Race for 2012 Olympics enters its final lap

LONDON – The race to host the 2012 Olympic Games entered its final stage yesterday, with London, New York, Paris, Moscow and Madrid handing over their bid dossiers to the International Olympic Committee. The books, all numbering more than 550 pages, will be used by the IOC to evaluate each city’s credentials on issues such as venues, security, transport, hotels and financing. «The bid document in itself is not enough to get you across the line, but it will make your bid better,» said London 2012 Chairman Seb Coe, who won 1,500-meter Olympic golds in 1980 and 1984. «This is what I would describe as the business of the race. You’re not quite into the last lap, but you’re just beginning to group at the bell.» The IOC Evaluation Commission travels to the candidate cities early next year, and will give its recommendations to the 100-plus IOC members a month before they vote by secret ballot for the host city in Singapore on July 6. Paris is the front runner to host its third Olympics. British bookmaker Ladbrokes yesterday had the French capital the 1-2 favorite to host its third Games after 1900 and 1924. London is at 3-1 to win its third Olympics after 1908 and 1948, followed by Madrid at 4-1, New York at 14-1 and 1980 host Moscow at 33-1. Paris has much of the infrastructure in place after hosting soccer’s World Cup in 1998. «We are not overconfident but we feel, due to all the work and checking that has been done and the support from the French government, politicians, IOC members, athletes and community leaders, we think we have put together the best of France,» Paris 2012 spokesman Jerome Lenfant said. London plans to regenerate a run-down area of east London, with a purpose-built Olympic Park. London’s bid also includes landmarks such as Wimbledon, the new Wembley Stadium, Horse Guards Parade and Hyde Park. New York bid farewell to its bid book last Thursday with a relay on Brooklyn Bridge. Their bid is helped by the backing of US Olympic Committee Chairman Peter Ueberroth, who ran the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. «I believe most IOC members will make their decision based on how sport, the athletes and the Olympic movement will be best served, not a global popularity contest. New York’s bid stands tall in each of those categories,» Ueberroth wrote in The New York Times on Sunday. New York is anchoring its bid on a plan for a stadium on Manhattan’s West Side that would be home to the National Football League club Jets. Geography could be an issue – Vancouver is hosting the 2012 Winter Games – while the leadup to America’s last Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002 was overshadowed by a damaging bribery scandal. IOC members have been barred from visiting bid cities since then. Madrid plans to host all 25 Olympic disciplines in three areas in close proximity, with 70 percent of the proposed infrastructure already built. It has also sought help from organizers of the successful 1992 Games in Barcelona. Moscow’s bid is based on venues along the Moscow River, historically the main artery of the 12th century city. «We have a very compact concept of running the Olympic Games – all the contests will take place in the same city, in Moscow,» said Moscow bid spokeswoman Zoya Volovets. The IOC’s 11-member evaluation commission will visit Madrid between February 3-6, London between February 16-19, New York between February 21-24, Paris between March 9-12, and Moscow between March 14-17.