Bid cities receive key IOC report: Paris front-runner, Moscow loser

Exactly a month before the vote, front-runner Paris received the best overall review Monday in an IOC evaluation of the five cities bidding for the 2012 Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee issued a 123-page report evaluating the bids of Paris, London, New York, Madrid and Moscow - the most competitive and glamorous field in Olympic bid history.

London, Madrid and New York also got positive ratings, while longshot Moscow came in for criticism.

The report did not rank the cities, but offered an insight into the strength and weaknesses of each bid. It focused on technical issues such as venues, financing, transport plans, accommodations, security and public and government support.

The findings will serve as a guide for the 117 eligible IOC voting members who will cast secret ballots in Singapore on July 6. However, the vote will also take into account geopolitical and other issues not covered by the report.

The report was based on visits to the five cities in February and March by the IOC evaluation commission, headed by Morocco's Nawal El Moutawakel.

Paris has been considered the favorite since the start of the campaign nearly two years ago, and the report only reinforced that status. However, the report also made clear that London, New York and Madrid are worthy contenders.

The report didn't include a single negative word about Paris, praising the French capital's sports concept, "excellent accommodation," "high capacity and quality" transportation systems and "well-documented" budget.

The report also noted that Paris had "fully taken into account" the IOC's framework for controlling the cost and size of the Olympics.

London, which has gained significant momentum in recent months, was praised for the "significant sports and environmental legacies" involved in its plans for regenerating the city's rundown east side.

However, the IOC noted that "careful planning would be required to ensure that all facilities are completed on time." It also said that London's improved transportation plans were workable if "fully delivered" before 2012.

Madrid was cited for sports and environmental legacies. In the only negative comment, the report said Madrid may need to use hotels in cities about an hour away by train to meet Olympic requirements.

New York won general positive assessments, including for long-term legacy, but the report cited the continuing uncertainty over its proposed US$2 billion stadium on Manhattan's West Side.

A vote on the project, crucial to the city's chances, was postponed for a second time Friday and was scheduled for later Monday in Albany.

The IOC report said "no guarantees were provided" to ensure that the stadium and an international broadcasting center would be built.

Moscow, considered the outsider all along, received the most stinging comments in the report.

"A lack of detailed planning in the candidature file and background information made it difficult for the commission to evaluate the project," the IOC said.

The IOC also commissioned its own public opinion survey, and Madrid came out on top with a 91 percent approval rate in the city and 85 percent nationwide. Paris was next (85 percent-79 percent), followed by Moscow (77 percent-76 percent), London (68 percent-70 percent) and New York (59 percent-54 percent).

On Sunday, Paris and Madrid staged major street festivals to showcase their bids. The Champs-Elysees in Paris was lined with a running track and featured exhibitions of all 28 Olympic sports. In Madrid, more than 1 million turned out for party centered on the main thoroughfare, the Castellana Boulevard.

Moscow last staged the summer games in 1980, the United States in 1996 (Atlanta) and Spain in 1992 (Barcelona). Paris, meanwhile, hasn't held the Olympics since 1924, and London since 1948.

The campaign has been conducted under strict IOC ethics rules enacted after the scandal over cash, scholarships and other inducements given to IOC members during Salt Lake City's winning bid for the 2002 Winter Games. Ten IOC delegates resigned or were expelled.

IOC members have been banned from visiting the 2012 cities, while lobbying and promotion by the bidders was tightly controlled.

Paris, which is bidding for the third time in 20 years, has run a relatively quiet and safe campaign while trying to cope with the front-runner's tag. After failed attempts for the 1992 and 2008 Olympics, Paris is a familiar quantity that IOC members might want to reward for its persistence.

London has been the most aggressive of the cities under the leadership of the bid race's biggest name, two-time Olympic 1,500-meter gold medalist Sebastian Coe.

New York has made big strides under bid leader and deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff, but still faces uncertainty over the stadium, lack of a natural support base and international sentiment against the United States and President Bush.

Madrid, the only major European capital that has never hosted the Olympics, is counting on the influence of former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch, who has been calling members to court their support.

Moscow has been the least active and is widely expected to be the first city eliminated in the voting. Under the IOC system, the city receiving the fewest votes goes out after each round until one candidate gets a majority.


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