By Duncan Mackay in Annecy
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

Francois_Fillon_speakingFebruary 8 - French Prime Minister François Fillon (pictured) is due to arrive here later today to help Annecy welcome members of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Evaluation Commission as it begins its tour of the three cities bidding to host the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

Fillon's visit is designed to demonstrate that the Government is fully behind the bid, which has made a strong recovery in recent weeks since the appointment of businessman Charles Beigbeder as its new President.

Fillon will be joined by French Sports Minister Chantal Jouanno and France's IOC members, triple Olympic skiing champion Jean-Claude Killy and 1976 Olympic 110 metres hurdles champion Guy Drut.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is also expected to travel here later this week to add his support to Annecy's campaign, which is still the underdog against rivals Munich and Pyeongchang.

Together with Jouanno, he will welcome the 11 members of the IOC Evaluation Commission, which is headed by Sweden's Gunilla·Lindberg, at an informal meeting at the Hotel Les Pensières here.

"Joining us today in Annecy, the Prime Minister sends a strong message to the IOC members," said Beigbeder.

"It's a reassurance of the total support of the French public authorities and the people.

"Also a genuine sports fan, François Fillon is a strong ambassador for our bid."

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