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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

As Olympic Bid Fails, Music Plays On

MTThousands of people watching live coverage Wednesday on Red Square of the IOC announcement of the winning city for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
When news of London being selected to host the 2012 Olympics was announced to the thousands of Muscovites waiting expectantly on Red Square, reactions varied from disbelief to shock.

But as crowds on Trafalgar Square celebrated London's narrow victory, by 54 votes to favorite Paris' 50, Russians on Vasilyevsky Spusk on Wednesday were mostly unaware that Moscow had been dumped out in the first round of voting more than an hour before.

Just before 2:30 p.m., International Olympic Committee members in Singapore placed the city fifth out of the final candidate cities, with 15 votes, behind London with 22 votes, Paris with 21, Madrid with 20 and New York with 19.

The result was a blow for Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who along with Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov was in Singapore to lobby IOC members when the city's elimination was announced. Luzhkov and Fradkov had joined President Vladimir Putin in making last-minute appeals for Moscow's bid -- all in English. Putin's speech, carried via a prerecorded video linkup, was his first-ever public speech in English.

But Moscow's elimination was not revealed to the crowd on Vasilyevsky Spusk, who continued in a state of blissful ignorance to listen to rock music and watch dancers on a stage set up behind St. Basil's Cathedral as the sun beat down on a warm summer's afternoon.

The thousands of mostly young Muscovites were confidently predicting victory for the city's bid, even when it had already lost.

"We have a great chance. I'm sure that Moscow will win," said Urfan Ismailov, 17, who stood holding a placard that read, "Our Best Medal Would Be to Get the Olympics."

"Today is a real holiday. We believe in victory," said Lyudmila, 56. Unbeknown to her, Moscow had already been tipped out of the competition.

Many in the crowd shared in this confidence, with city and Russian national flags much in evidence. Perhaps less appropriately, there were also large numbers of flags from political parties United Russia and LDPR. Hundreds of workers from state enterprises and local councils were bused in for the event specially, although the majority still appeared to be enthusiastic young Muscovites.

Despite the skepticism of the bookmakers, who made Moscow a 50-1 rank outsider, Russian television channels had never wavered for a moment in their belief in Moscow's victory. This confidence was reflected in an opinion poll published this week by the Yury Levada Center, which had 50 percent of young Russians and 36 percent of Muscovites believing that Moscow would win.

But their view was not, ultimately, shared by IOC members, who gave Moscow four votes less than New York, which was turfed out in the second round.

Moscow had pulled the stops out for its presentation early Wednesday morning, bringing out its three big guns to make their final pitches to IOC members. Fradkov sold the bid in American-accented English, while Luzhkov read from a phonetically transcribed English script and Putin manfully made his way through his first English speech.

"Selecting [Moscow] as the host city of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games would give the many people and peoples living here more confidence by underscoring the value of their aspirations to live and develop in the framework of the highest standards of present-day civilization," Putin said, in a speech that most native English speakers would have had difficulty reading without the help of a few commas.

A few hours later, at 2:28 p.m. precisely, Moscow was no longer in the race. But the first the crowd gathered near Red Square knew about it was when the final result was announced more than an hour later, at 3:49 p.m. Reporters who tried to tell people on the square were dismissed or called provocateurs, with many refusing to believe the result.

"I don't believe you," Ismailov said, clutching his placard just a little bit tighter.

"It may be an evil joke," said a pensioner, who smiled as he insisted his name was Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov. "I've bought some new trainers for the Games."

The emcees on the stage, including Dmitry Guberniyev, a presenter for state-run Sport television, continued to talk of Moscow as if it was a favorite long after the city had lost.

When the result did come, the crowd deflated like a leaky balloon, with hundreds simply turning on their heels and leaving.

"What kind of reaction can there be? I thought we would win," said Andrei, 21, apparently in shock.

The officials behind the city's bid tried to put a brave face on the defeat and vowed to try for the 2016 Games.

"We want to offer our warm and sincere congratulations to London," Luzhkov said. "We are not disappointed. Instead, we have realized that Moscow is a truly modern and developing city, able to compete with the world's biggest capitals, and organize major international events of the highest standard. In order to prove this, we will bid for the right to become the host city for the 2016 Olympic Games."

Not withstanding Luzhkov's optimism, it appeared unlikely that the summer Olympics would go to a European city twice running.

Moscow's motto for the bid had been to show that Russia was a new country. "We have come 100 years in 10," was one motto. Immediately after London's win was announced, Oleg Gazmanov, a favorite musician of Luzhkov's, came on stage to belt out his hit, "Made in the U.S.S.R."

Others looked for someone to blame.

Asked why Moscow lost, the former head of the Russian Olympic Committee, Vitaly Smirnov, said, "In my opinion, the IOC members were tweaked by the activities of the Western media."

Some, though, were more philosophical.

"I never had much hope," said a man called Alexei, who was holding a cigarette in one hand and a flag that said Molodaya Rossiya, an organization for young sportsmen, in the other. "I used to be a biathlete," he said, between puffs on his cigarette.

IOC Votes for the 2012 Olympics

1st round:
London 22, Paris 21, Madrid 20, New York 19, Moscow* 15.

2nd round:
Madrid 32, London 27, Paris 25, New York* 16.

3rd round:
London 39, Paris 33, Madrid* 31.

4th round:
London 54, Paris* 50.

*Eliminated from the voting. IOC members from countries with candidate cities were ineligible to vote while their candidate was in contention.

Source: Reuters