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1993 - Mr Major’s Press Conference in London

Below is the text of Mr Major’s press conference in London, given on Wednesday 17th February 1993.


PRIME MINISTER:

Can I first welcome you all here this afternoon for this press conference. Last February, I announced that the Government was going to back Manchester's bid to host the Olympic Games in the year 2000. Today, I can present to you the bid document. This is the bid document that was handed over to the International Olympic Committee on 1 February. It is a detailed presentation of why Manchester in our view should be the Olympic City for the year 2000. It is a very comprehensive document; it ranges over every aspect of the Games from sports venues to security and it demonstrates that Manchester has plans to provide world-class facilities.

The Manchester bid is a good deal more than just a superb technical achievement. It is a vision that people have in Manchester both for the city's future and for the future of the whole region and the Government share that vision. The Manchester bid is the British bid for the Olympic Games in the year 2000. It is a national undertaking and it has the very strong support of the Government. I believe there could be no better start to the next millennium than to have the 2000 Olympics here in Britain at Manchester.

Last February, I pledged £55 million of Government funding to back the bid up to the time when the International Olympic Committee takes its decision. We have kept that promise and rather more; we have gone further by providing up to £20 million more from within existing spending programmes, making a total of £75 million.

The Olympic arena is now under construction. Work is starting soon on the national cycling centre and the acquisition and clearance for the Olympic stadium site is now well under way.

I said last year that this bid would spearhead the regeneration of East Manchester and let me say to you today that we have honoured that commitment as well; the Government will be providing some £40 million funding for East Manchester in 1993/4 on top of the direct Olympic investment.

We have also undertaken in this bid document that if Manchester is chosen the Government will ensure that all the necessary facilities will be built partly by private finance and partly by substantial public funding. I am confident there will be no shortage of private finance available as we have already seen in the case of the Olympic arena but the Government is committed to ensure that the funding necessary to stage and organise the Games will be available and we also intend to legislate at the earliest opportunity to ensure that the Organising Committee for the Games has the necessary powers to plan and implement this event.

Most people in our country love sport but I believe that the Olympics will bring a good deal more than sport to the country. Manchester and indeed beyond Manchester - the whole of the north west - will benefit from the legacy of world-class facilities and from a huge economic boost to the area. Between now and September, we will be showing the world what Manchester can offer. We will be showing the world what Britain as a whole can offer. I myself will be visiting Lausanne in April to see the President of the International Olympic Committee, the Marquis de Samaranche, and I will take that opportunity to promote Manchester's bid.

I believe in this document we have a winning plan and we will seek to demonstrate to the IOC that there could be no better site for the millennium Games than here in Britain at Manchester. I believe that with the enthusiasm and support of the people of Manchester - and I have no doubt we have that enthusiasm and support - that we are going for gold in this particular bid and I believe later this year we will get it so I am delighted to you for being here this afternoon.

I will ask Bob Scott, the Chairman of the Bid Committee, to say a few words and then there will be one or two other comments to be made and we will then take your questions.

MR. BOB SCOTT:

I would just like to say that when we came back from Tokyo in 1990, we knew we had to do two things; we had been beaten by Atlanta but we had not been disgraced and what we had to do was to ask for the Government's support. We had to get the Government behind us and secondly, we had to get new facilities coming out of the ground before the IOC members voted.

Thanks to the Prime Minister and the Government, both these things are now absolutely plainly achieved and triumphantly going forward. It feels like today it is the bell of an 800-metre race. We have got to the bell in a very good position and it is smashing that Seb Coe is here with us today; we are second or third; we are on the shoulder; we are beginning to leave four and the others behind and we are making very good progress. We hope that from now right through to September the bid will always delight people, will always interest people; we will be a bid on the move; we will be a bid that creates good stories for Manchester and for Britain but above all, if we win it will be because we got everybody behind us, we created this partnership and we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the Prime Minister for his personal support as well, of course, the Government's support.

MR. GRAHAM STRINGER:

As the Prime Minister said, the bid was always more than just creating Olympic facilities and bidding for the Olympic Games; it was to spearhead urban regeneration in Manchester. The £75 million that the Government have put into the scheme is leading to £200 million-worth of investment but in some ways those figures don't tell the complete story.

I talked to the contractor who is building the indoor arena at Victoria Station last week and they have signed up to our employment and construction charter which is a charter designed to make sure that benefits from the construction of those facilities go to local people and already on the Victoria Station site people from Moss-side and the rest of the inner city area in Manchester are being employed and that is just a small part of what we believe will be a highly successful urban regeneration based on a successful Olympic bid which will bring more than 10,000 full-time equivalent jobs to Manchester.

CRAIG READIE:

Prime Minister, the British Olympic Association is delighted to be with you here today in No. 10. Our governing bodies look forward to helping this bid; we look forward to helping this bid; our sportsmen look forward to using the facilities that will be built; and we look forward to the challenge of presenting a British Olympic team in Manchester in 2000 that will allow our competitors to be a credit to themselves and a credit to the country. To use your phrase, we believe that sport enhances all our lives and we would be very happy to enhance that development.

PRIME MINISTER:

Craig, thank you very much. I also have with me here Peter Brooke, the Secretary of State for National Heritage and Michael Howard the Secretary of State for the Environment. Both of them have taken a very direct interest in this bid and will have a separate and continuing interest right the way through to the conclusion of the bid.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, a question about the extent of your personal interest. Will you take the bid to Monte Carlo and support it there do you think?

PRIME MINISTER:

That is yet to be decided. I don't know whether it will be practical but I certainly wouldn't rule that out. I had the opportunity of seeing many members of the Olympic Committee when I went to Barcelona last year to see the Games. I took the opportunity of having a reception there and meeting many members of the International Olympic Committee. I will be going to see the President. I have seen the President here. I will be meeting others so I don't think there need be any doubt about my commitment to seeing Manchester win.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, I understand that this is only the second time that a news conference has been staged inside here. Is this the case and if so, how would you like that to be interpreted?

PRIME MINISTER:

Not that we are coming second, that is for sure! I am not sure whether that is correct or not. I have certainly held a news conference in here before. I am not quite sure what my predecessors may have done - you may be correct - but it should only be interpreted in the light of the importance that we give to this particular bid both for Manchester and for the country as a whole. I genuinely can think of no better way to start the new millennium than to have the Olympic Games here in our country. Manchester have tried before; they weren't successful. They have had the enormous courage to try again; a tremendous amount of work has been put into it by many people in Manchester, some of them here today - Bob Scott, Graham Stringer and others. I believe that effort deserves the support of the Government and they have the full support of the Government.

QUESTION:

A question, if I may, about Manchester's rivals, particularly Beijing. Would you think it would be appropriate to hold the Olympics in Beijing after Tiananmen Square?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am here to promote the bid from Manchester, not to damn the bid from anywhere else and I think it will be on the basis of showing the Olympic Committee that Manchester is the best place for the Games that we will endeavour to win.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, which city would you prefer to watch the Olympics in, Manchester or Sydney?

PRIME MINISTER:

I might ask you the same question with that accent! [Laughter].

SAME MAN:

I'll go for Sydney! How about you?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think I'll go for Manchester.

SAME MAN:

What are the features of Manchester that are particularly attractive?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think there are many features in Manchester that are very attractive. It is a very ancient, very vital city. It has a very modern communications centre. It is going to have some of the most modern Olympic facilities that we will have ever seen at any stage. Contrary to legend, Manchester is actually rather dry in the appropriate months, drier I may say than Atlanta where the next Olympic Games will be held and a good deal drier than Paris, to take another capital purely at random so the circumstances and the climate for good athletics, for world record-breaking athletics, will almost certainly be there in Manchester in 2000.

SAME MAN:

Many people of course go both to watch the Games and to see somewhere new. Apart from what is happening at the Olympics, what does Manchester have to offer them?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think both Manchester and Great Britain have a great deal to offer. We have one of the highest numbers of tourists who come to the United Kingdom each year than any country in the world so I think there is no doubt with the communications and the size of the United Kingdom one comes to Manchester and one can see the United Kingdom. I don't have to point to the future; I can look in the mirror and see the number of people who found it attractive to come here.

From the point of view of staging the Games and beaming the Games around the world of course the time zones are particularly important to beam the Olympic Games by television across the world from Manchester at appropriate times,

QUESTION (Australian Broadcasting Corporation):

If Manchester doesn't get it, would you prefer to see them in Beijing or Sydney? [Laughter].

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't admit your premise and we look forward to welcoming both you Australians here in the year 2000.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, about the finances, you have almost given an open-ended commitment there including up to £2 billion in capital investment. What is the limit that the Government will put in, the maximum amount?

PRIME MINISTER:

We estimate the total cost to be about £1.5 billion at the moment, not £2 billion. It was something like £4 billion of course in Barcelona but they didn't have the facilities in place that are already there in terms of Manchester. There are a large number of facilities, not least the communications network in Manchester, that are in place that on previous occasions have had to be put in place by the bidding towns and cities so our present estimate is around £1.5 billion. A good deal of that will be raised in terms of private finance and of course the funding will be needed over the period between now and the year 2000 so it is a substantial sum in cash, that is certainly true; how much of it will fall on the taxpayer is as yet unclear but it is spread over many years and much of it, of course, isn't money that is going to be spent for a single event and then gone because an integral part of this bid is the regeneration of the whole of East Manchester and that is something that I would have wished to do in any event and so not only will we have the regeneration of East Manchester, not only will we have the memory of having had the Olympics in East Manchester, but we will also have the continuing use of some very remarkable sporting facilities that will be available for many years after the Olympics in an area of the country that has long had a reputation as being sport-loving. I think it is a good bargain for all of us.

QUESTION:

What about using some of the money from the national lottery?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is possible that the Millennium Fund will make a contribution, that is as yet undetermined but it is certainly possible.

QUESTION:

Picking up the point made by my colleague in front, there will be some people who think that taxpayers' money maybe in the current climate would be better spent on things like hospitals and schools. How can you argue to them that this does represent good use of their money?

PRIME MINISTER:

We balance our public expenditure this year at around £260 billion in a single year. We are talking of a sum total of expenditure of £1.5 billion over eight years, only a portion of which will be met by the taxpayer, much of which would have been spent in any event through the urban programme and in other ways and that will leave an enduring legacy.

What it will do, of course, is lever-in a lot of private finance that wouldn't otherwise have been available that will be there as a permanent bonus both for the people of Manchester North-West and in terms of the sporting facilities for people right across the country.

If I can add a point to that, that is the financial case perhaps for doing it but I will confess to you another instinct that I have. We are one of the greatest sporting nations in the world. It seems to me that if we are to throw our hands to one side, a nation of our size with our reputation, with our love of sport, to say that we are not going to seek to bid for the Olympic Games or any major sporting event like that, that would be a very remarkable position for us to take. I have no reservations whatsoever about supporting this bid.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

As for the last point, I wish I knew. I think Manchester is very well placed now. Many people would have said twelve or eighteen months ago perhaps that Manchester was a rank outsider. As a result of the work that has been done by the Bid Committee and secondly as a result of the clear support given to Manchester by the Government it is self-evident that this is a national bid and we will be able to meet the commitments the Olympic Committee expect us to meet and I believe Manchester is now amongst the most favoured cities for winning this remarkable event in the year 2000. We can't guarantee victory but I do believe Manchester deserves it and we will do all we can ensure they achieve it.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

I would certainly say so.

QUESTION:

In the unlikely event of us failing to win the nomination for 2000, would you think that it would be a good idea to go ahead and build the Olympic stadium on the grounds that that may well swing the vote for next time?

PRIME MINISTER:

If I may repeat what I said to the gentleman from Australia, I don't admit the premise but if that were to come about we would clearly consider what had to be done, but I am not entering into that now.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, you said that you will be [indistinct] in April. I wonder whether you can give us some other indication as to when and where you will be meeting IOC members? I am sure that Manchester have told you it is absolutely essential that you as the leader of the bid shake the hand and persuade them. For instance, will you be at the FA Cup Final because I understand that a large number of IOC members are expected there and if so, would you seek them out?

PRIME MINISTER:

Is that an invitation? I think the opportunity to meet the IOC members will come in many ways and I will certainly meet them but I don't think for a raft of reasons I can give you details of when and how now. Many of them, of course, I have met already.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, to hark back to the financial aspects of the bid, if Manchester were to win the Games and the cost of providing facilities and operating the Games were not to be provided from particularly the private purse, would the Government be prepared to underwrite the cost, the deficit?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have indicated in the bid that we will ensure the facilities are provided. I don't think there is any doubt whatsoever about a very large contribution coming from the private sector but in order to ensure that the bid can go forward it is necessary to underwrite the facilities.

QUESTION (TIMES OF INDIA):

Another sports-related question if I may ask. Do you have any comments on the performance of the Indian cricketers [laughter] and on the rather unsporting types of controversy which are going on in the two countries relating to the match?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't know how India will do in the 2000 Olympics but she has certainly played very well in the test matches so far and congratulate India on her wins.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, going back to the previous question, you are not only ensuring that the facilities will be built but according to the bid document you are also going to ensure that the money to stage and organise the Games will be provided so you are underwriting the further money in addition to building the facilities. That is correct, is it?

PRIME MINISTER:

That is correct.

QUESTION:

Could you please tell me why we haven't had a discussion on who has won the competition for the stadium? I believe that was due on 29 January.

PRIME MINISTER:

Let me ask Bob Scott to respond to that.

MR. BOB SCOTT:

I think you are being very greedy actually. I think you are having quite a lot today without having that as well. We like to spread our good news. You will be hearing very shortly.

QUESTION:

You talked about the disadvantage of Asia in terms of time zones and broadcasting but isn't it true that in a way that it is Asia's or even Australia's turn considering that it has been in Barcelona and now in Atlanta?

PRIME MINISTER:

I seem to recall it was at Seoul not all that long ago. I also recall that the United Kingdom has never actually gone through a bid procedure and won the Olympic Games. Twice the United Kingdom have held the Olympic Games - I think in 1908 and 1948 - and on each occasion we picked up the Olympic Games when other people had let them fall at the last moment and saved Olympic Games that otherwise would not have taken place. I think it is time for us to have the Olympic Games in our own right and I hope that time is the year 2000.

QUESTION:

The IOC is well known for its liking for glamour and spoiling itself. Do you honestly believe that for instance a boating afternoon on the Ship Canal can really compete with a bathing afternoon on Bondi Beach? [Laughter].

PRIME MINISTER:

Wait and see! Come to Manchester and you will see for yourself.

Does anyone want to add anything? Is there anything really pressing that we haven't covered?

QUESTION:

What I am wondering, Mr. Prime Minister, is how you feel about the Olympics other than as a sporting event, what they add or what they give the world and is it important in that context for Britain to participate at this level and try to get these Games?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the Olympic Games do give added value to the world. Very few people can watch the Olympic Games with athletes from all parts of a country trained to the peak of their physical fitness, performing to the best of their abilities without thinking they are seeing some of the better sides of human nature so I think the Olympic Games, quite apart from the delight of taking part and the delight of winning, is something that is of intrinsic value to everybody who watches it. I think it is of intrinsic value actually to have the Olympic Games. We would be privileged to present them in this country and I hope we will.