Competition hots up to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games

Starter line

George Black, Visiting Professor, IPPI

George Black
Visiting Professor, International Public Policy Institute
george.black@strath.ac.uk

4 May 2017 

Last Friday (28 April 2017) was the deadline for submission of expressions of interest to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, following the decision to move the Games away from Durban. Expressions of interest have been submitted from the Commonwealth Games Associations of Australia, Canada, England and Malaysia.

But, what are the factors which will decide which city (or cities, as joint bids are allowed) will be awarded the rights to host the 2022 Games?

Government backing

A key issue for all interested cities, and the Commonwealth Games Federation, will be securing the backing of Government.

The UK Government, for example, has said it will work with interested cities and Commonwealth Games England to determine whether or not to support a bid. A detailed assessment will be made of factors such as the economic benefits the Games could deliver to the UK through international trade, investment and tourism opportunities. Set against this will be the overall cost of the Games, and whether the investment represents value for money.

The Commonwealth Games Associations themselves will also take a view on which bid to back. However, their main focus will be on the welfare of the athletes, together with the sporting infrastructure which will be left for future generations.

Tensions

And it is here that tensions can arise.

New, or refurbished, facilities can leave an obvious physical legacy, but come at a cost. If too many new, or refurbished, facilities are required, the cost can become too great. If all the facilities are already in place, the cost will be lower, but there will be a less obvious legacy. For comparison purposes, both Glasgow and the Gold Coast had around 70% of the facilities already in place.

‘Core’ facilities are likely to include an athletics stadium, aquatics centre, velodrome and multi-sports arena. However, the costs of security and venue overlay should not be underestimated, and will likely leave little legacy.

Timescales

Another tension will be the reduced timescales to prepare for hosting the Games.

The Games are due to be held in around five years’ time and, on the face of it, this may seem sufficient time to make the necessary preparations. However, the experience of Glasgow was that six and a half years was just about right. So, the timescales are tight.

This is particularly the case with a Games village, which is normally a vital component of any bid as it is pivotal to the Games experience for athletes and coaches. And the travel distance between the Games village and competition venues is also crucial to the performance of athletes. Having a Games village, in the traditional sense, ready for the Games in the timescales available, will be a real challenge for any bidding city.

A safe pair of hands?

Taking all of this into account and, because of the circumstances the Games find themselves in, the Commonwealth Games Federation will have to carefully balance their ambitions for the Games, and the Commonwealth, with the need for a bid which is deliverable with a high degree of certainty – in other words, the need for a safe pair of hands.

In this regard, cities such as Kuala Lumpur (1998), Manchester (2002), and Melbourne (2006) have all hosted successful Games in the modern era, and Sydney (2000) and London (2012) have hosted successful Olympic Games.  Other cities will feel it is their time to shine. Intriguingly, Manchester has ruled out bidding in its own right but is interested in a joint bid, possibly with Liverpool.

And, of course, the Commonwealth Games Federation will have one eye to the future as some of the cities bidding for the 2022 Games are also interested in hosting the 2026 Games. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next six months.