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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 February, 2005, 18:09 GMT
IOC inspectors arrive in London
London's bid team have decked The Mall with flags to welcome the IOC team
The International Olympic Committee's evaluation commission is ready to begin its inspection of London's bid to host the Games in 2012.

The 13-strong IOC team flew into either Heathrow Airport or London City Airport on Tuesday, with South African delegate Sam Ramsamy the first to arrive.

Their inspection tour will begin on Wednesday with a presentation by London 2012 bid chairman Lord Coe.

The tour of London's plans and key sites will take place over four days.

And the IOC team will also attend a special dinner with the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

London is competing against Paris, New York, Madrid and Moscow and the evaluation report will help IOC members decide the winner in a vote on 6 July.

An artist's impression of the statue to be erected in Trafalgar Square

Paris is considered the favourite, but Coe said: "People who watch this closely on a day-to-day basis think we have narrowed the gap quite dramatically in the last few months.

"But I think it is too close to call."

London's bid has been praised by the IOC's former head of marketing Michael Payne.

"London keeps raising its game. I am pleasantly surprised. There is a long way to go but this is the most open race for 20 years," Payne told the Evening Standard newspaper.

London has staged the Olympics twice, in 1908 and 1948. Attempts to bring the Games to Manchester in 1996 and 2000 both failed.

Many of London's key landmarks have been decked out with bid flags, and a statue of an athlete representing British pride and honour will be erected in Trafalgar Square on Saturday.

Coe's team hope their plans to regenerate a 500-acre area in the Lea Valley in the east of the city will go down well with the IOC.

They will take the inspectors to Stratford to see the main Olympic site, and use computer-generated technology to show what it would look like with all the key venues and transport hub in place.

"Technically, we have got the best bid simply because it is an opportune time," said Caborn.

"We've got the brownfield sites there and we've put the transport structure into the east end so we can move people from the centre of London to the Olympic parks in seven minutes."

The IOC inspection team, which has already visited Madrid, is led by Moroccan Nawal El Moutawakel, the first Muslim woman to win an Olympic gold medal.

It includes several technical experts, and Namibian sprinter Frankie Fredericks is the athletes' representative.

The members will be given presentations on 17 themes, including transport, security and London's Paralympic bid.

Coe's team are expected to show them planned venues like the new Wembley stadium, Wimbledon, Lord's and Horse Guards Parade, which would stage beach volleyball.

They are due to meet Prime Minister Tony Blair and the other main party leaders at Downing Street on Saturday before having dinner with the Queen and Prince Phillip.

The commission's verdict, which will be published in May, is not binding and there is no official ranking.

But it takes on added significance because new rules designed to cut down on corruption prevent other IOC members from visiting bidding cities.

A critical evaluation for any of the five rivals would be considered disastrous, although they will get to make final presentations just before the final vote in Singapore.


WATCH AND LISTEN
Report: BBC Sport correspondent Olly Foster


See how London's Olympic sites would be transformed



SEE ALSO
IOC team impressed by Madrid bid
06 Feb 05 |  Olympics 2012



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