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Beijing Is Still Number One

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It seems to be a consensus in some quarters that Beijing is still the one to beat for the 2008 Summer Games.

Ed Hula, editor of the influential Olympic newsletter "Around The Rings", said the evaluation commission report isn't likely to persuade IOC delegates to vote for Toronto over Beijing. "It doesn't change the complexity of the race" he said.

IOC member Paul Henderson, head of Toronto's failed 1996 bid, said "it's still obvious that Beijing is the leader".

Toronto newspaper columnist Steve Simmons wrote, "for Toronto to have a chance, any chance, to put itself in position to win the Olympic vote in July it had to be in the lead by now. Maybe not ahead of Paris, but certainly well ahead of Beijing".

But IOC executive member Dick Pound said it was difficult to assess which way the IOC members are leaning. "I think it will be fluid up to and including July 13", he said. "It will all come down to the one-week show in Moscow".

Asked what the three front-runners should do now, Pound said, "if you're Toronto, you feed on having an ahtlete-friendly, compact Games that can provide a major legacy. If you're Paris you feed on the fact that Paris is Paris and it also is a compact bid for a city that size. If you're Beijing, you've never had the chance to make enormous strides in environmental issues, structure-wise and maybe make strides in human rights".

And what are the politicians saying? Denis Coderre, Canada's Secretary of State for Amateur Sport said that cabinet members would pump the bid at high levels on diplomatic trips. "The most important thing is we proved Toronto is the bid that's athlete-centred and, technically, we answered all their demands. The athletes want Toronto".

Canada's Transport Minister David Collenette was in Washington Tuesday night to promote the Olympic bid at a Canadian Embassy reception and when asked about the IOC report appearing to gloss over Beijing's pollution, he said, "maybe it goes without saying that (pollution in Beijing) is a major impediment. Beijing has severe problems and the althletes and everyone else realize it. Surely it is something that would weigh in Toronto's favour?"

Ontario Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who is also Deputy Premier, said, "we have guaranteed that the necessary financial resources will be available. Quite frankly, there's no better government than our government to offer that guarantee, given our record of fiscal responsibility, of balancing budgets and of being prudent in our financial management". Write or read comments about this article

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