Banking on clean air to win the race for 2004 Olympics

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 June, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 June, 1997, 12:00am

Stockholm is banking on fresh air to win the race to host the 2004 Olympic Games. Having earned a place in the short-list of five competing cities, the Swedish capital argues that its clean environment will bring the best out of athletes.

Stockholm last staged the Games in 1912 and is competing against Rome, Athens, Cape Town and Buenos Aires.

Securing the nomination would result in the creation of 40,000 jobs and bring in billions of kronor in revenue, according to organisers.

Stockholm was judged by the International Olympic Committee to have presented one of the most professional and impressive bids and is seen as a front-runner in the race for the Games - with its main rivals thought to be Rome and Athens.

But one major factor stands in the way. In contrast with all other candidate cities, Stockholm's bid has encountered deep public opposition. The city's inhabitants are split roughly 50:50 over the merits of bringing the event to Stockholm.

When IOC delegates visited Stockholm on an inspection tour they were even greeted by placard- waving protesters - an apparently unprecedented occurrence in an applicant country.

Opposition is rooted in the fact that Swedes still feel bruised by an economic crisis since the start of the decade.

But organisers insist their budget plan is watertight and are now enlisting a number of high-profile Swedish sports stars to help swing public opinion.

Backing the cause is the former head of Greenpeace International, Paul Gilding, who was involved in Sydney's successful effort to land the 2000 Games.

The 38-year-old environmentalist said: 'What attracted me to the Stockholm bid is that it pushes further forward from Sydney's environmental achievements.

'Stockholm is clearly environmentally superior to all of the other bids due to its extremely clean air and water.

'We learned from the Sydney bid that athletes around the world want to compete in clean air and water for health reasons and for superior performance.

'Stockholm is well in front of any competing city for air and water quality.'