MANCHESTER, ENGLAND -- If Manchester can bring the 1996 Olympic Games to Britain for the first time since 1948, it will have secured a triumph that some might regard as having been achieved against seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Nothing is certain in the cloistered, secretive world of the International Olympic Committee, but the odds on Manchester being designated Olympic host in Tokyo on Tuesday are, at best, poor.

"Driving the Dream" is the slogan by which Manchester has projected its global campaign to obtain the centenary Olympic Games. No one around here disputes the worthiness of the concept, only Manchester's ability to persuade the IOC that the city can rise above its image as the grimy, industrial heartland of England.

The reality is something else for Manchester. But the cloth-cap image, subliminally if nothing else, may stick. If it does, then trying to compete with such cosmopolitan venues as Toronto, Athens, Melbourne, Australia, and Atlanta may leave a technically sound bid having to contend with an undeserving handicap.

Bob Scott, the 45-year-old son of a former British ambassador, is the visionary behind the dream, a man who has quickly had to come to terms with the vagaries of the IOC, and who may have had too much to learn in too short a time.

However, he still has unshakable faith Manchester will acquit itself well. The campaign strategy is simple: "We want to be everybody's second favorite," he said, in reference to his hope that Athens, the sentimental choice, may falter early in the voting.

Scott also points to the fact that wherever he travels, he sees nothing in other cities that is inherently superior to Manchester's situation. "I have an abiding faith that we would organize the Games very well," he said.

The dream, of course, is what you care to make it. It is based on equal measures of altruism, commerce and an enthusiasm founded on the spirit of a boyhood memory.

"Most dreams fade, but this one gets clearer and more vivid with each day," Scott said. "My certainty that the dream is a good one, and one worth chasing, is based upon two beliefs. First, that we in Britain need the Games, particularly up in the northwest region. Second, that we would run the Games extremely well."

Some IOC members share Scott's sentiments that Manchester's concept would enhance the Olympic movement in a manner that Athens's would not.

The Manchester area has gone through the trauma of recession in what was once the greatest industrial area on earth. But as a new era of prosperity beckons, the northwest would stand to gain considerably from a successful Olympic bid.

An independent report on the Games' economic value to the region estimated it would benefit by as much as $3.6 billion from investment and income, and cut its unemployment lines by 50,000 souls.

The financing of the Games would come from the private sector. "Ours is a private sector bid," Scott stressed, "and we will not leave white elephants to be funded from local or national taxes."

Manchester, as Olympic hosts must do nowadays, is looking far beyond the 1996 Games. The Olympics might be the immediate objective, but of greater value is the desire to furnish the entire region with the facilities that will enable it to competitively seek major sporting events for the next 30 years.

"The new stadia, the new sports halls and the new sports infrastructure that is left behind will be a legacy and resource we could get no other way," Scott said. "But the legacy is not merely in bricks and mortar, it will be a legacy of the spirit, as well."

Iain Macleod covers the Olympic movement for the Daily Telegraph in London.