It was launched by page three girls, spoofed by Spitting Image and attracted some of the biggest names in sport.
Birmingham’s audacious – and ultimately doomed – attempt to host the 1992 Summer Olympics has mostly faded from memory – but it is 30 years since it was announced in 1985.
One city historian said the bitter lessons learnt then still held true today – how Birmingham and the West Midlands had never received the support it deserves from central government.
It was June 1985 when the first event was held to kick off the bid – although it was held in a rather down at heel conference room – and it was in September that year that the Olympic office opened to co-ordinate all aspects of the bid.
A chain of events were set in motion which ultimately led to disappointment.
A massive super stadium was planned for the NEC, and Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee eventually came to Birmingham, with the Post’s archive pictures showing him looking over a model of the city’s exciting plans for the future.
And what could sell the city better than an event featuring page three girls dressed in Birmingham Olympic bid 1992 T-shirts outside the council house? To establish the city’s rich sporting heritage, Samaranch was taken to No.8 Ampton Road, in Edgbaston, where the modern game of lawn tennis was invented, and he was shown the NEC, where the new stadium would be built.
And Samaranch pledged Birmingham would get a fair deal when the choice of host country was made.
Although the campaign was led by Denis Howell, former Minister for Sport, it was dogged by a lack of overall support from the government.
Birmingham historian Professor Carl Chinn said: “It was a good campaign run by Denis Howell but as usual we were given absolutely no support whatsoever from the Government. It was audacious and it is just a shame that it ended in failure. There are a great many parallels with the current fixation of the government on the Northern Powerhouse to the detriment of the Midlands. So far it has been all hot air and no substance.”
Mr Howell’s involvement wasn’t helped by the fact that he was a member of the Labour opposition at the time – and not part of the Tory government. Birmingham’s bid initially estimated that £500 million would be needed to fund the games, with Birmingham making a projected £200 million profit on top of that.
The NEC was sold as the ideal location, with excellent transport links including the nearby station and motorway network.
Shooting would have taken place at Aldersley Stadium, Wolverhampton, where an £8 million complex was to have been built, while Weymouth was suggested as a suitable venue for sailing events.
Birmingham even began to host international sporting events in order to boost its profile as a potential city for the 1992 Olympics. These included an inner city Formula 3000 road race at a cost of £1.5 million.
But international issues didn’t help the bid – Britain’s support of sporting links with apartheid South Africa led to boycott by 21 countries of the 1986 Commonwealth Games. Also contentious was allowing US aircraft to fly from UK bases to bomb Libya.
Potential civil disturbance fears after the 1985 Handsworth riots were thought to have hampered our chances, as well.
The bid was the subject of much ridicule, too, by satirical puppet TV show Spitting Image, which, accompanied by a Brummie accent, said the city was well placed to host the Olympics on the strength of a regular bus service to Redditch... described as occasionally running after 11pm on a Saturday.
But it was all in vain – Birmingham was the second city to be eliminated after Amsterdam, and Barcelona went on to host the 1992 summer Olympics after all.