Olympic Games: Britain's bid is on right track

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The Independent Online
MANCHESTER professed itself officially 'delighted' at the technical report published yesterday on the six cities bidding for the 2000 Olympic Games, although the document clearly favoured Sydney as the potential site.

The International Olympic Committee's Evaluation Commission, which has sent delegates to Manchester, Sydney, Peking, Berlin, Istanbul and Brasilia, was complimentary about most aspects of the British city's bid, including its accessible venues, its transport, its telecommunications, and, given the Government's vow to provide sufficient private and public funding, its finances.

Sydney, however, comes away with a report that is, according to one IOC member, 'bloody nearly perfect. It's so far ahead of the others, it's quite breathtaking'.

While Sydney is said to offer 'conditions over and above what is required by the IOC', the 67-page report - a guideline for the 91 IOC members who will vote in Monte Carlo on 23 September to select the 2000 Games hosts - places a number of question marks against the present suitability of Peking, the other leading candidate. The Chinese capital is criticised for its vulnerability to terrorist attacks, its unsuitable high-rise accommodation for the athletes and its potential language problems.

The report is scathing about the rank outsider, Brasilia, where general standards are 'currently below what is expected of an Olympic bid'.

John Holt, director of international relations for the Manchester 2000 bid, said the report was good news for Britain, although he emphasised that it was only one element in a complex procedure that is resolved through politics and sheer gut feeling as much as technical suitability.

'The last six months are important; the last six weeks are crucial, and the last six days are absolutely incredibly vital,' he said.

'I have seen stories that we have been placed second behind Sydney in this report, but I can't see that there is any order of priority. Let's put it this way. If the report is not good it can cause a lot of damage because, frankly speaking, a lot of IOC members are probably aware of cities' good qualities.

'They are just looking for something bad to help them make up their mind. And while the report notes unfavourable things about other bids, there is nothing unfavourable said about Manchester. It isn't going to halt our progress, and it isn't going to push it forward.'

Today, Manchester seeks to accentuate the positive as it shows the IOC president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, around the city. Starting at Sandilands Infant School, in Sale, where he will view Olympic-inspired artwork and T-shirts by the pupils, he will take in all aspects of the city's preparations before travelling to London tomorrow to meet the Prime Minister at Downing Street.