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Paris front-runner for 2012 Olympics

Stephen Wilson Associated Press

LONDON – Paris remains the city to beat in the race for the 2012 Olympics, while New York’s chances took a hit when a powerful state board rejected funding for a proposed stadium.

With a month to go before the vote, the French capital solidified its front-runner status Monday, receiving a glowing review in an International Olympic Committee report evaluating the five cities bidding to host those games.

London and Madrid also earned high praise in the 123-page report.

But reviews for New York were mixed, with the IOC citing a number of concerns, including uncertainty over a proposed Olympic stadium. The city’s bid suffered a setback when a powerful state board rejected critical public funding for a $2 billion stadium.

Moscow, already a long shot, took criticism for its lack of detailed plans.

The report didn’t rank the cities – the most competitive and glamorous field in Olympic bid history – but will serve as a guide for the 117 eligible voting IOC members when they cast secret ballots in Singapore on July 6.

Paris has been considered the favorite since the start of the campaign nearly two years ago, and Monday’s report only reinforced that status.

The report’s summary praised the “very high quality” of the Paris and London bid files. Madrid and New York were cited for “high quality” presentations.

New York won positive words for its legacy plans, promotion of Olympic sports in America and strong potential for local sponsorship and licensing revenues. But the IOC noted that “no guarantees were provided” for the planned $2 billion West Side stadium, as well as an international broadcasting center.

“The IOC report has made crystal clear that we’re in a great position to win … so long as the stadium is approved,” New York bid leader Dan Doctoroff said.

The stadium was put into doubt when the state Public Authorities Control Board failed to get the unanimous vote required to secure $300 million in public funding.

The state board could reconsider the issue again later. But without the support of member Sheldon Silver – the state Assembly Speaker who came out against the plan less than an hour before the vote was taken – the state funding cannot move forward.

“This plan is at best, premature,” Silver said, indicating he was willing to continue talking about the issue.

However, the report also cited other issues for New York, noting that lack of dedicated Olympic lanes to some venues “may make it difficult to achieve the stated travel times.”

The report was based on visits to the five cities by the IOC evaluation commission, and focuses on technical issues such as venue construction, transportation, hotel accommodations, financing and security. The vote in Singapore, however, will also hinge on geopolitical issues and other factors.

“You do not dismiss any city on the basis of this report,” London bid chairman Sebastian Coe said.

British bookmakers reacted to the report by keeping Paris as the odds-on favorite, with Ladbrokes listing the French city at 1-6 and William Hill making it a 1-4 shot. London was second at 7-2 and 11-4.

The IOC report praised Paris, among other things, for its sports concept, “excellent accommodation,” and “high capacity and quality” transportation.

The report also noted that Paris had “fully taken into account” the IOC’s framework for controlling the cost and size of the Olympics – a major point in IOC president Jacques Rogge’s blueprint for future games.

“We are really delighted because our concept seems to be welcomed in the best way,” Paris bid leader Philippe Baudillon said.

Paris, which last hosted the Olympics in 1924, is bidding for the third time after defeats for the 1992 and 2008 games.

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