Dbn in pole spot for Games

2014-04-03 00:00

DURBAN is in pole position to host a R10 billion Commonwealth Games in eight years, and is seen as a “formidable” foe in a “two-horse race” by the Canadian city competing for the prize.

But some experts worry that the Games are losing their appeal and financial benefits so fast that Durban could end up holding the very last event in a dying tradition — and even jeopardise its chances at the great prize of the Olympics in the process.

After a string of cities investigated the costs and then declined to apply for the 2022 hosting rights — including cities in Sri Lanka, Singapore, Wales, England and four in Canada — Durban and Edmonton, Canada, formally signed up to file bids at the last moment on Monday. Only Cardiff, Wales, has shown interest in the 2026 event — and will only sign up if Glasgow’s event this year shows clear financial benefits, following disappointing returns for Delhi in 2010.

Yesterday, city officials said no cost analysis had yet been done, but Edmonton officials told the Edmonton Journal that the bid process alone would cost around R50 million, including an almost R1 million fee required by the Games federation to process the letter of intent by the host cities. Edmonton officials estimated the total upgrade and preparation cost of the games at R10,5 billion. The Games attract almost 7 000 athletes and officials in 17 sports codes from 53 Commonwealth countries — but only nine countries have ever held the event, and none from Africa.

Durban community services manager Musa Gumede told The Witness the bid decision was made by Exco “without dissent from political parties”, following an invitation by the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee.

Gumede said the initiative’s possible effect on a future South African bid for the Olympics would be discussed and considered before any bid was filed.

“I have heard the argument that the Olympic year of 2024 is too soon after 2022; that hosting the Commonwealth Games then would mean delaying a bid for the Olympics,” said Gumede. “But another argument goes that an event like the Commonwealth Games can improve a city’s readiness for the Olympics and answer a lot of questions. But we are still at a very early stage — the next step will be to form a bid committee, as we did for the Africa Cup of Nations and the World Cup.”

However, Gumede said the Games — which would be the biggest multi-sport competition ever staged in the country — offered “significant benefits” for residents, and that Durban would prove an “ideal” host.

“We have a great deal in place already — there is a whole sports precinct around Moses Mabhida (Stadium),” he said. “For example, there is a badminton centre; a golf course; and good, open park space. We are not yet at a point where we can talk about where an athletes’ village might go, or even what stadium to use for athletics. There will be a discussion about whether to upgrade the existing athletics track, or put the track within Moses Mabhida. It already has a tar track there for the Top Gear series”.

This week, Edmonton’s city manager, Simon Farbrother, told the Journal that — on the basis of its record at the Fifa 2010 World cup — Durban would be a “formidable competitor”, but that “we’re not going into anything like this to come second”.

Gumede added: “The committee will look carefully at issues of legacy and sustainability, but I think its clear an event of this scale would inject a lot of money into the city.”

However, just last week, the Daily Mail of India investigated the infrastructure built for their 2010 event, and found garbage strewn at the wrestling venue; tennis courts where the lawn bowls rinks were established, and that “The sprawling stadia are falling apart … their condition is deteriorating due to lack of planning, under-utilisation and poor maintenance.”

According to the legacy plan of Glasgow, which is hosting this year’s Games in August, legacy projects will include turning the athletes’ village into 700 homes, including 300 for low-cost “social rent”, and a 120-bed care home.

The report said: “There has been substantial new investment for the Games in Glasgow’s east end, in some of the most deprived communities in Scotland.”

Glasgow’s research of previous events revealed that Commonwealth Games do trigger significant employment, “though they tend to be short-term and hard to sustain”. The UK’s Guardian found that Delhi attracted overwhelmingly negative media coverage in 2010, and warned that while the event competes with strong regional and global competitions, the Games were in danger of stopping altogether: “Even events of this scale can die out”.

“If the [top] athletes and the spectators cannot be bothered to come, then it is time to ask what kind of future the Commonwealth Games has?”

Durban Tourism head Philip Sithole said the city had “no white elephants” from the World Cup, and “has a record of economic benefit from major events”. Sithole said that, if the Games as a franchise were under threat, Durban had the recipe to revive them.

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