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

February 9 - French President Nicolas Sarkozy is set to deliver another boost to Annecy's campaign to host the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics by travelling here to meet the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission that is currently inspecting their bid.

Sarkozy will meet with the Commission members on Friday (February 11) following a trip to the Haute Savoie region to discuss the economy, his office in Paris said today.

The Commission, chaired by IOC Executive Board member Gunilla Lindberg of Sweden, started its work this morning with meetings with Annecy officials.

Among the topic's discussed were the bid's legacy, the Games' concept, the venues, the Olympic villages, accommodation, transport and environment were on the agenda.

Secretary of State for Tourism Frederic Lefebvre said after the meetings that the Commission members wanted to make sure the accommodations would be of high quality, describing this as "very important for the success of Olympic Games".

"They wanted proofs that what is written in our bid book regarding services, accommodation and catering is what we are going to deliver," Lefebvre said.

"And we gave them guarantees."

Annecy officials are confident they have the capacity to welcome fans and others in all categories of hotels.

However, Annecy's bid book contains 530 hotels, which could be seen as a major handicap by the Commission, with the IOC likely to favour more concentrated projects.
"We are aware of this and we will need to optimise our transportation system," said Barbara Martins-Niot, the accommodation expert for the Annecy bid.
Annecy officials said about 240,000 hotel rooms would be available during the Games and that "95 per cent of the rooms are already available for the IOC, and 89 per cent for other groups."

Hosting the Games would also help accelerate the modernisation of the French hotel system, Lefebvre claimed.

"Mountains, especially the French Alps, are in the process of developing and modernising their hotels," he said.

"This is particularly true of our four and five star hotels.

"Hosting the Olympic Games will greatly accelerate this progress, which will benefit the Games but also the tourism sector of the entire Alpine region's economy."  

Charles Beigbeder, the new President of Annecy 2018, claimed that they would ensure that everything would be done to ensure that the hotel and transport system was efficient if they were chosen ahead of rivals Munich and Pyeongchang when the IOC picks the host city at its Session in Durban on July 6.

"The French bid offers Games on a human scale in a region which has been shaped and guided by Olympism and will provide a worthy setting for the greatest of events, fully supported by local stakeholders and residents," said Beigbeder.

Strong backing for his claims came from Pernilla Wiberg, Sweden's double Olympic ski champion, who is a vice-president of Annecy 2018.

"I have experienced four Olympic Games, but the most memorable were the Lillehammer Games," said Wiberg, a former member of the IOC Athletes Commission.

"Annecy is the only place I have ever found the same compact, intimate feel."
Evaluation Commission members are due to continue their inspection tomorrow with visits of the snowboard, freestyle, cross-country and Nordic skiing venues in La Clusaz, Le Grand Bornand and Semnoz.

Contact the writer of this story at duncan.mac[email protected]

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