Publish date:

As for that Other Big Vote ...

With a month to go before the 2012 host city is selected, Paris looks golden, but London is gaining

ON JULY 6 the five cities bidding to host the 2012 Summer Olympics will finally find out where they stand. Exactly one month before the vote in Singapore to select the 2012 site, the IOC evaluation commission will release its long-awaited assessment of the bids. Here's SI's view on how the cities stack up, from favorite to also-rans.


The City of Light put together a savvier bid than it did in its unsuccessful pursuit of the 1992 and 2008 Games. Thirteen temporary venues would be built for the same total cost ($225 million) as Madrid's proposed tennis stadium. Beach volleyball would be held near the foot of the Eiffel Tower, and the athletes' village would be located near the Champs-Élysées. Worries about labor disruptions arose, however, when unions staged a one-day general strike during the evaluation commission visit in March.


With middle distance great Sebastian Coe running the bid, London has been gaining momentum. IOC vice president Kevan Gosper of Australia said recently that London was neck and neck with Paris. A new rail line would connect London to Stratford (five miles away), site of most events. The Olympic Park would spruce up a decaying quarter of the city. In April, however, the IOC reprimanded bid leaders for trying to win votes by promising perks, such as $50,000 credits to national Olympic committees for pre-2012 training camps in the U.K. The city previously suffered a black eye when it gave up rights to host this summer's world track and field championships after organizers could not build a new stadium in time.


In February members of the evaluation commission, convinced that approval of the city's planned Olympic stadium was imminent, praised the Big Apple's bid publicly and privately. The bid calls for venues to be scattered along an "Olympic X" made up of subways running from east to west and ferry lines running from north to south--a strategy to beat the city's notorious traffic. But unless the thus far recalcitrant state legislature green-lights $300 million in public financing for the stadium (to be built on the West Side of Manhattan), New York City's chances will all but vanish. Even with an approved stadium, some IOC members would shy away from choosing another North American city two years after Vancouver hosts the 2010 Winter Games. Opposition to U.S. foreign policy is another, unspoken, concern. Says one former IOC member, "I honestly believe New York would win the Olympics, if only it were not in the United States."


This bid has the most local support (91%) of any of the five finalists, according to an IOC poll. Spaniard and former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch (whose son, Juan Jr., now sits on the IOC) has become more active in his support, phoning IOC members to lobby for his nation's capital. The city's reputation took some hard hits this winter, however, after a rash of racist chants at soccer games. And security is a worry: In March 2004, al-Qaeda was linked to a series of bombings on Madrid trains that killed nearly 200 people. Three days after the IOC evaluation commission visit in February, Basque separatists injured 43 in a car bomb that detonated a short walk away from the Ifema Convention Center, a proposed venue for six sports.


No other candidate has hosted as many world and European championships in Olympic sports. Still, the bid is a long shot in a city that suffered a massive power outage last month and where nothing is as organized as the crime. --Brian Cazeneuve




[OUT? New York ]

If funding isn't approved for a proposed stadium, the Big Apple's otherwise strong bid will fail.


[IN? Paris ]

Though there's concern about labor disruptions, the race's early favorite is still the city to beat.