Manchester’s doomed Olympics bid

UK’s bid to host the 2000 Olympics failed because officials told Downing Street ‘no one in their right mind’ would want to go to Manchester instead of Sydney

  • Officials wrote ‘no one in their right mind’ would pick Manchester over Sydney 
  • A review of the February 1994 Olympic bid also found Britain had been ‘arrogant’
  • Damian Green wrote the reason for the Manchester bid’s failure was ‘obvious’

Manchester’s bid to host the 2000 Olympics failed because ‘no one in their right mind’ would want to go there instead of Sydney, officials wrote.

A review of the bid in February 1994 also found Britain had been ‘arrogant’ and relied on ‘nice old buffers’ to run the campaign.

Damian Green, then part of Downing Street’s policy unit and later deputy prime minister under Theresa May, wrote that the reason for the failure was ‘obvious’, adding: ‘No one in their right mind would spend three weeks in Manchester rather than Sydney. It is hard to imagine Manchester ever being successful.’

Pictured: Australian movie star Olivia Newton-John (R) passes the Olympic flame to Australian tennis player Pat Rafter 14 September 2000)

Downing Street aide Alex Allan wrote to then prime minister John Major: ‘We have had too many nice old buffers running things or representing Britain on international sporting bodies.

‘We have also adopted rather an arrogant attitude, based either on past glories or a belief that many of those now running international sporting bodies are corrupt and/or power-mad,’ he added. ‘Some probably are – but we didn’t win any friends by saying so.’

The newly-released files also contained a speech prepared for the prime minister if Manchester won the bid. In it, Sir John would have declared proudly: ‘We went for gold and got it.’

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