Rice joins Games bid rally

NEW YORK/LONDON (Combined reports) – US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called New York the «perfect place» to hold the Olympics, lending her support during a rally yesterday a week before the vote deciding the host of the 2012 Games. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Rice’s visit to City Hall will send a «powerful message» to the International Olympic Committee that the city’s bid has the «full and wholehearted support of the United States government.» New York is competing with Paris, London, Moscow and Madrid, with Paris regarded as the front-runner. A decision by the IOC will be announced on July 6 in Singapore. Rice and Bloomberg were asked several times why President George W. Bush was not traveling to Singapore to support the bid, unlike leaders of some other countries vying for the Games. Bloomberg cited security and other logistical issues, but noted the president will appear on video during the city’s presentation. «I think you will find the president is among the strongest possible supporters of the 2012 bid and that will be evident in Singapore,» Rice said. Rice, speaking at a news conference before the rally, said New York is «the perfect place to host an Olympic Games. If you walk along the streets of New York you will see the faces and hear the accents of the entire world.» She added that the Olympics «summons the best in us. It summons the highest calling to be excellent at what you do.» The city’s effort to land the Summer Games included an 11th-hour change in venues for its planned Olympic stadium. After state officials balked this month at funding a stadium in Manhattan, the bid committee shifted its focus to Queens. It put together a plan within a week to convert a newly planned stadium for baseball’s New York Mets into a temporary Olympic stadium that will hold the opening and closing ceremonies as well as track and field competition. Meanwhile, British Sikhs said yesterday they were asking the International Olympic Committee to vote against France’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games because of a French law they say violates religious freedom. The Sikh Federation and National Council of Gurdwaras said in a statement it had begun writing to each of the 120-plus members of the IOC. Bhai Amrik Singh, chairman of the Sikh Federation, appeals in the letter for the Paris bid «to be rejected as long as the laws and practices in France discriminate against those that wish to freely practice their faith.» France’s «secularity» law, which took effect at the start of the academic year in September, forbids the wearing of «conspicuous» religious insignia in state schools, like Muslim headscarves and Sikh turbans. (AP, AFP)

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