Disappointment for Beijing's rivals
PARIS, France -- While Beijing celebrated the success of its Olympic bid victory, its rivals were left disappointed.
The International Olympic Committee picked China over rival bids from Canada (Toronto), France (Paris), Turkey (Istanbul) and Japan (Osaka).
Beijing won on the second round of a secret ballot by receiving 56 votes, while Toronto got 22 votes, Paris 18 and Istanbul nine. Osaka was eliminated in the first round of voting, with six votes.
Toronto and Paris -- the only one of the five to have hosted the Olympics before, in 1900 and 1924 -- had cast themselves as risk-free "bids of certainty."
Toronto portrayed itself as the best bid for the athletes, while Paris played on its allure as the world's favorite tourist city.
It had been considered unlikely that Paris would win because the 2004 Olympics will be staged in Athens and it was not thought likely that Europe would host two ssuccessiveGames.
Toronto was hurt by the controversy surrounding its mayor, Mel Lastman, who remarked recently that he feared attending an Olympic meeting in Africa because "I just see myself in a pot of boiling water with all these natives dancing around me."
African IOC members raised the matter during Toronto's presentation to the general assembly.
Toronto Olympic bid organisers expressed disappointment but not surprise at the decision.
Paul Henderson, head of the bidding team who lost the 1996 Games to Atlanta, said the Canadian city had done as well as last time.
"We did a great job but the odds were against us," Henderson told reporters.
"We knew Beijing had a lot of strengths, it was theirs all along. We were fighting an uphill battle. I think Beijing had to make a major mistake and they didn't.
"Now they (the IOC) have to live with their decision."
A planned victory party turned into a wake in Toronto where the IOC decision prompted a stunned silence and then cries of disappointment.
Hundreds of people had gathered in front of Union Station, the city's central train station downtown, for a live broadcast of the decision on giant television screens.
Party-goers had arrived at the open air event from early in the day, dressed in Canada's red and white national colors, with maple leaf flags draped over their shoulder or Toronto's Olympic logo painted on their faces.
They left quietly as the news sank in.
Afzal Nathoo, from Toronto said his entire family was disappointed. "We thought Toronto would beat Beijing, and that is why we came here," he said.
In France, the mood was described by CNN's Peter Humi to be more philosophical and that celebrations were likely to go ahead not least as the decision came on the eve of the annual Bastille Day festival.
Former French rowing Olympic athlete Thierry Louvet told CNN: "It's a big disappointment to lose because Paris was really hoping to get the games.
"I think part of the decision was political and economical and I think that the Olympic committee's unwritten rule about having the games in Europe and then outside Europe is something that played against Paris."
French International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Henri Serandour said: "We were beaten and we have to accept this defeat as such. There can be no talk of exacting revenging or finding out who abandoned us.
"We will now see if there can be a new bid from France and learn the lessons of this experience.
"The (IOC) evaluation commission said we had a top quality bid. There's a discrepancy between the number of votes we got and the quality of our presentation."
In Istanbul there was disappointment but no surprise by the decision.
Turkish International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Sinan Erdem said: "We will bid next time and again until we finally get the Games This time everything was prepared for Beijing so not only we, but other cities, had no chance.
CNN Jane Arraf said Turks thought "it would be nothing short of miraculous" if Istanbul's bid had won.
She said what went against the bid was that not only is Turkey in the grip of an economic crisis, but that the IOC had expressed concerns about Istanbul's pollution, infrastructure and traffic problems.
In Tokyo, CNN's Rebecca Mackinnon, said there was also no surprise that Osaka's bid did not win.
"It is disappointment for the people (of Osaka) but not a surprise," she said. "The bid was criticised by the IOC for two reasons -- traffic congestion and financing."
But it was not just rival bidders who were less-than-happy with the choice of Beijing.
The Dalai Lama's Tibetan government-in-exile slammed the choice of Beijing as the venue for the 2008 Olympics on Friday, saying it would encourage repression in China.
"We deeply regret that Beijing is awarded the 2008 Olympic Games," spokesman for the India-based Central Tibetan Administration Kalon T.C. Tethong said in a statement.
"This will put the stamp of international approval for Beijing's human rights abuses and will encourage China to escalate its repression."
Amnesty International said China must improve its human rights policies now that it has been awarded the 2008 Olympic Games.
"The Chinese government must prove it is worthy of staging the games (in Beijing) by upholding their Olympic spirit of fair play and extending respect for universal, fundamental, ethical principles to the people of China," Amnesty said in a statement released in London.
There were some congratulations to Beijing.
Olga Korbut, the legendary Russian 1972 gold medalist gymnast, told CNN: "For me it doesn't matter where Olympic Games [are held].
"This can be politics and sport together. We need to not choose -- we just need to compete."
Athletics' world governing body, the International Amateur Athletic Federation, said the decision would help China's integration into world sport.
IAAF president Lamine Diack said he was convinced Beijing would organise a "magnificent Olympic Games."
He added: "But what is more important will be the engagement of the government, and all the priance because now 1.3 billion people will feel completely integrated into the world sports movement."
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