London celebrates stunning Olympics coup

LONDON was celebrating last night as its dream of hosting the 2012 Olympic Games became a reality after the city's "awesome" bid team pulled off a spectacular victory.

LONDON was celebrating last night as its dream of hosting the 2012 Olympic Games became a reality after the city's "awesome" bid team pulled off a spectacular victory.

The capital beat favourites Paris in the closest of finishes, winning the fourth and final vote of International Olympic Committee delegates in Singapore by 54 votes to 50.

The result triggered scenes of jubilation in Trafalgar Square and east London, where people had gathered to follow events from the other side of the world on big screens.

Tony Blair, who arrived back from Singapore yesterday morning after spending three days backing the bid, praised the "just awesome' London team.

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"This is a momentous day for London,' he said.

The Queen, in a message to the bid chairman Lord Coe, said: "I send my warmest congratulations to you and every member of the London 2012 team for winning the bid for the UK.

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"It's a really outstanding achievement to beat such a highly competitive field.'

England football captain David Beckham expressed his delight while Prince William sent a message of congratulations from New Zealand, where he is touring, saying he was looking forward to "a fantastic Olympic Games.”

But there was bad blood from France as the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, blamed his city's failure on its determination to stick by the rules of "fair play'.

Immediately after the decision he criticised the London bid team for continuing individual lobbying of IOC members right up to the last minute.

Quoted on the Le Figaro website, he said he was not sure "that we have all participated in this contest with exactly the same tools and in the same spirit.

"Yesterday, when I was going up to my room to sleep, there were people coming down the stairs who had been at successive meetings with Prime Minister Blair and the bid leader Sebastian Coe.

"I didn't think that was what it was about, myself. I thought you needed the right bid dossier, the right spirit, and I think an immense majority of the IOC thought that about Paris.

"It is fair play that made us lose,' he said, adding that he had asked himself whether it was necessary "not to play fair in order to win a competition based on fair play.'

London beat Paris to the prize after months of determined campaigning which went right down to the wire.

Both capitals made it to the final round of voting after first Moscow, then New York and Madrid were eliminated in earlier rounds.

Rather than coming to victory from behind, London led in all but one round of the voting.

In the first round London received 22 votes, Paris 21, Madrid 20, New York 19, and Moscow just 15.

The second round saw New York eliminated with 16 votes while Madrid got 32, London 27, and Paris 25 votes.

Madrid was knocked out in the third round after getting 31 votes compared with London's 39 and 33 for Paris.

The triumphant bid came after a slick and forceful final presentation yesterday in which Lord Coe promised a Games where "magic happens'.

Commenting on the result, the London 2012 bid chairman and a double Olympic champion, said "the quality of the bid and vision of the bid and the fact that we've got London' helped clinch it.

"This is our moment,' he added.

The victory means London will play host to the world's premier sporting event in seven years' time with a specially-built stadium and village rising from what is now an urban wasteland in the east of the city.

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said: "This is one of the best days London has ever had - and it is one of the proudest days for Britain and for British sport.'

Sports Minister Richard Caborn, who was in Singapore with the bid team, revealed how close the final vote was.

The result gave the bookies a battering and left them having to pay out around £1 million as patriotic punters backed London.

Ladbrokes spokesman Warren Lush said: "We've been torched by the huge patriotic gamble on London to win the Olympics, the money just kept coming.

"We hold our hands up and say we got it wrong, for the last two years we just couldn't see London overtaking Paris.'

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, who was appointed Olympic Minister, said London had "come from nowhere'.

Olympic gold medallist rower Sir Matthew Pinsent said he was still "floating' from the result.

Propping himself up against a wall because he was so drained by the excitement of the result, he said: "I'm just shocked. It has been such hard work and Seb (Coe) has put his life into it.'

Details of London's final presentation were still being worked on just hours before it was delivered.

As the result was announced, Sir Matthew said was convinced London had lost.

He said: "For some reason I was thinking Paris had got it. All the world's press and cameras were pointed towards Paris.

"We wanted this for the country and for the city and for the next generation of young people.

"It is incredible to believe that it has actually happened.'

The Princess Royal, a member of the IOC and the London bid team, said: "If you listen to what the senior athletes said it's worth bearing in mind they were all inspired very early by watching things like the Games - the potential is enormous.'

The result will be a major disappointment for French president Jacques Chirac, whose visit to Singapore to give a last-minute boost to the Paris bid was somewhat overshadowed by reported jibes he made at the weekend about the UK.

Mr Chirac made undiplomatic jokes about mad cow disease and "terrible' British food to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

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