Thursday, December 6, 2007

Britain sets up independent anti-doping body for 2012

The British government has announced the formation of an independent body to bolster anti-doping measures in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympics.
UK Sport and the Departure of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) said on Wednesday that the National Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO) will be up and running well before the Games.
It will operate outside UK Sport, the goverment agency currently responsible for implementing and managing Britain's anti-doping policy.
The move follows a comprehensive six-month review of the country's anti-doping measures by a working party comprising members of UK Sport and DCMS.
Earlier this year a cross-party committee of British parliamentarians accused the government of being complacent in putting together a robust system to catch drug cheats.
Minister for Sport Gerry Sutcliffe welcomed the recommendations, saying the NADO will mean drug cheats have "no place to hide".
"Establishing a new, independent anti-doping organisation is a natural evolution in the fight against drugs in sport," he said in a statement.
"In the same way drug cheats are constantly finding new ways to beat the system, we have to constantly look at what we do to catch them.
"We have to ensure they have no place to hide and these new powers, implemented by an independent agency, will help us do that. By 2012 drug cheats will never have had it so bad."
The NADO will work more closely with law enforcement agencies to stem the supply of prohibited substances.
It will also take away the onus on national governing bodies to bring doping cases themselves -- a situation that has raised fears of conflicts of interest in the past.
Sue Campbell, chairman of UK Sport, said current anti-doping measures were in danger of being overtaken by the increasingly sophisticated supply and use of performance-enhancing drugs.
"People who are determined to cheat are increasingly sophisticated in the ways in which they go about their business, as are the people that supply and manipulate them, and we need to ensure we adapt our approach accordingly," she said.
"The scale of this type of operation, particularly in terms of the single focus required, simply means that the role of the NADO has outgrown its current position within UK Sport."

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The buzz: China says reporters are welcome at its Olympics

China says reporters welcome at its Olympics
China said it welcomes journalists covering the 2008 Beijing Olympics, responding to complaints by a media-rights group that the Communist regime has decided to clamp down on reporting in the run-up to the games.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the Paris-based group has launched “consistent attacks on China” and reiterated that Beijing was “willing to provide services and facilitate” coverage.

Budget overruns possible for London Olympics
The London Olympics could go over its $19.1 billion budget. John Armitt, the chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, told a British parliamentary committee that the $5.5 billion fund set aside for budget overruns may not be enough.

Armitt said the authority, which is responsible for building the venues and infrastructure for the 2012 Games, was sticking to tight budgets, but he couldn’t promise there would not be overruns.

Dynamo, Revolution to play season opener
The Houston Dynamo will open the 2008 Major League Soccer season at New England on March 29, a rematch of the MLS Cup championship game.

The Saturday game, a rematch of Houston’s 2-1 victory over the Revolution on Nov. 18 at RFK Stadium in Washington, will highlight a “First Kick” weekend that will include all 14 teams, although a match involving the expansion San Jose Earthquakes and New York Red Bulls was still being finalized.

The Wizards will play host to D.C. United on March 29. Other games that day include Toronto at Columbus, Chicago at Real Salt Lake, and David Beckham’s Los Angeles Galaxy at Colorado.

Masters field taking shape
Despite a change in criteria, it appears the field for next year’s Masters will not top 100 players, which is what the club wants.

With an overhaul of the PGA Tour schedule and format, the Masters revamped its qualifying this year to invite winners of PGA Tour events that get full FedEx Cup points, those who qualified for the Tour Championship at the end of the FedEx Cup season, and those who finished in the top 30 on the PGA Tour money list.

UK government to reveal London 2012 budget plans

The UK government will next week release new details of how the £9.3 billion London 2012 budget is being spent.

The Olympics minister, Tessa Jowell, is expected to use a scheduled Commons appearance on Monday to update parliament for the first time since the revised budget was announced in March.

It is anticipated that Jowell will outline how spending on a number of projects, including the £496 million main stadium, breaks down as well as the level of contingency that has been allocated to each project.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Beijing Olympics take the stage at NAG

If the world gives the stage to China for 16 days, it will get in return five millennia worth of cultural splendor, claimed a photographic exhibition depicting the preparations for the Beijing Olympics 2008.

The weeklong exhibition ‘Beijing Welcomes You’ started on Wednesday at the National Art Gallery (NAG) after which it would head to the Al-Hamra Cultural Complex in Lahore for another week to enable more Pakistanis to experience the charms of contemporary Beijing.

The exhibition revealed how the Chinese capital is preparing for the 2008 Olympics. The eager anticipation of the Chinese people as the games approach has been vividly depicted including photographs of the construction of sports venues.

The deeply rooted 5,000-year old Chinese culture and history have magnificently been captured by photographers who have presented a truly unique Chinese charm through their work.

As many as 400 million young people in China have been exposed to Olympic values, which will have a great impact on the Olympic movement thereby mobilising more future support.

With extensive public education campaigns for a populace of 1.3 billion, the Olympic spirit has been interpreted in a manner consistent with Chinese traditions valuing culture and civility.

“I participate, I contribute and therefore I enjoy” is the public campaign slogan for the Olympics and the pictures displayed at the NAG depicted people belonging to almost every age group and every category participating in the campaign in their own ways.

It also depicted the Chinese folk crafts in which the artists show enthusiasm in creating figures in the image of the Beijing Olympics ‘mascots’ using specially treated flour dough.

The pictures show the commitment of the Chinese government and the public to stage truly unique Olympic games of the highest standard and their determination to present an environmentally sustainable, technologically empowered and culturally enriched Olympiad in a cost-effective and ethical manner.

It also captures the reform and opening up to the outside world that brought about great changes in Beijing and nurtured with a 5,000-year culturally enriched history. The city has taken on a completely new look as it enters the new century.

The exhibition is aimed at providing Pakistani people with an opportunity to learn more about Beijing and that is why it includes pictures of a wide range of aspects of the city, such as everyday life, environment, climate, cultural and scientific activities, historical monuments and tourist attractions.

A few pictures gained a huge public response including the picture of the national stadium due to its massive inter-wired steel structure forming a bird’s nest, the national swimming centre called a water cube, because of its ingenious architectural design, the Great Wall of China and the Imperial Temple once used for sacrificial rites.

Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Pakistan Louu Zhaohui and Minister for Culture Sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan Jogezai were present at the opening ceremony of the photographic exhibition.

The ambassador urged Pakistan to strengthen cultural ties between the two countries and hoped that such activities would prove to be helpful in achieving this goal.

NWMSU sorority raises money for Special Olympics awareness

NWMSU sorority raises money for Special Olympics awareness
Whether it's handing out pancakes and juice at a breakfast, timing participants in a track meet or simply spending time with members of Special Olympics, one Northwest Missouri State University sorority constantly strives to make a difference in the lives of the mentally handicapped.

A major part of being in a fraternity or sorority is taking part in philanthropic projects.

And for 75 Alpha Sigma Alpha members at Northwest, this is no different.

One of the sorority's main projects is Special Olympics, specifically helping with the group out of St. Joseph, Mo.

The Alpha Sigma Alpha ladies will be running a Special Olympics House of Pancakes (SOHOP) from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 9. Each plate is $6 with all you can eat pancakes, sausage, juice and coffee served by Chris Cakes at the Maryville Community Center.

SOHOP event coordinator Julie Gosnell said she hopes to involve more of the community for this event.

"Getting more awareness for the cause is a big deal to us," she said. "We also would like to raise more money for the foundation."

All proceeds directly benefit Special Olympics. Last year the event raised more than $300, but Alpha Sigma Alpha member Meredith Wilmes said she thinks this year will be more successful.

"We tried to pick a time and place that would work for everybody," she said. "We are hoping it might be a good time for people to stop and eat after church on Sunday."

Wilmes said she "very much enjoys" working with the Special Olympics and said that working with the Track and Field event every spring in St. Joseph is an especially exciting experience.

Former president of Alpha Sigma Alpha, Kayla Long, shares in her sentiments.

"If you were to ask any one of our chapter members, they would say that it is our favorite event all year," she said.

Long never had a second thought about joining a sorority and becoming involved in community projects.

"Not being involved wasn't an option for me when I came to college — a sorority was a good way to settle that," Long said.

Alpha members run fundraisers like SOHOP to donate to the Special Olympics Track and Field event in the spring.

"We have done that event for years," Gosnell, said. "It is truly one of our favorite things about being an Alpha. We all love helping people out, and it is such a wonderful thing to see the athletes light up when they participate.

"For us girls to be a part of that is such an unreal feeling. It is like we really are making a difference — and that is why we are here."

As a national philanthropy for Alpha Sigma Alpha chapters across the United States, members donate their time at various fundraising events during the school year to donate to raising awareness for Special Olympics.

Special Olympics provides year-round training and athletic competition for a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with mental disabilities. It gives them the opportunity to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in sharing those experiences with their families, community and fellow Special Olympic athletes.

Special Olympics, which was founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, was adopted by Alpha Sigma Alpha as a national philanthropic project in 1976, and since that time members have been contributing time and money.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Debate over 2012 legacy

Sir Clive Woodward's involvement in London 2012 continues to attract suspicion from within Olympic governing bodies despite the peace deal between UK Sport and the British Olympic Association announced this month.
Athletics and cycling both used a hearing of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport select committee in parliament yesterday to express doubts about what the Rugby World Cup-winning coach could bring to their sports that they did not already have. Woodward has developed a £150,000-a-year multi-coach training programme for athletes but the major sports appear to require some convincing of its worth.
"At this time we don't see anything that he has to offer cycling that we are not already getting from UK Sport, and UK Sport would be in serious difficulties if he could offer anything they are not," said Chris Boardman, the former Olympic cycling champion.
The UK Athletics chairman, Ed Warner, was also sceptical. "There are those who would say there are no new ideas in the Woodward programme," he said. "So far he has had no impact on athletics but he might do, provided that we can dictate what we can use to improve our chances. There has been a risk that we get caught up in the political backlash of two organisations [UK Sport and the BOA] locking horns over their rival programmes."

Debate over 2012 legacy
The role of Sport England in delivering the sporting legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games remains a major concern to MPs and sports' governing bodies. The question was repeatedly raised at yesterday's select committee hearing, with all the sports agreeing that Sport England should drive the legacy commitment but unclear as to its plans.

The quango is currently in negotiations with the government over its funding package from 2009 to 2011 but it remains to be seen whether its primary role going forward will be mass participation to encourage a health and fitness agenda or promoting sport.

Fundraising doubts
Serious concerns remain at UK Sport about how the government will raise £100m from the private sector to complete its total pre-London 2012 funding package of £600m. UK Sport's chair, Sue Campbell, told the select committee yesterday that she could not confidently predict that the money would be raised.

The DCMS is in the process of hiring an agency to help raise the cash but sponsorship has already been ruled out as an option.

England look to first base
England have narrowed their search for potential Euro 2008 base camps down to two or three options should they qualify for the tournament by avoiding defeat against Croatia at Wembley tonight.

The favoured option is understood to be a base in Switzerland close to one of the major cities, with a site on Lac Leman, near Geneva, among the possibilities.

With two of the Euro 2008 groups playing all their matches in Austria, however, they will wait until the draw on December 2 before allowing England's head coach, Steve McClaren, to have the final say.

Refreshingly the Football Association has no intention of repeating the World Cup 2006 mistake of selecting a remote base that cuts the players off from media, supporters and, in some cases, reality.

Dein under fire
The former Arsenal vice chairman David Dein, below, clashed with Andy Walsh, chairman of the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association, at yesterday's Future of Football conference in London over the issue of supporter representation on club boards.

Dein, who is fronting the Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov's attempts to take control of Arsenal, said he had never met a board member who was not a fan.

Walsh also spoke out against foreign ownership but found no one in the audience of financiers and football club employees to support his view.

The flood of foreign cash into the English game shows no sign of slowing, meanwhile, with the Dubai International Capital group, which tried and failed to buy Liverpool, understood to be still eyeing investment opportunities in the Premier League.

Coincidental clash
It was curious timing yesterday for the launch of the Legacy Trust, a new charitable body whose task is to fund "the sporting and cultural legacy of the 2012 Olympics".

Some 19 months after Tessa Jowell first announced it, the official launch event started just as officials from UK Sport and leading governing bodies were being grilled in parliament on issues including the sporting legacy of London 2012.

A spokeswoman for the DCMS said the clash was entirely coincidental.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

We love volleyball and want to improve

The quest for homegrown glory at the 2012 Olympics is taking British sport to the strangest of places — for example, the foot of the Dutch professional volleyball league.

There you will find, occupying basement position in the table, Club Martinus — unremarkable except for the fact that the long established Amsterdam outfit is, in fact, the British national team.

As a result of an arrangement both innovative and curious, UK Sport has 'borrowed' the financially stricken Martinus for a season and filled its first team with the players they are developing for the London Games.

The club's fans, in a country where volleyball enjoys considerable popularity, have adopted Britain and need to be fairly tolerant, too, because after seven matches of the season Martinus, aka GB, are without a win.

And so it was that on Saturday night the journey to London 2012 took them via an airy sports hall besides the ring road of the northern city of Groningen.

There they were playing fourthplaced Lycurgus and it was another cuffing for the young British team, their inexperience showing in unforced errors at crucial times in a 25-20, 25-16, 25-20 defeat. With only 150 spectators braving a cold night, this is hardly the glamour end of European sport. The familiar outcome tested the patience of head coach Harry Brokking, 52, who used to run the Dutch national team. ' I t's frustrating but to be expected, given the level at which they started. Inevitably, they are behind skills-wise, but this is a long-term project and they are making progress,' he said.

"It's not realistic for them to be gold medal candidates in London but they can definitely be competitive. They just need to do what they do in practice under pressure and this is the place to learn. It can't be done in England."

When Martinus lost their main sponsor this year, Brokking brokered a deal for GB to step in until April; a similar experiment is being tried with the nascent British handball team in Denmark.

The British squad of 12 volleyballers, a mix of amateurs and players with some professional experience around Europe, now live and train just outside Amsterdam.

That they have a foreign coach is hardly surprising. Volleyball is one of the world's biggest participation sports but, despite being invented by Welshman William Morgan in the late 19th century, it has barely registered a blip on the mainstream British radar. In fact, the biggest boost for the sport in the UK has been the influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe, especially Poland, where it is second only to football. Polish teams in London (Plumbers United?) are overflowing.

Brokking is trying to develop the likes of 21-year-old Ben Pipes from Hull. He is standing in for skipper Chris Porter, who is awaiting knee surgery — the game is about as easy on the knees as carpetfitting.

Pipes is the poster boy for British volleyball and after spending two seasons as a pro in Sweden and Spain, is sufficiently rated to be eyed by clubs in the Italian league, Europe's most prestigious, He is 6ft 8in — which passes for average in volleyball — and led gallantly on Saturday night. But it was not enough to stop another reverse against equally committed and vocal opponents in what, to outsiders, is a surprisingly aggressive sport.

"Every single team desperately wants to beat us,' he said. 'We are coming into their league and are a national team so every match we play seems to be like a cup final — but that's great for us because we are experiencing such intense competition.

"I won't pretend that losing every week has been fun. It's devastating but every Monday is the start of the new week and we have to drag ourselves up and look ahead to the next match.

"Our players are mostly aged between 20 and 26. It's all geared towards 2012, so by then we should have a good nucleus fed by other players."

The results are certainly not for want of trying and despite the squad's proximity to Amsterdam there is little time to experience the city's varied delights. Undergoing a rigorous routine of six hours training per day, they live off their UK Sport funding grants and occupy flats generally used by workers at the nearby airport.

"We have all bought into it because we love volleyball and want to improve. People at Martinus have been very welcoming," said Pipes.

"There's very little going out. We don't have much money and the front room of one of the flats is like a hair salon because we cut each other's hair. It's probably a bit like being a student — except without the fun bit."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rising Olympic costs slammed as catastrophic

· Entire £2.7bn contingency fund is to be used up
· Final London 2012 bill will be three times bid figure

The most pessimistic estimates of the final bill for the London 2012 Olympics were vindicated yesterday when the most senior civil servant involved on the project admitted that the entire £2.7bn contingency fund for the project would probably be spent.
The admission to MPs by Jonathan Stephens, permanent secretary to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, contradicts repeated assertions from government and the Olympic Delivery Authority that costs had not risen in real terms since the bid was submitted in 2004.

The admission means the final cost is likely to be at least £9.3bn, more than double the figure given in London's bid book, a disparity which the Labour MP Don Touhig described as "the most catastrophic piece of financial mismanagement in the history of the world".
Until yesterday the ODA and DCMS had insisted that the intention was not to spend the contingency money but, at a hearing of the public accounts committee at Westminster yesterday, Stephens conceded that it might all be spent.

"The only safe assumption is to expect all of it to be spent," he said. "Obviously we are all working to ensure that less is spent but on a project of this size we might expect risks will materialise, and as they do contingency will be transferred to the ODA. We are trying to advance the timetable to deal with cost pressures but it is realistic to expect a significant amount, if not all, of the contingency to be spent."

The admission will fuel suspicions that the original budget was set deliberately low to attract cabinet approval for a bid and undermines repeated assertions from the ODA that costs have not risen.

The original budget, compiled in 2004, put construction costs at £2.375bn, with a further £1bn set aside for regeneration costs and another £700m coming from the private sector. In March this year the Olympics minister, Tessa Jowell, told parliament that the budget had risen to £9.3bn, an increase of more than £5bn, of which almost half was the "potential additional programme contingency".

Until now the Olympic officials have insisted that the new construction budget was broadly comparable to the 2004 figures once VAT and compound inflation to 2012 prices was taken into account. The likelihood that all contingency will be used explodes that argument.

Stephen's evidence came during an often heated appearance in front of the influential Commons committee, which was questioning Olympic officials for the first time since the revised budget was published.

Stephens and David Higgins, the ODA chief executive, came under sustained criticism for the disparity between the two budgets, with Edward Leigh, the Conservative chairman, telling them that he had little confidence in their ability to control costs as the Games approached.

"What worries me is that judging by your record so far I have no confidence in your ability to plan ahead. As the Games approach you are going to have to throw money at it," he said.

Stephens denied that this was the case. Asked repeatedly why the original budget was so inaccurate and had even failed to take into account government guidelines on budgeting for major projects, he said that inaccuracies were inevitable in a project of this scale and complexity, that the original budget had been signed off across government and had been based on expert independent advice.

The committee seized on an increase in management costs from £16m to £570m between the two bids, with the Conservative David Curry describing it as "more Harry Potter than Accountancy Age".

A reduction in the budgeted private-sector contribution from £738m to £165m also drew criticism: "It is staggering that an accounting officer could include an estimate for £738m which he has been warned is not based on any sort of accurate information. It is an appalling abrogation of your responsibilities as an accounting officer," said Leigh.

Higgins insisted the ODA was working to control costs, rejecting the charge from Austin Mitchell that "the construction industry has you by the short Olympic rings". At the end of the session Leigh warned Stephens and Higgins that they could expect a highly critical report from the committee.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

MPs seek answers over 2012 costs

London 2012 organisers will face another round of searching questions over their spiralling budget when they appear before the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee today.
For the first time since the Olympics Minister, Tessa Jowell, announced in March that the funding provision for the project had leapt to £9.3 billion from £2.375bn at the time of the bid in 2005, MPs will get the chance to grill the government and the Olympic Delivery Authority on the rising costs.

The hearing comes at a time when ministers and London 2012 bosses are under renewed pressure over the mega-project's finances.

Last month the British Olympic Association chairman Lord Colin Moynihan broke ranks to criticise the government for a lack of financial transparency on the budget. As a member of the Olympic board, Moynihan's comments caused considerable unease.

A few days later, Jowell conceded that the final "baseline" budget for the Games was still being worked out – an admission described by opposition politicians as "startling".

Against this backdrop, this afternoon's hearing is likely to be uncomfortable for the ODA chief executive, David Higgins, and Jonathan Stephens, permanent secretary at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and accounting officer for the project.

Committee members will want to know why, eight months after Jowell announced the budget, there seems to be so little detail.

They will ask exactly what has been spent so far and how much of the £2.7bn of contingency set aside for the project has been allocated.

Committee chairman Edward Leigh said: "There's no possible reason for hiding anything in the budget. The more we shine the spotlight on these people, the more we will get down to the nitty gritty of these figures."

Organisers and ministers argue that they cannot be too open because much of the information is financially sensitive.

On the accusation that costs are spiralling out of control from 2005 forecasts, they say a direct comparison is impossible. "It's like comparing apples with pears," said a DCMS spokesman yesterday. But that begs the question why more detailed analysis was not done at bidding time. And if the sums were wrong then, what's to say the £9.3bn announced by Jowell in March is more reliable?

With 4½ years to go until the start of the Games, organisers know they need to get to grips with the debate on costs.

The unpalatable truth is that the final bill is unlikely to be known until some time after the Games are over.

How the costs rose

July 2005* July 2012
Total funding package £2.375bn £9.3bn

Total cost of sports
venues / core costs
of Olympics £573.1m £3.08bn***

Regeneration £1.044bn £1.67bn

Main stadium £281m £496m

Aquatics centre £73.1m £150m**

*Costs submitted at time of bid in 2005 but worked out, according to International Olympic Committee rules, on the basis of 2004 prices.
**Final approved forecast for the aquatics centre has not been announced but is estimated to be somewhere between £150m and £200m
***While the 2005 figure is specifically for the Olympic venues, the 2012 number includes all associated costs in redeveloping the main Olympic park in Stratford. The actual venue costs will not be known for some time.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Poll says more than three-quarters back 2012 Olympics in London

A new nationwide survey suggests 76 per cent of people are pleased London is staging the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in 2012 - with even higher backing among younger people and in London, southern England and Northern Ireland.

The poll, with more than 2,000 people questioned by the British Market Research Bureau (BMRB), also shows widespread optimism that the Games will have a positive effect on London and the whole country and high levels of confidence that the UK will stage successful Games in 2012.

Strongest support for the Games came from 25 to 34 year olds, with 90 per cent saying they were pleased London is staging the Games, in Northern Ireland (88 per cent), in London (82 per cent), among 35 to 44 year olds (82 per cent), among 15 to 24 year olds (81 per cent) and in southern England, where backing was 80 per cent.

Even where support was lowest, more than six out of ten were pleased about London hosting the Games. Among those aged 65 and older backing was put at 66 per cent, with 67 per cent of 55 to 64 year olds pleased, 69 per cent in Scotland and 70 per cent in the Midlands.

Among other findings, the polling suggests:
* 81 per cent think 2012 will have a positive effect on London and 70 per cent on the country as a whole.
* 76 per cent are confident the UK will host successful Games.
* 63 per cent think the legacy from 2012 should be wider than just sport.

But only 39 per cent know "a lot" or "a little" about plans for the 2012 Games, with 41 per cent knowing "not very much" and the remaining one fifth nothing. However in London the figure rises to 64 per cent.

Olympic Minister Tessa Jowell welcomed the poll's findings:
"More than two years after we won the Games, over three-quarters of those questioned remain enthusiastic about the world's top event coming to London - a real sign of a positive attitude which will inspire us all to deliver the maximum benefits for the whole country, as well as staging a terrific festival of sport."

But she added:
"We must not get complacent. We don't have a day to waste and it is up to all of us - not just Government - to act to maximise the benefits. The polling shows that many people still have to switch on to 2012. When they do, I am confident support will reach even higher levels."

The survey was carried out to aid work developing the Government's 'Our Promise for 2012' before the publication of its Legacy Action Plan in the next few months.

More than two-thirds of those surveyed rated inspiring young people to take part in local volunteering, cultural and physical activity as the most important of the five promises. The second most popular, backed by just over 50 per cent, was demonstrating that the UK is a creative, inclusive and welcoming place to live in, visit or do business in.

Tessa Jowell said:
"We wanted to know what the people's priorities were for 2012 to make sure that the Games and our ambitions for an enduring legacy were in accord - and they are. There is wide awareness - and even greater support - for our drive to create jobs, increase participation in sport, provide new facilities and promote the UK as a great place to visit - with a special focus on young people.

"We will now use this research to make sure we focus our energies and attention on the things that people think matter most, and the activities that we know they will respond to and get involved with from now to 2012 and beyond."

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olympic 2012 opening ceremony

Blaze breaks out in London near 2012 Olympic venue

The London Fire Brigade has reported a huge blaze has broken out in east London near the site where the main stadium for the 2012 Olympics will be constructed.

Arounf 40 firefighters were called to the blaze at around midday at Waterden Road, Stratford.

There are no reports of any casualties and the Metropolitan police has said it is continuing its investigations into the incident.

"We have nothing to suggest that this anything other than a fire at the moment," said a police spokesman said to reporters.

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

London 2012 Olympic Games stadium design unveiled

London's Olympic organizers unveiled the design of the main stadium for the 2012 Games on Wednesday, billed as a hi-tech arena which will serve the British capital for generations afterwards.

The 496 million pound (710 million euro, 1.04 billion US dollar) structure, in the form of a sunken bowl with a wraparound fabric covering and a removable roof, will dominate the centre of the Olympic Park in east London.

The 80,000-seat stadium will host the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games as well as key track and field events. Organizers hailed the unveiling of the plans as a "milestone" on the road to the London Olympics.

"In unveiling today's images I want that to be the unveiling of a journey for the next five years," said former Olympic champion Sebastian Coe, head of the London 2012 organizing committee, at a press conference.

"The a stadium for a completely new era."

Initial reaction to the blueprint was positive. The London Evening Standard newspaper called it a "striking design," while London mayor Ken Livingstone said it would be a "beacon for the capital."

While the stadium's initial use will be for the 2012 Games, organizers also want to make sure it is still used by local people in the years afterwards.

When the Games are over the stadium's high-tech design allows for it to be reduced to a 25,000-seat arena, to be used by the local community and for other major sporting events.

English Premier League football side West Ham United were mooted as possible future tenants for the new stadium but many teams dislike playing in an athletics stadium because the track distances them from spectators.

Livingstone, though, said that football clubs may have to look elsewhere.

"We made a commitment that there would be a permanent athletics facility and we have honoured that commitment," he said.

Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell said: "This is a very important Olympic milestone and this stadium is focused very much on legacy and sustainability.

"Once the Games are over, this will then be translated into a stadium that will not only host grand prix athletics events and other national sport events but will also serve the communities of the boroughs."

With post-Olympic use in mind, the upper parts of the structure are designed to be removed, including a roof which will provide protection from the weather for two-thirds of the seats inside.

A wraparound fabric curtain, which will encircle the stadium in its Olympic version, will also come off afterwards, with plans for the material to be made into bags and other souvenir goods to remember the Games.

The London Olympics are helping to revive a deprived part of the city, and the permanent stadium will be a key part of that. "It's a stadium that will be inspiring, it will be a stadium that will have a lasting legacy," said Coe.

Critics have highlighted the ballooning budget since London won with its bid for the 2012 Olympics in Singapore in July 2005. The stadium price tag was put at 280 million pounds at that time.

John Armitt, chair of the Olympic Delivery Authority, said: "Nearly 500 million pounds is a lot of money in anyone's terms but it is the budget and we are determined to work within that."

"If there is a requirement for any extra, we have a contingency within the scheme covering this as a whole and we will use some of that, but that is not the plan."

Building work is due to start next April or May, three months ahead of schedule, and should be completed in 2011 to allow test events to be held in the stadium before the Games themselves.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Games demolition milestone marked

The 12-storey derelict building in Stratford, which was earlier a part of the University of East London, is being torn down by a 50-tonne machine.

Lord Coe, chairman of the London 2012 Organising Committee, described the wrecking as "another milestone" leading up to the site's transformation.

The park will form the heart of London's Olympic Games in 2012.

There were a total of 220 buildings at the site, of which 106 have been demolished, the Olympic Development Authority (ODA) said.

Underground work

Lord Coe said: "This is another milestone in the transformation of the Olympic Park site.

"In the last year, much of the work has taken place underground on the power lines. Now, you will see an increasing amount of work taking place at ground level, as remediation and demolition gather pace."

The cleared site will form the link between the Olympic Village and VeloPark during the Olympics. After the event it will connect the regenerated area with land to the north of the site.

The Olympic Park will include the main stadium, an aquatics centre, velodrome, three sports arenas, a hockey centre, media facilities and the Olympic Village, in which 17,800 athletes and officials will be housed.

Once built, the Olympic Park is set to be one of the largest new urban parks opened in Europe for 150 years.

Guiding hand to make the most of the Olympics

BUSINESSES in Coventry and Warwickshire are being offered the opportunity to produce a guide to help other firms win London 2012 contracts.

West Midlands Business Council has invited the region's companies to pitch for a contract to design and produce the guide, which will then be distributed in the region.

The guide, which is targeted at smaller businesses, aims to assist bosses in winning the numerous lucrative contracts that the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will generate.

There are already several ways in which businesses in Coventry and Warwickshire can look for 2012-related contracts and a new electronic brokerage service is expected to be launched in early 2008.

The guide will contain all necessary information for businesses to find out about contracts and the best ways to win them.

More than £25 billion of work is expected to be generated when the capital hosts the Games and several companies in Coventry and Warwickshire have already secured 2012 contracts.

The Coventry and Warwickshire 2012 Partnership, a collaboration of private, public and voluntary organisations, is the local body working towards maximising the opportunities arising from the 2012 Games.

David Hartley is chairman of the partnership's business sub-group and director of business development and finance at the Coventry and Warwick-shire Chamber of Commerce.

He said: "Coventry and Warwick-shire's business community can reap huge rewards from the London 2012 Games.

"Bidding for 2012 work is a highly competitive field and many companies feel daunted by what they fear is a complicated process, but it is not as difficult as it may seem and there is plenty of help available.

"The Coventry and Warwickshire 2012 Partnership, working with local partners such as the Chamber and regional partners like the West Midlands Business Council, will make every effort to ensure companies feel confident in bidding for work.

"We all want to see the region maximising the opportunities available."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Olympics chief urges 2012 action

The International Olympic Committee has urged the organisers of London 2012 to get on with their preparations.
IOC boss Jacques Rogge told BBC Sport that London "is doing OK" but must focus on delivering the Games on time.

"We urge them to work as soon as possible and to prepare today for the unforeseen of tomorrow," said Rogge.

He also said the IOC had "no regrets" about giving the 2008 Games to Beijing despite recent international criticism of China's foreign policy.

Rogge stressed that the Swiss-based IOC was "basically happy" with the progress in London and remained optimistic a permanent tenant for the Olympic stadium will be found.

"That would be something that would please the IOC very much and we are very keen on that," he said.

"We know that Seb Coe and LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games) are working very hard to find a solution."

The current plan is to reduce the stadium's capacity from 80,000 to 25,000 in 2013 and use it as a multi-sport venue with athletics and community facilities at its heart.

But that plan depends on a football or rugby club becoming an "anchor tenant" to subsidise the stadium. So far that has proved to be beyond Coe and his team, partially because the post-2012 plans do not include a roof for the majority of the seats.

Premiership club West Ham have already said they are not interested in moving to Stratford as the capacity is too small, and Leyton Orient are reported to be concerned the capacity is too high.

A shadow has been cast over preparations for the 2008 Games in Beijing because of calls for a boycott over China's foreign policy.

China has been condemned by human rights campaigners for its links with the Sudanese government which is embroiled in a four-year conflict with rebels in Darfur.

China buys two-thirds of Sudan's oil output and is the African state's biggest arms supplier following a 25-fold increase in weapons sales between 2002 and 2005.

International experts say 200,000 people have died and 2.5m have fled their homes in Darfur since the conflict started in 2003.
The Save Darfur Coalition - an umbrella group of 180 religious and human rights groups - has accused China of taking an "ambiguous" stance towards Sudan.

China has also been attacked for its continued support of the military regime in Burma, where recent pro-democracy demonstrations have been crushed.

The Chinese government only agreed to back a critical statement from the United Nations Security Council to Burma when the threat of an Olympic boycott was raised by campaigners.

Rogge said he understood why human rights groups used the Olympics to apply pressure on China, but disagreed with those groups' criticisms of the IOC itself.

"I respect them for what they're doing. It is absolutely legitimate that they get the most from the Olympics," he said.

"But where they make an error is to criticise the IOC for not solving the problems.

"Why would we be able to succeed where generations of heads of state and governments who have come to Beijing have not succeeded? We are a sports organisation - there are limits to what we can do.

"Does that mean that we don't strive for human rights? No, of course we are in favour of human rights, and we've proven that many times in the past.

"But don't expect from the IOC what the IOC cannot do. The Games will contribute but the Games will not solve all the problems of the world.

"We gave the Games to a country that represents of one fifth of mankind. We gave the Games to a country that will change, that is changing. We have no regrets."

Rogge pointed to recent reforms in China's judicial, media and property laws as evidence that the Olympic effect was already being felt. He also praised the emerging superpower for addressing its poor record on child labour.

The 55-year-old, who sailed for Belgium in three Olympics, said he was also satisfied with the steps the Chinese were taking to tackle doping and brushed off concerns about Beijing's air quality.

A recent United Nations report was critical of China's attempts to improve the air quality in Beijing, stating that pollution was three times higher than the level recommended by World Health Organisation standards.

And on Friday, Beijing's weather office warned children and the elderly to stay indoors as heavy fog was exacerbating the city's air quality problems.

An IOC inspection team visited Beijing last week and admitted that pollution remained a concern but said it was confident proposed traffic controls and factory shutdowns would have a positive effect.

Rogge added: "If the atmospheric pollution is too high at certain times then we might consider rescheduling.

"But this is not exceptional for the Olympics. We have a similar situation in the Winter Games with snow. And it's the same with the wind and sailing, rowing or canoeing."


Friday, October 26, 2007

London Olympic flame to be carbon neutral

It is the enduring symbol of the Olympic movement, lit in the past by legends of sport including Muhammad Ali and the Australian gold medalist Cathy Freeman.

But with the globe facing the ever-growing threat of climate change, Olympic chiefs are increasingly worried about the environmental damage caused by the Olympic flame.

Now, in an effort to ensure London's 2012 Olympics are remembered as the "greenest" ever, organisers are exploring ways of developing a more carbon neutral flame which will be kept alight in a cauldron in the main stadium for the month of Olympic and Paralympic competition.

A spokeswoman for London 2012 said: " We want London 2012 to be a truly sustainable Games. Using a low-carbon fuel to light the Olympic flame and keep it burning throughout the Games is one of the many things we are looking at right now to deliver a 'green games'.

"The Olympic games and Paralympic games have the power to set agendas, and change behaviour, and applying sustainability principles to one of the most potent symbols of the Games will, we hope, help us do just that."

To that end London 2012 are now in talks with one of their major sponsors, the French company EDF, about finding an energy source which will reduce carbon emissions.

In the past, host cities have relied on high carbon based fuels such as paraffin to ensure that the flame, carried by torch bearers from the ancient site of Olympia in Greece, is visible during the day and at night.

But next summer's Beijing Games are set to be overshadowed by pollution concerns with the International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge warning earlier this year that some events may have to be postponed because of the city's smog.

With that in mind London say they are making environmental and sustainability issues one of the key priorities of the 2012 Games.

Earlier this week they announced plans to deter the 8million who will attend the event from using their cars. And next month London will unveil their sustainability strategy for the 2012 Games.

But Jenny Jones, a Green party member of the London Assembly, accused London's organisers of getting their priorities wrong and for failing to stick to targets they set themselves on renewable energy.

She said: "Every little helps but this really is a drop in the ocean. There are much bigger problems of sustainability to deal with."

2012 stadium cost rises by £216m
Larkham sets sights on Japan

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Spectators for the London Olympics in 2012 will be banned from travelling by car

Spectators for the London Olympics in 2012 will be banned from travelling by car and forced to use public transport, cycle or walk, it has emerged.

According to the Times, only a small number of disabled people will be permitted to park in close proximity to car exclusion zones at event venues in London, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow, Cardiff, Weymouth and Portland (Dorset).

The transport plan for the 2012 Olympics sees around 800,000 people amassing at venues on the busiest days, with personalised itineraries sent to attendees detailing how to arrive.

Plans for two giant park-and-ride sites on the M25 and M11 motorways are to be cancelled, the newspaper reports, and one lane in several key London routes will be reserved for some 80,000 members of the 'Olympic family' for around two months.

Dubbed 'Zil lanes' - after the lanes reserved for Politburo convoys in Moscow - these routes will be specifically for athletes, officials and media.

Talking to the Times, Hugh Sumner, the Olympic Delivery Authority transport director, said: "We have a very aggressive programme to make it the greenest games in modern times. We want to leave both a hard legacy in terms of infrastructure and a living legacy in the way people think about transport and about how they travel to sports and cultural events."

Mr Sumner added: "We want to accelerate the shift to public transport and cycling that we have seen in London in recent years.

"There will need to be traffic controls around competition venues. We will make it very plain to people that there isn't going to be parking."

China will strictly ban drugs in sport and step up censor

China's top sports official promised the country will strictly ban doping and assist the International Olympic Committee to host "clean" Games.
"China will strictly ban drugs in sport and step up censor," said Liu Peng, head of the State Administration of Sport. " Athletes involved in doping will be severely penalized."

Liu, a delegate to the week-long 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, said China pays close attention to anti-doping and has banned exhilarant in its sports law.

Liu said his administration and all its provincial branches have signed anti-doping contracts with their athletes.

The Chinese team to next year's Games will consist of 570 athletes, the largest ever in China's Olympic history, he said.

China sent a 300-strong team to the Athens Games in 2004.

In preparations for the Beijing Games, he said China is building a new testing base with a state-of-the-art lab and facilities. "Very soon we'll inaugurate a national anti-doping agency."

During a recent visit to China, World Anti-Doping Agency chief Dick Pound confirmed the country's efforts in fighting against drugs in sport and said China "stands as a model to the world".

Monday, October 22, 2007

2012 stadium cost rises by £216m

The Olympic stadium for the 2012 Games will cost £216m more to build than originally predicted, the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) has said.

While bidding for the Games the projected cost was £280m but since then the figure has risen by more than 77%, the new ODA chairman John Armitt said.

He said "inflation, VAT, legacy conversions and earthworks" had resulted in the escalation in expenses.

The budget for the Games was increased to £9.3bn by the government in March.

Costs 'in line'

Addressing London Assembly members on Wednesday, Mr Armitt said: "To suggest that the costs have doubled from the bid book represents a grossly misleading figure for the public.

"This figure represents a 2012 outturn cost which includes inflation, VAT, legacy conversion and earthworks.

"The bid figure was a 2004 figure which all the bidding cities were asked to give. Insofar as a comparison can be made with the bid book the figures are broadly in line," he said.

The designs for the 80,000-seat stadium will be unveiled later this month, he said.

After the Games the stadium will be scaled down to accommodate 25,000 people.

He went on to add that the final cost of building the 20,000-seat aquatic centre, which will include a wave-shaped roof, is still not clear.

"I'm not sure where we are going to finish up... the important thing is that it does the job that is required."

The bidding document said the aquatic centre would cost £75m to construct.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Heneghan Peng Architects to design Olympic Park Footbridge for 2012

Heneghan Peng Architects, with Adams Kara Taylor Engineers, have won the competition to design one of the key footbridges in the centre of the Olympic Park. The design competition, launched in May, was for multi-disciplined teams to design the footbridge located on the central pedestrian concourse in the Olympic Park. The footbridge spans 26m over the River Lea at a focal point between the Olympic Stadium, Aquatics Centre and Basketball Arena.

The planning and design of the bridge will integrate both Games and legacy use. During the Games the bridge will have a total width of 55 metres to accommodate increased spectator numbers. After the Games temporary sections of bridge will be removed leaving two narrower bridges that span either side of Carpenters Lock, a unique 1930's historic structure on the River Lea Waterway.

In June a six-strong shortlist of established designers, engineers and emerging young practices were asked to develop concept design proposals for the bridge and the immediate surrounding landscape in Games time and legacy mode. Their designs were assessed by a specialist design jury who selected the Dublin based firm Heneghan Peng Architects as the design competition winners. The shortlisted teams were assessed by a Design Jury comprising: Carl Ainley - British Waterways; Bob Allies - Allies and Morrison; Peter Bishop - Design for London; Sarah Buck - BSW Consulting, President IStructE; Ricky Burdett - ODA Principal Design Advisor; Jorgen Nissen - Bridge Consultant; Kevin Owen - LOCOG; Simon Wright - ODA Director of Infrastructure and Utilities.

A key requirement of the design is that its surface area has to be reduced significantly after the games are over. Heneghan Peng's concept designs were praised by the design jury for making the bridge a spectacle in Games mode by using the landscape for colour and activity followed by the transformation of the structure in legacy to leave two footbridges linked by a central blade-like walkway offering views over the river and Carpenters Lock. Removing the surface after the games will reveal a grass amphitheatre which will allow access between the elevated pathways and the waterway.

The design jury was particularly impressed with the way Heneghan Peng's concept designs brought together a design solution that worked for both Games and legacy. The short span of the footbridge gave Heneghan Peng scope to develop a more creative design than a usual bridge structure by using the surrounding landscape as a way of shaping the bridge structure itself.

The jury also praised the proposals to open up the Carpenters Lock area, creating new meeting spaces, views and links above and below the bridge between the river tow paths, Carpenters Lock and the upper concourse in the Olympic Park.

Directors of Heneghan Peng Architects, Roisin Heneghan and Shih-Fu Peng, said: "We are thrilled to have won this competition particularly after being faced by such incredible opposition. We hope that our design will form an important element within the spectacle of the London 2012 Games and as a striking element of the enhanced connections the Olympic Park will create in legacy." Other shortlisted firms included McDowell+Benedetti, Ron Arad Associates and Future Systems. Heneghan Peng Architects have a good track record in competition having won competitions to design the Grand Egyptian Museum at the Pyramids of Giza in 2003, and the visitor centre at the Giants Causeway in 2005.

ODA Director of Infrastructure and Utilities Simon Wright said: "The winning team impressed the design jury with their understanding of the need to plan Games and legacy together. Their designs will help us lock-in legacy now by designing a bridge that meets Games-time needs but which also leaves behind a striking structure in the heart of the Olympic Park for future generations to enjoy. The jury were impressed with all of the shortlisted teams but Heneghan Peng's designs emerged as a clear favourite and will help us ensure we continue to aim for the highest standards of design excellence across the project."

Olympic consultants cost £1m a week

Olympic consultants cost £1m a week
Fresh figures revealing the true cost of the 2012 London Olympics won’t impress taxpayers, but will hurt less if you’re one of the event’s self-employed consultants.

In a parliamentary answer, the government said The Olympic Delivery Authority is currently paying £1million a week to temporary, interim or contract professionals.

Bosses at the ODA spent £50.5m in the last financial year, while a further £10.7m was paid out on contracts within the first three months of 2007.

The figures fly in the face of assurances given by Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell, who recently said only two contracts were agreed last year and none for this year.

They were uncovered by Tory MP Hugh Robertson, who has attacked the government for not factoring in the £60m spent so far on consultants into its budget.

He said: “The revelation that the ODA has spent over £60m on consultants already will raise very serious questions about the direction of the Olympic budget.

“Tessa Jowell has also failed to answer eight specific Parliamentary Questions about the budget. We need much greater clarity and honesty over exactly what is going on in order to restore confidence in London's Olympics.”

His comments come after figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show Olympic bosses paid 65 agency workers a massive £7,707,000 – about £118,500 each.

Coupled with the state’s admission that the budget for the event has leapt from £2.4bn to £9.3bn, these revelations help explain why 90% of Brits think the games will go over-budget.

Matthew Elliot of the Taxpayers Alliance, which commissioned the finding, said the costings of the London games make it a unique event in the event’s history.

“The 2012 Olympics are set to become the most expensive games in history,” he told The Daily Mail yesterday.

“Once consultants are brought in, costs rocket.”

The ODA’s latest vacancies include a job as a transport press officer for the games, commanding a £40,000 salary. The London 2012 Organising Committee is also looking for a creative individual who can coordinate final ceremonies in Beijing as a Production Project Manager; for an undisclosed salary.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Xinhua opens Beijing Olympics News Service

Beijing Olympics News Service
The Xinhua News Agency launched formally the Beijing Olympics News Service (BONS) on Oct. 8, 2007, to enhance its English language coverage of events and preparations for the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.

The multimedia news service will be operational from Oct. 8, 2007, to Oct. 8, 2008. The BONS will provide texts, photos and graphics.

In the run-up to the Beijing Olympic Games, the BONS will focus on the preparatory work of the host country and international athletes. It will also present China to the world, including its reform, opening-up and modernization process as well as the Chinese culture.

After the opening of the Games in August 2008, the focus of the BONS will shift to the actual events: the athletes, results, feedback from the participating countries and regions, and Olympics-related information.

Chinese games - 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Britain Warms-Up For 2012 With Lifesaving Champs

Saving lives is not an Olympic sport but one of the biggest sporting events in the world with lifesaving as its aim - bigger than the Commonwealth Games in fact and one that will help Britain to prepare for the London 2012 Games - has been awarded to Cornwall.

Never been to Cornwall? Put it on your list. It's fabulous, with a wild and windswept shoreline that offers some of the best beaches in Britain (the world, some would say but not if lounging in the sun is your thing) and will make a fantastic venue for the Rescue 2010 Lifesaving World Championships.

The event was awarded to the Fistral surfing beach in Newquay, Cornwall at a vote today in Oporto, the northern Portuguese city that lends its name to Port wine, among delegates of the International Life Saving Federation (ILS), the central body of national associations of lifesaving clubs and the governing body for the Rescue series.

The opening ceremony of the championships, over two weeks in June and July 2010, will take place at the Eden Project in St Austell, Cornwall, a place no-one should drive past when in that part of the world. Indeed, make a point of travelling that way to see the Eden Project. It's terrific.

Speaking at Fistral Beach, Jonathan Ball, President of Surf Life Saving Great Britain and Chairman of the British bid team, said: 'This is a wonderful opportunity for Britain and the result of a lot of hard work by a top class project team. We can now open serious discussions with major corporations and funding organisations to establish the budget and put in place the infrastructure for the Championships and the wider promotion of water sport and lifesaving skills amongst the community.

'It is a unique opportunity for organisations to contribute positively to an ethical mission that will help to inspire young people and raise public awareness of a sporting challenge that recognises bravery, encourages selflessness, personal fitness and well being and service to the community. Aquatic sport is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and the highly challenging and visual Rescue 2010 Championships will offer international, national and local exposure to companies involved in sponsoring or supporting them.'

Britain's bid for Rescue 2010 was submitted by Surf Life Saving Great Britain (SLSGB) in partnership with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). The two organisations have signed a strategic partnership to develop volunteer beach lifeguards around the coasts of Britain and the World Championships will focus public attention on the campaign and the needs and values of lifesaving skills.

Andrew Freemantle, Chief Executive of the RNLI said: 'The award of Rescue 2010 to Britain will encourage the development of Britain's swimmers and promote water sports amongst the wider population, and young people in particular, as part of a healthy lifestyle. Volunteer lifeguards are essential to our plans to double the size of our lifeguard operations in the next five years. These championships will give a huge impetus to our strategic partnership with SLSGB to develop volunteer lifeguards on our beaches.'

The Lifesaving World Championships are held every two years to test the skills, stamina and courage of qualified lifesavers from local clubs throughout the world.

Lord Coe, Chairman of the London Organising Committee for London 2012, said: 'When we won the bid to bring the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games to London, we hoped our success would lead to more top sporting events coming to the UK. This is a very good example - many congratulations to all involved.'

Expected in Cornwall are 6,000 competitors and officials from the life saving national teams and clubs of 55 nations, a greater participation event than the Commonwealth Games.

Britain's gold and silver world lifesaving medallist, Katy Whear, who is a Portreath Surf Lifesaving Club member and RNLI lifeguard, was delighted with the news: 'Holding Rescue 2010 in Cornwall could alter the perception of the country. I have met people in Australia who think we only have pebble beaches. Many of them don't think of Cornwall as a destination for the World Championships, and yet we can get awesome surf and we have some really good beaches. This will be a chance to show the world how great Cornwall is.'

The cost of hosting the Championships is estimated at around £6 million and will be funded from public and private sponsorship. The economic benefit of Rescue 2006 to Australia was estimated at more than £18 million, with approximately 40 per cent attributable to the local area of the games.

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh is patron of the Championships and the British bid received enthusiastic support from the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown MP, and opposition leaders, as well as Lord Coe, Chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and Sir Roger Bannister, the first four-minute miler and now a world ambassador for sport.


Monday, October 1, 2007

London Games creates hurdles for building offices in the City

The spiralling cost of construction in the lead-up to the Olympic Games in London in 2012 is undermining City office development deals, a report will reveal today.

A shortage of skilled labour, soaring prices of raw materials and a growing number of Olympics-related projects have given the building industry huge bargaining power over developers in the pricing of new schemes in the capital.

Building cost estimates have risen by about 25 per cent over the past year. The surge in costs, coupled with the recent credit crunch from banks, has turned the City office investment market into a virtual dead zone since the end of July, with little prospect of improvement until the new year, according to Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial property agency.

A total of £5.4 billion was spent on buying City office space in the third quarter of this year. While that represented an 8 per cent rise on investment in the previous quarter and 14 per cent more than the same period a year ago, all but about £350 million of deals took place before the start of August, Cushman’s figures reveal.

Since August, banks have tightened their lending criteria and are demanding far more upfront cash from potential investors – or they are not lending at all.

Meanwhile, the cost of building the foundations and shell for a City office block has risen from about £200 per square foot last September to £270 for a normal structure and up to £300 for the tallest skyscrapers, Bill Tyser, head of Cushman’s City investment team, calculates. Four years ago build costs would have been about £170 to £180 per square foot.

“People like to fix costs upfront and they are not being able to do so. The issue at the moment is that we are in a period where investors can’t get liquidity in the financial markets, so a lot of structured deals are not happening,” Mr Tyser said.

“What started this year off was a huge rise in the price of cladding and steel formation due to demand from China and India. Now we are beginning to see the impact of the Olympics building up. A lot of contractors are in command about what they want to do. Many are saying: ‘I do not want to do that – a City scheme – as I want to be in the frame for East London.’ So there have been really big build-cost jumps this year.”

City skyscraper projects with planning but still yet to get off the ground include Land Securities’ 20 Fenchurch Street, a 37-storey project rising to 160m (525ft) and dubbed the “Walkie Talkie” due to its concave shape. No decision will be made until next spring on a starting date for the building, including whether to construct speculatively, without a tenant lined up, or with a prelet in place, a senior company source told The Times.

Meanwhile, plans to build The Pinnacle, a 288m City skyscraper dubbed the “Helter Skelter” because of its twisted shape, still depend on securing the last slice of development finance. The site’s owner, an Arab Investments-backed offshore company, has been in talks for nearly a month to sign a definitive fixed-price construction contract with Multiplex, the company behind the delayed and overbudget Wembley stadium. It is understood that Khalis Affara, the managing director of Arab Investments, has signed only a heads of agreement with Multiplex, but a full contract is needed before the final construction funding falls into place. Construction is due to start early next year, with completion in 2009.

A start date has yet to be fixed for construction of New London Bridge House – in what will be London’s tallest tower at 310m – after the backers for the scheme, dubbed the “Shard of Glass”, confirmed this month that they were struggling to secure development finance. Talks are under way for a new investor, possibly the state of Qatar, to buy a one-third equity stake from Simon Halabi, the tycoon, while Credit Suisse is on standby to provide new finance.

The only significant Central London office deal to take place since August has been the £240 million sale by Legal & General of its Bucklersbury House site between Cannon Street and Bank stations, which in 2013 is destined to become Walbrook Square, the City’s largest new office and shops scheme in 25 years.

Questions have already been raised in the City over how the eventual buyer of the scheme, Metrovacesa, of Spain, will make a profitable return. Among those who balked at the prices needed to make it through to the final round of bids were Canary Wharf, the docklands developer.

Metrovacesa shot to prominence this year when it paid £1.1 billion for HSBC’s Canary Wharf headquarters, representing an initial yield - return from rent compared to price paid – of just under 4 per cent. Average City office yields have since shifted from about 4.5 per cent to 5 per cent, over fears of price falls.

Olympics 'will boost London property'
The U.S. might bid for the 2012 Youth Olympics

Friday, September 28, 2007

Olympics 'will boost London property'

London property will experience a positive knock-on effect once the Olympic Games have been staged there in 2012, it has been claimed.

According to Naomi Heaton, the chief executive of London Central Portfolio, it is not only the east area of the capital - which is set to be regenerated with Olympic funding - but also other areas that will benefit.

The expert noted that events will take place in areas such as Hyde Park and Regents Park, while the Palace will stage beach volleyball and a triathlon will be conducted in the Serpentine.

Ms Heaton said: "They'll be a huge amount of activity in the centre of town ... there's going to be a massive face lift in the centre of London."

In addition, she noted that the city's transport links will be improved in the city centre, potentially more good news for property investors.

London 2012 states that the capital will "come alive with cultural activity" during the games


Jankovic looks forward to the Olympics
Olympics centenary

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The U.S. might bid for the 2012 Youth Olympics

The U.S. might bid for the 2012 Youth Olympics after not joining a crowded field of competitors for the inaugural 2010 event.

Alexander “Sandy” Treadwell, chairman of the Lake Placid Regional Winter Sports Committee, has sent a letter to the Colorado Springs-based U.S. Olympic Committee, expressing the New York village’s desire to host the first winter version of the Youth Olympics.

No other cities have publicly stated an interest in hosting the 2012 Youth Olympics, although the bidding guidelines have yet to be released by the International Olympic Committee. The host city will be named in 2009.

USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said his organization hasn’t decided whether it will bid for the 2012 Youth Olympics because it’s focused on comprising Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics.

“I can’t say whether we will or will not at this point,” Seibel said. “It is something we will evaluate. It is a concept that we fully support, and we’ve expressed that to the IOC.”

The Youth Olympics, which will feature athletes ages 14-18, was created in July by IOC president Jacques Rogge in an attempt to get youth active in sports and away from TVs and computers.

About 3,500 athletes are expected for the Summer Games and 1,000 for the Winter Games. Each country will send a minimum of four athletes, who will be chosen at least 18 months before the Games.

The summer version features most of the 26 sports that will be contested at the 2012 London Games — baseball and softball are not part of the program — with several twists to appeal to youngsters.

The basketball competition may be “streetball,” in which games are held outside and sometimes with fewer players. The cycling disciplines are mountain bike and BMX, and road and track cycling were left off the schedule.

The IOC will foot the bill for the Youth Olympics — about $30 million for the Summer Games and $15-20 million for the Winter Games.

In a letter to national Olympic committees, Rogge said the Youth Olympics “can offer an excellent platform to create a true community between the youth of the world and the participants by learning and sharing experiences. ... Our hope is that if young people can learn to respect each other on the field of play, they may transfer this to the other parts of their daily lives.”

Ten cities were confirmed this month by the IOC as candidates for the 2010 Youth Olympics: Algiers, Algeria; Athens, Greece; Bangkok, Thailand; Debrecen, Hungary; Guatemala City; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Moscow; Poznan, Poland; Singapore and Turin, Italy.

Candidate cities have until Oct. 26 to complete a 127-page IOC questionnaire. The IOC will select an unspecified number of finalists in November and determine the host city in February.

Athens, Moscow and Turin are the early favorites because they’ve hosted the Olympics — Turin in 2006, Athens in 2004 and 1896 and Moscow in 1980. Algiers and Guatemala City are strong contenders because the Olympics never have been held in Africa or Central America.
Looking ahead to 2012, Lake Placid could be challenged by Salt Lake City and Calgary. Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Olympics, and Calgary was host of the 1988 Winter Games.

The venues used at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid have been maintained by the city’s Olympic Regional Development Authority. They include the hockey rink from the “Miracle on Ice” game, in which the U.S. upset the Soviet Union en route to the gold medal.

“It comes down to venues. If you have the venues, you can do it,” said James McKenna, president of the Lake Placid-Essex County Visitors Bureau. “You’re pretty hard-pressed to find any place in the world that has all of the current sports facilities in an eight-mile radius within a town that is a destination resort.”

The IOC mandates that leaders from candidate cities be “cost-conscious” in their bids and that no new venues be built for the Youth Olympics.

Also, all competitions must be held in the host city, meaning it’s not possible for Colorado Springs to join forces with Denver in a joint bid for 2012.

The IOC’s large seating requirements is the biggest roadblock for a future Colorado Springs bid.

According to bid procedures, the track and field stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies must hold 10,000 people, and a city must have a 2,500-seat aquatics facility.

“It would be very easy to add temporary seating to the Air Force track,” said Mike Moran, director of communications for the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation. “What do you do with the aquatics venue? I don’t think there is anything in the area that would seat that many people.”

Asked about Colorado Springs’ chances of hosting the Youth Olympics, Moran said, “The list of (financial) guarantees is daunting. And we’re not typically a city that has been willing to lay out large guarantees.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Adidas Becomes Next Major Sponsor of 2012 London Olympics

With the 2012 Summer Olympics more than four years away, the sponsors are starting to line up.

Adidas has agreed to a deal worth $99.6 million to become the third major sponsor of the 2012 London Olympics, according to the London Telegraph.

The agreement is expected to be formally announced on Thursday during a press conference featuring U.S. sprinters Tyson Gay and Allyson Felix.

Adidas joins Lloyds TSB and French energy company EDF. Those two firms paid about $159.3 million and $99.6 million, respectively, as top sponsors. The deal brings LOCOG "a step closer to realizing the $3.98 billion target they have set for staging the 2012 Games," the newspaper said.

Jankovic looks forward to the Olympics

Jankovic, the currently No. 3 in WTA, will take part in China Open as the second seed and the Serbian player also showed her expectations for next year's Olympic Games on Monday.

The 22-year-old Serbian sensation just applied the wildcard last Saturday for the 600,000 US dollars China Open. On talking about next year's Olympics, Jankovic expressed her willingness.

"I hope I can come back next year for Olympic Games because it's such an exciting event. But there is still a long way for me to go. I hope I can be there," said Jankovic, last year's semifinalist here.

At the Bali Classics last week, the top seed Jankovic was beaten by the 31-year-old Lindsay Davenport who just gave birth to her first child in June and might become the Serb's opponent again in the quarter-finals of China Open.

"She is in her amazing form now. And she also have the great shape after having the baby. I hope she can enjoy the game and it's good she is coming back. But I just want to focus on my next match and if I meet her again, I will try my best to beat her."

Having known her partner Li Na was out for injury, the Serb sent her wishes to this Chinese top player.

"Li Na is one of my best friends in tour. I feel pity that she has to survive the injury. I hope she can be better soon."

Monday, September 10, 2007

Last chance saloon for Olympics

ELEVEN months before the Beijing Olympics, Athletics Australia has put the hard word on the runners, jumpers and throwers who expect to compete for their country in China.

In the wake of the world championships in Osaka, where Australia had the second worst overall team performance in the event's 24-year history, athletes are being warned they have entered the last chance saloon.

While Jana Rawlinson (400m hurdles) and Nathan Deakes (50km walk) proved themselves the world's best, a swag of athletes who went with medal hopes, such as pole vaulters Steve Hooker, Paul Burgess and Kym Howe, long jumper Bronwyn Thompson, 1500m runner Sarah Jamieson, 400m runner John Steffensen and 5000m runner Craig Mottram, all left empty-handed.

And then there were those who should have at least made finals but perennially under-achieve at major events, such as sprinters Patrick Johnson and Joshua Ross, and 800m runner Tamsyn Lewis.

The 1980 Olympic 800m champion Steve Ovett commented after Lewis's run that she had two options before Beijing. "She should retire or train harder and I would suggest the former," Ovett said.

Danny Corcoran, chief executive of AA, said he left Osaka disappointed because so much promise had come to so little.

"I think there was an enormous wake-up call for the sport," Corcoran said.

"We don't want to have the same feelings walking away (from) the Beijing Olympics.

"Beijing will be the defining moment for a lot of athletes' careers. We have to be a darn sight wiser there and this time they have to get the preparation right. The underlying sentiment is there won't be second chances for a lot of them after Beijing."

It is not just the preparation but also the attitude they need to overhaul if results are to improve.

Corcoran, who stayed in the team hotel in Osaka for the duration of the nine-day championships, was able to observe the athletes close up.

"I saw who bled and who did not," Corcoran said.

In Osaka, some Australian athletes did not appear to be cut deeply enough.

Pole vaulter Hooker, who was gold medal favourite but came ninth through a combination of bad strategy and bad jumping, was already turning his mind to last night's lucrative Golden League meeting in Zurich.

"I am philosophical about it," Hooker said after the final. "There is a bit of history of those who do badly here going on to do well in Zurich."

And then there was Johnson, who ran 9.93sec at a small meet in Japan in 2003 but has not got near that time since. Before Osaka, he was promising a good show but didn't make it past the second round of the 100m or the semi-final of the 200m.

"It was all about preparation for Beijing," said Johnson, who turns 35 this month.

Imagine a footballer walking off after losing the grand final and saying, "Oh well, it was good preparation for next year's grand final".

Josh Ross, who ran 10.08sec in March - easily fast enough to make the blue-riband 100m final if he had done it in Osaka - went home in a distressed state after being burnt out by an ill-conceived lead-up season in Europe.

The men's 4x100m relay was robbed of its two fastest runners, Ross, and Johnson, who were left out by coaches because of a perceived lack of commitment.

Ovett also had a strong take on the relays, saying team management should have resolved the issues to make sure the fastest teams were entered.

Corcoran says Australian coaches need more support and training. "We have to better educate our coaches. Our selection of elite junior athletes is also incredibly important, to find the ones who have the right make-up and mental wherewithal," said Corcoran, who is introducing psychological testing to junior programs.

But they are solutions for the long-term, not likely to make much difference in Beijing.

In the short term, Corcoran says AA will have to take more control of athletes' programs before Beijing so less is left to chance.

For example, Ross, who gets homesick, was advised by AA's elite performance manager Max Binnington not to spend three months in Europe, but no-one actually stopped him.

"If athletes are funded, programs will have to be signed off because we have to ensure our money is well spent and the programs are on track to deliver outcomes we expect," Corcoran said.

The difficulty for AA is that there is no one solution for a team of more than 40 diverse athletes. At one end, there was pole vaulter Vicky Parnov, 16, who was there for the experience, and at the other end, seasoned sprinters, distance runners and vaulters who blew it with more culpability.

Distance runners Benita Johnson and Donna MacFarlane might have won medals if they weren't tripped in rough races. There was bad luck and bad management.

David Culbert, the former Olympic long jumper who was commentating for SBS, said AA officials had to learn from the frustration of Osaka.

"The fact we won two gold medals can't be overlooked. It hasn't happened since the 1968 Olympics and if we had three or four others who finished in the top eight, we would be celebrating," Culbert said.

"It is a very fine line, but a line you have to be on the other side of. But it is not cause for hysteria.

"It is not a swimming pool with a lane where conditions don't change. Grant Hackett doesn't get his goggles ripped off by the guy in the lane next to him," he said.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Olympics centenary

Major celebrations are being planned to commemorate the centenary of the 1908 London Olympics. The Royal Family and could be involved in the celebrations. I am told the Queen has already been approached.

This would be entirely appropriate. The 1908 Olympics saw London stepping in to help the Olympic Movement when Rome, which had been given the Games, could not stage the event.

The Games itself saw the Royal Family play a big part. The House of Windsor, in effect, decided the distance of the modern marathon. Some 385 yards were added to the original distance. This followed the decision to start the marathon not from the centre of Windsor, as had been planned, but from the Royal nurseries at Windsor Castle so that the children of Edward VII could see the start.

The Queen came into the picture after the Marathon was run.

This was when Dorando Pietri, the Italian, was disqualified from the Marathon after he had been helped over the line. He was the first into the stadium and the first across the line having collapsed several times as he approached the finish. The Queen was much taken by his courage and presented him with a Gold Cup. He would become quite a celebrity in later years.

Copyright: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

I understand the family of Dorando has been contacted and his Gold Cup may return to London for the celebrations.

The celebrations could also see a tug of war match between City of London Police and Liverpool police, the contestants for the olympic tug of war back in 1908 which the City of London won.

Plans are also being discussed to have a rugby match to mark the 1908 olympic rugby contest (rugby then was part of the Olympics, as cricket was to be for a brief moment at a subsequent Olympics). In 1908 the match was between Australia and Cornwall, who were representing Great Britain and Ireland. The Australians won. Now the idea being discussed is for the Wallabies to play a British team, which would be the Lions team minus the Irish.

The rugby match idea is not yet cast in stone but I am told the Wallabies may be interested given 2008 will mark the centenary of their first overseas official tour.

The Olympic torch could also play a part in the celebrations. The torch for the Beijing Olympics is due in this country next spring and it might be taken down part of the 1908 Marathon route ending at White City, now, of course, the home of the BBC.

But however colourful the celebrations, and whatever part the Queen plays, one thing is certain, it will not last as long as the 1908 Olympic Games which started on 27 April and did not finish until 31 October.

From BBC sport

Thursday, September 6, 2007

2016 Summer Olympics - Chicago

Chicago Submits Application to Host 2016 Summer Olympics
Chicago announced that it "has formally entered" the competition to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. The USOC and Mayor Richard Daley each sent letters to the IOC, "officially submitting" the city as the U.S. applicant, according to the Chicago Tribune.

If any U.S. venue is sports-crazy enough to host an Olympic Games, it is Chicago. And especially after New York's failure to land the 2012 Summer Games (London has them) and Atlanta's rough Olympic road in 1996, Chicago deserves a high level of consideration from the IOC to represent the U.S.

"We know the next two years will require hard work on all our parts, but it's a great opportunity to educate America and the world about the Olympic movement and the spirit it brings to our city," Daley said.

Asked whether Chicago's bid would be hurt by potential Chicago Transit Authority service cuts, Daley said Olympic host cities have been able in past years to get federal funds for transportation and security. Chicago's bid is backed by a package of public and private guarantees, the newspaper said.

The IOC is expected to announce a full list of bid locations on Sept.14 with a winner to be chosen on Oct. 2, 2009. Other cities likely to declare their candidacies include Rio de Janeiro; Madrid; Tokyo; Doha, Qatar; and Baku, Azerbaijan, the newspaper said.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Koreans Advance to Olympics

South Korea qualified for the Olympics in men’s gymnastics on Wednesday.

The Korean teams earned a trip to Beijing by placing eighth at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships Tuesday in Stuttgart, Germany. The Koreans totaled 360.400 points as team in six qualifying events, defeating some of the world’s strong rivals, including France ㅡ which finished with 359.900 points ㅡ Italy and Canada.

It is the fifth straight time the Koreans have qualified for the Olympics in men’s gymnastics. That gives Korea it’s longest string of Olympics berths in the sports since its gymnastics team made its first Olympic appearance in 1964 in Tokyo.

The Koreans have now qualified for every Olympics since the 1992 Games in Barcelona, Spain.

The six-member national team went through difficult competitions against international rivals, such as Germany and Spain in qualifications.

Despite a favorable match schedule, three Koreans struggled with their performances at the beginning. Some made mistakes in the pommel horse by touching their hands on the ground, causing them to lose points. They also had less-than-satisfying performances on the rings.

But after earning 62.875 points in the vault, the Koreans gained momentum with strong performances on the parallel bars (63.650), which was regarded as a strong event for Korea, helping the team to finish with 360.400 points en route to advancing to the final round of the 2008 Olympics.

Yang Tae-young, who was deprived of a golden medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics after some controversial decisions, made great contributions.

Despite making some mistakes by touching the ground in the pommel horse, he had a strong performance on the parallel bars, recovering the previous faults to stir up the morale of the team.

Korea’s remaining five gymnasts also contributed to their team’s success, despite being plagued by injuries.

The Olympic champions will be crowned in Beijing next year by calculating scores from six categories ㅡ floor exercise, horizontal bar, parallel bars, pommel horse, rings and vault.

The Koreans hope to be raked fifth or higher entering the Olympics.

China took first at the Artistic World Championship with 374.275 points, followed by Japan with 370.725 and Germany with 364.350.

The U.S., Russia, Romania, Spain, France, Italy, Canada and Bulgaria also won tickets for the final rounds of the Beijing Olympics.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Chinese games - 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing

With less than a year before the start of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the world community has trained its gaze on China. The Games present an opportunity to pressure that nation's communist government to correct some of its worst abuses in the areas of human rights, press freedom and individual expression.

Along with reports on the pageantry of the Games, attention should be lavished on China's atrocious human rights record. This includes the despicable practice of forced abortions that result from the nation's one-child policy. Reliable reports abound of women being taken from their homes and made to undergo abortions, even in the ninth month of pregnancy.

This is a good time, too, to highlight China's abuse of dissident voices. In a case all too familiar in China, self-trained lawyer Chen Guangcheng was sentenced to more than four years in prison in 2006 for bringing attention to abuses by family planning officials in Shandong Province in eastern China. Chen, who is blind, is being held in isolation from other prisoners. Villagers at his trial allegedly were tortured into testifying against him.

The human rights group Amnesty International is working to bring attention in the run-up to the Games to such cases, as well as China's broad employment of the death penalty without a fair trial and its stranglehold on free expression and Internet access.

Meanwhile, pledges made to improve press freedoms remain unfulfilled. China said it would lift restrictions it places on foreign media until the Games end next August. But according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Chinese journalists continue to be harassed, threatened and jailed. Foreign reporters say China regularly disregards even the temporary rules it put in place to give international media a freer hand.

China's misdeeds don't just harm its own citizens, as a sobering New York Times report on the country's massive pollution problems pointed out last week. Just as industrialized nations are coming to realize the peril of unabated carbon emissions, China could overtake the United States as the world's leading producer of greenhouse gases as soon as the end of this year.

The government has been lax on pollution control to avoid exerting drag on the country's red hot economic engine. Companies have freely dumped chemical waste into surface water, releases of which recently sent toxins flowing into Russia. The sun is perpetually darkened by pollution over some Chinese cities, and large swaths of Chinese coastline are devoid of marine life. Children suffer high rates of lead poisoning, and disease caused by pollution is a leading cause of death.

What's more, China's rapid development is run mostly on dirty, obsolete coal technology.

Despite the far-reaching power of China's strict authoritarian government, experts say the pollution might be impossible to control because of a thorny Catch-22 . China's growth is fueled by exports made cheap in part by laissez-faire pollution regulation. Slowing that growth could foment social and industry unrest that would threaten Communist Party rule. The same could result from unmitigated environmental degradation.

The international pre-Olympics spotlight also has illuminated Beijing's investments in Africa, including in Sudan, where that government is funding a genocidal war in Darfur.

Recent recalls of lead-poisoned toys, adulterated pet foods, toxic toothpaste and dangerous tires have awakened Americans to the hazards that go with saving money on cheaply made Chinese goods. To that add flagrant copyright piracy to the issues China must confront head-on.

This is not the time to let China bask in the pride of its Olympics coup, but to use the global attention to make it clean up its act.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Eleven cities bid for Youth Olympics

ATHENS, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Eleven cities have submitted bids to host the first edition of the Youth Olympics in 2010, designed to shore up dwindling support for the Olympic movement, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Monday.
With the average age of television viewers of the Olympics increasing and youngsters turning away, the IOC has said it needs to change to secure its survival.
For athletes aged 14-18, the first summer Games will take place in 2010 and the inaugural winter edition two years later.
The candidate cities for 2010 are Algiers, Athens, Bangkok, Belgrade, Debrecen, Guatemala City, Kuala Lumpur, Moscow, Poznan, Singapore and Turin, the IOC said in a statement.
The first host city will be decided next February.

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