Chirac in final push for Parisahead of crunch Olympic vote

5th July 2005, Comments 0 comments

SINGAPORE, July 5 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac flew into Singapore on Tuesday to spearhead the final push by Paris to host the 2012 Olympic Games -- and another match-up with British premier Tony Blair.

SINGAPORE, July 5 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac flew into Singapore on Tuesday to spearhead the final push by Paris to host the 2012 Olympic Games -- and another match-up with British premier Tony Blair.

Chirac moved immediately into lobbying mode, tracing the footsteps of Blair who has been in town since Sunday conducting a high-profile charm offensive in support of the London bid.

Paris has been the frontrunner in the campaign to win the right to host the 2012 Games from the outset, although London has made up enormous ground in recent days and Wednesday's vote in Singapore is expected to be very close.

The other three cities in the running are Madrid, Moscow and New York.

Chirac was due to meet International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge on Tuesday, after a photo call at the Raffles Hotel.

His main chance to meet with IOC delegates will come at a cocktail reception for the opening ceremony of the 117th IOC session at Singapore's Esplanade arts centre on Tuesday evening.

But, due to his late arrival, Chirac's window of opportunity to influence will be much smaller than Blair's.

The five cities begin making their video presentations to IOC delegates at 9:00 am (0100 GMT) on Wednesday. Once they start, Chirac will have no opportunity to talk privately with the IOC delegates until they vote about 7.30 pm.

After helping Paris' final presentation, Chirac will fly out before the announcement for Scotland for the G8 summit in Gleneagles.

Blair, who has been holding private face-to-face talks with IOC members in a suite at the Raffles City Convention Center as well as making frequent media appearances, is due to fly out of Singapore on Tuesday evening.

The Chirac-Blair match up in Singapore has been given added spice due to the apparent deepening personal animosity between the pair, and the historic rivalry between their two nations.

The rivalries flared on Monday when consultants to the London Olympic bid in Singapore criticised Paris' Stade de France, a centrepiece of the French capital's campaign, in apparent breach of the IOC rules.

The Paris delegation reacted with some barbs of its own, with Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe quick to take the moral high ground.

"I think that to deserve victory you have to respect the Olympic spirit and demonstrate fair play," Delanoe said when asked about the remarks.

Chirac himself added to the tensions with comments published in the French newspaper, Liberation, on Monday ridiculing British cooking.

"The only thing they have done for European agriculture is 'mad cow (disease)'," he reportedly said during a weekend meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

"You can't trust people who have such lousy cooking," Chirac added, labelling British cooking the worst in Europe apart from that of Finland.

Blair reacted with good humour and a diplomatic straight bat on Tuesday.

"Particularly at this moment, if you will forgive me, I don't want to get tempted down that path," he said with a grin when asked about the cookery comments.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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