October 13

The 1992 Olympic Bid (Part 2)

What do the England football team, Diana Ross and Buckland Austin Solicitors have in common. Yes, you guessed it, they all featured in Birmingham’s bid for the 1992 Olympic games! Continuing our insight into the proposals, here’s another look at the 1986 bid document.

Let’s take a second look at the site where the main Olympic Stadium would have been built. This was ‘Britain’s biggest exhibition centre’, showing off how efficiently the travel networks merge around the venue. The wooded area to the to the North of Pendigo Lake is where the stadium would have sat, a site which the NEC has since expanded onto with its exhibition halls.

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NEC aerial view

I am particularly interested in how Birmingham was portrayed through photography of the city. There is a double page spread showing a dusk shot of the NEC with the Olympic rings sitting proudly on the roof. Not the most inspiring shot of the city I must say, but the orange skies make for a dramatic photograph and a decent ‘Brumset’.

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NEC Olympic ring visual

Here is a night shot of the city centre from 1986, taken on a rainy day at the junction of New Street and Stephenson Street. You can see the reflections of the car headlights in the road. The bid team certainly wanted to show Birmingham in a modern light, with the Rotunda and Exchange Buildings showcasing its modern architecture. There are of course more typical views of the city, such as the Chamberlain Memorial, the REP, The BT Tower and the Botanical Gardens.

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City centre night shot

A photograph is also included of the view down Lee Bank Middleway, showing a trial run of veteran cars for what was to be the first road race in Britain, with the towers of Birmingham providing a backdrop. This was the precursor to the Birmingham Superprix, and its inclusion typifies a moment in history when Birmingham was ambitious enough to run the race, which it did until 1990. There have been recent rumours that the Superprix will be reinstated on the streets of Birmingham in the coming years, and I for one very much hope that this will happen.

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Birmingham Superprix

The 1986 bid had the backing of a wide range of personalities and companies, not least the England football team. Here they are posing for a team shot in their Birmingham 1992 shirts, I wonder how much one of those would sell for on eBay these days?

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The England Team proudly sport their ‘Birmingham 1992’ shirts

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Bryan Robson in his ‘Birmingham 1992’ shirt

Other personalities to feature in the document include Diana Ross, Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean, all performing at the NEC. Daley Thompson was of course one of Britain’s athletic celebrities at the time, and even Seb Coe, champion of the 2012 bid, appears wrapped in the Union Jack.

One of the main things that surprised me while rooting through the official bid document, was that around 60% of the content was made up of adverts, from local and national companies backing the bid. They ranged from full pages from British Airways, to small adverts for ‘Buckland Austin’ Quantity Surveyors (I wonder what ever happened to them..?). I’m not sure how these adverts would have swayed the Olympic committee, unless they wanted to know the specifications of the 1986 Rover 800. However, they do give a great insight into the era, and I have picked out a few of the most interesting below.

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West Midland Travel – Remember the logo?

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Cadbury reflect on their past in the City

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Thomas Cook arranged a tour from Britain to the 1st modern Olympics in Greece, 1896

One question people will also ask is what would the medal have looked like? Well here is a visual of how it was imagined, with the bid logo:

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Birmingham 1992 Olympic gold medal

Even though some parts of the bid may have been flawed, you have to admire the tenacity and ambition of Birmingham City Council, to put in a proposal, against what must have felt like daunting competition. I’d very much like the current council to look back at this, take the positive messages on board, and think about how they can shape the future of this great city.

‘Tim Cornbill is an Architect and photography lover from Birmingham. He is interested in the architecture and development of the city, with his photography of Birmingham aiming to change preconceptions and represent it’s beauty.’


Contact: timcornbill@outlook.com


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 The Olympic Bid – Part One