It was a small gesture, but a pointed one, and designed to underscore
the Queen's staunch support
for London's Olympic bid.
As members of the International Olympic Committee attended a banquet
last night, Buckingham Palace abandoned tradition to present each with a
menu card written not in French, but English.
For as long as anyone can remember menus at the Queen's official
banquets have been written in French, generally regarded as the
international language of cuisine.
But, as three generations of the Royal Family and the Prime Minister
joined sporting stars and dignitaries in the State Dining Room alongside
the IOC's Evaluation Commission, there, in plain English, were the menus.
With Paris one of four cities vying for the 2012 games alongside
London, there were no doubts as to where the Queen's sentiments lay. She
even banned French wines from the menu, replacing pre-prandial champagne with
Nyetimber 1995, an English sparkling wine, and choosing Commonwealth wines
from Australia and New Zealand to accompany the meal.
"It probably is the first time menus for such an occasion have not been
in French," admitted one Palace aide. "It is very unusual. But, it is the
British Olympic bid, and we wanted to showcase Britain, not France."
Footmen each wore lapel pins bearing the London 2012 logo.
The IOC guests were driven in a fleet of taxis to the Palace, which had
been floodlit for the
occasion, and through the Grand Entrance lit by burning torches.
They were greeted by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in the White
Drawing Room after being presented by the Princess Royal, who was a member
of the British equestrian team at the Montreal Games in 1976 and has been
a member of the IOC since 1988. Her daughter, Zara Phillips, who was
shortlisted for the 2004 Olympics but ruled out when her horse was
injured, was also present.
The dinner, attended by 46, was the highlight of London's presentation
to the IOC delegates, who arrived on Tuesday and now head off to assess