Commonwealth Games: London's bid stresses low cost and self-finance: Capital relies on famous venues to scupper claims of Manchester and Sheffield

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The Independent Online
WEMBLEY STADIUM. Earls Court. Olympia. Twickenham. Wimbledon. Lord's. The names speak for themselves in a sporting context - which is precisely what those seeking to bring the Commonwealth Games to the capital are counting upon.

London faces opposition from Manchester and Sheffield in its intention to bid for the Games of 2002; all three cities will present their case to the Commonwealth Games Council for England on Wednesday 2 February.

The joint backers of the capital's plan - London First, a group of major businesses and local organisations, and the London Council for Sport and Recreation - are busy stressing the keynotes which they hope will carry the day. The bottom line is that, like the Los Angeles Olympics of 1984, their Games would be self-financing - a belief based on the appeal to television and sponsors of a competition in and around our hallowed sporting venues.

Sir Brian Wolfson, the chairman of the proposing board and also of Wembley plc, obligingly concentrates the thrust of the initiative into three basic elements: 'London. The audience. It's all there.'

Apart from a pounds 9m pool, all the major capital expenditure facilities are in place. Wembley Stadium would replace its dog track with an athletics track at a cost of pounds 4m to provide the main focus of the Games.

He and Richard Sumray, the vice-chairman of LCSR, question the viability of the Manchester bid's centrepiece, a purpose-built stadium which would cost around pounds 200m.

Woolfson stresses that competitors from all over the world would be more attracted to the idea of competing in the famous venues of London than in modern ones at Manchester. The emotional pull of such opportunities, and of bringing the Commonwealth Games to the Commonwealth's capital in the Queen's Golden Jubilee year, is considerable.

But there are potential logistical problems, not least with travel arrangements from the two proposed athletes' villages at Uxbridge and Egham.

And Manchester has gained in making two unsuccessful bids for Olympic Games; not to mention the political and capital input which this Government has already made to their cause.

London, of course, failed in an attempt to become the British city bidding for the 2000 Olympics, but Sumray believes important lessons have been learned from that experience.

'That bid was based upon development in Docklands, and nothing was actually there at the time,' he said. 'But the boot is on the other foot, because that is Manchester's problem now.'

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