London's bid for the 2012 Olympics today received a timely boost from the man credited with turning the Games into a financial success.

Michael Payne, the former marketing chief for the International Olympic committee (IOC), claims Paris are not runaway favourites in the race to be hosts.

His comments will provide huge encouragement for the capital with an IOC evaluation commission due in London for a four-day inspection tour this week.

Payne said: "London keeps raising its game. I am pleasantly surprised. There is a long way to go but this is the most open race for 20 years."

"There is not a favourite like Beijing was for the 2008 Games. That doesn't mean that Paris is not the favourite, but there is everything to play for."