Commonwealth Games 2002
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Features Sunday, 28 July, 2002, 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK
Stadium is star of the Games
The City of Manchester Stadium
The stadium broke records on the opening day
BBC Sport Online's Charlie Henderson

Less than 48 hours after its grand opening, the City of Manchester Stadium hosted one of the major events of the Commonwealth Games.

The men's 100m is the blue riband race of any athletics meeting and one of the key moments in any multi-sport Games.

And Saturday's race, with the heavily-billed heavyweight dual between England's Dwain Chambers and Mark Lewis-Francis, was no different.

The stadium, as it was for the opening ceremony, was a perfect setting.

It is debatable which is bigger - Thursday's two-and-a-half hour extravaganza or Saturday's 10-second showdown.

But what is not in question is that the drama was played out in sensational surroundings.

The 38,000 seater stadium is the jewel in the crown of all Manchester's new venues that have dotted up across the city.

Seb Coe's verdict on Britain's newest venue was unambiguous.

"The stadium's fantastic," he said.

"It has a great atmosphere, it's well organised and the sun's shining. What more could you want," the former middle-distance runner added after enjoying the first two days of athletics action.

open quote
This stadium is bringing fresh confidence to east Manchester, the north west and the country
end quote
Richard Caborn,
Minsiter for Sport

Steve Cram, Coe's great rival at both 800m and 1500m, was equally impressed after an opening day of competition that saw Britain's largest crowd for an athletics meeting since the 1948 Olympic Games in London.

"I was actually sat there feeling jealous that I wasn't out there competing," Cram said after lapping up the "wonderful" atmsophere.

Much has been made of the disasters that were, and are, Picketts Lock and Wembley.

More has been spent on an empty and fast-decaying Wembley since it closed than was needed to build its northern counterpart - 10m more.

At a cost of 110m, the structure stands proudly above the low-lying east Manchester skyline.

The undulating U-shaped roof, designed to reflect sound back into the stadium and reduce noise pollution, is held up by a web of cantilevered cables.

Facts and figures
36,000 cubic metres of concrete used in construction
Roof weighs equivalent of two jumbo jets
Stadium houses 1,000 toilets
Architects: Ove Arup
Constructors: Laing
Supported by high masts, 12 towers provide circular stairways to the top level.

And although the gentle curves are sharply juxtaposed to the surrounding housing stock, there is no question of the new arrival looking out of place.

That view is helped by the welcome it has received from local residents.

The stadium has been portrayed as a beacon of hope for the regeneration of the area.

And the future is equally bright as the stadium has a security beyond the Games, escpaing the predicament that many of Korea and Japan's stadia face following the World Cup.

After the closing ceremony the running track will be replaced by 10,000 seats, enabling Manchester City to move in.

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I have played in some great stadiums around the world and this will be up there with the best
end quote
Kevin Keegan,
Man City manager
The move across town may upset the traditionalists in the blue half of the city, but it will benefit the whole.

The council will retain the stadium freehold and take a share of the profits when attendances exceed Maine Road's present 32,000 capacity.

But football is the future, athletics is the present.

In its guise as the spritual home of the Games at the heart of the Sportcity complex, the stadium is the heartbeat of a city-wide effort.

And one aspect should not be over-looked, and the failure of both Chambers and Lewis-Francis emphasises the point.

Whatever any number of international athletes achieve within its confines, the stadium will remain the biggest and longest-lasting star of these Games.

And the success of its construction and security of its future suggest that it should acts as a benchmark for all future sporting endeavours of its type in Britain.

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