The real-life tales of a football writer
The announcement for the 2016 Olympic city is today in Copenhagen. With London hosting the 2012 games, there are no British candidates and only one European one – Madrid.
On the streets of Barcelona you can buy T-shirts with ‘Madrid 3016’, such is the chance the Catalans think Madrid has of hosting the games.
Barcelona staged a very successful Olympics in 1992 which played a huge role in the city’s regeneration, but it wasn’t the only candidate city.
Birmingham went for those games, though it never had a chance as Juan Antonio Samaranch, the head of the International Olympic Committee, was born in Barcelona and saw delivering the games as his greatest achievement.
Birmingham City, Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion united in their support for the Birmingham bid, all three teams posing in their kit for a giant team photo outside the NEC.
That failed to the win the IOC over and Birmingham stood aside.
Manchester was the British candidate for the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.
Bob Scott, the man behind the bid who did much to improve Manchester’s image, had decided that the city was similar to Los Angeles, which staged the successful 1984 games.
He was labelled as crazy, but at the time, I really thought Manchester had a chance.
In hindsight, and given that Manchester didn’t have a single five-star hotel at the time of the bids, the 2002 Commonwealth Games were far better suited to Manchester.
Manchester City won’t complain either, they got a stunning new council-built stadium out of the deal.
As an idealistic 19-year-old, I felt that Manchester would beat its rivals Beijing and Sydney to host the 2000 Olympics.
It mattered not that you couldn’t buy a T-shirt to support the Manchester bid in Manchester (I actually wrote to the Manchester Evening News to complain about that one.)
Manchester United, probably the city’s greatest export, were seldom seen in conjunction with the bid so I decided to take matters into my own hands before a game at Aston Villa in August 1993.
The Olympic winner was due to be announced the following month and the Premiership was taking off globally.
Viewers around the world would be watching United, recently crowned as champions for the first time in 26 years, play at Villa, who had been the main title rivals the season before.
Before we got on the coach in Manchester, a few of us turned up at the bid offices on Oxford Street and told the receptionist that we wanted to borrow the flag off the roof for a day.
She got someone down from the bid and we explained that we were on the way to Villa, where we had tickets behind the goal into which United would surely score goals. The theory being: Lend us the flag and the Manchester bid will be seen around the world.
They bought the idea, but rather than take down that flag, a minion was dispatched to give us an alternative even bigger flag.
We were on our way and the plan worked to perfection. Sort of.
Lee Sharpe scored two brilliant goals in front of the away end and each time we held up the flag. Unfortunately, with everyone going mad to celebrate, the message was somewhat distorted.
Although everyone inside Villa Park could see the message and you could clearly see the flag, on television it just looked like a giant blue flag with indecipherable white letters.
Unperturbed, we returned the flag and were given a smaller one to take to an away game against Kispest Honved in Budapest the week before the announcement.
We travelled overland and hung the flag from the ferry and the train, which went from Ostend to Budapest.
In my misguided mind, I thought there was a chance that an IOC member could see the flag en route, perhaps while munching a bratwurst at a train station in Aachen or Cologne.
Maybe he or she would see it and think, "You know what? I’m not going to vote for Sydney’s world-class bid after all. The view over the River Irwell really does beat Sydney Harbour and the Opera House."
We paraded the flag around Budapest and you can just see it attached to the post behind the much bigger flag which says 17 years.
It was hard to believe at the time, but in 1993 Manchester City hadn’t won a trophy for 17 years.
What do you mean, they still haven’t, and a similar flag has been updated every year since?
Manchester lost out to Sydney and I was gutted. My dad was fuming.
‘How can they give it to the convicts in Sydney?” he asked. “The blokes still wear white socks over there.”
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Placing the Olympics in Madrid would have been the worst decision of all time, it's a potential terrorist hotbed, not only from the home grown type (ETA) but also the "Johnny Jihad's Come Lately" which seem to lie in sleeper mode waiting for just the right time to unleash their brand of "social protest" --- Although some may like to believe the media fantasy that George W. Bush "created" terrorism to stay in power (as Hitler did with the Reichstag fire), the truth is we are living in scary times. Placing a major tournament event which attracts millions of people in a major European city is dangerous enough, placing it in a city (Madrid) which has lax security concerning their rail transportation is too dangerous a cocktail to swallow.
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