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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Plans Bid For 2012 Olympics

Moscow plans to lodge a bid to host the Summer Olympic Games in 2012, the city's ambitious Mayor Yury Luzhkov announced Thursday.

Official bidding for the Games does not start for at least three years. But Luzhkov, widely believed to covet the Russian presidency, got a head start on the rest of the field by unveiling his Olympic plans.

"Moscow has enough experience for holding such events," Luzhkov said at a news briefing on preparations for the World Youth Games, which are to be staged in the Russian capital. "We organized a very successful Olympic Games in 1980, and we will have an excellent Youth Olympics this summer."

The sports-loving mayor, who captains the city government soccer team and plays tennis four to five times a week, added that he had the support of the International Olympic Committee for the bid.

"We have full cooperation in our desire [to stage the Games] from the head of the IOC and many international federations," Luzhkov said.

IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, who was in Moscow recently to meet with Russian sports officials, said last Saturday that "Moscow has excellent chances in 2012."

"You had a very successful Games in 1980 but then you paid a political price when politicians used sport as a political weapon," Samaranch said after Luzhkov had shown him around the newly refurbished Luzhniki stadium. "And in Luzhniki you have one of the finest Olympic stadiums in Europe."

Russia has a poor track record at bidding for, and staging, Olympic Games. A bid by St. Petersburg for the 2004 summer games ended last year in financial disaster.

And the 1980 Olympics were blighted when many nations boycotted the event in protest of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.

But Luzhkov was not put off by past failures.

"The Russian capital brilliantly organized the 1980 Olympics but only about 80 countries took part because of a complex situation in the world," he said at a news conference Thursday.

"We would like to hold a fully fledged Olympics with a large number of participants in Moscow."

Luzhkov, 61, has a penchant for grandiose projects. Last September he threw a gargantuan party to celebrate Moscow's 850th anniversary and spent over $200 million on renovating the Luzhniki arena.

Though he is coy about his political ambitions, many commentators say he is already preparing to run in the 2000 presidential elections.

The Moscow Mayor had planned to submit a bid for the 2008 summer games. That scheme, though, had to be postponed for four years because IOC delegates will meet in the Russian capital in 2001 to choose the host city, which, under committee rules, excludes Moscow from taking part.

The IOC is not expected to name the host city for the 2012 Olympics until 2005. A formal bid has to be submitted by Russia's Olympic Committee. Russian sports officials were not immediately available for comment Thursday, but Luzhkov is believed to have the full backing of Russian Olympic Committee President Vitaly Smirnov.

Two decades ago the Soviet government hoped that the 1980 Moscow Olympics would showcase the Communist system to the rest of the world but the American-led boycott spoiled the plan.

Only 66 countries showed up that year in Moscow. Soviet athletes cleaned up the medal table by taking a record 80 golds, but for many their victory was meaningless because many of the strongest athletes had stayed away.

Russia's next three Olympic campaigns, two winter bids by the Black Sea resort of Sochi and one bid for the Summer Games by St. Petersburg, brought nothing but financial crisis and political infighting for each city.

When St. Petersburg's bid for the 2004 Games ended in disaster with Russia's second largest city well out of contention, several of Russia's sports officials thought that it might hold off future Olympic attempts for some time.