NZ bid for future Commonwealth Games 'likely'

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 05:00 24/07/2014
Mike Stanley
Getty Images
OPEN TO IDEAS: New Zealand Olympic Committee president Mike Stanley says a multiple city plan is certainly not out of the question for a future NZ bid to host the Commonwealth Games.

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New Zealand will host another Commonwealth Games - probably in Auckland or Christchurch.

That was the optimistic message from New Zealand Olympic Committee president Mike Stanley on the eve of Glasgow's Games which start with the opening ceremony from 8am today (NZ time).

Stanley's view was delivered after the Commonwealth Games Federation held its general assembly in Glasgow and discussed ways to ensure the financial viability of the four-yearly competition.

With costs of hosting the Games rising and questions being raised around its relevance in the modern sporting landscape, ensuring its viability was a key topic at the assembly.

Stanley emerged from the two-day meeting positive on all fronts, including the possibility of a New Zealand bid in the near future. He told Fairfax Media that Auckland and Christchurch would be the two obvious candidates.

"Christchurch clearly has its own issues with earthquake recovery while Auckland has got a unified council and is going through significant large-scale infrastructure projects," he said.

"When we looked at it, right now it didn't appear to be the right time, but I'm absolutely sure New Zealand will host the Games again at some stage."

Edmonton and Durban are bidding for the 2022 Games and made initial presentations to the CGF during the past two days.

Stanley was impressed by both, saying it would be a "tight race".

The winner of that race will be decided in Auckland in September next year and victory for Durban would see it become the first African city to host the Games.

Stanley said it would be "premature to comment" about a New Zealand bid for 2026 but "we're in conversation with local and central government about [hosting the Games at some stage], and the timing just has to be right for everyone".

"We don't hold the purse-strings and to host a Games you need to line up all the players."

New Zealand have looked at what they could do to make sure things don't get "out of kilter" in any Games bid, such as using existing venues as Glasgow has done and ensuring infrastructure would be contributing to the legacy of the city.

Reducing the cost of hosting the Games and potential losses of half a billion dollars would be key to a Kiwi bid, and the Games' future viability in general.

Athlete and official numbers for Glasgow were meant to be 6500 but that figure has blown out by almost 1000 as the Games grapples with costs.

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"The cost [of hosting] seems to be a trend," Stanley said. "In our own considerations about hosting a Games, we are concerned by that.

"There needs to be some restraint, but how does that impact on the number of sports and disciplines on the programme?"

There's also the possibility of joint hosts cities, with Welsh cities Cardiff, Newport and Swansea exploring a three-way bid for 2026 and CGF chief executive Mike Hooper offering up Auckland and Hamilton as an example that would be "very doable".

"We're flexible, what we're trying to do is not impose huge costs on an organising committee," said CGF president Prince Imran, a Malaysian. "So if they're able to share facilities and share costs with other cities, then that makes sense."

In other cost-reducing measures, quotas have been discussed by the CGF, but that raises another set of questions.

Do they reduce the number of sports from 17 (the 10 permanent sports and up to seven others), or put caps on the number of athletes in each sport, or reduce the number of disciplines in each sport?

All options are on the table as the CGF looks to ensure economic viability, relevancy of sports, and importantly that cities can bid for without the risk of massive debt.

Other related issues that are being considered include a close look at the Games programme - what sports, how many sports, what sports promote universality and marketability and "position the Games as a modern vibrant movement", as well as the weighting that is given to various factors, and how much discretion the host city is given on sport selection.

Stanley said there would be "tension" as nations debated what sports stay, what ones go and which ones are introduced.

"I'd be surprised to see wholesale change. It's likely that there might be slightly fewer sports, but also that some sports might reduce the number of disciplines," said Stanley, who was "positive about the future".

"There is always speculation around any Games but we're very confident about the future - they are important to our athletes and sports, and that's the clear message we've had.

"It's about making sure they remain relevant to young people and young athletes." The 2018 Games programme, as well as the 2022 host city, will be decided in Auckland next September.

- Stuff

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