July 5, 2005

Paris looks to Chirac to boost faltering bid

By Paul Radford

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - French President Jacques Chiracarrived in Singapore on Tuesday to boost Paris's apparentlyfaltering bid to stage the 2012 Olympic Games in Wednesday'svote by the International Olympic Committee.

Paris faces London, Madrid, Moscow and New York in what isexpected by IOC members to be the most closely-fought bidcontest in Olympic history.

Chirac arrived in the city state two days after BritishPrime Minister Tony Blair landed to promote London's bid withIOC members.

Unlike Blair, Chirac was not planning to meet individualmembers, the French delegation said, but he would take part inthe presentation of Paris's bid to the IOC after Blair hasflown home to host the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.

Chirac is due to fly out to attend the summit on Wednesday-- before the vote and the announcement of the IOC's decision,expected shortly after 7:30 p.m local time (1130 GMT).

Paris arrived in Singapore as favorites but London, Madridand New York all appear to have been gaining momentum at theirexpense and IOC president Jacques Rogge has described the voteas too close to call.

New York flew in Senator Hillary Clinton, the former FirstLady, and boxing icon Muhammad Ali, to join mayor MichaelBloomberg in wooing the IOC.

Ali appeared alongside Bloomberg, who described him as atrue Olympic champion. "He was a gold medal winner and a truehero to an awful lot of us," he said.

Moscow, regarded as the only real outsiders in the vote,announced that President Vladimir Putin would appear in a videoduring its presentation and that he would speak in Englishpublicly for the first time.

Until Chirac's arrival, the French had kept a surprisinglylow profile.

The Paris delegation is well aware that favorites haveoften appeared jinxed in the past. Three of the last four votesfor Summer Games hosts were won by candidates who had not beenconsidered as frontrunners.


Atlanta beat favorites Athens for the right to stage the1996 Games, Sydney defeated Beijing for the 2000 Olympics andAthens edged out Rome for 2004.

The only recent favorite to end up winning the vote wasBeijing when they were chosen as hosts for the 2008 Games.

Under the complicated voting system, the lowest-placedcandidate drops out after each round of voting until oneemerges with a majority of the ballot.

This time most observers expect the decision to go to thewire with four full voting rounds before the decision isannounced by Rogge.

Blair stressed the cosmopolitan characteristics of theBritish capital at a news conference on Tuesday: "London is avibrant, open city that welcomes all people and all cultures,"he said.

New York, also bidding for the first time, was upbeat onTuesday at an early news conference by Clinton.

"This is a great bid from a great city for the greatestinternational event there is," she said before adding areference to the September 11 attack.

"We're standing here a little less than four years from thetime when we were attacked and we're telling you that New YorkCity is the place to bring the 2012 Olympics -- because thepeople of New York are resilient, they are extraordinary intheir capacity to pull together and plan for the future.