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Thursday, 25 July, 2002, 06:50 GMT 07:50 UK
City buzzing ahead of Games
Manchester is buzzing with excitement hours ahead of the start of the Commonwealth Games.
The UK's biggest multi-sports event begins on Thursday and up to 500 million TV viewers are expected to watch the opening ceremony.
The importance of the Games was not lost on residents of Manchester, where strangers were hugging each other in the streets as the countdown went on.
An estimated £600m of public and private investment has been spent on regenerating the city - creating more than 6,000 jobs.
So although there may be 5,000 athletes competing from 72 countries, the full impact will not be measured in terms of medals.
Independent consultants estimate that in each year from now on, an extra 300,000 visitors will spend an extra £12m in the region.
And the Games marks the end of the rebuilding project since the IRA bomb devastated the city centre and injured more than 200 people in 1996.
Martin Pagel, deputy leader of Manchester City Council, told BBC News Online: "The mood across Manchester is one of absolute delight after the preparations, the blood, sweat and tears.
"We are about to embark on the most brilliant two weeks in the city's history.
"I've yet to see anyone wandering around without a great big grin on their face."
He said 20,000 people had joined in the city's clean-up, to make "every part of it looking spectacular".
In the city centre, a revamped Arndale Centre alongside a new Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and Marks and Spencer, sends a defiant message after the horrifying events of 1996.
The regeneration of East Manchester has also been fuelled by the Games because it hosts many events at Sports City.
And organisers hope investment in the area will help erase the mark of industrial decline.
A new business park and a Wal-Mart store which boasts to being the biggest shop in the UK reflects this reversal in fortunes.
And it this image of a strong and vibrant city the people hope will get across.
Roy Walters, Lord Mayor of Manchester, told BBC News: "What Manchester does today, the world does tomorrow."
All the action at the Games will be covered on BBC television, radio and online.
The opening ceremony will mark the end of the Queen's Jubilee Baton Relay which has toured 23 Commonwealth countries over four months.
Organisers have promised a "stunning" opening ceremony, with a nightclub atmosphere, at the 38,000-capacity stadium.
The £110m venue, the City of Manchester Stadium, will be used by Manchester City FC after the Games.
The community has been promised full use of all the sports facilities after the Games.
But for now, Mr Pagel said, they are just savouring the moment.
"Most people know Manchester is a party city - now we are going to party in a way we've never done before."
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