Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Samaranch Key to Power Game; 6 DAYS TO THE VOTE IN SINGAPORE

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Samaranch Key to Power Game; 6 DAYS TO THE VOTE IN SINGAPORE

Article excerpt


FOUR years ago Juan Antonio Samaranch stepped down as International Olympic Committee president at the age of 81 and appeared to be heading for a quiet retirement following a serious kidney illness.

But it is becoming clear that the controversial Spaniard, who was a master of political manoeuvring during his 21 years in charge of the IOC, is playing an increasingly important role in the battle for the 2012 Olympics.

You can take the man out of the IOC presidency but you can't take the presidential horse-trading out of the man.

It was once said that Samaranch had the kind of sophisticated political mind capable of playing chess in three dimensions.

Now it has emerged that Britain is working hard at political and sporting levels to strike a deal with the former IOC president that could help London win next week's 2012 vote in Singapore.

It is widely believed that, unless there is a huge shock in the first round, New York and Moscow will not make it through the first two rounds of voting at the Raffles Hotel ballroom next Wednesday night and that Paris, London and Madrid will be left in a crucial third round.

Favourites Paris are not expected to fall at this stage and London 2012 chiefs are hoping that Madrid go out next, leaving them to take on the French capital in a final showdown.

What happens to Madrid's supporters if the Spanish capital goes out will be crucial to the outcome.

London and Paris are involved in a fierce fight for the votes of Madrid's traditional backers and for the Spanish IOC members, who include Samaranch's son, Juan Antonio Jr.

Olympic observers can talk as much as they like about the importance of Olympic venues and athletes' villages, but the reality is that Samaranch junior, a 45-year-old financier, could be far more important than any technical prowess next Wednesday.

Samaranch needs Madrid to do well so that his son, who is helping lead the Spanish bid, boosts his credibility in the IOC. He understands that Madrid is unlikely to win, given that Spain hosted the Games in Barcelona just 13 years ago. …

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