Manchester lost 2000 Olympics to Sydney 'because of arrogance and old buffers'

Mr Motivator, a mascot and some children on stage at an event in Manchester on the day in 1993 the 2000 Olympics host city was announced Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Even the involvement of Mr Motivator was not enough to bring the Olympics to Manchester

Manchester's bid to host the 2000 Olympics failed as "no-one in their right mind" would go there over Sydney, according to newly-released government files from an inquiry into the failure.

Documents on the doomed bid of 1993, released by the National Archives, gave various reasons the city missed out.

Damian Green, who later became an MP and cabinet member, said it was "hard to imagine" it ever being successful.

An aide blamed the use of "old buffers" and an "arrogant attitude".

'Past glories'

Image caption The former First Secretary of State Damian Green MP said it was "hard to imagine Manchester ever being successful"

The host city for the first Olympics of the new millennium was chosen in September 1993 and Manchester went into the bidding process with high hopes. But it came third out of five hopeful cities, trailing behind winner Sydney and second-choice Beijing.

A "post-mortem" into the failure was conducted in February 1994.

"We have had too many nice old buffers running things or representing Britain on international sporting bodies," Downing Street aide Alex Allan said in a dispatch to the then Prime Minister John Major, citing as examples Mary Glen-Haig, an Olympian at the London Games in 1948, and sports administrator Marea Hartman, who died aged 73 later that year.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Alex Ferguson liked the idea of the Olympics being in the city where he worked

"We have also adopted rather an arrogant attitude, based either on past glories or on a belief that many of those now running international sporting bodies are corrupt and/or power-mad," Mr Allan added.

"Some probably are - but we didn't win any friends by saying so."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The files show Mr Green felt Sydney was a more attractive prospect for IOC members

Meanwhile, Mr Green, who worked in the Prime Minister's Policy Unit in 1994 before becoming an MP three years later, said the reason was "obvious... no-one in their right mind would spend three weeks in Manchester rather than Sydney".

Reflecting on his comments from the time, Mr Green said on Thursday: "I'm glad I was wrong and that Manchester did eventually succeed in a bid and held a memorably successful games [The 2002 Commonwealth Games].

"Manchester has become a lesson in urban renewal, and I have learned not to be cynical."

The secret files also contained a previously unseen speech celebrating Manchester's victory, which saw Mr Major commend Britain's "world-beating success".

The draft entitled "Prime Minister's statement: If Manchester wins" added: "This success shows that when we put our minds to something in Britain, we are world-beaters.

"We went for gold and got it."

However, defeat meant the victory speech was never heard in public.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch wrote to John Major to commiserate
Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Mr Samaranch invited John Major to visit the Olympic Museum

Other files show correspondence between Mr Major and International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch in September 1993, ahead of the crucial vote, in which the prime minister hinted at the possibility of a meeting between the two.

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The reply was sent after the result, with Mr Samaranch expressing regret there could only be one winner and inviting the Major family to "visit the Olympic Museum at your best convenience".

Manchester would go on to host the 2002 Commonwealth Games, while London hosted the Olympics in 2012.

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