By Adrian Warner
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain should put together a bid for a ‘North-West Olympics’ centred around Manchester and Liverpool because it would have a much bigger impact than the London 2012 Games, veteran major event campaigner Bob Scott has said.
Scott, who led Manchester’s unsuccessful bids for the 1996 and 2000 Olympics and helped bring the 2002 Commonwealth Games to the city, believes the London Games were a major success but thinks the UK “missed a trick” by not using the Olympics to level up and forge ahead with a northern bid.
In an interview with Reuters ahead of Wednesday’s 10th anniversary of the 2012 opening ceremony, Scott said: “If the phrase ‘northern powerhouse’ means anything, it actually means having things going on in that city which are of international significance. What is more internationally significant than the Olympics?
“If the British Olympic Association (BOA) had stuck with Manchester through thick and thin, then, as (a regional city like) Brisbane is going to stage the 2032 Olympics, Manchester would have got them as well.
“If that had happened, I think you would have changed Britain. I am not saying they made a mistake with London and it was wrong. But I am saying that if Manchester had the Olympics for the first time, it would be more life-changing for the nation than London having it for the third time.”
“That is ‘Red Wall thinking’ and I think an opportunity has been missed. In the proper heroic memory of London, it might be just worth saying that in the fullness of time Britain missed a trick. Think of all the infrastructure that London got. It would have been the catalyst for levelling up.”
The Red Wall is a term used for political constituencies mainly in the Midlands, Northern England and North-East Wales.
Neither the BOA nor the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which was responsible for the delivery of London 2012, were immediately available to comment.
The 2012 Olympic Park, which was built on land which used to house scrap yards and fridge mountains, helped to regenerate east London but the development has been criticised for not creating enough affordable homes for local people in Stratford.
The park with its main stadium, velodrome and swimming pool has given the capital a much-needed sporting home for major international events in the last 10 years.
But Scott, who lives in London now, believes the stadium and velodrome in Manchester, which were developed around the bid for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, had much more of an impact.
“The City of Manchester Stadium works better than the Olympic Stadium. The velodrome is the British centre of cycling and has made a massive impact on British cycling worldwide. I haven’t seen that kind of sports benefit coming to London,“ he said.
“The legacy of the Manchester Commonwealth Games and the legacy of the London Games is fantastic. But the investment in London 2012 dwarfed the investment in Manchester, which is modest.”
Scott, 78, has just published his autobiography “Win a Few, Lose a Few” which also tells the story of how he helped Liverpool become the European Capital of Culture in 2008 and how he worked on major theatrical projects in Manchester.
He believes an Olympic bid from the north of England in the future would work, even though it could face competition from Birmingham, which is about to host the Commonwealth Games this week.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has also said his office is working on a plan to bring the Olympics and Paralympics back to the capital.
“If you had the North-West Games, you would almost instantly be defining the strongest region in Britain. It is already a much bigger economy than Scotland,“ Scott said.
“You could have Liverpool and Manchester working together with a real five-star communications system and maybe the athletes’ village between the two. You could change the world perception of the north west of England.”
(Reporting by Adrian Warner; Editing by Ken Ferris)