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Toronto bid committee confident in Olympic countdown

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The campaigning is officially over. International Olympic Committee (IOC) members have been sequestered behind a cement wall, and there’s nothing that Olympic bid corporations in Beijing, Toronto, Paris, Osaka and Istanbul can do but cross their fingers and speculate on what will happen on July 13.

Each of the five bid cities was shortlisted for the privilege to host the 2008 Olympics, and the favourites have been identified as Beijing, which came within two votes of winning the 2000 Games; Paris, which recently hosted a successful World Cup of soccer; and Toronto – the fifth largest city in North America, but otherwise a complete mystery to most of the bid members.

However, the Toronto bid team is confident that the delegation will return from the IOC’s 112 th Session in Moscow from July 10- 20 with the Olympic Games.

Each group will have one last opportunity to hawk their bid to IOC members, and Toronto’s presentation features an all-star cast led by Olympic gold medallist Donovan Bailey, Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Ontario Premier Mike Harris. The bid organizers will spend over $2 million on the presentation.

"What we want to do here is visibly and tangibly show that we have strong government support for the bid," said bid chief operating officer Bob Richardson.

Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman will also be there, although Lastman’s presence could do more harm than good at this point.

The mayor landed in a pot of hot water recently when he joked that he did not accompany Chretien to Africa because he was plagued by images of boiling in a vat of water while natives danced around. He has since apologized to African leaders and the IOC for the joke, but the general feeling among those leaders and from African community in Canada is that Lastman should have withdrawn from the bid team.

Bid organizers have downplayed the incident, and in the weeks leading up the July 13 decision they sent two groups of delegates who have toured Europe to promote Toronto. It seems to be working.

Paris has been surprisingly quiet in recent weeks, and a European CNN poll released on July 11 found that the majority of respondents favoured Toronto to win the games. According to the CNN poll of 77,643 Europeans, 47 per cent favoured Toronto, compared to 24 per cent for Paris and 10 per cent for Beijing. Instanbul, an underdog in the Olympic race since the beginning, actually posted higher than Beijing with 13 per cent of the total. Osaka rang in at just 5 per cent.

"We’re definitely gaining momentum," Toronto bid chair John Bitove told the Toronto Star. "I had one IOC member today tell me we have no deficiencies whatsoever. Even those who have said they can’t vote for us said we have the best bid and not to take it personally that they’re not with us…I’m just focusing on the fact that everyone loves our plan, and hopefully at the end of the day they’ll go with what’s right for the sport and what’s right for the athletes."

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