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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 March, 2005, 19:11 GMT
Chic Paris greets Olympic team

By Caroline Wyatt
BBC correspondent in Paris

Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe welcomes IOC officials
Mayor Delanoe (left) can show off several existing venues

Paris is welcoming inspectors from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who are assessing the city's bid to host the 2012 Olympics.

The French capital is widely seen as the favourite to win what appears to be a two-horse race against London.

Paris failed in its attempts to host the 1992 and 2008 Games, but this time it is trying to deliver a slick, well-organised bid which it hopes will seduce the IOC inspectors during their four-day visit starting on Wednesday.

The city's desire for the Games is writ large on every major building - even the French Parliament is lit up with enormous neon lights which read "Paris 2012" in the Olympic colours.

The bridges across the Seine are bathed in the Olympic colours, reflecting on the water: all unmissable signs of the city's enthusiasm for the Olympics.

And in some ways, the city is its own best advertisement for the Games, with the sheer beauty of the setting that would provide the backdrop for the 2012 Games a seduction in itself.

Strong support

This time - after failing in its previous bids - Paris has made sure that the bid is backed by everyone from the president to Parisians themselves, as well as French businesses, which have flocked to sponsor the bid.

Paris city hall in Olympic colours
Paris city hall now bears the Olympic colours
Philippe Baudillon is head of the Paris 2012 Committee, and says the city is approaching the bid with humility, but hopes that its obvious passion for hosting the Games will speak for itself.

"We want the Games and we want to show to the Olympic movement that if they choose us, they can share this love of the Olympic Games in France in 2012," he says. "And this sentiment really is coming from the heart, from all of us here."

"Paris, for the love of the Games" is the advertising slogan the Olympic inspectors will see everywhere as they are shown the highlights of the Paris bid: everything from a transport system that works perfectly, to the planned site of the Olympic Village in Batignolles.

The Village project will renovate what is currently something of an inner city wasteland, offering sustainable development for its future after the Games.

It is not far from the city centre - ten minutes by car - and within easy reach of the Paris bid's piece de resistance: the main 80,000-seat Stade de France. The stadium's seats are being polished until they gleam for the IOC visit.

The stadium has already been tried and tested by a successful Football World Cup in 1998 and the World Athletics Championships.

Strike threat

And who could fail to be charmed by the idea of beach volleyball beneath the Eiffel Tower?

Stade de France
The Stade de France would host track and field events
The only fly in the ointment is the strike being called by French trade unions for this Thursday, in protest at the French government's economic reforms.

It has nothing to do with the Olympic bid, but it does show that however well-organised the bid, there are some forces even the city of Paris cannot control.

So aren't the French trade unions afraid that by calling tens of thousands of people onto the streets, they will be endangering the Paris bid?

Jean-Claude Mailly, leader of the communist-backed Force Ouvriere (Workers' Movement Trade Union) claims not.

"No, because there's no connection with the IOC visit, it's just a coincidence that we will hold demonstrations on the same day," he insists.

"We support the Paris bid, and we work closely with the organisers and the mayor's office. It is pure chance that we'll be demonstrating the day the inspectors are here. France is a democracy and this is democracy in action."

However, the unions have at least promised to keep the demonstrations well away from the sites to be visited by the IOC on Wednesday, as Paris tries to cast the most flattering light on what it hopes will be an irresistible bid.




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