President Bush sends taped video message

Updated: July 6, 2005, 2:51 AM ET
Associated Press

SINGAPORE --The five cities bidding for the 2012 Olympics made their final pitches Wednesday with messages of support from presidents, prime ministers and sports celebrities.

Picking a Host
On July 6, five cities bidding to host the 2012 Olympic Games will make their final presentations to the International Olympic Committee. Here's a look at each host city:

Monday: London
Tuesday: Madrid
Wednesday: Moscow
Thursday: New York
Friday: Paris

Paris, New York, Moscow, London and Madrid were giving 45-minute presentations to the International Olympic Committee, which votes later in the day to determine the winner of the most glamorous and hotly contested bid race in Olympic history.

Paris went in as the perceived favorite and London a strong challenger. New York and Madrid would be surprise winners, while Moscow was a long shot.

But IOC members said the race remains tight, wide open and impossible to call. Much could depend on the impact of the presentations and the vagaries of the round-by-round secret voting procedure.

Longtime favorite Paris, led by President Jacques Chirac, went first and said it had learned from past defeats and come up with the right formula to bring the games back to the French capital for the first time since 1924.

"France is intent on offering the world unforgettable Olympic and Paralympic Games," Chirac told the delegates. "The heart of Paris and the heart of France are beating in unison in the hope of becoming Olympic host in 2012.

"You can put your trust and faith in France, you can trust the French, you can trust us."

Upset hopeful New York made its case for taking the games to the Big Apple for the first time, with a star studded delegation -- including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Muhammad Ali and a taped message from President George W. Bush -- citing the city's long tradition of welcoming the world.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg cited the city's resilience in recovering from the Sept. 11 attacks, saying, "That spirit will be given to your games."

"Our city needs these games in 2012," he said. "When I became mayor four years ago, New York was shaken. We didn't know what our future would be.

"In our city's darkest hour, we asked ourselves, can we recover?" he said. "New Yorkers stood up then and said, 'Yes, we can recover, we will rebuild and we must continue to welcome everyone. That spirit will be given to your Games."

Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking in English publicly for the first time, appeared in a video message appealing to the IOC to make a "unique and historic" decision by giving the games to Moscow.

"As the president of Russia, I am convinced that our hopes for success in bidding for Olympics 2012 are absolutely justified, reasonable and realistic," he said.

Moscow's bid, however, has been undermined by security worries after terrorist attacks connected to the conflict in the Russian province of Chechnya. Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basayev warned on Tuesday in a statement posted on a separatist Web site that athletes would not be safe if Moscow hosted the 2012 Olympics.

London and Madrid were making presentations later.

Paris is bidding for the third time in 20 years after defeats for the 1992 and 2008 Olympics -- and the IOC tends to reward persistence. The French capital has a ready-to-go Olympic stadium in the Stade de France and embraces the IOC's blueprint for controlling the size and cost of the games.

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe said the city had learned from its failed bids for the 1992 and 2008 games.

"Each experience has taught us something and each disappointment has only served to reinforce our determination," he said. "We have always endeavored to improve our performance."

Delanoe said Paris had "totally taken account" the IOC's recommendations for downsizing the Olympics, giving developing countries and smaller cities a chance of hosting the games in the future.

"In effect we have conceived games which are not wasteful or disproportionate but rather games based on efficiency and values," he said.

The Paris presentation featured a slick video directed by film director Luc Besson. It began with a bird's eye view of the city, with the camera floating over famous landmarks and the five Olympic rings sweeping up the Champs Elysees and encircling the Eiffel Tower.

The film continued with members of the bid team running through the venues, transportation plans and other technical elements; a greeting by French actress Catherine Deneuve; and evocative scenes of the city's streetside cafes, museums, opera houses and hotels.

New York played up its multiethnic and multicultural aspect, beginning with a film featuring an array of residents praising the city in different foreign accents, and finishing with footage of Olympic torch bearers running through the streets to the musical strains of "New York, New York."

Ali, who arrived Tuesday to boost the bid, received a loud ovation when he was introduced at the presentation. Ali, who has Parkinson's disease, struggled to stand up, nearly falling over before catching himself.

President Bush, who unlike rival government leaders did not travel to Singapore, offered support in a taped video message.

"Our commitment is total, whether it is security or visas," Bush said. "The United States government will be ready to do what it takes to work with you."

Former President Bill Clinton also appeared on video, while his wife was one of the featured live speakers at the Singapore presentation.

"Today we are ready to finally bring the Olympic movement and New York together for the first time," Hillary Rodham Clinton said.

Bloomberg touched on the New York's 11th-hour switch in stadium plans. The bid looked in deep trouble last month when state officials rejected a proposed stadium in Manhattan, but New York quickly came up with a revised stadium plan in Queens.

"We are going ahead, we are building this stadium," the mayor said. "It's going ahead because New Yorkers never give up, not now, not ever."

Bloomberg stressed that unions had signed no-strike guarantees and that "every venue will be completed on time and on budget."

Bloomberg sought to dismiss any notion that New York should focus on a possible 2016 bid, stressing that crucial deals for land and funding were only guaranteed for this candidacy.

"2012 is the only time to bring the games to New York City," he said.

After the presentation, Syria's IOC member asked whether athletes from countries which the U.S. government considers sponsors of terrorism would be assured access to New York for the Olympics.

"Absolutely, without question," bid leader Dan Doctoroff said, adding that New York is committed "to allow every single athlete, every single coach, every single athletes into our city."

The New York team was also asked about poll figures in an IOC report showing low level of public support for the bid. Bloomberg stressed the poll was conducted during the height of the stadium controversy, adding, "We have a history of debate, we love arguing about everything, but in the end we get together."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press