The evacuation of the 1997 Grand National: 20 years on

Credit: ITV Granada

Watch Tim Scott's special report below

Twenty years ago today, the 150th Grand National at Aintree was the subject of a bomb threat from the IRA.

It was the day a terror threat wrecked one of the world's great sporting events. But it's become as well-known for the way a city rallied round to help the tens of thousands of people affected.

The course had to be evacuated - a massive undertaking - as millions of people round the world watched on live TV. Police had the mammoth task of removing around 60,000 people from the racecourse. It remains the biggest evacuation of a sporting event in British history.


Police were already on high alert after the IRA had detonated two bombs in Wilmslow just two weeks before. With the 1997 general election looming, there were fears that the terrorists wanted to cause serious disruption. The Grand National was seen as an obvious target.

After the warnings, police on the course carried out two controlled explosions on suspicious packages.

Community centres and schools across the city opened their doors to give the evacuees hot food and something to eat Credit: ITV Granada

The 60,000 racegoers found themselves stranded with nowhere to go, their cars locked away inside the police cordon at the racecourse.

Many people were bussed away to Liverpool city centre, but some were stranded outside the course, and had to idea when they'd be allowed back in.

Local woman Carol Towner was one of those who came to the rescue. The mum from Aintree opened her door to those in need. In the first few hours after the evacuation, queues of people waited outside to use her phone and toilet.

Carol Towner seen here in 1997 offering cups of tea to police officers Credit: ITV Granada

However her generosity didn't end there. Carol also accommodated ten men from Nottingham with nowhere else to go.

The race was eventually held two days later, where Lord Gyllene won the National at odds of 14/1.