Olympic Bid Cities court African support
Accra, June 18, GNA - The five cities vying for the 2012 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games on Friday courted African support when they were given the platform at the on-going Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) 11th General Assembly to present their plans before next month's 119 session of the International Olympics Committee (IOC) in Singapore to select a host city.
With the July 6 date for voting at the IOC Congress fast approaching, the bid cities - Paris, London, New York, Madrid and Moscow used the platform to win over the African delegates at the last major Olympic gathering before they converge in Singapore. Each city was allotted 10 minutes to make their presentation to the 53-nation African body, comprising 25 members, who will be voting in IOC elections.
The ANOCA General Assembly is the first Olympic meeting since the June 6 release of the IOC's evaluation report that assessed the five bidding cities.
Paris, which has been the favourite from the start, got the best overall technical review. The bidding cities sought to play up their ties and solidarity with Africa, a continent, which has never hosted the Olympics. The strict time limit forced some cities to cut short their planned
presentations. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn't make his presentation because of the time restrictions, leaving the podium to Dan Doctoroff, former Mayor David Dinkins and Congo-born NBA star Dikembe Mutombo.
"It's great to be here," New York bid leader Doctoroff said. "A lot of people questioned whether we would be here. But there is one thing you want to know about New Yorkers -- we never give up. In just 72 hours, we created a new great plan for our Olympic stadium." New York expects to submit the final package next week to the IOC, whose executive board must approve the plan before next month's vote in Singapore.
"There is a home crowd in New York for every Olympic squad from Africa. I think we got our main message across, that New York is a place that will welcome athletes, teams, fans from Africa like no other city can. We showed how New York will celebrate Africans and African athletes," Doctoroff added.
London bid chairman Sebastian Coe pledged support for bringing the games to Africa one day, and said if the British capital gets the 2012 Olympics it would use some temporary venues which could be relocated for sports events in other parts of the world, including Africa. A day after its arrival in Accra, the London bid team sought the endorsement of former WBC Super feather weight champion Nelson Azumah to attract attention of the host environment. A more prominent "Nelson" -- Former South African President Nelson Mandela has already gave his endorsement for London. Coe cited British Prime Minister Tony Blair's efforts, as president of the G8 nations, to show "solidarity with the whole of Africa on issues such as aid and debt relief." Paris officials, led by Mayor Bertrand Belanoe, stressed France's historic ties with Africa and said their bid project was patterned on the IOC's blueprint for streamlining the size and cost of the Olympics. Mayor Bertrand Delanoe said the Paris bid was a model for holding the games in less-developed countries.
"We delivered the messages we wanted to deliver," spokesperson Philippe Baudillon said. "We had two main points -- the enthusiasm of France for the games and the long-standing relations between France and Africa."
Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon pointed to geography, noting that if Madrid gets the Olympics they "will be the closest ever held to Africa." Madrid also announced that Real Madrid soccer star Raul Gonzalez, Memphis Grizzlies forward Pau Gasol, former Tour de France champion Miguel Indurain and former French Open champion Arantxa Sanchez Vicario would go to Singapore to lobby for the bid. Moscow highlighted its compact bid layout plan and said the games would "help change Russia and the world in an unparalleled manner." "Moscow represents a historic choice for the Olympic movement," Moscow Deputy Mayor Valery Shantsev said. "Russia is a natural bridge between East and West and the games in Moscow would help bring the world closer together."