SINGAPORE (AP) – Charlie Battle, a veteran Olympic lobbyist and key member of New York’s 2012 bid team, surveyed the swirl of politicking, glad-handing and schmoozing and shook his head.

“It’s almost a frenetic and frenzied atmosphere,” he said Monday as the five-city campaign moved into the final 48 hours. “This is the most competitive and high-profile race they’ve ever had. It was just bound to reach this critical mass.”

The International Olympic Committee votes Wednesday to decide whether Paris, London, New York, Madrid or Moscow will host the 2012 Summer Games. Paris has long been considered the favorite, with London the main challenger. But many IOC members say the race remains open.

With many of the 100 or so members apparently still undecided, the bid cities are making a late frantic push for support. Political leaders, royalty and sports stars were trotted out Monday to promote the candidates.

“I think it’s very fluid,” said IOC vice president Jim Easton, the highest-ranking American on the committee. “Because there are so many good cities, there is no slam dunk in this thing. Even though some of the cities think they’re way ahead, I don’t think so.”

A potentially ugly spat between Paris and London arose after two expert consultants for the British bid criticized the Stade de France, considered a centerpiece of the French capital’s project. Under IOC rules, bid cities are prohibited from criticizing each other.

Jim Sloman and Rod Sheard, Australian consultants for London, were critical of the sightlines for spectators at the French stadium, built for the 1998 soccer World Cup.

Paris officials decided not to complain to the IOC ethics commission, and the IOC said it wouldn’t pursue the matter.

Earlier, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a Fourth of July pep talk for his city, flanked by a row of boosters that included a woman in a Statue of Liberty costume. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Muhammad Ali are due in town Tuesday.

Bloomberg said he hopes to convince undecided voters that holding the games in New York would be an economic boost for the Olympics and international sports federations.

“America is the biggest sports market in the world – it’s a market that they have to approach,” he said.

Bloomberg also said New York’s 11th-hour change in stadium plans was evidence of the city’s resilience. After a state panel rejected a proposed new stadium in Manhattan last month, bid officials swiftly came up with a new plan for a stadium in Queens.

“That’s what great teams do – they adapt,” Bloomberg said. “No one starts out with a game plan and slavishly follows it to the end.”

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Princess Anne held separate news conferences to state the case for taking the Olympics back to London for the first time since 1948. England soccer captain David Beckham and wife Victoria, a former Spice Girl, slipped into town to back the bid.

Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon and soccer star Raul Gonzalez, Beckham’s teammate at Real Madrid, talked up the Spanish capital’s chances. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and French Sports Minister Jean-Francois Lamour did the same for their cities. French President Jacques Chirac arrives Tuesday.

“Whoever wins, it’s going to be a prestigious city,” IOC president Jacques Rogge said. “I’m often questioned who might be the winner and I’m always inclined to say the winner is the International Olympic Committee.”

But Rogge is less enthused by the stream of sports celebrities joining the five-ring show.

“I’m a very sober man,” he said. “Yes, I like to see Olympic champions. I don’t think the whole candidate process must be one of glitter and stars.”

Battle, the New York bid’s international relations director, was widely credited with helping sway IOC members to vote for Atlanta in its winning campaign for the 1996 Olympics. He said the five cities this time are so strong there is no compelling case for IOC members.

“They don’t have any choices that they probably couldn’t live with,” he said. “In a way there’s not a lot of pressure on them to feel like they’ve got to make the right choice. I don’t think there are any wrong choices. To me there is the potential of a little bit of whimsy.”

In the lobby of the adjoining hotel, Keith Mills, the chief executive of the London bid, paused between phone calls and chats with IOC members.

“As you wander around this hotel, it does seem to me there must be a better way of selecting a host city,” he said. “Inevitably, when you’ve got five such large cities and so much is at stake, you can see why it’s so frenetic.”

Mills was surprised at how many members are still undecided. That puts more pressure on the cities to lobby until the end and give an impressive performance in Wednesday’s 45-minute final presentations to the IOC.

“It’s very tempting to be overconfident,” Mills said. “We take absolutely nothing for granted. Strange things happen in Olympic elections, and anything could happen this time, too.”

Under the IOC voting system, the city receiving the fewest votes is eliminated after each round until one candidate obtains a winning majority. Picking up votes in the second and third rounds could be crucial.

“Being a good second choice is a pretty important place to be,” Mills said.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.