Olmypic Games: Britain aims for 2008

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The Independent Online
Britain, unsuccessful in three consecutive bids to host the Olympics, will concentrate on seeking the 2008 Games rather than mounting a campaign to gain the Olympics of 2004.

Members of the British Olympic Association meeting in London yesterday confirmed the need to "regroup" after the failed attempts by Birmingham, who sought the 1992 Games, and Manchester, who lost out in the voting for the Olympics of 1996 and 2000.

The bid for the 2008 Games will be inextricably linked with the forthcoming decision to nominate a national stadium, which would be funded in part by the National Lottery. There are five contenders at the moment - Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Bradford and Wembley - and the Sports Council is expected to name one of them as the recommended choice on October 31.

Craig Reedie, the BOA chairman, accepted yesterday that the choice of venue for the national stadium would be "significant" as far as the Olympic bid was concerned. But he would not be drawn into committing himself over the widely held perception that London is the only British city which stands a realistic chance of hosting an Olympic Games.

"There was a feeling among some of our members that London is the only possible venue," Reedie said. "That view is shared by some International Olympic Committee members we have spoken to.

"But there are also those in favour of Manchester. This is a hugely complex issue which has to be debated fully. The bid has to be solid and secure and it has to be capable of winning." To facilitate a sufficiently full debate, the BOA is seeking an urgent meeting with the Sports Council and wants the 31 October deadline to be put back.

The Sports Council is likely to accede readily to the request for a meeting, but deferring the deadline may be more difficult to arrange. "There is ample time and scope for us to take the BOA views on board," Jonathan O'Neil, a Sports Council spokesman said yesterday. "But they would have to make out a very strong case indeed to push back the deadline. It has already been shifted from September 26." The five bids are currently being considered by a panel containing representatives of the Sports Council, the British Athletic Federation, the Football Association, the Football League, the Rugby Football League and the Premier League.

"The key point is that we want to get this absolutely right," O'Neil said. "But we would like to see a new national stadium built by the turn of the century." Reedie has said that Britain will learn from the unsuccessful bids mounted by Birmingham and Manchester. The main lesson learned by these two cities, though, is that if Britain wants the Games they will have to be in London.