Capital city goes all shy on a NZ Games idea

FRED WOODCOCK AND MATT STEWART
Last updated 05:00 24/07/2014

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Behind the Scenes

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New Zealand is looking at hosting another Commonwealth Games - but Wellington is already running away from the prospect of pumping money into the idea.

NZ Olympic Committee president Mike Stanley emerged from a two-day Commonwealth Games Federation meeting in Glasgow to announce the possibility of a New Zealand bid for the Games in the near future.

He suggested Auckland and Christchurch would be the two most obvious candidates - a view Wellington Deputy Mayor Justin Lester was quite happy with yesterday.

Lester said there would be little appetite for pumping money into a one-off event that would leave the capital with redundant "white elephant" facilities.

"There's no long-term benefit - it's 10 days and then it goes away."

The city lacked an indoor velodrome, and $25 million would have to be spent to bring the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre up to the deepwater standard for elite competition.

Lester doubted whether the Games was a big enough draw to justify a bid from Wellington, although he did not rule out the possibility of co-hosting, most probably with Christchurch.

He said Auckland and Christchurch, which have both hosted the Games before, were more logical options - Auckland because it had existing infrastructure, and Christchurch because it needed to be rebuilt after the earthquakes.

The Glasgow Games start today, with the opening ceremony from 8am (NZ time). The costs of hosting the Games have been rising steadily, with host cities looking at potential losses of half a billion dollars.

This has led to increasing questions about the Games' relevance, a key topic at the federation's general assembly.

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.

But Stanley emerged positive on all fronts, including the likelihood of a New Zealand bid for a future Games.

"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," he said.

He admitted the rising hosting costs were a concern, however. 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".

Westpac Stadium boss Shane Harmon said the success of 2011's Rugby World Cup made a good case for a multi-city, New Zealand-wide bid, focused on the main centres.

He said the stadium could be reconfigured to host track and field events, but it would cost tens of millions of dollars, and an event the size of the Games would not be financially feasible for Wellington alone.

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But a potential advantage of hosting events in the capital as part of a multi-city bid was the creation of "legacy facilities" such as an indoor arena that could double as a conference centre.

Edmonton, Canada, and Durban, South Africa, are bidding for the 2022 Games and made initial presentations to the federation meeting.

- The Dominion Post

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