Manchester games chiefs go on £50,000 trip after bailout

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The Independent Online

Organisers of the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games spent thousands on a fact-finding trip to Canada just weeks after being bailed out by the taxpayer.

Manchester 2002 sent 15 people to Edmonton for the World Athletics Championships earlier this month at a cost of £50,000 – the third time officials had been abroad to a major sporting event to pick up tips for next year's games. Manchester city council also sent representatives. Previous visits included the Sydney Olympics and Kuala Lumpur, venue of the last Commonwealth Games. The latest trip has raised concerns at Westminster. Richard Caborn, the sports minister, is understood to be furious that large sums are being spent on such trips, especially after financial difficulties at Manchester 2002 meant the project had to be bolstered by a £105m funding package from the Government, Sport England and Manchester city council just after the general election.

"Everyone wants the games to be a great success. That is essential for Manchester and it is essential for Britain," said a Whitehall source. "But it was made clear to Manchester when the funding package was agreed that there was no endless pot of gold. The sports minister is concerned that money is spent properly. He was furious about this trip. It is particularly rich that so many of them were on this trip after they had been given extra cash to meet the costs of the games."

Prior to the additional funding, Manchester 2002 had already received £140m in government support.

Mr Caborn intends to take the matter up with Howard Bernstein, the chief executive of Manchester City Council.

Manchester 2002 and the city council were yesterday unrepentant about the trip.

A spokesperson for the council said: "Crucial personnel went to Edmonton to examine the delivery of a top-class sports event. We needed to examine factors such as building safety, crowd control and other vital ingredients to delivering a world-class event. It is absolutely essential that we see how things roll out in practice."

The investment had been "relatively small" and "valuable lessons were learned". It was not a holiday, but a working trip with most of the time spent in meetings.

Organisers hope the games will attract future international sporting events, assist in the regeneration of east Manchester, and create jobs.