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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 05:31 GMT 06:31 UK
Golden future for Games city
One of the Commonwealth Games banners towers over the city centre
Manchester has a renewed sense of enthusiasm

In 1996 the IRA forced the world to focus on Manchester for very bloody reasons, but six years later a rejuvenated city is preparing to step into the spotlight once again with the arrival of the 17th Commonwealth Games.

"The bomb itself was a tragedy - but when you look at the city centre today, perhaps it was not quite as big a tragedy as we thought," says the chief executive of Manchester City Council, Howard Bernstein.

While the city's previous Olympic bids might have been laughed at, Manchester has emerged from its past to re-invent itself through sport.

"The heart of the city had been ripped out by the bomb," Mr Bernstein told BBC News Online.


The stadium has been the spark that has set up everything else that has improved the area

Doreen Burns, who lives near Sportscity
Mr Bernstein helped the city back off its knees after the devastation of 15 June 1996.

"What we saw that day was devastation, sheer devastation.

"But within six months we got the city centre up and running again."

While he would never suggest the IRA did the city a favour, Mr Bernstein says the destruction enabled the city's rejuvenation, which would normally have taken 30 years, to be completed in six.

The devastation in the city centre after the bombing
The IRA bomb in 1996 caused 500m of damage

Enthusiasm is not confined to the town hall, and people on the street appear to feel just as excited.

Madeleine Thorpe, 19, from Stockport, says: "It's going to be good for the city and for the continuing recovery of rundown areas."

There is even enthusiasm among communities plagued by gang-related gun violence.

Michael McFarquar, who grew up in Longsight, set up Gangstop earlier this year, a campaign to bring an end to "the escalating levels of gang culture".

Peoples' Council

He says the 600m invested in the city as a result of the Games has led to better communication.

"People are now starting to realise that they can participate in community meetings," says Mr McFarquar, who is setting up an "Independent Peoples Council" to ensure communities maintain a strong voice in the city.

Madeleine Thorpe
Madeleine Thorpe: "Games are good for the city"
In the once depressed industrial neighbourhood around Sportscity, a couple of miles outside the city centre in Beswick, people are also looking to the future.

Doreen Burns, who lives in the shadow of the games' "jewel in the crown" venue - the City of Manchester Stadium - welcomes the event.

"This has been the spark that has set up everything else that has improved the area," she says, from her doorstep in Biscay Close.

Families who are being re-housed as homes are demolished to make way for the rejuvenation also appear happy.

May Dixon, 61, says: "I'm definitely happy about the fact I'm moving, though that is also because the derelict houses next door are regularly getting vandalised."

Games boycotted

However, while the city might be feeling a sense of communal euphoria about the Games, not everyone is embracing it.

Some members of city ethnic communities say they feel sidelined.

Michael McFarquar
Michael McFarquar says the council is communicating better
The African Women's Art and Cultural Development (AWAD) group, a national network that has a branch in Longsight, is boycotting the games.

The branch's founder, Mama Toro, says the group's ideas have been ignored, despite suggesting a raft of ideas for its involvement.

"We were told the Commonwealth Games is only here for two weeks, so there is nothing for the community to do," she says.

"We're part of the Commonwealth ourselves and we can't spend two weeks doing things to improve it."

Such disillusionment is not a common feeling in Manchester at the moment.

But political leaders will have to consolidate the urban renewal programme, which secured the city the Games, to stop disenchantment spreading once the hangover from the event kicks in.

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BBC News' Charles Rhodes
"East Manchester is on the up"

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21 Jul 02 | England
20 May 02 | Commonwealth Games 2002
04 Dec 01 | England
09 Nov 01 | England
27 Sep 01 | England
22 Jun 01 | SOL
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