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Germany

Leipzig Gets Boost from The Greatest

Leipzig’s Olympic bid, so often associated with scandal and corruption lately, got a vote of confidence from one of the sporting world’s most respected statesmen on Friday as Muhammad Ali stopped by to give his blessing.

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A legend comes calling: Leipzig welcomes Muhammad Ali.

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali sent the Olympic-hopeful city of Leipzig into raptures on Friday when he through his heavyweight support behind the German bid for the 2012 summer games.

The ailing three-time boxing world champ was accompanied by his wife Lonnie who greeted the crowd on his behalf. “I wish you a lot of success with the application. Leipzig is a wonderful town, and it is nice to be here.”

The 61-year-old Ali, who has Parkinson’s disease, became an Olympic champion in the games held in Rome in 1960. He went on to become his generation’s most famous sportsman for his lightning reflexes, power and the unstoppable wit and wisdom that used to flow from his ever open mouth.

Prestigious signature

Despite the sad spectacle of seeing the man who once flew like a butterfly and stung like a bee in the grip of such an illness, the Leipzig crowd were delighted to witness Ali become the first foreign sportsman to the sign Leipzig’s golden visitors book.

Mike de Vries, the manager of Leipzig 2012 GmbH, the company behind the bid for the Olympic Games, thanked the sportsman of the century for his visit. “We all feel the Olympic spirit which you carry inside you. It gives hope to the people here and in the whole country that Leipzig can get the Olympic Games in 2012,” said de Vries.

A big honor

Mayor Peter Kaminski congratulated the former heavyweight champion on his "Bambi" award which he received for his lifetime achievement in sport on Thursday in Hamburg and thanked him for his appearance on behalf of the Leipzig bid. “We are very proud. It is a big honor for us that you support our application,” Mayor Kaminski said.

Ali first made his support for the Leipzig bid known last June at the premiere of the autobiographical film "Ali" in Riesa, saying at the time, “It would be a big honor for me if I could light the Olympic flame here.”

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