Wednesday, July 6, 2005

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Those passionate Brits

London has won the right to host the 2012 Olympics. The city defeated Paris in the final vote -- since 1992, the French capital has lost out three times in a row (to Barcelona, Beijing, and now London).

This Associated Press report suggests that the International Olympic Committee was swayed by the passion of the British boosters:

"Two different strategies -- the French and the British," Dutch member Anton Geesink said. "The British, they explained their love of the sport. It is a love affair for Sebastian Coe, that was the difference. Love you can explain, but you can't sell it."

Senior Australian IOC member Kevan Gosper said London won because of the way it sold its message in the final hours.

"They delivered on the day," he said. "The presentation just had that little extra feel."

Which is not to say that the French weren't passionate -- it's just that the passion of their president, Jacques Chirac, might have been directed at the wrong targets:

The French and the British are having another food fight.

It broke out Monday when the French newspaper Liberation reported that French President Jacques Chirac had labeled British cuisine the worst in Europe except for Finland's. He also was quoted as saying that mad cow disease was Britain's sole contribution to European agriculture and that "we can't trust people who have such bad food."

The British press responded in reliable fashion.

"Don't talk crepe, Jacques!" scorned London's tabloid Sun.

"A man full of bile is not fit to pronounce on food," food critic Egon Ronay told the Guardian....

While the British are used to a cultural rivalry with the French, Chirac could have damaged his country's Olympic bid by tarring Finland with the same basting brush.

London's Sun noted that although British and French International Olympic Committee members are banned from voting, two Finnish IOC members will be voting, and their ballots could be crucial.

posted by Dan on 07.06.05 at 11:09 AM


Interestingly, Londoners (and the UK citizens in general) appeared to be among the least supportive of their city's bid. (Second only to NYers.)

posted by: ed on 07.06.05 at 11:09 AM [permalink]

CNNSI has a table of the voting:

Support for Madrid bumped up most when Moscow dropped out. The sixteen remaining votes for New York went decisively for London in the second round, and in the last round Madrid's votes were split between London and Paris. So New York didn't get the 2012 Olympics, but its supporters decided who did.

posted by: Zathras on 07.06.05 at 11:09 AM [permalink]

And now according to the Times ( we learn that both the Finnish delegates switched to London. Egon Ronay was right on. But the funniest part of the Guardian article was learning that the former defence secretary and NATO head George Robertson had once made Chirac eat HAGGIS!!!! No wonder Chirac has a chip on his shoulder about British food. He was practically set up.

Interesting that the Senegalese, Francophone, Paris-educated head of the IAAF switched to London as well. The Times suggests the guy probably figured that having already been stood up by London once (backing out of hosting the IAAF World Championships for 2005) this was the only way they were going to get a first class track-and-field stadium in the UK.

All round, a great day.

posted by: Daniel on 07.06.05 at 11:09 AM [permalink]

I want to add a completely parochial comment. The Olympic events I care most about are the distance races, and every four years it seems the Summer Games winds up in a city where the 10K and marathon have to be contested in blazing heat. Athens put on a great Games in most respects, but running a marathon in the 90s is just an abuse of the athletes. I thought last summer that maybe the thing to do was move the marathon to the Winter Games.

But London at least is far enough north that heat should not be the problem it has often been in the past. So from my point of view this is a great choice.

posted by: Zathras on 07.06.05 at 11:09 AM [permalink]

Zathras -- London should be several degrees cooler than Athens. There is a good logistical reason not to move the Marathon -- several countries whose contestants would be in the Marathon sometimes don't even participate in the Winter Olympics.

Haggis isn't really English food -- its Scottish. But I have to agree with Chirac for once - English food is awful. its no wonder that Indian food has overtaken Fish and Chips in popularity in British Pubs.

posted by: erg on 07.06.05 at 11:09 AM [permalink]

What's wrong with fish 'n' chips?


posted by: Keven on 07.06.05 at 11:09 AM [permalink]

Given that the vote was 54-50 and 2 Finnish vote's switched - it's not innacurate to say that Chirac's big mouth 'finnished' off the Paris bid.

I personally favored Paris by a hair but either city will hold a fantastic Olympics. As will New York if it can get it's bidding act together for the 2016 bid. Paris will probably have to wait for the 2024 Olympics - if Chirac has left office by then of course. The man is just full of frustration. Time to retire, Jacques. Follow DeGaulle's example and let another man have a go....

posted by: Don on 07.06.05 at 11:09 AM [permalink]

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