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20 years on, Manchester's 2002 Commonwealth Games legacy still endures

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the start of the 2002 Commonwealth Games – one of the most memorable sporting events Manchester has ever hosted.

Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium and all our surrounding Etihad Campus venues (then known as Sportcity) were key venues in what proved a magnificent and memorable event.

The Stadium – then known as the City of Manchester Stadium – staged both the spectacular opening and closing ceremonies as well playing host to all track and field events along with the Rugby Sevens and Marathon.

From 25 July 2002 over 11 memorable days, thousands of fans flocked to the city to enjoy a stunning spectacle featuring athletes from 72 nations watched by more than a billion people around the world on TV.

The Stadium and surrounding venues were built on the legacy of Manchester’s proud industrial past when east Manchester had been known as the engine room of the city and the workshop of the world.


Power generation, coal mining, steel, iron and heavy industry had dominated the area up to the early 1980s – but their subsequent demise left the area in need of significant regeneration.

After two unsuccessful previous Olympic bids in 1996 and 2000, Manchester was chosen to host the XVII Commonwealth Games in 2002 and so began what was an incredible renewal drive across East Manchester.

Manchester City were proud and enthusiastic supporters of this amazing project.

All told, the City of Manchester Stadium held 38,000 spectators for Games events – with the audience changing three times every day and all events sold out.

The north stand was a temporary structure and what is now the lower tier of the stadium didn’t exist for the Games in order for the track and field to fit in!

The Stadium – like all the M2002 venues - had a long-term plan for its onward use and legacy with City moving into a reshaped venue 12 months later in the summer of 2003.


After the Games’ closing ceremony, a major, season-long project began to transform our stadium from the Games athletics venue into a stunning football stadium and fitting new home for Manchester City.

One of the key drivers in helping bring the Games to Manchester was Sir Howard Bernstein, former long serving chief executive of Manchester City Council – and proud Manchester City honorary president.

And for Sir Howard, Manchester 2002 remains an event to be celebrated and one whose impact still reverberates today.

In a special statement to, Sir Howard said: “Today we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the start of the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games, and few people would deny the Games still stand as one of the most memorable and important events in the post-war history of our great city.

“The 2002 Commonwealth Games was an incredible experience for us all – both those involved in its planning and successful delivery, as well for the athletes and the hundreds of thousands of visitors who flocked to Manchester to enjoy that special summer.

“And, most important of all, the 2002 Games still serves as a special touchstone in terms of their enduring legacy and positive impact on East Manchester and the wider Greater Manchester conurbation through the regeneration which has helped transform the region.


“From increased tourism numbers, a tangible boost to employment in the area, through to the way the sporting infrastructure in Manchester has been revolutionised, the Games served as a catalyst for good.

“I also firmly believe that if we hadn’t staged the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, the regeneration we have seen across the city would be 20 years behind.

“The 2002 Games helped showcase the very best of Manchester and again illustrated the unique passion for sport that underpins the city.

“Today East Manchester stands a shining example of the Games’ legacy and that regeneration.

“The main stadium which hosted the opening and closing ceremonies, athletics and rugby sevens in 2002 is now the home of 2021/22 Premier League champions Manchester City, a club that is very dear to my heart.

“Across the road from the Etihad Stadium, the velodrome is the permanent base of British Cycling with the venue responsible for the continuous development of World, Olympic, Commonwealth and Tour de France champions.


“And the remarkable emergence of the City Football Academy campus further illustrates the positive change that has continued to follow in the wake of the 2002 Games.

“The 2002 Commonwealth Games was a very special time for the city of Manchester – and its impact still resonates today.

“And without a successful Commonwealth Games in Manchester there would not have been a successful Olympic Bid for London- we not only created an important platform for regenerating the City we restored international sporting respect in the UK. “

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