PARIS, Jan 16 (AFP) – Paris unveiled its bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games with a glitzy ceremony at the Eiffel Tower on Friday, hoping to have learnt the lessons from its failure to beat Beijing for the 2008 Games.
The early frontrunner for the honour out of a bidding field of nine cities, the French capital has made the 80,000-capacity Stade de France, built for the 1998 World Cup soccer tournament, the centrepiece of its campaign.
“We’ve gone for a compact Games, for the quality of lifestyle and the heritage we will leave,” said Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe.Sports minister Jean-Francois Lamour, a former Olympic fencer, said that the Paris project had the full backing of the French government which would provide financial and security gaurantees.
The French bid stresses that much of the infrastructure needed to stage the Olympics was already in place with 14 of 32 stadiums constructed including the Stade de France in the northern suburb of St Denis which last August successfully hosted the World Athletics Championships.
The Stade de France is down to stage athletics, football and the opening and closing ceremonies.
World famous landmarks in and around Paris would also be highlighted with beach volleyball being played alongside the Eiffel Tower and the cycling road race winding around the spectacular Versailles Chateau to the west of the city.
Swimming will be staged at a new pool to be built near the Stade de France at Aubervilliers and a new stadium is planned at nearby Porte de la Chapelle for gymnastics and the basketball finals.
Tennis would be played on the famous red clay courts of the Roland Garros stadium while football will be played at the Stade de France and Parc des Princes and in Nantes, Lens, Lyon and Marseille.
The Longchamp racecourse will be used for equestrian events while the Auteil course will stage archery and the riding and cross country events of modern pentathlon.
Demountable sports halls will be used for badminton, gymnastics, rythmic gymnastics, trampolining and the shooting and fencing events of modern pentathlon.
The Bercy Palais, which stages the Paris Open ATP tennis Super Series, will be used for judo and taekwondo, while the yachting would be at the Atlantic Ocean port of La Rochelle.
And organisers have also found a lifeline for the derelict Colombes stadium, once the French equivalent of Wembley and Twickenham and scene of the 1924 Olympic heroics of British runners who inspired the movie Chariots of Fire.
The stadium, on which local authorities decided last month to spend EUR 250 million, will be tranformed into a world-class sport and cultural centre and if Paris wins the Games it will stage baseball and softball.
Paris is in competition with London, New York, Madrid, Havana, Istanbul, Leipzig, Moscow, and Rio de Janeiro, with the International Olympic Committee deciding in Singapore on July 6, 2005.
It will be a second straight bid by Paris to host the Olympics after the humiliation of finishing behind Beijing, Toronto and Istanbul in the first round of voting to hold the 2008 Olympics.
The French capital improved only by one place, ahead of Istanbul, in the second round which clinched the issue for Beijing.
However, Paris was also fighting a near impossible battle against Beijing and outgoing IOC president Juan-Antonio Samaranch’s determination to give China the Games before he stepped down.
Samaranch also frustrated Paris when it bid to stage the 1992 Olympics, losing out to the Catalan’s hometown of Barcelona.
But Paris ran a hugely successful World Athletics Championships in August and the 1998 World Cup soccer finals were regarded as being among the best ever.
Paris says it is spending around USD 35 million on its bid and the Games are estimated to cost USD 6.9 billion.
Paris held the Olympics in 1900 and 1924 when Finnish running legend Paavo Nurmi won five gold medals, Johnny Weissmuller of Tarzan fame won three gold swimming medals and British runners Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddle of “Chariots of Fire” fame triumphed at Colombes.
Subject: France news