BIRMINGHAM, England — The central England city of Birmingham hopes a sprint finish will make up for a slow start in the race to host the 1992 Olympic Summer Games.
Left behind by other candidates who made their bids to the International Olympic Committee several months earlier, Birmingham feels it already has emerged as a front-runner alongside Barcelona, Paris and Brisbane.
"We are waiting for the other candidates to fall away and we plan to come with a late run. We intend to win," said Denis Howell, sports spokesman for Britain's opposition Labor Party and one of the main backers of the venture.
The city's optimism is based on its pledge to host a profitable and safe Olympics for an estimated $280 million. (Los Angeles needed approximately $415 million to stage the 1980 Games, and wound up with a $220 million surplus).
Birmingham's hope to host a money-making Olympics is based on having many of the events at the National Exhibition Center (NEC), which has seven indoor arenas.
Competitors would be placed in housing adjacent to arenas where they will compete. Eighty-five percent of the events would be staged within a five-mile area.
Local transit systems would need no major improvements since the NEC is close to the hub of Britain's main auto routes and is easily accessible by train.
Howell said that when he met Juan Antonio Samaranch, the first question the IOC president asked was about security.
"We knew then that he was taking the Birmingham bid seriously," he said.
For guidance on security matters, Birmingham organizers have called on Commander William Rathburn, who was in charge of Olympic security for the Los Angeles Police Department.
Rathburn said Birmingham, so far, was the only one of the 1992 candidates to approach him for advice, although a group of police officers from Amsterdam-Rotterdam -- which put in a joint bid -- were at the Los Angeles Games and had since made a follow-up visit.
"I'm impressed with what I've seen in terms of being able to provide security," Rathburn said.
"There's no doubt about it, some of Birmingham's arrangements are clearly superior to the ones we had in Los Angeles. We were spread out over 200 miles, but Birmingham's proposed facilities are much more concentrated."
Another advantage, Rathburn said, was Birmingham's plan to provide a new Olympic village rather than housing competitors in existing buildings. He explained it was easier to build security into a new complex.
Howell said he did not envision the political and religious troubles in Northern Ireland affecting the Games if they were held in Birmingham.
Twenty-one people died in November, 1974 when two bars in the city were bombed by guerrillas claiming to be from the outlawed Irish Republican Army, which opposes British rule in Northern Ireland.
But sport, said Howell, had a way of uniting people in the province.
He cited Mary Peters, 1972 Olympic pentathlon gold medalist, and Barry McGuigan, the World Boxing Assn.featherweight champion, as examples of Irish sports personalities whose achievements were supported by warring Protestant and Catholic factions in Northern Ireland.