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Culture

Paris, London Bicker Over Olympic Bid

As members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) prepare to announce their choice for the 2012 host city Wednesday, backers for front-runners Paris and London have begun to take shots at each other.

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"One more word about British food and you'll sleep hungry in Scotland"

Slightly open or pressed together tightly: The state of IOC President Jacques Rogge's lips on Wednesday around 8 p.m. Singapore time will give a clue to the billion-dollar question of which city will host the 2012 Olympic Games.

Just 24 hours before the announcement, the frenzy has caused people to consult lip-reading experts to get a split-second advantage over others in terms of knowing where the world's athletes will gather seven years from now.

Jacques Rogge Miniquiz Mai 2004

A tight-lipped Rogge would point to Paris

Should Rogge close his lips after the phrase "And the host city is," Paris will party, Francois Grosjean, a professor of psycholionguistics at the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland, told AFP. If the mouth stays open, it's London's lucky day.

Clear front-runners

While Madrid, Moscow and New York are also still in the running, insiders have said that most IOC members have lined up behind the British and French capitals -- a rumor confirmed by German IOC member Walter Tröger.

MIG 26.06.2005 Paris.jpg

A banner with the logo of Paris' Olympic bid

"There are favorites in the opinion of my colleagues," he said. "Paris and London are definitely at the front, but everything's possible. Paris clearly has a chance, because its bid is a good one and because it's probably time for Paris again. But that's purely speculative."

The British prime minister didn't seem to take any chances and arrived at the IOC meeting place in Singapore Monday for an intense two-day lobbying effort in support of London's bid.

Millionengrab

The Millennium Dome in London's Greenwich, Wednesday, May 29, 2002. Dome Minister Lord Falconer made a statment to the House of Lords in which he announced that the building will be taken over by the Meridian Delta consortium for nothing. They will be turning the structure into a 20,000 seat arena for sports and concerts. (AP Photo/Richard Lewis)

"The spirit of London 2012 will be the best of the spirit of the Olympic movement," said Blair, who met with dozens of IOC members in private talks. "We will build something that doesn't just last for the few weeks of the Games, but lasts for a generation to come."

British food

Blair refused to comment on remarks by French President Jacques Chirac, who had reportedly labeled British food the worst in Europe apart from that of Finland.

Blair kocht

Chirac has probably never tasted Blair's food

"You can't trust people who have such lousy cooking," Chirac had said during a meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Kaliningrad on Sunday, according to French newspaper Liberation.

Blair countered that he didn't want to get "tempted down that path" of returning in kind, saying that Olympic competitors should approach the race with "the right diplomatic spirit."

His view was obviously not shared by British tabloid The Sun, whose editors denounced Chirac as a "nasty, petty racist creep" and someone who "has lost his marbles" on Tuesday.

Königin Elizabeth II. in Frankreich Jacques Chirac

Queen Elizabeth II is greeted by French President Jacques Chirac on the Champs Elysees in Paris on April 5, 2004

Another paper hoped Britain's Queen Elizabeth II would serve Chirac beans on toast -- "on his head" -- when he attends a dinner party hosted by her in Scotland Wednesday to welcome G8 leaders for their summit.

"I may be staying in Singapore for the rest of the week now," Blair told reporters jokingly when asked whether the bickering between Paris and London would cloud his meeting with Chirac in Scotland.

France 's stadium

But the British team also took a jibe at Paris, indirectly calling the city's Stade de France stadium unsuitable for the Olympics.

Leichtathletik-Weltmeisterschaften in Paris eröffnet

Built for the 1998 Soccer World Cup, the Stade de France seemed to be doing pretty well when it hosted the World Athletics Championships in 2003

"The one thing you do have with an existing stadium is that it has been built for (soccer), it hasn't been built for athletics," said Jim Sloman, the chief operating officer for the Sydney 2000 games and now an advisor to the London bid.

The remark, which some saw as violating IOC rules that bidders are not allowed to criticize each other, caused Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe to accuse his rivals of unfairness.

"I think that to deserve victory you have to respect the Olympic spirit and demonstrate fair play," he said.

Only time and Rogge's lips will tell.

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