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London has overcome early criticisms

7/6/2005

LONDON -- Today, the heart of London's bid for the 2012
Olympics is a huge pile of dirt in a run-down area on the eastern
outskirts of the city.

Amid the rubble in Stratford, however, grand plans are already taking shape.


A 500-acre plot of land will be transformed into an Olympic
Stadium and village, and then turned into new homes and businesses.
Other venues would include London landmarks such as Wimbledon,
Wembley Stadium and Regent's Park.

London has overcome early criticisms over transportation links
and government support to offer a strong, ambitious bid, with the
regeneration of Stratford giving the British capital much-needed
sporting facilities and a long-term legacy.

Construction has already been approved for an aquatic center and
velodrome.

"This is probably the biggest pitch this country has made in
the last 20 years," London bid leader Sebastian Coe said. "This
is not an opportunity coming around again in three or four years'
time. It has to be grabbed now. It can change the nature of our
country forever."

The International Olympic Committee, meeting in Singapore on July 6, selected London over front-runner Paris, New York, Madrid and Moscow.

In a report issued June 6, the IOC evaluation commission praised
the "very high quality" and "high level of planning" of
London's bid.

A new rail station has already been built in Stratford. By 2007,
passengers will be able to travel between Stratford and Kings Cross
in central London in 7 minutes by a 5.2-mile underground rail link.

Millions of dollars are also being invested in London's creaking Underground subway system.

This go-getting attitude contrasts with Britain's previous recent record, including years of delays and budget problems in
building a new Wembley Stadium and losing the 2005 world track and
field championships because of failure to find funding for a
stadium in Picketts Lock.

This time, London has secured guarantees for a gleaming, 80,000-seat Olympic stadium that would be reconfigured to a
25,000-seat capacity track and field arena after the games.

Government support couldn't be stronger -- with British Prime
Minister Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie, two of the bid's biggest
cheerleaders.

"It is generating such enthusiasm, inspiring the young people
and will leave a tremendous legacy, not just for Britain but for
the Olympic movement," Tony Blair said.

The only significant opposition came from about 100 small, private businesses within the planned stadium site who say relocation proposals offered by London 2012 officials aren't good enough.

London has hosted the Olympics twice -- in 1908 and 1948. Britain mounted three recent unsuccessful bids, Birmingham (1992) and
Manchester (1996 and 2000), but London was considered the only real
potential winner from the U.K.

London got off to a slow start but made big strides under Coe, a
two-time Olympic 1,500-meter gold medalist who replaced American
businesswoman Barbara Cassani as head of the bid in May 2004.

Coe has run the bid much like an election campaign, drawing on
his experiences in politics as a former Conservative Party member
of Parliament. He knows many of the IOC members personally.

"Here's a guy who put on track spikes in anger, who fought
through the boycott pressure in the U.K. in 1980 and won a gold
medal and then came back against all odds to win again," senior
Canadian IOC member Dick Pound said. "He's a charismatic guy and
is well known among the IOC members of a certain age."

Bid officials say London is the only contending city which has the athletes' village located within the Olympic Park area. Every
athlete would have a room at the village, with extra accommodation
provided at satellite venues for sailing and rowing. Half the
athletes could walk to their venues.

Wimbledon would host tennis, Regents Park would feature baseball
and softball, with archery at Lord's cricket ground and triathlon
in Hyde Park.

The Millennium Dome would host gymnastics, basketball and
handball. Soccer preliminaries would be played at Old Trafford in
Manchester, Villa Park in Birmingham, Millennium Stadium in
Cardiff, Wales, and Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The
finals would be held at the rebuilt Wembley Stadium.

Beach volleyball would be played at Horse Guards Parade, which
is overlooked by the offices of No. 10 Downing Street -- the home of
the British Prime Minister.

Blair went to Singapore to lobby for the bid, along with England soccer captain and former east London boy David Beckham. Blair left before the vote because he's hosting the G8 summit starting the same day in Scotland.