London upsets Paris to win 2012 Games 

Host city decision comes down to fourth and final round of voting

Four votes were all that separated London from Paris as International Olympic Committee delegates met on Wednesday in Singapore to decide the host city for the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

While Paris was the front-runner heading into the vote, IOC president Jacques Rogge predicted earlier in the week that the vote would go down to the wire. After four rounds of voting, eliminating Moscow, New York and Madrid from the equation, the IOC at last picked London’s bid by a margin of 54-50 over Paris.

The British delegation in Singapore, including Prime Minister Tony Blair, erupted from their seats with the announcement, as did the huge crowd gathered in Trafalgar Square in London. So much traffic flooded to the London 2010 website, www.london2012.org, that its server crashed.

Meanwhile the Paris delegation was more subdued, and celebrations that were planned for Paris city hall wound down shortly after the announcement.

It will be weeks before the results of the voting can be dissected, but one general observation made in recent weeks was that the Paris bid was losing its momentum, while the other bids were making a strong push.

Intense lobbying on behalf of the Olympic delegations in the days leading up to the vote also had a strong impact.

Moscow was eliminated in the first round of voting. New York went in the second round, even though it was thought that their bid was stronger than Madrid’s. Madrid was eliminated in the third round.

John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee, issued a statement congratulating London for its successful bid. "From one Olympic city to another, we salute London. The years of hard work, dedication and planning on behalf of the London bid team have resulted in a fantastic choice for the 2012 Summer Games," he said.

Rogge said he hoped that all of the losing cities would try again for 2016 because they all submitted excellent bids. Paris might be reluctant after losing bids for the 1992, 2008 and 2012 Olympics – some delegates said it would be a long time before Paris bid again, while French NBA player Tony Parker went as far as to suggest the IOC has an Anglo-Saxon bias. "It’s been three times now that Paris has been refused… I find that bizarre," he said. "We did everything we had to do. I don’t know what more we could have done."

Paris has hosted the Games previously in 1900 and 1924, and France hosted the Winter Games in 1992. London hosted the Games in 1908 and 1948.

London now has a huge task of preparing for the Summer Games. Unlike Paris, which already has most of the infrastructure in place, London only has a few Olympic-ready facilities and will need to build a new stadium. The estimated hosting cost for London will be roughly double that of Paris at approximately $15 billion.

While that cost difference should have worked in Paris’s favour, it also meant that Paris couldn’t compete with London in terms of creating new Olympic legacies. An entire industrial park in a depressed area of East London will be rebuilt to host the Games over the next seven years.

While the IOC has said publicly that it wants to get away from the trend of more expensive Games and host cities going into debt, privately the proposed London facility was considered to be a huge factor in the voting.

Although vote is by secret ballot, some IOC delegates have since revealed how they voted.

Senegal’s Lamine Dack, the head of the International Association of Athletics Federation, admitted he switched his vote from Paris to London after he saw London’s plans to develop new sporting facilities and legacies.

"I was impressed by the plans to develop sporting facilities over the next years, and I would like to underline the fact that Britain will now have a permanent, state of the art stadium for athletics, and this is something we are very pleased about," he told reporters.

Votes from Spain’s three delegates after Madrid was eliminated helped London, as did the public support of Finland’s two IOC members. Three IOC members may not have voted in the last round.

Whether comments made recently by French President Jacques Chirac regarding Finnish and British cuisine had an impact on the voting is unknown, but it did create a flurry of media attention in the European media just days before the vote.

While the Olympic bid process has been relatively free from public scandals, the IOC is investigating claims of vote buying by individuals associated with the London bid.

Olympic Voting

Round 1 – London 22, Paris 21, Madrid 20, New York 15, Moscow 15

Round 2 – Madrid 32, London 27, Paris 25, New York 16

Round 3 – London 39, Paris 33, Madrid 31

Round 4 – London 54, Paris 50

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