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Blair hails 'momentous day'
UK bid beats France by four votes
Lord Coe transformed 'joke' bid
London today won the right to host the 2012 Olympic games,
beating the long-term favourite, Paris, at the finish line to secure the world's biggest sporting event.
It was breathtakingly close: just four votes edged London past Paris in a secret electronic ballot of 115 members of the International Olympic Committee in Singapore. London won after a maximum four rounds of incredibly tense voting, beating Paris by 54 votes to 50.
Speaking at Gleneagles ahead of the G8 summit, the prime minister, Tony Blair, said he had been too nervous to watch the final stages of voting but had punched the air and danced a "jig" when he heard the result. He called it a "momentous day" for London.
The IOC president, Jacques Rogge, announced the result at 1248BST - around an hour after it had been decided in secret.
Watched by television audiences around the world, Mr Rogge opened an envelope containing the winner's name and told the hushed ballroom of the Raffles city complex: "The International Olympic Committee has the honour of announcing the games of the 30th Olympiad in 2012 are awarded to the city of London."
The London delegates in the hall reacted ecstatically, leaping up and hugging one another. There was also jubilation in London's Trafalgar Square, where several hundred supporters of the bid had gathered and in Stratford, in the east of the city, near where the games will be based in a massively regenerated Lower Lea Valley.
In contrast, the crowds gathered at the city hall in a drizzly Paris reacted with dismay at the city's failure to win the games despite bidding three times in the last 20 years.
Paris had been praised for a near-flawless bid but the one thing members of a jubilant British team kept repeating was that the IOC had recognised London's ambitious plans promised a great legacy.
Before the voting, Lord Coe, the London 2012 bid leader, presented IOC members with a passionate final presentation in which he said a London games would show "magic happens" and inspire young people around the world.
As expected, Moscow, then New York and Madrid, were eliminated in the early rounds of voting and Paris and London were left to go head to head in the final round. London's chances grew after no city won more than 50% of the votes in the first round, meaning there was no instant winner. The London 2012 tactic had been to court Madrid's supporters in the hope of securing their votes should the Spanish capital be eliminated.
Mr Blair, who left Singapore last night after three months of frenetic campaigning and two days of last-gasp courting of IOC members, had earlier promised work would start on preparing the games "within 48 hours" of a successful bid.
Today the prime minister told reporters: "I couldn't bear to watch [the final announcement]. It is not often in this job that you get to punch the air and do a little jig and embrace the person standing next to you."
Mr Blair said Paris had lodged a very strong bid but that London offered a great legacy for the city, the country and the Olympic movement. He admitted that when he arrived in Singapore he felt London had only an "outside chance" but said the bid had succeeded because the British people were behind it.
Mr Blair denied the win would make the G8 summit, starting tonight, more difficult, with a disappointed French president, Jacques Chirac, learning the result while en route from Singapore to Scotland.
In a statement released by his office, Mr Chirac sent his congratulations to London and praised the "fair play" shown by the Paris bid team. The statement said: "The head of state congratulates the city of London ... he wishes good luck and full success to the British authorities and people in the organisation of the 30th Olympiad."
David Beckham and a host of sporting celebrities have been in Singapore pressing for a London games. London last hosted the Olympics in 1948 and will become the first city to host sport's biggest event three times.
An emotional Beckham was in the hall to hear the result and said later that it was an "incredible" victory.
Today's result was also a huge victory for Lord Coe, who transformed a bid that was originally seen as something of a joke. In an IOC evaluation report last year, London was ranked third in the race behind Paris and Madrid and its transport system was castigated as "obsolete".
The London team improved its bid and assuaged concerns about transport to secure a much better write-up in a subsequent IOC evaluation report published earlier this year.
Lord Coe said winning the Olympics was "massive" and that he hoped to "change the face of British sport". "We won't let you down," he told Mr Rogge at a news conference.
Earlier, Lord Coe told Sky News: "I feel absolutely ecstatic we've got the opportunity to do what I've always dreamed about in British sport which is to involve more young people."
He said he would be involved in hosting the games but that his first priority was to get some sleep.
Downing Street said the culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, had been appointed minister for the Olympics, alongside her current responsibilities. Speaking in Singapore, Ms Jowell said she could not believe London had won, but promised a games that would show the country's passion for sport and provide inspiration for the next generation.
Ms Jowell said: "We've come from nowhere to win the Olympics and that is quite something. I really want to say thank you: there have been thousands of people involved in this."
She said she initially thought Paris had won because the photographers in the hall had moved over to where the French team were.
She believed the quality of the London presentation had been the crucial factor in its victory and said IOC members had told her how impressive they had found it. During the presentation, the Princess Royal had read a message from the Queen inviting the IOC members to Buckingham Palace if London prevailed.
Paris had been the favourite since the race began, partially because its main prospective Olympic stadium and others had already been built, in stark contrast to London's plans. The French team may be aggrieved because its bid also fitted with the IOC's blueprint for controlling the size and cost of the games.
VisitBritain said the Olympic games in London could be worth more than £2bn in tourism revenue for the country; the television rights are also expected to be worth more than £2bn.
When asked if holding the games would cause taxes to rise, Mr Blair said the event had been costed and would benefit the country. The games will be financed in part by a special Olympic lottery competition, expected to raise £1.5bn, and an average council tax increase for London households of £20 a year.
Five-time Olympic gold medal winner Sir Steve Redgrave is a bookmakers' favourite to light the Olympic torch at the opening ceremony.

-Mark Oliver

Source: www.guardian.co.uk

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LONDON — Seventy Shakespeare productions from companies around the world, performed in 30 theaters all over Britain. A 33-foot-high puppet of Lady Godiva (wearing undergarments by the fashion designer Zandra Rhodes) moving through the streets of Coventry and into London, powered by 50 people on bicycles. Music from everywhere performed free in choice spots up and down the Thames.

The organizers are calling it “the biggest festival the U.K. has ever seen.” For eight weeks from June 21 to Sept. 9 — before, during and after the 2012 Olympic Games — Britain is hosting the London 2012 Festival, an outpouring of events across the country including theater, music, visual arts, dance, sculpture, performance art, film and other genres. The plan is to put on a show that rivals the sports spectacle in breadth and excitement, not to mention Olympian flights of excess. London 2012 is part of a broader, multiyear effort called the Cultural Olympiad, showcasing events like the World Shakespeare Festival, running April 23 until November, and a major exhibition of Lucian Freud portraits (through May 27) at the National Portrait Gallery. “Even before we won the bid, we said we wanted culture to be part of it, in the run-up to the games and through the games themselves,” said Moira Sinclair, the executive director of Arts Council England, the London 2012 Festival’s lead organization.

Deborah Shaw, the associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, said the effort brought the modern Olympics back to the ancient idea that the arts were as important as sports.

“It was about celebrating the whole human — both physical prowess and the spiritual, artistic side,” Ms. Shaw said. “If this culture program works, it could mean a whole recalibration for the Olympics.”

This program does not come cheap, which is something of a disconnect at a time of severe government cutbacks in arts financing here. Organizers say they do not yet know the final cost of the Cultural Olympiad, but The Guardian recently estimated the total at more than $154 million: $83 million for commissions for the London 2012 Festival and $71 million for the Cultural Olympiad.

Artists were chosen in a variety of ways: through commissions, applications and organizations taking part in the festival. In one initiative, called Artists Taking the Lead, potential participants were invited to submit projects that would celebrate Britain’s different regions. The winning ideas — a 30-foot seafaring yacht constructed from donated wooden objects, a floating building that generates its own power on the River Tyne — were then selected by a regional panel of artists.

The final lineup of events will be completed this month, when the full catalog is published. But dozens of projects — deadly serious and seriously offbeat, traditional and conceptual, from Britain and abroad — have been confirmed.

One piece, “Work No. 1197: All the Bells in a Country Rung as Loudly as Possible for Three Minutes,” by the Turner Prize-winning artist Martin Creed, is scheduled to take place from 8 to 8:03 a.m. on July 27, the first day of the Olympics. The idea, according to the festival’s Web site, is to encourage the nation “to ring thousands of bells at the same time, whether school bells, church bells, town hall bells, bicycle bells or doorbells.”

Other events will be less fleeting, like a retrospective of the German choreographer Pina Bausch, who died in 2009, at the Barbican and Sadler’s Wells, which will feature 10 of her works; a Damien Hirst exhibition at the Tate Modern; and “Back2Black” with the Brazilian musician Gilberto Gil, a three-day exploration of the links between Africa and Brazil.

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis will have a two-week residency at the Barbican and other spots, culminating in the British premiere of Mr. Marsalis’s “Swing Symphony (Symphony No. 3)”, performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Simon Rattle. There will be screenings of Alfred Hitchcock silent movies, restored by the British Film Institute and shown with live musical accompaniment. At the Barbican, Cate Blanchett will star in “Big and Small,” by Botho Strauss.

Offbeat fare is also on the agenda, like “Bee Detective,” a murder mystery in which the audience travels through a beehive.

The verdict on whether the selections in the cultural festival are successful may have to wait until after the Olympiad has ended. But for now cultural critics and members of Britain’s arts world establishment seem open-minded and optimistic. There will probably be little argument over the prominent inclusion of Britain’s most enduring cultural export, Shakespeare. As part of a program called the World Shakespeare Festival, some 70 productions will take place across Britain in 30 locations starting on April 23, Shakespeare’s birthday.

“The theme of the festival is to look at Shakespeare as a world playwright, so we’re not getting just one perspective on his work,” said Ms. Shaw, who is also serving as the director of the World Shakespeare Festival.

The festival, which is costing the Royal Shakespeare Company about $9.5 million, she said, will feature a dozen new productions, some in collaboration with international companies and some performed outside theaters. There will be amateur performances, a chance for people around the world to discuss online what Shakespeare means to them, and an educational conference on how Shakespeare is taught in schools. The Globe Theater in London is hosting an ambitious undertaking called Globe to Globe, in which all of Shakespeare’s plays, and one poem, are to be performed, each in a different language and each from a different international company.

“Four hundred years ago he was using the world to talk about Elizabethan Britain, and it’s very interesting now to look at how the world sees their own societies through the prism of Shakespeare,” said Ms. Shaw, of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

That has raised some controversy, with a number of artists recently calling for the Globe to cancel a planned performance of “The Merchant of Venice” by the Israeli theater company Habima, which has performed in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

“By inviting Habima the Globe is associating itself with policies of exclusion practiced by the Israeli state and endorsed by its national theater company,” said a letter in The Guardian that was signed by the director Mike Leigh and the actress Emma Thompson, among others. In response the Globe has said the festival is a “celebration of language,” not “nations and states.” It is also featuring a performance of “Richard II” by the Palestinian company Ashtar Theater.

The festival arrives during a painful economic retrenchment across Europe that has drastically cut into government grants for the arts. In Britain the Arts Council’s government funds have been cut by 20 percent; many smaller groups have lost all their financing. “When we won the Olympics, we weren’t in the same position we’re in now,” Ms. Sinclair, of Arts Council England, said.

But, she added, the program should make it clear how important the arts are to the world’s perception of Britain — and Britain’s perception of itself.

“The range of activity that we’ve got to offer shows that we really are a contemporary-art nation, as well as having this extraordinary heritage we can hook into,” she said.

After the last athlete has gone home, she added, “we want to convey the sense that the Olympics is over, but the arts aren’t.”

-Sarah Lyall

Source: www.nytimes.com

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In the aftermath of World War II The IOC decided that the games would be a focal point of bringing nations together again. As London had been selected to host the cancelled 1944 games, it was decided to offer them the games. Despite being offered the games at short notice, London accepted the offer and set about organising the venues and logistical problems that hosting an Olympic Games entailed.

With less than two years planning to get the games ready, it was a feat in itself that the games were ready in time. The budget that was allocated to host the games was £600,000 quite a small sum in comparison to the games of today that cost Billions of Pounds to stage.

In 1948 large parts of the city of London lay in ruins, and rubble strewn streets were still a common site. Food rationing was still in force and building materials were in short supply. Contingency plans were made, and it was decided the games would be held with no new venues or athletes village being built.

The wartime spirit that had developed was in great evidence as the participating nations rallied round to make the games a success. Elite athletes were housed in barracks that had been used by the Armed forces and Prisoners of War. College and school dormitories, and even private houses were used to accommodate the athletes from visiting nations.

There were no fancy facilities for the competing athletes either. Each athlete was allocated a share of a locker, a mirror and a water bottle, a far cry from the pampering they receive today. At mealtimes the athletes were given the same rations used by the British government to feed workers in the "essential" industries like mineworkers.

The spectators who came to the games had to bring their own food, as there were no facilities to provide catering at any of the sites. Even getting to the venues posed problems. The famous London Red Buses were used, and military vehicles, many driven by women volunteers, were also used to ferry spectators and athletes alike to the venues.

Despite these problems, all obstacles were overcome and the games opening ceremony was held on 29th June at Wembley Stadium. During the opening ceremony a message was shown on the giant scoreboard that overlooked Wembley.

It read: "The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part. The Essential thing in Life is not conquering but fighting well."

59 countries and 4000 athletes took part in the London games. They competed in 136 various events. Out of the 59 competing nations 37 of them would go on to win some kind of medal. With World War II fresh in the memory, Japan, and Germany were not invited and the USSR chose not to compete.

A few of the African nations, including Kenya also chose not to compete. An Arab boycott of the games was averted when the IOC ruled that the new nation of Israel was not yet a member of the IOC and so therefore could not compete. Some countries competing for the first time included: Burma, Lebanon, Panama and Venezuela.

The 1948 games were notable for many firsts. The use of starting blocks for sprints was introduced in London. It was also the first time the games were televised, although very few people in Britain, around 88,000 owned a television. The TV coverage of the games was just 64 hours in total. Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) won their first ever medal when Duncan White took silver in the 400 metres hurdles.

The games also saw the first ever "Photo-finish". In the 100 metres two Americans Harrison Dillard and Barney Ewell fought out an exciting finish. Both men clocked the same time of 10.3 seconds. After the Photo it was Dillard who was deemed to have won, and he collected the Gold medal.

Some of the highlights and greatest performances of the games, included the amazing feat of USA athlete Bob Mathias, a 17 year-old who won Gold in the Decathlon only four months after taking up the sport. The star of the games was undoubtedly Fanny Blankers-Koen the Dutch sprinter. The housewife from Holland won 4 gold medals including the 80m Hurdle, 100m sprint the 200m and she also ran the anchor leg in the 4x100m relay guiding the Dutch to victory in the event.

Despite all the obstacles, the London games were a success and The Olympic flame and ideals shone brighter than ever.

Source: www.olympic30.com

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This afternoon at Wembley Stadium the representative of Great Britain will take the Olympic Oath on behalf of 6,000 competitors before a great assembly, saying "We swear that we will take part in the Olympic Games in loyal competition, respecting the regulations which govern them and desirous of participating in them in the true spirit of sportmanship for the honour of our country and the glory of the sport."
If the Games are to be a success in the sense conceived by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern series, then not only must every competitor observe that oath, but also every spectator and every commentator over the wireless or in the newspaper. For to such a pitch of unreasoning nationalism have men come in these days that often both spectators and commentators at big international sporting contests seem to have forgotten the great truth which Coubertin recognised and which to-day will be emblazoned in the arena - that the important thing is not so much winning as taking part, not so much conquering as fighting well.
Coubertin hoped for the spread of chivalry and the strengthening of peace through mutual understanding and respect. Even if million-dollar contracts could be secured by Britain if her John Doe won the Olympic 1,500 meters, they would not in the long run be more desirable than the respect which may be gained even in a sordid world by a solid fortnight of efficient and fair administration and by our crowds' chivalrous appreciation of the efforts and gallantry of others.
Much that has happened on our sports grounds since the war makes one nervous of how this country will emerge from the test. During the football season several Association grounds were closed because of spectators' bad behaviour, and some Rugby Union crowds were not much better. A great American golfer on his return home after competing in the British open championships remarked how the galleries as well as the payers seemed to resent Americans. Even the centre court at Wimbeldon produced a regrettable outburst of partisanship in one of the finals.
With the approach of the Olympic Game, some writers have been only too ready to exploit minor disagreements. Yet are British spectators in fact less chivalrous than they were a few years ago? Many may be tired after war and resettlement, irritated by restrictions or disappointed by the slowness of national recovery. But if we show these feelings we only make bad ten times worse. That way lie madness and chaos; that way, too, we shall achieve the final destruction of the whole purpose of the modern Olympic Games, for it was in the British and American way of sport, as he saw it, that Coubertin saw hope for the gradual education of a world at peace. Britain asked for the honour of staging this year's Olympic Games. She must not prove unworthy of it.

Source: www.guardian.co.uk

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Website said to have stood up to rush to buy 500,000 remaining tickets for Games, but some would-be customers dissatisfied.

London 2012 organisers said their ticketing system stood up to a huge influx of potential buyers as remaining Olympic tickets went on sale on Wednesday morning, although some customers complained of long waits and an unwieldy booking system.

Previous sales rounds were blighted by criticism over the way tickets were allocated and technical difficulties, but organisers said the Ticketmaster website had withstood an initial rush that ticketing experts expected to match the hunt for Take That tickets when the group re-formed.

About 500,000 tickets were made available on Wednesday to allcomers on a first come, first served basis. The most recent sales phase was restricted to those who had failed to secure a ticket in earlier rounds.

While those who had succeeded in purchasing tickets took to Twitter and other social networking sites to say they were happy with the system, others complained about the erratic countdown clock that was supposed to tell them how long to wait and the frustration of a system that took up to half an hour to check whether particular tickets were still available.

The London Olympic organising committee, Locog, which has come under fire for its ticketing policy in the face of huge demand for the 6.6m tickets available to the general public, said that as Wednesday's sale began there were still £20 tickets remaining for the boxing, fencing, football, table tennis, taekwondo, volleyball, weightlifting and, with limited availability, judo and wrestling.

There was "good availability", but at higher price points from £45 to £450, for archery, badminton, basketball, beach volleyball, canoe sprint, diving, handball, hockey.

There was limited availability and only at higher prices for the race walk, mountain biking, artistic gymnastics, rowing, sailing and water polo.

General entry tickets for the Olympic park, put on sale at £10 towards the end of the last sales phase, were also available alongside 1.4m remaining football tickets. The majority of park tickets, of which there are 70,000 on sale so far, are for the first week of the Games when it will be less busy because the athletics has yet to start.

A further 150,000-200,000 tickets are to be released back on to the market, including some for previously sold-out sessions, as seating configurations are finalised, and will be added to the system as they become available.

Locog will also put tickets for the main climb in the cycling road race and the cycling time trial at Hampton Court on sale next week at £15. The move has proved controversial, with cycling fans used to watching the action from the side of the road for nothing.

On the same day, 29 May, general access tickets to the tennis tournament at Wimbledon – allowing access to Henman Hill and the outside courts but not the show courts – will also be made available.

London 2012 organisers – who had warned that users would face waits of half an hour on the site at peak times – this week defended their record on ticketing, insisting that they had managed to balance fairness with revenue raising.

"Do I think we have delivered the fairest possible system? I absolutely do," said the Locog deputy chairman, Sir Keith Mills. "We got it about as right as we could. We wanted to hit our revenue targets, we wanted full stadiums and we wanted to treat everyone as equally as we could."

-Owen Wilson

Source: www.guardian.co.uk

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