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Games will change China, says London's Coe

Written by: Staff

BEIJING, Apr 10 (Reuters) Chief London organiser Sebastian Coe thinks China is likely to change fundamentally in the decade after the 2008 Beijing Games.

Coe said the examples of Tokyo 1964, Mexico 1968, Munich 1972, Moscow 1980 and Seoul in 1988 proved that the International Olympic Committee were right to ignore critics of China's human rights record and award the Games to the Chinese capital.

''You don't award a Games to a country in isolation of its history and social fabric,'' Coe, chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), told Reuters in an interview today.

''Every country has a unique history, but the one thing that is uniform to all those cities is that the Games have fundamentally changed the way they are perceived externally and often the way they continue their day-to-day business internally.

''The Olympic Games is often a great catalyst for change, not that obvious at the time, but quite clear correlations within the next decade.'' Of more immediate concern to Coe is the progress of London's preparations to host the 2012 Games, the main reason for the two-time Olympic 1500m champion's visit to Beijing.

''I think there are lots of things we can learn from Beijing,'' he said.

''You don't often get the chance to see a working model and certainly it is essential to tap into the insights of an organising committee.'' Coe said he was most interested in how Beijing turned their bid into reality and in getting co-operation to help deliver on one of the key commitments of the London bid -- getting more young people involved in sport.

SINGAPORE EUPHORIA Visiting Beijing, Coe said, would help LOCOG to put the euphoria of winning the right to host the Games in Singapore last year behind them.

''It's very important for us to see the size and scale of it, but it's also part of the process of switching the brain 180 degrees,'' he said.

''Singapore is a nice warm, glow of a memory but it's now about six years of delivery,'' he added. ''Switching from bidding to doing is a big thing and some cities won't get there quickly enough.'' Beijing wasted no time in getting out of the blocks after their successful bid in 2001 and were running ahead of schedule in venue construction last year.

Coe said LOCOG would look on their visit to Beijing as a benchmark to see where London should be in 2010.

''Whether we'll be at the same place in the construction of facilities we don't know, because our time lines are still being worked out,'' he said.

''But what I've noticed is that there is definitely an Olympic feel to the city in the advertising and everything. I know that I'm in a city that's on a two-year countdown.'' Reuters PM DB1141

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