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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 August, 2003, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Cassani's confident approach
Barbara Cassani
Cassani made her name by setting up no-frills airline Go
More than a few British eyebrows were raised when an American was chosen to lead London's bid to host the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

But Barbara Cassani insists she is tailor-made for the fight to bring the Games back to London for the first time since 1948.

The Boston-born businesswoman has lived in England for most of the past 17 years.

She is married to a British investment banker, and is responsible for one of the more impressive British business successes of recent years - the budget airline Go.

"I'm a Londoner first and foremost," says 43-year-old Cassani. "I've spent most of my adult life here. I've built a home and a business here.

"Given that 25% of the people in London weren't even born in the UK, that makes me a very powerful advocate."

There's all this flannel about foreigners, but you appoint the best person for the job
Olympic gold medallist and IOC member Matthew Pinsent

Cassani grew up in Boston and San Francisco, earning a masters degree in international relations from Princeton University and starting her career as a management consultant.

She arrived in England in 1986, moving from Coopers and Lybrand's Washington office to London before joining British Airways.

In 1997 she got the chance to make her name when BA chief executive Bob Ayling asked her to set up the low-cost airline Go.

Given 25m and told to get on with it, Cassani had the business up and running in six months, and it reached profitability well ahead of schedule.

BARBARA CASSANI
Born: Boston, 22 July 1960
Family: Married, two children
Education: Mount Holyoke College
Princeton University
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
1984-7: Coopers and Lybrand
1987-97: British Airways
1997-2002: CEO, Go Fly Ltd
June 2003-: London 2012 bid

She continued to run Go after a 110m management buyout in 2001, winning the Veuve Cliquot Businesswoman of the Year award the following year.

She reluctantly departed - albeit a reported 16m richer - when the airline was taken over by rival Easyjet for 374m.

With time on her hands, Cassani set about transforming her local pub in Barnes, west London, into a posh restaurant, took a long holiday in Australia and wrote a book about her experiences at Go.

When she saw her name linked with the London 2012 job in a newspaper, she called the headhunters herself - and was promptly offered the post.

She describes the resulting family meeting thus. "I asked my two kids whether I should do it or not. They said 'of course... now what's for dinner?'"

I took this job because I know we can win
Barbara Cassani

Hard-working and enthusiastic, Cassani is confident she can deliver a polished bid within its 30m budget.

She requested a 150,000 annual salary rather than the 200,000 on offer, and flew economy class (on BA, of course) to observe the International Olympic Committee's session in Prague in July.

She readily admits, however, that she is on a steep learning curve.

Her love of three-day eventing and her husband Guy Davis's promising career as an amateur swimmer have hardly prepared her for the complex political workings of the IOC.

And, having urged Britain's children to start training for 2012, she saw her first public appearance disrupted by a protest about the lack of school playing fields.

Cassani is confident, however, that she can follow the lead of Gianna Angelopoulos, the woman who successfully led the campaign to bring the Olympics to Athens in 2004.

"I have taken this job because I know we can win," she insists. "London is a world-class city. We can deliver a world-class Games."






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