Games a boon or doom?

2015-09-03 10:30
Moses Mabhida Stadium will host many events during the 2022 Commonwealth Games, which were awarded to Durban yesterday.

Moses Mabhida Stadium will host many events during the 2022 Commonwealth Games, which were awarded to Durban yesterday. (Reuters)

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AS eThekwini officials celebrate the historic awarding of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, critics still believe the city and province have erred.

Durban was awarded the games, expected to come with a price tag of R6,5 billion, at a ceremony in Auckland, New Zealand, yesterday.

The showpiece for former British colonies is anticipated to bring in approximately R20 billion into the city and region and attract over 200 000 visitors.

Key to the city’s bid has been its reliance on using existing infrastructure to keep costs down with events, mainly cycling, expected to also be held in Pietermaritzburg.

While congratulations have come in from across the country, UKZN-based urban geography professor Brij Maharaj, who has spent the last five years researching the economics of mega-events in India, Brazil and South Africa, is adamant that Durban will find itself cash-strapped while there will be little benefit for poor communities.

“As a result of the secrecy and lack of transparency [of global events] there is usually little or no opposition to countries and cities making bids for mega-events. Frequently successful bids have been patriotically and popularly endorsed. There is a predictable pattern — jubilation at the announcement of a successful bid, and then dejection as the negative social and economic realities of hosting a mega-event become evident [with] budget and cost overruns, forced evictions and human rights violations, loss of livelihoods and questionable legacies,” Maharaj said.

He said the city has still not made its 600-page bid document public and probably won’t unless forced to do so.

“Even the Fifa World Cup 2010 bid booklet is not freely available. These documents are kept away from the public who would scrutinise the outlandish promises invariably made by hosting cities and governments.”

The professor is expected to deliver a paper this month at the World Social Science Forum at the Durban International Convention Centre which will discuss mega-events in developing nations, sourcing his content from the Delhi Commonwealth Games as well as the South African and Brazilian Fifa World Cup events. He said generally bids for mega-events are promoted by “influential, politically connected persons and groups” who operate away from public accountability. “The cost could balloon substantially. Research shows that in such events public money is spent but there is little return,” said Maharaj.

But addressing a press conference in Pietermaritzburg, Premier Senzo Mchunu promised not to go over budget.

“We have to be careful and minimise the risks,” he said, adding they will “work their socks off” to impress the international guests. “We will work with the national government so that we put the bar higher when comparing to previous tournaments,” he said.

Mchunu did not think the withdrawal of bidding by other cities had to do with financial implications. Edmonton, Canada, withdrew from the bidding process due to the downturn in their local economy, which is heavily reliant on oil.

“I think they got cold feet after hearing that Durban will be bidding. It’s not easy to compete with Durban …” he said.

In an official statement by eThekwini Metro shortly after the announcement, city mayor James Nxumalo said: “We will be hosting these Games on behalf of the African continent.”

Chairperson of the Durban 2022 Commonwealth Games Bid Committee Mark Alexander said: “The upgrades of our facilities are in our current plans such as the building of the Athletics Village which is part of the 2030 housing requirements. We have budgeted R6,5 billion and that is what we will spend over the coming years.”

THE KZN ANC regional secretary Sihle Zikhalala called the winning of the bid a “major honour”, saying Durban had passed a “rigourous test”.

“We believe that the Games will provide opportunity at both an economic and social level,” he said.

But DA provincial and eThekwini leader Zwakhele Mncwango said neither the city nor national government has the resources to host the event. “The mayor confirmed to me last week during a full council meeting that the National Treasury said it does not have the funds for this event. This is on record. This event is a want not a need. Our needs our housing, electricity and infrastructure. We as the DA said we should have withdrawn from this event as it is far too expensive,” he said.

The SACP praised the leadership of the provincial government and eThekwini Metro. “This confirms eThekwini is not only the country’s playground but has become the world’s playground,” said SACP deputy provincial secretary Msizi Nhlapo.

MSUNDUZI Municipality could host athletics, mountain biking and world class cycling events.

City spokesperson Nqobile Madonda said while the city may also host a number of athletic events there are proposals to construct a multi-sports complex in the airport precinct, which will include a velodrome. The city’s world class MTB Cascades facility will be used during the games.

“The city will shortly be engaging with the national and international cycling federations, as well as the Commonwealth Games LOC to see how we can establish such a facility in time for the games,” said Madonda, adding the city stands to “benefit hugely from the media coverage”

Read more on:    durban  |  common wealth games

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