Hamilton could figure in Games bid
If the stars align, Hamilton could find itself playing host to thousands of international athletes for the Commonwealth Games.
The idea was put out by Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Mike Hooper, who said Hamilton and Auckland could figure in any future New Zealand bid.
And the idea has been welcomed by Waikato leaders and athletes who say Hamilton's facilities and location would make it an ideal host city.
The future of the Commonwealth Games was debated by the event's governing federation this week as it looked at ways to ensure the financial viability of the four-yearly competition.
One idea discussed was the notion of joint host cities with Hooper offering Hamilton and Auckland as a "very do-able" example.
Hamilton mayor Julie Hardaker said the city already had experience co-hosting international sporting tournaments, such as the Rugby World Cup.
Next year Hamilton will host matches in the Cricket World Cup and eight games in the Fifa U-20 World Cup.
"I suppose what he [Hooper] is saying is the way of the future for the Commonwealth Games is co-hosting and Hamilton is a good example of a city that has participated in co-hosting," Hardaker said.
Hamilton was willing to be a partner in major sporting events but on the basis of "working with others and sharing the load", she said. "What we've found with these large world events that we have hosted is it is very much driven from the Government and we are part of the whole New Zealand Inc approach. I would imagine the Commonwealth Games would be no different to that."
New Zealand Olympic Committee deputy chairman Simon Wickham said there had been talk for the past 10 years about the country hosting another Games.
For a bid to happen it would need the green light from the host city, or cities, the Government and the Olympic Committee.
New Zealand's Olympic Committee is the country's representative on the Commonwealth Games Federation.
"For New Zealand to host the Games, it would require at least three parties, if not four in a multi-city bid, to get around the table," Wickham said.
Former world champion cyclist and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Alison Shanks said if the financial costs of hosting the Games worked out then the New Zealand public would embrace the event.
Waikato-based Shanks said Hamilton was surrounded by world-class venues, such as the Avantidrome, and its proximity to Auckland made it a natural co-host option.
"From the athlete's perspective, you could compete in the Waikato and still travel back to Auckland where the athlete's village would presumably be. So you'd still get that whole experience as well as be able to participate in the opening and closing ceremonies."
Home of Cycling Charitable Trust chief executive Geoff Balme said the Avantidrome was capable of hosting major events as could Waikato Stadium, the Claudelands Event Centre and Mystery Creek.
"What it would do is two things: [it would] bring many of the world's best athletes in some of the sports Kiwis play to our backyard and enable us to directly be part of the four yearly sporting and cultural celebration that is the Commonwealth Games," Balme said.
Hamilton's National MPs David Bennett and Tim Macindoe supported the idea of Hamilton co-hosting the Games in principle but, without seeing the business case, were not sure if it was feasible.
Hamilton-based Labour list MP Sue Moroney said it would be a great boost for Hamilton.
"We'd need to think about infrastructure though. Accommodation would be an issue . . . and we would definitely need to have that Hamilton-Auckland commuter train running by then.
"It would be great for the velodrome, although that should have been placed in Hamilton, closer to the bigger population to make use of it.
"[However] we don't have the swimming pools and facilities for sports like basketball, which is unfortunate for a city this size."
New Zealand Olympic Committee president Mike Stanley said it would be "premature to comment" about a New Zealand bid for 2026 but the committee was in talks with local and central government about hosting the Games at some stage.
But while Hamilton may be optimistic, hosting the Games was not on the radar of Auckland Mayor Len Brown. He delegated his comments to a council spokesman who said the city would consider opportunities that fitted in with Auckland's major events strategy.
"But hosting or co-hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games is not currently being considered."