Athens miracle gives London hope

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One of the many buildings that the Athens authorities could not make presentable in time for the arrival of the Olympic family has been covered up with a huge advertising banner carrying the latest Adidas campaign, which renounces the concept of “impossible” as meaningless in sport.

It is a message to cheer the hearts of the team bidding to bring the Olympic Games to London in 2012 as they spend a difficult week being told by the media that their task is becoming more impossible by the day.

The BBC's Panorama documentary, which alleged that corruption in the International Olympic Committee is alive and well despite the ethical purges that followed the Salt Lake City bribery scandal, has made many in the movement either wary or openly antagonistic to the London bid despite it being totally unconnected to the programme.

Unfair? Absolutely. Unhelpful? Definitely. Fatal to London's chances? Definitely not, not least because many of those members who bothered to watch a recording of the programme when it was shown by the IOC on Wednesday, said it was clear London 2012 was not connected to it and opined that it should not affect the city's chances.

If the IOC vote to award the Games were to take place today, London would be sunk for a host of reasons, Panorama being just one of them. But the vote takes place in Singapore next July, and while more weeks like this one will make the task difficult, there is more than enough time left to build up the momentum necessary to become potential winners.

London has come a long way in the past 18 months, creating almost from scratch a solid foundation on which to build the candidature file that must be submitted to the IOC's evaluation commission in November.

Along the way it has also generated plenty of goodwill. It has no shortage of enemies within the IOC, but it also has a fair few friends. Panorama will doubtless encourage the former but should not influence the latter too much. There is plenty to be done, nobody at London 2012 denies that, and we are promised that in the next few months there will be a raft of initiatives to help bring the bid alive at home, where it has yet to capture the public imagination, and overseas where the race will be won or lost.

If the London team need more inspiration than an Adidas advertisement can provide and who does not? then they need look no further than their Greek surroundings.

Following a visit to Athens six months ago, I wrote that only divine intervention could help the Greeks get their city, its sporting venues and transport infrastructure ready in time for the Olympics.

Well, miracles do happen. The venues are complete and traffic moves freely and swiftly around a city vacated by many of its inhabitants who have chosen the next two weeks to go on holiday. But what is most staggering and impressive is the general transformation of Athens. Six months ago it reminded one of a vagrant taking a break by the side of the road. It was dirty, scruffy, grumpy and down on its luck. But the vagrant has scrubbed up remarkably well, and his mood has improved enormously.

And there is a delicious sense of anticipation about the city, a feeling that something wonderful is about to happen. The 2004 Games have the potential to be magnificent, and bearing in mind where the Greeks were six months ago, there really is no such thing as impossible.

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