Blair: Berlusconi helped London win 2012 Olympics
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair credits Italian Premier
Silvio Berlusconi with helping London secure the 2012 Olympics.
Blair also says in his new autobiography that he was dubious
about bidding for the games, never thought London would win and
feared being ”humiliated” by losing to the French.
In his book ”A Journey” released Wednesday, Blair gives his
fullest account to date of his role in London’s victory over Paris
in the International Olympic Committee vote in Singapore in July
After Moscow, New York and Madrid were eliminated in the first
three rounds, London beat the French capital 54-50 in the final
Blair played a crucial part by traveling to Singapore before the
vote and meeting with dozens of IOC members, a strategy since
followed by other world leaders to push their country’s Olympic
In the book, Blair reveals he had the help of an unlikely
”There was one final person without whom we may not have won:
Silvio Berlusconi,” he writes.
Blair relates that the previous August he went to visit
Berlusconi at his home in Sardinia to seek his help with the
Olympic bid because Italy ”was a key player.”
Berlusconi asked if it mattered ”greatly” for Britain to get
the games and when Blair said it did, Blair writes:
”He said, ‘You are my friend. I promise nothing but I see if I
can help.’ Typical Silvio, which is why I like him. Most
politicians say ‘I promise’ but then do nothing. He said ‘I promise
nothing’ but then delivered.”
Italy had five IOC members, the most – along with Switzerland –
of any other country.
”I have no idea how the Italians voted, but …” Blair writes,
leaving the rest unsaid.
A swing of three votes in the final round would have given Paris
Blair says he and his Cabinet were doubtful about mounting an
Olympic bid in the first place and that it was Tessa Jowell, his
secretary of state for culture, media and sports, who finally
convinced him to give the project his backing.
”Yes, but suppose we get beaten and, what’s worse, we get
beaten by the French and I end up humiliated?” Blair says he told
Blair praises Sebastian Coe, the former middle-distance running
great who replaced American businesswoman Barbara Cassani to lead
the Olympic bid. Blair, leader of the Labour Party, says he was
initially skeptical but then won over by Coe, a former Conservative
Party lawmaker and chief of staff for opposition leader William
”He had none of the worst Tory traits and most of the best
ones,” Blair writes.
Blair also cites the role of David Beckham, who ”generally sent
Singapore into a twitter, which is exactly what was required.”
For most of the campaign, Blair wasn’t hopeful of London’s
chances because Paris was considered a heavy favorite.
”We weren’t even second in the running, and personally I
doubted we would ever win,” Blair writes.
He debated whether to go to Singapore at all.
”In the end, I did, but as much because this was a crime scene
I had to be present at in order to have an alibi, to avoid being
criticized for not trying hard enough,” Blair says.
Blair describes how he met with about 40 individual IOC members
in his Singapore hotel suite. His aides gave him slips of paper
detailing each member’s likes and dislikes.
Blair recounts one incident in which he mistook a member for a
champion javelin thrower until Coe broke in to clarify that he had
been an ice skater. Blair also relates an ”entirely elliptical”
conversation with the Russian delegation.
”The gist of it was that we all understood each other very
well, that they were very true to their word and so were we, and
they didn’t like people who weren’t (I got a bit uneasy at that),”
Before Blair left Singapore to host the G8 summit in Gleneagles,
Scotland, French President Jacques Chirac arrived to head the Paris
delegation. Blair describes Chirac as ”swinging into the party
like he owned the Olympics and everything in it.”
While Chirac spoke at the official presentation before the vote,
Blair appeared in a video.
The French ”affected an attitude of ‘we are going to win and
aren’t you lucky when we do’ and tried to sweep people along as if
invincible – very French,” Blair writes.
”We affected an attitude of ‘we humbly beg to offer our
services to your great movement’ and paddled and conspired like
crazy underneath the surface – very British.”
Blair was in Gleneagles when he learned of the result.
”I, of course, shot up like a rocketing pheasant on one of the
nearby moors,” he writes.
Chirac, meanwhile, was one of the first leaders to arrive for
”I felt genuinely sorry for him,” Blair writes. ”No I really