The five candidate cities to host the 2012 Summer Olympics gave presentations at the Main Press Center yesterday, touting their advantages and praising Athens’s opening ceremony as a tough act to follow. All remaining candidates – London, Madrid, Moscow, New York, Paris – are heavyweights. The International Olympic Committee weeded out the weaklings (Havana, Istanbul, Leipzig and Rio de Janeiro) last May and will make its final decision in July 2005. The presentations were obviously designed to get the attention of the media, if not the IOC. «At this stage, the IOC members are not even thinking about 2012. They are thinking about what is going on in Athens. (The race) has not even started yet,» NYC 2012 Executive Director Jay Kriegel told Kathimerini. Nonetheless, New York was the one candidate city that kept reiterating it had taken into account the recommendations of the IOC in its May report. That report had placed New York in fourth place, just ahead of Moscow. New York was stung by the report, although, when asked if he thought it fair, Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, who initiated the city’s bid, answered diplomatically. «They are the experts and we took their opinion seriously,» he said after the presentation. So, more buses were added to ferry the athletes to and from venues in addition to the river transport proposed, which failed to enchant the IOC. Also, the majority of the venues were grouped in three clusters. A common theme for all five candidate cities is the proximity of the venues to each other and Paris was no exception. There will be two main clusters of venues, one centered on the Stade de France, north of Paris, and the other on the Roland Garros tennis courts and the Parc des Princes, the biggest soccer stadium within city limits. Beach volleyball will be played under the Eiffel Tower, but sailing will have to take place far away, in the southwestern port of La Rochelle. New York’s was the best-presented bid of the five and the concept of locating venues along two axes perpendicular to each other and meeting at the Olympic Village is impressive. New York, though, has to take account of what Doctoroff tactfully called the US’s «dynamic relationship» with the rest of the world. In the end, New York hopes IOC members will appreciate the city’s spectacular backdrop, financial strength («the eighth economy in the world») and diversity («it is an Olympic Village every day»). London also drew attention to its own cosmopolitan nature but its main attractions are the bid group’s dynamic and articulate leader, Olympic champion Sebastian Coe, and its concept of transforming a piece of East End industrial wasteland into one of Europe’s biggest urban parks. In addition, London has found an even more original location for beach volleyball, the Horse Guards Parade. Madrid and Moscow’s bids would be compelling any other year but have to compete with the three behemoths described above. Hopefully, Moscow’s slogan – «a risk-free Olympics» – will not be seen by some Chechens as a sort of challenge.