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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Makes Its Case for 2012

MTA dirigible touting the 2012 Olympic bid flies over the State Duma on Sunday.
Moscow was covered in interlocking rings Sunday as the city -- a rank outsider among the five finalists bidding for the 2012 Olympics -- prepared to persuade the International Olympic Committee that it deserved a shot at hosting the Games.

The prevailing view is that Moscow's bid is dead last, behind the other contenders Paris, London, New York and Madrid.

But Deputy Mayor Valery Shantsev is determined that the city's charms can win over the IOC's 13-member evaluation commission, which arrived in Moscow on Sunday evening to inspect facilities and hear presentations.

"In sports, you never know who's won until the end," Shantsev said in a deluxe minibus as he was driven at top speed from venue to venue Sunday to watch the preparations for the commission's arrival.

To mark the visit, the center of Moscow is ablaze with Olympic rings and swathed in posters with the bid's slogan "Imagine It Now," in English and Russian. Many of the banners and posters marked the commission's route from Sheremetyevo Airport to the center, and snowplows could be seen avidly clearing the route.

A model of the bid's emblem, one of the towers of the Kremlin, stands on Manezh Square, while a luminous sign on Lubyanka and a giant television screen on Manezh Square call on passersby to press a button to express support for the city's bid. As of Sunday evening, a counter showed that the button had been pressed more than 1 million times.

As other would-be Olympic host cities have found, it is not easy trying to convince the 117 men and women who make up the IOC that your city is willing to spend billions and is ready to host the biggest sporting event in the world.

So far, the evaluation commission has had dinner with President Jacques Chirac in Paris, lunch with King Juan Carlos in Madrid, tea with Queen Elizabeth in London and hung out with movie stars in New York.

While there will not be any stars or royalty in Moscow, commission members on Wednesday will meet with President Vladimir Putin, have a private tour of the Kremlin and view a horseback parade on Cathedral Square, then be guests of honor at a dinner with Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

Moscow has a tough job ahead of it after facing criticism last May from the commission, which said that it was "less certain as to whether Moscow has the capability to host the 2012 Olympic Games," placing it fifth out of five on infrastructure, accommodation, safety and security.

But in a statement ahead of the commission's arrival, Mayor Yury Luzhkov insisted that Moscow could compete.

"We have put together a technically excellent bid and I am sure that the commission will be impressed by what they see," Luzhkov said.

British bookmaker William Hill has put odds of 50-1 against Moscow winning the Olympic bid, compared to 8-15 on for the favorite, Paris.

But regardless of the odds, the city is asking for another try -- and is hoping that countries that boycotted the 1980 Games in the city, when many athletes stayed away in protest of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, will want to make up for that snub.

The manager of Moscow's bid, Alexander Chernov, said he was sure the city could win. "We were told we were in eighth or ninth place last time," said, referring to the original long list of bidding cities. "And we made the last five ... so we are capable of winning."

Officials behind the Moscow bid are fond of referring to Yury Borzakovsky, the runner who won gold in the 800 meters at the Athens Games last year, after running from the back of the race. For most people outside Russia, Moscow's bid is still way behind.

Officials from Putin on down will be drawn in to try and convince the IOC that the city's problems with traffic, pollution, a lack of hotel rooms and security can be solved before the 2012 Games.

"We have such good security that even a mouse couldn't get through," Shantsev said, saying the city would be well protected.

The sheer scale of work to be done to get Moscow ready for the Games is also being cited as a way to boost the city's infrastructure and visitor facilities.

"The Olympic Games are important for Moscow as they will help enhance the city ecologically, architecturally and structurally," Chernov said.

At the heart of the city's bid stands the Moscow River. A fleet of boats would transport up to 60,000 athletes and spectators along the river, which commuters troubled by the city's heavy traffic jams might think a good idea, Olympics or no Olympics.

A new Olympic village would be built on industrial wasteland at Mnevniki on the north bank of the river.

Luzhniki stadium, as in 1980, would be the main stadium. Most of the stadiums and venues to be built would be outside the city, while some of them will be built even if Moscow fails in its bid.

With nearly two-thirds of facilities already in place, the city will need to build far fewer facilities than other bidders. With a majority of events taking place within 10 kilometers of the Olympic village, the bid's compactness is being touted as one of its main advantages.

The city is relying on its experience in organizing large events such as the World Youth Games. The commission's arrival coincided with the start of the World Ice Skating Championship, which was taking place at an Olympic venue.

Although the commission will not travel on the frozen Moscow River, they will not be stuck in traffic either.

They will travel with a police escort, as Chernov did when he left the bid's base at the National Hotel to inspect a proposed venue at Tushino, where six of the Olympic sports will be based.

Total travel time to Tushino? Eight minutes.

Support from the government means that things can get done, as Chernov joked when the bid's van sped past Pushkin Square.

"Let's move Pushkin to the left side, he looks better over there," Chernov said with a smile.