Blair hails 'momentous day'
UK bid beats France by four votes
Lord Coe transformed 'joke' bid
London today won the right to host the 2012 Olympic games,
beating the long-term favourite, Paris, at the finish line to secure the world's biggest sporting event.
It was breathtakingly close: just four votes edged London past Paris in a secret electronic ballot of 115 members of the International Olympic Committee in Singapore. London won after a maximum four rounds of incredibly tense voting, beating Paris by 54 votes to 50.
Speaking at Gleneagles ahead of the G8 summit, the prime minister, Tony Blair, said he had been too nervous to watch the final stages of voting but had punched the air and danced a "jig" when he heard the result. He called it a "momentous day" for London.
The IOC president, Jacques Rogge, announced the result at 1248BST - around an hour after it had been decided in secret.
Watched by television audiences around the world, Mr Rogge opened an envelope containing the winner's name and told the hushed ballroom of the Raffles city complex: "The International Olympic Committee has the honour of announcing the games of the 30th Olympiad in 2012 are awarded to the city of London."
The London delegates in the hall reacted ecstatically, leaping up and hugging one another. There was also jubilation in London's Trafalgar Square, where several hundred supporters of the bid had gathered and in Stratford, in the east of the city, near where the games will be based in a massively regenerated Lower Lea Valley.
In contrast, the crowds gathered at the city hall in a drizzly Paris reacted with dismay at the city's failure to win the games despite bidding three times in the last 20 years.
Paris had been praised for a near-flawless bid but the one thing members of a jubilant British team kept repeating was that the IOC had recognised London's ambitious plans promised a great legacy.
Before the voting, Lord Coe, the London 2012 bid leader, presented IOC members with a passionate final presentation in which he said a London games would show "magic happens" and inspire young people around the world.
As expected, Moscow, then New York and Madrid, were eliminated in the early rounds of voting and Paris and London were left to go head to head in the final round. London's chances grew after no city won more than 50% of the votes in the first round, meaning there was no instant winner. The London 2012 tactic had been to court Madrid's supporters in the hope of securing their votes should the Spanish capital be eliminated.
Mr Blair, who left Singapore last night after three months of frenetic campaigning and two days of last-gasp courting of IOC members, had earlier promised work would start on preparing the games "within 48 hours" of a successful bid.
Today the prime minister told reporters: "I couldn't bear to watch [the final announcement]. It is not often in this job that you get to punch the air and do a little jig and embrace the person standing next to you."
Mr Blair said Paris had lodged a very strong bid but that London offered a great legacy for the city, the country and the Olympic movement. He admitted that when he arrived in Singapore he felt London had only an "outside chance" but said the bid had succeeded because the British people were behind it.
Mr Blair denied the win would make the G8 summit, starting tonight, more difficult, with a disappointed French president, Jacques Chirac, learning the result while en route from Singapore to Scotland.
In a statement released by his office, Mr Chirac sent his congratulations to London and praised the "fair play" shown by the Paris bid team. The statement said: "The head of state congratulates the city of London ... he wishes good luck and full success to the British authorities and people in the organisation of the 30th Olympiad."
David Beckham and a host of sporting celebrities have been in Singapore pressing for a London games. London last hosted the Olympics in 1948 and will become the first city to host sport's biggest event three times.
An emotional Beckham was in the hall to hear the result and said later that it was an "incredible" victory.
Today's result was also a huge victory for Lord Coe, who transformed a bid that was originally seen as something of a joke. In an IOC evaluation report last year, London was ranked third in the race behind Paris and Madrid and its transport system was castigated as "obsolete".
The London team improved its bid and assuaged concerns about transport to secure a much better write-up in a subsequent IOC evaluation report published earlier this year.
Lord Coe said winning the Olympics was "massive" and that he hoped to "change the face of British sport". "We won't let you down," he told Mr Rogge at a news conference.
Earlier, Lord Coe told Sky News: "I feel absolutely ecstatic we've got the opportunity to do what I've always dreamed about in British sport which is to involve more young people."
He said he would be involved in hosting the games but that his first priority was to get some sleep.
Downing Street said the culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, had been appointed minister for the Olympics, alongside her current responsibilities. Speaking in Singapore, Ms Jowell said she could not believe London had won, but promised a games that would show the country's passion for sport and provide inspiration for the next generation.
Ms Jowell said: "We've come from nowhere to win the Olympics and that is quite something. I really want to say thank you: there have been thousands of people involved in this."
She said she initially thought Paris had won because the photographers in the hall had moved over to where the French team were.
She believed the quality of the London presentation had been the crucial factor in its victory and said IOC members had told her how impressive they had found it. During the presentation, the Princess Royal had read a message from the Queen inviting the IOC members to Buckingham Palace if London prevailed.
Paris had been the favourite since the race began, partially because its main prospective Olympic stadium and others had already been built, in stark contrast to London's plans. The French team may be aggrieved because its bid also fitted with the IOC's blueprint for controlling the size and cost of the games.
VisitBritain said the Olympic games in London could be worth more than £2bn in tourism revenue for the country; the television rights are also expected to be worth more than £2bn.
When asked if holding the games would cause taxes to rise, Mr Blair said the event had been costed and would benefit the country. The games will be financed in part by a special Olympic lottery competition, expected to raise £1.5bn, and an average council tax increase for London households of £20 a year.
Five-time Olympic gold medal winner Sir Steve Redgrave is a bookmakers' favourite to light the Olympic torch at the opening ceremony.

-Mark Oliver