In my limited defense, I'm not alone. This morning's awarding of the 2012 Olympic Games to London instead of Paris ranks somewhere between a big surprise and a seismic shock for Olympic observers who thought the French capital was all but a mortal lock this time around. After failed bids for the 1992 Games which went to Barcelona and the 2008 Games which went to Beijing, the city of lights was sure to get this bid and become the first to host the modern Olympics three times, right? Wrong. Like Athens in 1996 and Beijing in 2000, Paris seems to have fallen prey to its own longstanding frontrunner status.
The numbers from four rounds of balloting demonstrate that London became the new frontrunner overnight. Following final presentations in Singapore spearheaded by Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair, London actually led the first vote 22 to 21 over Paris. Following Moscow's elimination, Madrid was the surprise leader on ballot two, with London still two votes ahead of Paris as New York fell by the wayside. On the third ballot London and Paris moved back ahead of Madrid. The final ballot was 54 to 50 favoring London. Parisians will be hurt to know their city never once nosed ahead of London, which now will itself become the first three-time host. Somewhere modern Olympics founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin is disappointed, but being a good sport about it. For many of his fellow Frenchmen, perhaps not.
London will have tough acts to follow. Athens produced a cosmic show, and Beijing 2008 will be a state of the state display of all China believes it has to offer to the 21st Century. But now that former 1500 Meter gold medalist Sebastian Coe has led his city down the stretch to an unexpected big prize, Tony Blair has a new boost for his sagging political fortunes, and the British have their next chance to demonstrate again that the sun never sets on their tiny island's determination and spirit.