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London promises compact Olympics

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LONDON, England (Reuters) -- London promised on Friday to stage 17 sports within 15 minutes of a new Olympic village in the heart of London's deprived East End if it won the right to stage the 2012 Summer Games.

Unveiling the capital's plans at the Royal Opera House, bid leader Barbara Cassani said: "Our aim is to deliver excellence without extravagance."

Many sports would be held at "iconic" sporting or non-sporting landmarks -- the soccer final at the new 90,000 Wembley stadium, archery at Lord's cricket ground and beach volleyball on Horse Guards Parade near the Prime Minister's official residence in Downing Street.

Softball and baseball will take place in Regent's Park while the cycling and medal ceremonies will be staged in Hyde Park, central London's largest green space.

The bid is expected to cost up to 30 million pounds ($54 million).

London mayor Ken Livingstone said London was the greatest world city, with more than 300 languages spoken. Prime Minister Tony Blair said the bid had his government's full support.

"I think we have got the technical bid which will give us, if successful, a tremendous legacy. This bid has the whole-hearted support of the government and parliament and everybody concerned with British politics," Blair said.

London and Paris are the favourites among the nine cities which submitted bid details to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The winning candidate will be decided by a vote of IOC members in Singapore in July next year.

New York, Madrid, Moscow, Leipzig, Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro and Havana have also submitted bids for the Games. Athens will stage this year's Olympics and Beijing will host the 2008 Games.

The IOC will now consider the bids and announce a shortlist in May. Candidate cities will then be asked to submit more detailed information in November.

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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