PARIS Paris is the hot favorite to win the right to host the 2024 Olympics Games but, having fallen at the final hurdle before, knows the hardest part is yet to come - convincing the International Olympic Committee (IOC) its bid is the strongest.
In July 2005 in Singapore, London pipped an over-confident Paris, which had lost out to Beijing for the 2008 Games, to win the right to stage the 2012 Summer Olympics, triggering tears in the French camp when the vote results were announced.
Paris has put together a compact bid but three-times Olympic canoeing champion Tony Estanguet, who leads the candidacy with former International Rugby Board president Bernard Lapasset, warned that selling the project will be key.
"We're exactly where we wanted to be at this time of the process. What's left for us now is to go and sell our project," Estanguet told Reuters at the Paris 2024 general assembly.
"We have learnt from past bids to come back stronger than Paris 2012 with athletes now at the heart of the candidacy."
Paris last hosted the Games in 1924. The winner of the three-horse race between Los Angeles, Paris and Budapest will be announced on Sept. 13, 2017 in Lima.
IOC president Thomas Bach recently said that the bid process was producing "too many losers", and there was speculation that the 2024 and 2028 Games could be awarded simultaneously.
"We have not been officially contacted on that, so we stay on track and want to win the 2024 Olympics according to existing rules," Estanguet said.
Betfair have made Paris 8/13 favorites to win the IOC vote, ahead of Los Angeles (9/4) and Budapest (9/2).
"I don't believe in odds and bookmakers," Estanguet said. "The race is far from over. There is still a long promoting phase left and it's going to be very difficult.
"We know too well that a campaign can be decided in the final weeks, just like in politics."
Politics, however, will have no bearing on the bid, according to Estanguet.
There was speculation that Donald Trump would not support the Los Angeles bid but mayor Eric Garcetti's office said last month that the U.S. president elect would back the candidacy.
France faces a presidential election in April and May, with power likely to shift from the left to the right as conservative Francois Fillon and far-right leader Marine Le Pen are well ahead in the polls.
"We are supported by the city (of Paris), the region and the State, who are not on the same political side," Estanguet said.
"We've met several candidates and we have the feeling that they all support the bid. There is stability which may not be the case for Los Angeles who have a municipal election (in March-May)."
Paris, however, will be concentrating fully until the vote is cast.
"A match is won on D-Day, whatever the situation will be when we go to Lima we must stay focused until we cross the line," said Estanguet.
"There is no room for error in the final presentation and in the relations we'll have with the IOC members (in Lima). We must keep our guard up and be humble."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)