LONDON (AP) _ With six months to go before the vote, the cities bidding for the 2012 Olympics are preparing for the final push.

In Paris, the Olympic rings were illuminated Thursday on bridges and historic buildings to mark the 180-day countdown.

The lights will stay on each evening until July 6 when the International Olympic Committee selects the host city in Singapore.

The six-month date was also marked in London and New York by official statements from top city and bid officials.

``New York's Olympic effort was born over a decade ago and we look forward to this dream becoming a reality in just 180 days,'' New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

There were no official commemorations in the two other bid cities, Madrid and Moscow. Thursday was a national holiday in Spain, while in Moscow, orthodox Russians were preparing for Christmas on Friday.

With five leading world cities in the race, this is the most glamorous bid campaign in Olympic history. Paris is considered the favorite.

London bid leader Sebastian Coe said getting the games would surpass his achievement of winning gold medals in the 1,500 meters at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics.

``No comparison,'' he told the Daily Telegraph. ``Because the effect would be much broader, much deeper. No one person, however talented ... can have the impact on the country for the next 50 years like the London Olympics would have.''

All bid cities will have the chance to talk up their credentials later this month. BBC World, which broadcasts to more than 200 countries, is scheduled to tape a panel discussion among leaders of the five bids on Jan. 27 in Turin, Italy. The program is scheduled to be aired two days later.

The IOC's evaluation commission will visit the bid cities in February and March.