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London Selected to Host 2012 Olympics

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

A momentous day for London, one of the best days London has ever had. Fantastic, stunning, unbelievable; that's just some of the reaction to this announcement today.

Mr. JACQUES ROGGE (International Olympic Committee President): The International Olympic Committee has the honor of announcing that the Games of the 30th Olympiad in 2012 are awarded to the city of London.

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

NORRIS: That was IOC President Jacques Rogge in Singapore earlier today. Naturally, the news was well-received in London's Trafalgar Square.

Unidentified Woman: Are you ready for 2012?

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

NORRIS: Alan Hamilton is a senior reporter for The Times of London. He was in Trafalgar Square when the news was announced and he joins us now.

Alan, as we just heard, there is quite a bit of celebration, but could you describe for us what happened leading up to this announcement.

Mr. ALAN HAMILTON (The Times of London): First of all, we got the announcement that Moscow had been eliminated, and there was a polite little ripple of applause. Then we got the news that New York had been eliminated, and I'm afraid there was quite a cheer over that. But I have to say that a group of American tourists standing near me immediately went off and got themselves some `Support the London bid' flags to wave, which was pretty good of them.

Then Madrid was knocked out, and there was big cheering for that because that meant that the contest was now down to the only two who mattered as far as London was concerned. This was a needle match between London and Paris. So we actually got the announcement at 12:49, and Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, managed to drag it out--pregnant pauses, subtle opening of an envelope--and eventually when he just mentioned the word `London,' the square absolutely erupted in a huge explosion of cheering and applause. It was quite exciting for a few minutes.

NORRIS: What's the official reaction there in London?

Mr. HAMILTON: Oh, absolute delight. Of course, everybody's very pleased. And Ken Livingston, the mayor on London who's currently in Singapore, will be absolutely delighted. Tony Blair will be absolutely delighted, and he will regard it as a bit of a personal coup. And that very fact causes some people in this country to be against the London bid, feeling that it's just another kind of attention-drawing stunt to divert attention from the real economic and social problems of this country.

NORRIS: Has the queen commented at all?

Mr. HAMILTON: Yes, she has congratulated the Olympic bid team for a tremendous effort, and so it's got her seal of approval, as well.

NORRIS: Now, Alan, after the celebrations die down, what does the city now have to do to prepare to host the world?

Mr. HAMILTON: They have got a great deal of work to do and--'cause after today, we won't hear much about it for a while because London is not allowed to promote the games until the Beijing Games of 2008 have been held. So they'll have to keep their mouths shut for a bit, but they've got a stupendous amount of work to do. And it's not only building stadiums; it is building London's transport infrastructure, which, at the moment, many Londoners will tell you is extremely poor and needs huge investment.

NORRIS: Alan, you live in London so you experience the congestion in the city. Close your eyes and imagine what it's going to be like in 2012 with the masses.

Mr. HAMILTON: I would rather not.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HAMILTON: It's going to be--it depends how good the transport infrastructure is that is created for this event. If it's good, it will work and people will be able to get from the center of London to the Olympic venue in a matter of minutes. If they were to rely on the present transport system in London, it would be absolutely chaotic.

NORRIS: Well, Alan, thanks so much for talking to us.

Mr. HAMILTON: My pleasure.

NORRIS: Alan Hamilton is a senior reporter for The Times of London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Norris