling events.

Lord's cricket ground would host archery, with the new Wembley stadium staging both soccer finals.

Tennis would be played at Wimbledon, while baseball and softball would be at Regent's Park.

Coe said London would avoid white elephant venues.

The 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium would later be reconfigured to a 25,000-seat venue for track and field. Other venues will either be dismantled and rebuilt in other parts of Britain or turned into a London sports institute.

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