Sunday, 7 August 2011

Manchester bids for the Olympics A.D. 1993

Manchester United's 1990 FA Cup win is said to have saved Alex Ferguson his job. On 15th May 1991, Mark Hughes scored twice as United beat Barcelona 2-1 in Rotterdam to win the European Cup Winner's Cup with a starting line-up [Sealey; Blackmore, Pallister, Bruce, Irwin; Sharpe, Robson, Ince, Phelan; McClair, Hughes] which would be subject to several changes over the next few years. In 1992, Francis Fukuyama declared 'the End of History' in so far as the model of liberal democracy could not be improved upon, something which had been demonstrated dramatically in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Bill Clinton's election as President of the United States in 1992 had an end of history feel about it. Manchester seemed to be emerging from a dark period in its history after the pain of the Thatcher revolution, with a new light rail system, the Metrolink, opening in April 1992. Barcelona hosted the Olympic Games, something Manchester watched with interest as it too was bidding to host the Games in 2000 (after a failed bid to host the 1996 Games). The Barcelona Games were a huge success, showing what was possible in terms of boosting a postindustrial city's regeneration. The Football League had its moment of rebirth in 1992 as the first Premier League season (and the first Champions League) got underway with Sky Sports spending an unprecedented amount on TV rights, something which would change the face of the game.

The soundtrack for 1993 was New Order's Regret and James' Laid. Another Manchester band, the unsigned Oasis, got their big break in May when Alan McGhee, the owner of independent record label Creation, saw them play at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow. In the same month, Manchester United won the inaugural Premier League (25 years after George Best, Bobby Charlton and Nobby Stiles had helped them to win the European Cup), Peter Schmeichel and Eric Cantona having been added to the team that had won the Cup Winners Cup two years earlier. Ryan Giggs was awarded the PFA Young Player of the Year Award for the second year running. Boddingtons launched their iconic 'Cream of Manchester' advertising campaign with the phrase, "By 'eck, it's gorgeous!" On 24th September, thousands gathered in Castlefield to hear the results of the IOC's decision on who was to host the Olympics in 2000. Manchester made it to the third round of voting, ahead of Istanbul and Berlin but finished behind Beijing and eventual hosts Sydney. It was a better showing than Birmingham had managed in 1986 (for the 1992 Games) or Manchester itself in 1990 (for the 1996 Games). Ultimately not being awarded the Games didn't matter as it provided the basis for a successful Commonwealth Games in 2002 and inspired the city to think of itself as a rival to Barcelona. Perhaps not winning the games had a worse effect on Birmingham, which has since struggled to carve a niche for itself in the face of intense competition from both London and Manchester. Had it won the Games in 1992 instead of Barcelona (a big if, considering its poor performance), Birmingham would almost certainly have consolidated its second city status, probably attracting more investment away from London and increasing its international name recognition. As things stand, even Digby Jones has recently questioned Birmingham's second city status.

On 12th May 1994 it was announced that John Smith, the leader of the Labour Party, had died of a heart attack. As the debate began to centre around whether it would be Tony Blair or Gordon Brown who would challenge John Major's unpopular Conservative government at the next general election, Manchester United won the FA Cup for the eighth time, beating Chelsea 4-0 on 14th May with goals from Cantona (2), Hughes and McClair. The team had also retained the Premier League, making them the first United side to win the double. On 30th August, Oasis released Definitely Maybe, which became the fastest selling UK debut album ever. In his first conference speech as leader of the Labour Party, Tony Blair announced his intention to scrap Clause IV of the party's constitution, the commitment to nationalized industry. Oasis bridged the gap between albums by releasing their Christmas single Whatever, confirming their growing status as one of Britain's most popular bands.

On 25th January 1995 Eric Cantona, Manchester United's leading scorer from the previous season, was involved in a spectacular brawl with a Crystal Palace fan (leading to an eight-month ban) before telling a press conference that 'When the seagulls follow the trailer, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.' Blackburn Rovers would go on to win the third Premier League on the last day of the season after a closely fought campaign. During the summer of 1995, Robbie Williams was seen partying with Oasis at Glastonbury, shortly before his departure from Take That (who topped the singles chart with Back For Good and Never Forget). Oasis would lose to Blur in the high profile Battle of the Bands on 20th August as Country House outsold Roll With It but their second album What's the Story (Morning Glory)?, released in October, would go on to become one of the best-selling UK albums of all time. Simply Red achieved their first number single with Fairground. A legacy of the city's two unsuccessful Olympic bids, The NYNEX Arena opened on 15th July 1995 (later to become The M.E.N.). With a capacity of 23,000, it was (and remains) one of the biggest and most modern buildings of its kind in Europe. Also opened in 1995, Santiago Calatrava's Trinity Footbridge (linking the centres of Manchester and Salford, close to where the Lowry Hotel would be built) was a signal of intent, marking the start of a postmodernist architectural boom. On the opening day of the 1995-96 season, Manchester United lost 3-1 to Aston Villa with a young team that included Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, David Beckham (all aged 20) and Phil Neville (aged 18). With Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis having been sold before the start of the season, Alan Hansen commented on Match of the Day that "You'll never win anything with kids." They ended the year ten points behind Newcastle.

United were able to close the gap before eventually becoming the first team to win the double twice, beating Liverpool in the FA Cup final on 11th May (Neville, Neville, Butt, Beckham and Scholes all making an appearance). Five days later, The Lightening Seeds released their song Three Lions against a backdrop of rising expectancy as England prepared to host Euro '96 (thirty years after their 1966 World Cup victory). In Manchester's case, football arguably was coming home as it was here that the Football League had been founded in 1888. With a capacity of around 55,000 at this stage, Old Trafford was one of the host venues and would host the semi-final between France and Czech Republic. Beforehand however, on the morning of Saturday 15th July 1996, parts of the city centre had to be evacuated after it was discovered that a bomb had been placed on Corporation Street between the Arndale Shopping Centre and Marks & Spencer. Although no-one was killed in the uncontrolled explosion at 11:20, hundreds of people were injured and millions of pounds worth of buildings were devastated in what was thought and later confirmed to be the work of the Provisional IRA. It came at an already uncertain time for the city centre's main shopping districts, as planning permission had finally been given to build The Trafford Centre (a huge shopping mall which would open in September 1998) on the western outskirts of the city with easier motorway connections than the city centre. In the immediate aftermath of the bomb, Council leader Richard Leese and Chief Executive Howard Bernstein travelled to London by train to request the money necessary to rebuild the city and were offered a show of support by Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine, who suggested an international design competition which was won by Ian Simpson and resulted in Cathedral Gardens and Urbis (due to become the National Football Museum). As Manchester recovered from the trauma of the city centre bombing, a young David Beckham lobbed the goalkeeper from behind the halfway line on the opening day of the 1996-97 season, his first step on the road to global superstardom.

Manchester United would reach the semi-finals of the Champions League in 1997, losing to Borussia Dortmund (their best performance in the competition since winning it in 1968), and go on to win their fourth Premier League title in five years (having coming come very close to winning it in 1995). David Beckham won PFA Young Player of the Year as Eric Cantona announced his retirement. Eighteen years of Conservative government came to an end as the Labour Party won the 1997 General Election in May with 13.5m votes (63.4%). As the scale of the landslide became clear, incumbent Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed a jubilant crowd outside Royal Festival Hall: "A new dawn has broken, has it not?" For Manchester, it was beginning to seem like it had. The next ten years would see huge scale investment, culminating in the construction of the Beetham Tower in 2007 (at 169m the tallest building in the UK outside London). Manchester United would go on to win the Champions League in a dramatic 1999 final against Bayern Munich (as part of an historic treble). The 2002 Commonwealth Games coincided with the opening of the Imperial War Museum North in Salford Quays, Urbis, the City of Manchester Stadium (itself based on designs for the planned Olympic stadium of the failed 1993 bid) and Tadao Ando's concrete pavilion in Picadilly Gardens. 2002 also saw the release of Michael Winterbottom's film 24 Hour Party People, a look back at the story of Factory Records and The Hacienda. Control (2007) would look in more detail at the story of Ian Curtis and Joy Division, thirty years after the Buzzcocks had released Spiral Scratch. There was more circularity of a sort when Manchester United won the 2008 Champions League final, fifty years after the Munich Air Disaster and forty years after they had won the European Cup for the first time, history repeating itself.

Whilst Manchester has yet to (and probably never will) recover its musical prominence from the heady days of the late seventies through to the early nineties, it can occasionally throw up a band or a song to add to the canon. Elbow's June 2008 single One Day Like This is a classic example and provides the soundtrack to the closing stages of the Ascent of Manchester. United's 2008 Champions League win was probably more significant than the previous two, with a global TV audience (or 'reach') of up to 200m tuning in to see a new generation of stars, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, lift the trophy. It proved that the club could remain successful under the controversial new ownership of American businessman Malcolm Glazer. In September 2008, on the closing day of the summer transfer window, Manchester City were taken over by an oil-rich Abu Dhabi businessman and member of the royal family, Sheikh Mansour, whose half-brother is the current President of the United Arab Emirates (after whom Dubai's 828m Burj Khalifa was named). He has since ploughed money into the club who in 2011 won the FA Cup (their first trophy in 35 years) and qualified for the Champions League (for the first time) under Italian manager Roberto Mancini. The City of Manchester Stadium, a legacy of the Manchester 2000 Olympic bid, has been renamed The Etihad and the area around it (SportCity) is due to be transformed (after plans for the UK's only 'supercasino' were scrapped by Gordon Brown in February 2008). SportCity in the east of Manchester is complimented by MediaCity in Salford Quays to the west (near Old Trafford). In the south of the city, the Oxford Road corridor is the centre for M:KC (Manchester: Knowledge Capital), the publication of the 2008 RAE results confirming Manchester's status as the main rival to London, Cambridge and Oxford as a centre for UK Higher Education research. The city's centre of gravity is shifting southwards, not just because of the affluence of the Cheshire-based global footballing elite (who travel by train to Wembley direct from Stockport on the Pendolino).

We've mentioned SportCity, MediaCity and Knowledge Capital as three parts of Manchester's modern geography (East, West and South), all within the M60 ringroad. But perhaps the most important innovation lies just outside the M60. It is thought that John D. Kasarda's concept of the Aerotropolis, the urban area centred around the airport as the main hub for economic growth, will be the single most influential factor in the development of future cities. It's with this in mind that the development of Manchester's Airport City enterprise zone may help it to compete in the newly globalized economy, capitalising on its name recognition as one of the top footballing cities in Europe. If there was a thirteenth stage in the history of modern Manchester's development (following on from Peterloo; the Liverpool and Manchester Railway; the Abolition of the Corn Laws; the Lancashire Cotton Famine; the Manchester Ship Canal; the Rutherford Model; the Great Depression; the Small-Scale Experimental Machine; various achievements in drama, football and music, and an audacious bid for the 2000 Olympic Games) then perhaps it would be the arrival of the Airbus A380 at Manchester Airport on 1st September 2010, the world's largest passenger plane. Whilst British Airways has reduced its presence at Manchester (choosing to concentrate on an already overcrowded Heathrow), the three main Arabian carriers have decided to increase capacity on routes to and from the city. Globally connected, certainly better known throughout the world than most similar-sized cities through one (and now possibly two) of its football teams, Manchester still has a long way to go but is slowly establishing itself as the World City it dreamed of being when it bid for the Olympics in 1993. Having survived the rise and fall of Cottonopolis, the Ascent of Manchester, the world's first industrial city, is ongoing. There are huge challenges remaining [of the kind which make 'the End of History' a more relevant concept than people might first have thought] but there can be little doubt that Manchester is well-placed, indeed amongst the best-placed, to face them head on.

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