SPORTS

It is now a 3-city race

PARIS – The race for the right to host the 2012 Summer Olympics has come down to a three-city race between Paris, London and New York, sources close to the IOC’s evaluation commission have told AFP. The draft report of the 13-strong commission, which spent four days in each of the five cities vying for the right to hold sport’s most glittering prize to study their technical ability, has the three cities clear of Madrid and Moscow. Although the report, due to be published by June 6 at the latest – one month before the IOC session meeting in Singapore, to decide the winner – does not rank the cities, a source told AFP the order will be clear. «Look, no one doubts that all five cities can hold a successful Olympics. But anyone who reads the report will be able to see that four are better than the fifth city and that three are better than the fourth,» said a source who was involved in the discussions. According to the source, Moscow comes last, followed by Madrid. «It will be between London, Paris and New York,» he said. The evaluation commission report will give a huge boost to London, which in the initial evaluation report found itself seriously lagging behind Paris and New York. London bid leader Seb Coe impressed the evaluation commission during its trip to London and several members admitted privately that the London presentation was the best. For New York, the bid hinges on the ability of the bid committee and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to get approval for the Olympic stadium in Manhattan which has become embroiled in a bidding war. The evaluation commission has made it clear that it’s a case of «no stadium – no Games.» The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the land where the stadium is to be built, is expected to decide later this week whether or not to give its approval to the New York 2012 plan. But sources on the evaluation commission admit their report only ranks a three or four on a scale of 10 in importance in picking the winner and that the cities should not get too carried away. «It is now up to the politics to decide the winner,» said one evaluation commission member. «London and Paris have to be careful they don’t kill each other off and let New York snatch victory,» said another source. Several European IOC members are already eyeing 2016 and might switch support for New York to leave the door open for what would be a certain European winner in 2016. «If New York wins 2012 then you can bet the house the 2016 Games will go to Europe,» said one IOC member. Although the evaluation commission report suggests a three-city race it would be foolish to discount Madrid, being strongly backed by former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch. Samaranch still has strong support among the membership and if he brought his full clout to bear, it could seriously threaten Paris, London and New York. The evaluation commission boasted seven IOC members and sources on the commission admit that it will be more the private comments they make to fellow IOC members about each bid city rather than their formal report which will prove to be influential. «Between them they know everyone and their personal opinions will no doubt sway votes,» said the source. «It will not necessarily be the technical side of the bid but the personal side that counts. For IOC members, the personal touch has always been more important than the technical side.»