Courting the Commonwealth

2014-07-17 00:00

FIFTEEN city officials and councillors are set to fly to Glasgow to nail down Durban’s front-runner status for the Commonwealth Games (CWG) in 2022.

But eThekwini’s mayor admitted to The Witness yesterday that Durban would definitely not stage the 2024 Olympics if it hosted the CWG.

Meanwhile, some critics alleged the Commonwealth event was a “dying tradition” that might bankrupt the city.

Durban’s only rival city for the bid — Edmonton in Canada — has already launched a bid logo and formed a bid committee which will also go to Glasgow next week, vowing to “begin the process in lobbying for support”.

By contrast, Mayor James Nxumalo said Durban had not yet begun the process of forming a committee, and that the visit was largely “a fact-finding mission, to understand the financial implications and best practice in hosting”.

Other city officials earlier suggested that Durban could host both the 2022 and 2024 mega-events, and that the CWG might boost the chance for the Olympics. But Nxumalo said “it will not be possible to [host both] because of the timing; we still have to decide on the priorities.”

However, he insisted that “we definitely want to have the [Commonwealth] games”.

Next week’s “observer programme” suggests that Durban’s delegation of 10 officials and five councillors, including the mayor, will be given a crash course in the cost-cutting Glasgow has implemented to try to make the event profitable.

Glasgow’s games federation will only provide “tea, coffee and biscuits” for its observing dignitaries, and priority on facilities will be given to the Australian organising committee of the 2018 Games.

No luxury accommodation or transport is listed on the programme. This follows the revelation of major losses and “white elephants” after Delhi hosted the event in 2010.

DA caucus leader Zwakele Mncwango, who will fly out with the delegation on Monday, said he supported Durban’s more cautious approach over Edmonton’s.

“We must not rush into a commitment like this. Yes, we will be lobbying for Durban as a host city, but lobbying does not mean you will actually host. We need to study the costs and benefits.”

Mncwango said he was concerned that many Commonwealth events, from lawn bowls to table tennis, “are not played by South Africa’s majority”.

• City spokesperson Tozi Mthethwa said: “The delegation will be in Glasgow for the full duration of the games. The costs to the city are minimal due to collaborations with other levels of government.”

Commonwealth Games Federation CEO Mike Hooper told Radio New Zealand the total games costs were less than the cost of security for the London 2012 Olympics: “It’s a good, cost-effective solution for cities and countries looking to build infrastructure and capacity long-term”.

But the Edmonton Sun recently warned that: “This is not the time to waste a billion dollars pursuing a fading 20th Century sports relic.”

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