There was a distinct air of expectation around Manchester as crowds waited for the host city for the 2000 Olympics to be revealed.
It was Thursday September 23rd 1993 – and the clock was ticking down to the expected announcement from the International Olympic Committee meeting in Monte Carlo.
Five cities were in the hunt. Berlin and Istanbul were considered outsiders, while the front runners were Manchester, Sydney and Beijing.
Manchester was still smarting from losing out to Atlanta in its bid to stage the 1996 Olympics three years earlier.
Surely it couldn’t happen again?
This time the city’s bid, again led by Bob Scott, had been second to none. The bid document had been presented to the IOC on February 1st 1993 with real confidence.
Prime Minister John Major was right behind it. The estimated cost of the games would be £1.5 billion – coming entirely from private funding.
The city’s bid video was criticised for showing London landmarks like Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace. Parts of the media accused Manchester of suffering an identity crisis!
But the overall case for Manchester was undeniably strong.
Some of the buildings to house events had already been constructed as part of the bid for the 1996 games. The £3 million velodrome was in place.
The £50 million Manchester Arena, which would host gymnastics and basketball, was going ahead whatever the outcome of the bid.
Old Trafford Cricket Ground was earmarked for baseball and other events, and a diving centre was planned for Wigan. The Olympic village would be alongside the Manchester Ship Canal.
Olympic football matches would be played at Northern grounds including Old Trafford, Goodison Park, Elland Road and Hillsborough.
Forty businesses in Eastlands had been issued with compulsory purchase orders to free up space for the £100 million Olympic stadium. Its designer would be world-renowned architect Norman Foster.
IOC president Juan Samaranch described Manchester’s chances as ‘very, very high’ when he visited the city and spoke at the Town Hall.
After the IOC’s technical report was published in July 1993, commentators reckoned the choice would be between Manchester or Sydney with Beijing running third.
But there was always a nagging doubt that IOC members might be tempted by the chance of holding a summer Olympics in China.
So to September 23rd and a city poised for the historic announcement. Mancunians gathered in their thousands at Castlefield to hear the news.
They were joined by local celebrities, sports stars, footballers and most of the Coronation Street cast. Flags were waved, cheers were raised – and the champagne was on ice.
Then, at roughly 1.27pm, Samaranch read out the name of the winning city. Monte Carlo erupted in excitement. Seconds later, a huge party at Circular Quay, Sydney, did the same.
It was 4.27am in Australia, but it didn’t matter. The games were going to Sydney.
Manchester had made it through to the third ballot, losing out to Beijing and the eventual host city.
It was an improvement on the previous bid which was knocked out in the second ballot. But that was no consolation to Manchester’s downcast supporters.
The champagne remained unopened, the flags were packed away and supporters left in a mixture of disappointment and disbelief.
Coronation Street stars, loyal to the city, couldn’t believe the outcome. Johnny Briggs, who played factory owner Mike Baldwin, slumped back into his chair surrounded by Union Jacks and untouched bottles of bubbly.
The perennially upbeat presenters of the children’s TV show Blue Peter – Anthea Turner, John Leslie and Diane Louise Jordan – struggled to put a brave face on proceedings.
Even Derrick Evans, the TV fitness trainer known to millions as Mr Motivator, lost his mojo.
As it turned out, the two cities to beat Manchester produced very different Olympiads. The 1996 Atlanta games were plagued with problems while Sydney 2000 was hailed as a triumph.
European Olympic officials criticised Atlanta for overcrowding in the athletes’ village, poor food, bad transport links and a general atmosphere of commercialism.
The normally effusive Juan Samaranch was altogether muted in his praise at the closing ceremony. He merely said: ‘Well done, Atlanta.’
At least Manchester Wheelers’ cyclist Chris Boardman brought home a medal by taking bronze in the 52 kilometre time-trial.