Commonwealth Games | Durban withdrawal reignites bidding race

  • CGF remains committed to hosting an event in Africa one day
  • Previous bidding problems have led to more ‘collaborative’ approach this time
  • UK and Canada leading contenders in new process

Durban’s demise has reignited the race to stage the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Failed bid commitments “in areas such as governance, venues, funding and risk management/assurance” killed off Durban’s aspirations and dented Africa’s hopes of hosting the Games anytime soon.

However, the Commonwealth Games Federation will have been buoyed by having received expressions of interest from four countries by an April 28 deadline. Australia, Canada, Malaysia and the UK want to host the multi-sports extravaganza that was stripped from the South African city in March.

CGF chief executive David Grevemberg spells out his disappointment that Durban didn’t step up its efforts after Edmonton withdrew its bid in February 2015 to leave South Africa’s third-largest city as the sole remaining bidder.

“This was a new horizon,” Grevemberg says. “This was certainly something the movement is so committed to – the African continent and development of the Commonwealth sports movement and sport within the continent. It’s a great catalyst.

“We are still committed. It is so important for us to continue to have a diverse offering. Some of that will take time, some of that will require us to reposition ourselves and bolster the federation in terms of our new strategy and direction. This just accelerates the need for that. It’s a good challenge to have.”

PICTURE: Gold Coast will host the 2018 Games (Getty Images)

Selection criteria

However, Africa’s major event bidding pains may prove to be a blessing in disguise. After the previous lacklustre 2022 contest, the CGF has been forced to take a long hard look at the selection criteria for choosing a host – and it has adjusted the process for the four-nation battle to replace Durban.

The CGF talks of “a collaborative process” with a clear and detailed set of criteria applied to any Games hosting ambitions.

“The process has been streamlined to be as agile as possible given the time available and to minimise costs for potential hosts, whilst maintaining the transformative ambitions of the Commonwealth sports movement,” it says.

The CGF is mindful that it can’t afford another bidding debacle wrecking the global image of the Commonwealth Games; the IOC’s trouble-hit contests for the 2022 and 2024 Olympics is a cautionary tale.

An autumn announcement on the 2022 host is possible following a thorough evaluation of proposals by a CGF panel. “This will include a rigorous on-the-ground feasibility assessment and dialogue regarding hosting capacity and capability, resourcing and legacy ambitions,” the CGF says. The panel of experts will engage with national Commonwealth Games associations and governments. A recommendation will be made to the CGF Executive Board for final review and the hosting decision.

Grevemberg says he doesn’t want cities to “waste money through a laborious bid process. What we want to do is be very streamlined in this approach, directive where we can and leverage as much value for the new prospective hosts and federations as possible.”

PICTURE: Durban's Commonwealth Games bid collapsed (Getty Images)

UK bidders

While the CGF is “delighted” with the level of interest – more than nine cities are mooting bids with their respective national Commonwealth Games bodies – Grevemberg expects that number to quickly dwindle as their “viability” becomes more apparent.

Maneuvering into pole position on the starting grid of the bid race are a joint Liverpool-Manchester bid and another from Birmingham. They have each accelerated plans to bid for the 2026 edition. Already they have installed leadership figures and look well-organised and well-equipped with Games concepts. Britain last hosted the Games in Glasgow in 2014, while England last staged it in Manchester in 2002.

Manchester won’t go solo again, but may play some part in a Liverpool-led ‘Northern Powerhouse’ effort. Former English Football Association chief executive Brian Barwick, who heads the bid, says: “With an illustrious sports history, waterfront setting, unique welcome and world-class venues and facilities, I’m convinced that Liverpool will make the perfect host for the Commonwealth Games.”

Birmingham’s bid is spearheaded by councillor Ian Ward, who green-lighted the city’s Games ambitions in April after a review of a feasibility study produced by a consortium led by the Origin Sports Group consultancy. He says that the analysis shows the city has a viable bid with “a strong chance of success.” Birmingham’s bid says it has 95 per cent of venues in place, with the Barclaycard Arena and Alexander Stadium at the heart of plans. But an aquatics centre would have to be built in the city or region.

Talk of a London tilt at the Games has not materialised, although the Mayor of London has not quite ruled it out. “There would be a number of practical issues to consider with the government and other stakeholders, including the substantial amount of funding it would require,” a spokesperson says.

Ahead of the dissolution of parliament before Britain’s general election on June 8, the government invited cities interested in hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games to “work up plans” for the event. Backing a bid for the Games could bring some much-needed goodwill to the incoming administration. As Culture Secretary Karen Bradley puts it: “Hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2022 could give us an opportunity to step up and show the very best of Global Britain as an outward-looking nation that is confident on the world stage.”

Certainly, Commonwealth Games England believes bidding for the 2022 event is in the national interest. “This country is one of the best in the world at delivering major sporting events,” says chief executive Paul Blanchard, adding that the CGE looks forward to working with the government and major stakeholders including Sport England and UK Sport.

The UK government’s bid city information pack, which was sent to English cities, calls for “a low cost, low risk, sustainable, high quality, modern and innovative Commonwealth Games; a Commonwealth Games that helps redefine how multi-sports events can be delivered, and one that showcases the UK’s ability to host world-class events, and the UK as a destination for business, education and tourism.”

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport will conduct feasibility studies through to July, with a DCMS assessment panel carrying out site visits in June as part of its evaluation process. Bid presentations to the government and others to Commonwealth Games England and the CGF are expected to be held in September.

PICTURE: Glasgow hosted the 2014 Games (Getty Images)


In Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, which hosted the 1998 Games, is trying again for 2022, but remains an outsider.

With Gold Coast gearing up for the 2018 event, a return to Australia in 2022 is a long shot. That’s unless an English bid gets knocked back by the UK government in the aftermath of June’s general election and the ongoing turbulence over Brexit negotiations with the European Union.

The CGF marked Australia down as a potential 2022 bid and Commonwealth Games Australia chief executive Craig Phillips revealed in April that two potential bids for future Games had emerged from regional Victoria and western Sydney. However, there was no mention of Australia bidding to replace Durban, only remarks on running for 2026 or 2030. Gold Coast will mark the fifth time the event has come to Australian shores, following Sydney 1938, Perth 1962, Brisbane 1982 and Melbourne 2006.

Clearly, the CGF wants to keep its options open with the UK election looming and no guarantees that the next government will underwrite a Games delivered by Liverpool-Manchester or Birmingham.

Under pressure to save face following a series of embarrassing drop-outs, the CGF is reluctant to cut Australia from the field until the picture becomes clearer.

“There are no cards that are off the table,” says Grevemberg, echoing comments made by International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach in recent months about the 2024 and 2028 Olympics, with speculation growing that Paris and Los Angeles will be awarded consecutive hosting rights in September. “But we have to look at what is in the best interests of the movement and what are our real options. We are really looking at what is going to add best value.”

PICTURE: Anfield in Liverpool (Getty Images)

A Canadian city could provide significant competition for the eventual UK bid, but it won’t be Edmonton.

Commonwealth Games Canada chief executive Brian MacPherson tells SportBusiness International it is in discussions with Toronto, Victoria and two other unnamed cities.

Canada has a rich Commonwealth Games history. It hosted the first edition in 1930 and the 1954 Games were the first televised live sport event in North America. The nation boasted the first sporting event with Commonwealth Games branding in 1978 and, at the Victoria 1994 Games, it introduced parasports to the competition schedule.

MacPherson suggests a Canadian 2022 bid will be another “game-changer” for the movement. He notes that the UK has staged the Games six times to Canada's four, including twice since the 1994 event.

“A Canadian 2022 Commonwealth Games will be athlete-centered, very cost-effective, inspire a nation and sustainable,” he says. First, though, there’s the small matter of selecting a candidate city.

“The CGC is pleased to have the support of the Canadian government for a 2022 Commonwealth Games bid. The current task is to obtain similar support from selected provincial governments,” MacPherson says.

Confirming that Edmonton is not among the potential bids, he says the CGC is working with the group of four cities or regions “towards developing strong, unique and winnable bids.”

As with all potential bids from the four countries, the weeks ahead will see widespread consultation with stakeholders and serious attention paid to scrutinising the cities before final submissions are made to the Commonwealth Games Federation.

Asked how Canada might propel the Games to the next level after Gold Coast 2018, MacPherson says a bid or joint bid “will focus on helping the CGF and the Commonwealth sport movement to achieve the goals set out in the CGF’s Transformation 2022 Strategic Plan.”

PICTURE: Brian Barwick (Getty Images)

EXTRA: Northern Powerhouse Bid

In Brian Barwick, chair of the Rugby Football League, deputy bid chair Denise Barrett-Baxendale, a director at English Premier League football club Everton, and Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson, Team Liverpool has experienced hands at the tiller.
Also on board are companies with successful bids for Olympics, Commonwealth Games and Fifa World Cups on their CVs. They include strategic advisors and project managers 4 global Consulting, technical feasibility experts at Wilson Owens Architects, Deloitte LLP and PR company Vero Communications.
With a bid budget of around £500,000, Liverpool is busy assembling a “compelling” case for 2022. If the government decides against a UK bid, this will be the platform for a run at securing the 2026 Games.
Liverpool’s waterfront is expected to be a key element of a potential partnership with Manchester in what is dubbed the ‘M62 bid’ – making use of the 11,000-capacity Echo Arena and convention centre on the former Kings Dock. Temporary facilities for some sports are also possible there.
Everton’s proposed new stadium at Bramley Moore is another venue with great potential. An athletics-compliant design is one option. Manchester’s main venue for the 2002 Commonwealth Games had a temporary track laid down before it was reconfigured to become Manchester City’s new home. Everton’s stadium might follow a similar design-build path.
Liverpool’s Anfield and Everton’s current home, Goodison Park, are also touted for possible 2022 Games use along with Wavertree Sports Park, St George’s Hall and the city’s three universities.
Discussions with authorities in Manchester are ongoing about the extent of a joint bid proposal – but it would make economic sense for the city to host swimming and track cycling.
“The more we can use existing, world-class venues and facilities across the region, the better, but whatever we decide, this will be a Liverpool-led bid,” Barwick tells SportBusiness International.
He speaks of the wealth of major sports events held in the area. On the horizon are this year’s Open, the 2018 Boccia World Championships and 2019 World Netball Championships. “So hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games is a natural and exciting next step for us,” he adds.

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