July 6, 2005

London primed for quick start on 2012 Games

By Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) - Organizers of London's victorious bid to
host the 2012 Olympics woke up somewhat dazed and bleary-eyed
on Thursday to the news they had to start work immediately to
produce a successful Games.

London edged fierce rivals and favorites Paris by 54 votes
to 50 in Wednesday's vote in Singapore, leaving the British
organizers stunned, delirious and not quite sure how they had
done it.

The French team were disconsolate.

But the London officials were immediately brought down to
earth with advice from the Athens organizers who staged the
most expensive Games in 2004.

"Prepare early," Greek Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw led the praise for the
work of bid leader Sebastian Coe and said the government would
do all it could to make a London Games the best ever.

"Lord Coe has taken the inspiration and energy which made
him one of the world's greatest ever athletes and channeled it
into building a powerful bid for London," he told the House of
Commons on Wednesday.

"His performance here, as it was on the track, has been

"Today we can celebrate. From tomorrow we will start to
make the Olympic vision come true."

Paris had been the favorites throughout the bidding process
and its officials were left stunned when International Olympic
Committee president Jacques Rogge announced the result in a
globally televised ceremony from Singapore.


Madrid, New York and Moscow were ruled out at earlier
stages of the voting.

But immediately the size of the task ahead and the
challenges became apparent.

In a press conference minutes after the announcement, one
journalist asked an ecstatic Prime Minister whether this would
mean increasing taxes for the public and the capital's Evening
Standard newspaper listed a string of promises the organizers
must stick to.

If the preparations are to run smoothly, Coe and his team
will have to keep the notoriously fickle British press on side.

"There can be none of the delays and brinkmanship about
construction which blighted the Athens Games last year nor
anything resembling the cock-ups that bedeviled the new
Wembley," the Standard said, in reference to delays incurred
over the national soccer stadium.

Greece effectively wasted three years of preparations and
was forced to foot a bill of more than 9.0 billion euros
($10.71 billion), more than twice the initial estimate, mainly
because of the delays.

London mayor Ken Livingstone and the government have agreed
a public funding package of up to 2.375 billion pounds ($4.16
billion) to cover everything from new facilities to Olympic

Part of that would come from up to 1.5 billion pounds worth
of lottery receipts. Increases in council taxes that will cost
the average household about 20 pounds a year will also help
fund the Games.

Straw said the government would introduce a bill to outline
their Olympic plans before parliament breaks for the summer
recess on July 21 and said major contracts for work in the East
End would be concluded in the next few weeks.

The London bid centers on a run-down area in the east of
the city, the Lower Lea Valley, where the Olympic village will
be built. The organizers' passionate plea to use the Games to
help regenerate the area may have played a significant part in
clinching the result.

Some building work has already begun on the site and Steve
Cram, a former European and world champion, told Reuters the
organizers were prepared to start full-time preparations

"I don't think any time will be wasted at all," he said in
an interview. "With a view to what happened in Athens, nobody
wants that situation to arise."