Olympic Games 2000: Manchester's millennium stadium: British bid beefs up challenge with 100m pounds centrepiece

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The Independent Online
THE Manchester Olympic bid, which the chairman Bob Scott likened to a well-placed 800 metres runner at the bell when it was presented in London last month, attempted to lengthen its stride yesterday as it unveiled plans for an pounds 100m, 80,000-seat stadium to form the centrepiece of the 2000 Games.

In the race for the millennium prize, Manchester is still perceived to be third behind Sydney and Peking, but its bid organisers feel that the announcement - of a facility that will be built only if the city gets the Games - will narrow the gap. The international competition to create a stadium as part of a pounds 150m development on a 121-acre site just a mile from the city centre was won by AMEC plc, with a team of architects including Arup Associates and Sir Norman Foster, whose practice was involved in the hi-tech, award-winning design for Stansted Airport's main terminal.

The announcement, which was complemented by a presentation by Scott to International Olympic Committee members in Atlanta, where they have gathered for an executive committee meeting, comes four days before the IOC enquiry commission makes its official visit to view the Manchester facilities.

The commission, which comprises five IOC members from Sweden, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Yugoslavia, has already visited Sydney and Peking. They had planned to go on to Milan, but following the Italian city's withdrawal, they will visit Brasilia, before moving on to the final two candidates, Berlin and Istanbul.

Sydney, which is probably the favourite contender given the lingering disquiet over the Peking bid in the wake of 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and the reported lack of enthusiasm among IOC members during a visit to the recent Asian Games there, has already started work on its stadium.

The Australian city feted the IOC commission with sea-food feasts, cruises round the harbour and helicopter rides, although a little of the gloss was taken off their efforts by an airport strike which stranded the delegates for a day or so. The Sydney bid organisers were swift to deny that such a small industrial difficulty would be significant for the running of the Games, however, pointing out that there was an agreement in place with major unions that the Games would not be disrupted.

At least the Manchester organisers can draw some comfort from the fact that the problems of gaining planning permission which beset the organisers of the 1996 Atlanta Games until last week are not likely to be repeated; Manchester City Council, major partners in the bid, are negotiating with around 40 firms for compulsory purchase orders which will free the site for building.

'This news comes at a tremendously important time in our bid,' Scott said. 'We can now say to the IOC that Manchester is ready.'

The circular stadium will be within walking distance of the planned Olympic village. Its three tiers of seating will all covered by a roof supported by cantilevered towers 80 metres high. If built it will be the biggest stadium in the country and could host a range of sports and concerts after the Olympics.

A pounds 3m indoor velodrome is already under construction in Manchester and a start will soon be made on a pounds 50m arena for gymnastics and basketball which will be part of the redevelopment of Victoria Station. Both will be finished whatever the outcome of the bid.

Other projects such as a 21,500- seater swimming and diving complex in Wigan are dependant on a successful bid, however, and for many other sports, the plan is to use exisiting facilities. Old Trafford cricket ground would be used for baseball, Manchester United's ground would be used for football along with those of Everton, Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday, Sunderland, Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest. Although the stadium is designed for football, among its other sports, there is no suggestion that either of the big Manchester clubs would use it as a permanent base.

The Council deputy chief executive, Howard Bernstein, said if the city did not secure the Games it would discuss with the Government the next step for the regeneration of the run-down east Manchester area.

Detailed discussions will take place between AMEC, the city council and the Government to prepare for construction if the games are awarded to Manchester in September.

Work will go ahead on the clearance of the site as part of a pounds 75m government funding package already agreed.

The AMEC chairman, Sir Alan Cockshaw, said at the launch of the stadium plans in Manchester: 'For years we have had this dream of bringing the Olympics here. There are those who have been faint- hearted. But you can reach out now and touch it.

'We now know how much it will cost and how to do it. All we need now is the touch of a button.'

----------------------------------------------------------------- THE OTHER BIDS ----------------------------------------------------------------- SYDNEY Apart from sporadic protests by Aborigine pressure groups, the Australian city appears to have everything going for it - work in progress on the main stadium and other facilities, the glamour of the harbour, and, as Linford Christie has happily attested, plenty of sunshine. Odds: 4-7. PEKING Despite the gains made at the last Games, and the accompanying sense that the world's largest nation is moving toward even greater Olympic impacts, the lingering dismay over Tiananmen Square and reports of poor television technology could tell against. Odds: 6-4. ISTANBUL No Muslim country has had the Games before, and the IOC membership includes 12 Muslims. But political and economic instability should tell against it. Odds: 10-1. BERLIN The rise of neo-Nazi attacks has created a climate in which many Germans feel that it is not a suitable time to host the Games, despite the hopes raised by the breaking down of the Wall. Odds: 16-1. BRASILIA South America has never hosted a Games, and its strong political influences in world sport make it certain that it will soon. But a city in economic crisis, which recently had to rebuild a stadium constructed for the 1990 world volleyball championships, is certainly not going to be the vehicle for those ambitions. Odds: 100-1. Manchester's latest odds are 12-1 -----------------------------------------------------------------

----------------------------------------------------------------- STADIUM FACTS ----------------------------------------------------------------- Capacity: 80,000, seated and covered. Height: 80 metres to top of masts. 40m to high point of roof. Diameter: 26Om (plus 40m wide external circulation zone). Orientation: long axis north-south. Structure: cantilevered mast and cable system supported on service and circulation towers. Concrete seating bowl. Construction: designed to be built in independent bays for phasing. Roof construction separate from seating bowl construction. Materials: metal roof with transparent panels graded from opaque to clear leading edge. Galvanised steel structure. 'White' fairfaced concrete. White painted handrails. Glass screen walls. Levels: upper tier. Club. Main concourse. Service level (below ground). Lighting: floodlit from edge of roof. Plan shape: perimeter seats are equidistant from centre. Enhanced sight lines to allow comfortable viewing angles from corners and lowest seats define an oval inner edge. Elevations: circular perimeter and oval arena give low and high sides which orientate spectators, cut out low sun angles from east and west, allow extra light over low roof edge to south. Safety features: ramped access to upper levels. Wide external concourse to promote crowd control. Two-way route for ambulances to arena floor. Crowd-control zones between spectators and athletes. Clear circulation routes. Wide upper concourses. Exit time of eight minutes. -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photograph omitted)

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