IOC’s Oswald to head 2012 oversight body

LONDON – The IOC believes British pride will ensure London’s Olympic preparations avoid the organizational pitfalls of last summer’s Athens Games. The International Olympic Committee yesterday named Denis Oswald as head of the coordination commission, a 15-member team overseeing preparations for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Oswald also carried out the same task for the Athens Games, but doesn’t expect the same delays and problems with London. «I don’t see any risk,» Oswald told a conference call yesterday. «There is too much at stake, the image of the country is at stake, and really I’m fully confident that everything will be delivered according to the bid book. We of course have learned the lessons of Athens and even without our help, London has learned the lessons of Athens and has been very quick to start, and that’s a very good sign which gives a very positive impression.» London has had troubles in rebuilding Wembley Stadium and had to relinquish this year’s World Athletics Championships because it couldn’t fund a new stadium. Oswald took over as chairman of the coordination commission for Athens from Jacques Rogge after the Belgian was elected IOC president in 2001. «With the success of Athens 2004, Denis has already demonstrated his ability to help lead the delivery of excellent Olympic Games while under great pressure, bringing partners together and resolving a wide range of difficult issues,» Rogge said. Oswald will meet with London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe and bid chief executive Keith Mills tomorrow. The full commission will visit London next spring. Oswald said one of the lessons of Athens was that it is important to have continuity from the bid committee to the organizing committee. «It was part of the difficulty to start working with a new group with hardly any idea of what had been proposed during the bid procedure so we have already established during the bid phase excellent relations with Seb and Keith and we can build up on this,» Oswald said. Soon after Athens won the right to stage the 2004 games in 1997, bid leader Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki was sidelined. After three years of infighting and delays she was reappointed, but while the games were successful, many of the venues have fallen into disuse. «The situation in Greece was very specific, very political, which explained what happened,» Oswald said. «We tried to change the [venue] situation in the course of the preparation of the games but it was too late. I’m convinced we are not going to face the same problems we had in Athens.» Gilbert Felli, the commission’s executive director, said a synchronized master schedule would be set up between the IOC and London, with twice-monthly conference calls to ensure targets were being met. Such a system was not used in Athens. An IOC member since 1991, Oswald is an IOC executive board member as well as president of the International Rowing Federation. The Swiss won rowing bronze at the 1968 Mexico Olympics. He also competed at the 1972 Munich Games and the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Six members of the team were on the evaluation commission which visited all five 2012 bid cities: Frank Fredericks of Namibia, Patrick Jarvis of Canada, Algeria’s Mustapha Larfaoui, Sam Ramsamy of South Africa, Morocco’s Nawal El Moutawakel and Singapore’s Ser Miang Ng. «I am particularly delighted that so many of the members of the evaluation commission are on this team,» Coe said. «They already have a great insight about our plans, aspirations and visions.» Others on the panel include Anita DeFrantz of the United States, Gunilla Lindberg of Sweden and China’s Yu Zaiqing.