Guardian Looks At 2012 Olympic Bidders

Olympic Games

London lays out its golden prospectus
Venues, transport and finance. How London will plead its case for 2012

Duncan Mackay
Thursday January 15, 2004
The Guardian


Most of London’s venues are expected to be located in the east of the city. The hub of the games would be in a 500-acre tract of parkland in the Lower Lea Valley stretching from Hackney Marshes to the river Thames.

The bid’s chief executive Keith Mills has claimed that more than half the events would be staged within a 15-minute drive of the Olympic village.

The proposed venues include the centrepiece 80,000-seat Olympic stadium, a 20,000-capacity aquatic centre, a velodrome and BMX track, three multi-sport indoor arenas, a hockey stadium and a 17,000-bed athletes’ village plus a media complex.

Mills has said the main site might also “have a little bit of a Disney feel about it” because the services to support the event would be on the outside.

The London bid is also committed to leaving a legacy, with no venues to be built without a clear plan for their post-Olympic use.

An all-weather tennis complex near the planned main stadium is also among the listed sites. But Wimbledon’s All England Club - in south-west London - is likely to form part of the bid as a host for the later stages of the tennis tournament.

London has also listened to warnings from the International Olympic Committee not to miss the chance to hold some events in the city centre - hence the beach volleyball planned for St James’ Park, the triathlon in Hyde Park, the baseball at The Oval and the archery at Lord’s. And the marathon may finish outside Buckingham Palace.

Initial plans to hold the rowing in Royal Albert Dock on the Thames - since 2000 home to the £10m London Regatta Centre - appear to have been dropped. It will instead be at the new centre near Eton College west of the city, where Windsor Castle would be a stunning backdrop.

Football would be spread around the country, with matches at Hampden Park in Glasgow and Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium before the final at the new multimillion-pound Wembley.

The sailing is earmarked for Weymouth after the IOC president Jacques Rogge, a former Olympic sailor, said he did not believe that Cowes on the Isle of Wight would be suitable because of the currents.

The national shooting centre would stage the gun sports, as it did during the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games.

But Lord Sebastian Coe, the vice-chairman of the bid, believes that it is the redevelopment of the East End and its proximity to the centre of the capital which will give the bid the edge over its main rivals Paris, New York and Rio de Janeiro.

“It can be a unique bid,” said the 1980 and 1984 Olympic 1500 metres gold medallist. "We ought to be one of the favourites when we get to the final stages. There will never have been an Olympic Games, nor is there likely to be one in the future, where the venues are so condensed into such a unique area.

"What we can do is put on a games which will provide a formidable legacy for people in that part of London and a huge legacy for British sport.

“But it is also something that can provide a blueprint for other Olympic bids. London did that in 1948 and can do it again.”


The London organisers claim to the IOC in the mini-bid book that such will be the improvements made in the capital’s transport system during the next 10 years that it will take only nine minutes to travel from Trafalgar Square to the main Olympic site in Stratford.

The government, the London mayor Ken Livingstone and bid officials are acutely aware that there is scepticism about London’s ability to cope with the number of spectators and tourists who would flood into the city for the games.

More than a million extra people would be expected to visit London during the games’ 17 days - and in a recent survey nearly half the public believed the transport network would be unable to cope.

But Transport for London insists upgrades and improvements will have everything necessary in place by 2012. The body insists Tube companies, under the controversial Public Private Partnership, will increase the number of trains in time for the games. TfL projected there would be only a 1% increase in demand for transport services in London during the games, which would be held in August when usage traditionally drops.

TfL has also backed Livingstone’s claim that Crossrail, linking east and west London, could be ready by 2012, despite the transport secretary Alistair Darling’s recent warnings to the contrary.

Organisers are also confident that with the main Olympic site being proposed for Stratford, close to Stratford International Rail Terminal, hundreds of thousands of spectators would be able to make their way to the complex via King’s Cross.

More importantly, the athletes’ village would be built close to the terminal, which would help reduce the numbers of competitors ferried around London on buses.

Besides the major upgrade of Stratford station and its interchanges, other plans include an extension of the Docklands Light Railway to City Airport and North Woolwich, and improvements to services on the Hammersmith and City line via West Ham to Barking.


The IOC will need particular convincing over this aspect of the bid after the high-profile fiascos over the Dome, Wembley and Picketts Lock since Tony Blair came to power.

The apparent lukewarm support for the bid from Blair’s government in the early stages will also have been noted in IOC circles, but officials can point to the fact that the government and the mayor have already agreed a package to pay for the games.

Under their accord, the government and London would split the projected £2.6bn cost of capital projects for the Olympics. Money would come from government grants, the London Development Agency and London taxpayers.

But the bulk of the finance is expected to be raised by a special Olympic lottery game. Organisers aim to secure £1.5bn of the estimated £2.375bn of public money from the lottery and have been talking to the IOC about when they could launch the special games.

The government has drawn up legislation to allow the changes to the existing lottery. The original plan was to launch these Olympic lottery games next spring but after a ruling by the IOC they will now go ahead only if London is declared host city in July 2005.

Blair personally has also increasingly warmed to the idea of staging the games in London, although the IOC adjudged him to have overstepped the mark when he made reference to the bid during a Commonwealth summit in Nigeria in November.

Paris the leading rival in a nine-horse race:


Hesitated about bidding for the 2012 Games after losing the 2008 race to Beijing. The main aspects should be the same as its 2008 project when Paris said the Stade de France would form the centrepiece of its bid and it would build a 10,000-capacity velodrome and an Olympic swimming pool of similar capacity. Odds: 11-8 fav


Spain’s capital is basing this campaign on its being one of the few major European capitals not to have staged an Olympic Games. The Madrid region has a good transport network and plentiful hotel accommodation. Odds: 6-1

New York City

The Big Apple has promised triathlon in Central Park and boxing in Madison Square. New York’s backers make a case for a resilient city recovering from the September 11 attacks but the IOC has said emotions will not play a part in the decision in 2005. One of New York’s main selling points is that no venue would be more than 20 miles from the Olympic village. Odds: 8-1

Rio de Janeiro

In its bid for 2004, Rio tried to persuade Olympic organisers to overlook soaring crime rates, pollution and heavy traffic. This time, Rio’s mayor Luiz Paulo Conde said the city was drafting a plan to improve infrastructure. In their 107-year history the Olympic Games have not been held in South America. Odds: 8-1


Hosted the 1980 Games, the first to be staged by a communist state. The event was overshadowed by a US-led boycott after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 but the IOC chief Jacques Rogge has praised the sporting superpower’s staging of the games. He has described this latest bid as “very serious”. Odds: 16-1


In an internal bidding contest Leipzig was the only former East German city among the five candidates. The city claims it would stage friendly, reasonably sized games, but some believe it is far too small to put on such a major event. Odds: 25-1


This will be the city’s fourth consecutive bid and it has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars building sporting facilities and boosting infrastructure. Turkish officials say the city is in better shape this time around. Odds: 33-1


Cuba’s bid appears to be based on little more than rhetoric. It is set to be seriously disappointed again. Odds: 100-1