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London put forward "outstanding" Olympic bid

Confetti comes down on the jubilant crowds in London's Trafalgar Square

(Keystone)

London deserved the 2012 Olympics, according to a Swiss member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), after the city won a tight bidding race.

Gian Franco Kasper told swissinfo that IOC delegates were impressed by Britain’s passionate bid to bring the Summer Games to the nation’s capital.

In the final round of voting during the IOC’s meeting in Singapore on Wednesday, London stole ahead of Paris by 54 votes to 50. Three other cities bidding to host the Games - Madrid, New York and Moscow – were disqualified in earlier ballots.

Swiss President Samuel Schmid sent a telegram to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Tony Blair to congratulate them on London’s victory.

He said he was confident that the British capital would be ready to host the "biggest sporting event in the world".

The last time the Olympics were staged in Britain was in 1948.

Kasper, who is president of the International Ski Federation and joined the IOC in 2000, revealed that he had voted in favour of London after making a promise to former Olympic athlete Sebastian Coe, who is chairman of the British bid.

swissinfo: In the end it was a two-horse race between London and Paris. Were you surprised that London stole ahead in the final round of voting?

Gian Franco Kasper: A week ago I would have said yes. But having seen the campaign that the London team led here in Singapore it really wasn’t a surprise. It was a close call, but Sebastian Coe as the leader of the London campaign did a brilliant job. Tony Blair also spoke individually to every IOC member.

swissinfo: Was there anything else that swung it in London’s favour?

G.F.K.: Essentially it was the way the London team campaigned in the last few days ahead of the vote. They gave an excellent and very emotional presentation to IOC members focusing on the heritage of the Olympic movement. Also, their technical dossier was outstanding. All in all I think the world knew that it was time for Britain to get the Summer Games again.

swissinfo: How did you and the other Swiss members of the IOC vote?

G.F.K.: I can’t speak for the others but I can tell you that several weeks ago I promised Sebastian Coe I would vote for him... because of the superb technical document presented by the London bid and also because the team sold themselves in an excellent way.

In terms of the voting in general, all I can say is that normally when it comes to selecting an Olympic host city we have some good candidates and others which are not capable of hosting the Games. But this time we had five dream cities and this meant it became an emotional rather than technical decision.

swissinfo: You’ve talked about the passion of the team in charge of the London bid. But recent attempts by Swiss cities to launch bids to host the Winter Games haven’t got off the ground. Why do you think that is?

G.F.K.: In Switzerland nobody is really interested in hosting the Olympics... I think at the moment there is no chance whatsoever of really getting a bid together. My personal view is that we won’t see the Games in Switzerland for the next 15 to 20 years. We’ve hosted them twice in 1928 and 1948, both times in St Moritz, but it really doesn’t look good for the future.

What the country needs is a bit more of a pioneering spirit when it comes to sport. [Right now] nobody from politics or business seems ready to commit to or invest in a Swiss bid.

swissinfo: But there has been talk of Switzerland mounting a bid to host the Winter Olympics in 2018 or 2022. Could the fact that the 2012 Games will be in Europe have a negative impact on a possible future Swiss bid?

G.F.K.: That is theoretically possible. But we still have to decide on the venue for the 2014 Winter Games. Korea is currently the favourite to host 2014, but the country is up against Sweden and Austria. If Korea wins, then there is a good chance that the 2018 Games could return to Europe. But if 2014 goes to Austria or Sweden, you can be sure that the next Winter Olympics would not go to Switzerland.

swissinfo-interview: Ramsey Zarifeh

Key facts

There are 116 members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
104 took part in the final round of voting. Members from Britain and France – the bid countries - were excluded.
There are five Swiss IOC members: Marc Hodler, Denis Oswald, René Fasel, Joseph Blatter and Gian Franco Kasper.

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