Commonwealth Games: Manchester celebrates capital conquest: London loses out to Olympic rival in fight for the right to present England's bid

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The Independent Online
MANCHESTER, which has bid unsuccessfully for two Olympic Games in the last four years, took an important step towards securing a lesser but still valuable prize yesterday when it was chosen ahead of London as England's candidate to seek the Commonwealth Games of 2002.

The decision could shift profoundly the balance of sporting provision in the country, as it gives an effective signal that the centrepiece of Manchester's bid, a proposed 65,000- seater stadium which has been described as the 'Wembley of the North', will be built. The total cost of the stadium will be pounds 187m, of which pounds 115m is being sought from the proceeds of the Government's forthcoming national lottery scheme through the Millenium Fund.

It seems clear that the Government's emotional and financial investment in Manchester as a sporting host - it has already guaranteed the pounds 72m balance on the stadium, and contributed pounds 75m in capital investment before the bid for the 2000 Olympics - has stood them in good stead in their quest for the next best thing. 'We are confident we will get that stadium,' said Sir Bob Scott, the theatrical impresario who has devoted a decade to seeking a major Games for his city.

'It feels a little bit like a consolation prize after the Olympics,' he admitted. 'But we are absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to bid to stage the greatest Commonwealth Games in the history of the event.'

Following Sheffield's bewildering late withdrawal - they were unable to come to agreement over financial guarantees - the 24 members of the Commonwealth Games Council of England were left to choose between Manchester and the capital, and voted 17-7 for the northern contenders. London's bid, based on the appeal of existing facilities such as Wembley - which proposed to install an athletics track - Twickenham and Wimbledon and offering to finance itself, was questioned keenly on transport arrangements and the difficulty of co-ordinating movements from athletes' villages based in Uxbridge and Egham.

The Commonwealth Games Federation will not decide the host of the 2002 event until November 1995, but the absence of any other declared bid at the moment, and the way the event has been shared around in recent years, leave Manchester in a very strong position. There is even a possibility, said the CGCE's chairman, Norman Sarsfield, that Manchester could end up as the sole bidders for the event.

Scott firmly believes it is England's turn to stage the Games in the Queen's golden jubilee year. It has not staged them since London put on the British Empire Games 60 years ago. 'My only fear is if the USA reapply to join the Commonwealth,' he said with a grin.