Who wants to host a Commonwealth Games?

By Dana Johannsen

An empty stand at the Cycling Velodrome during the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games.Photo / Brett Phibbs
An empty stand at the Cycling Velodrome during the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games.Photo / Brett Phibbs

The damage to the Commonwealth Games brand after the disastrous Delhi Games continues to be felt with a lack of interest from member countries in hosting future events.

The BBC reports the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) is concerned there have been no serious expressions of interest in hosting the 2022 event a year out from the bid deadline, casting doubt over its future.

It comes at a time when the governance and strategic direction of the CGF is being hotly debated, with representatives of the 71 member countries, including NZOC president Mike Stanley, gathering in Kuala Lumpur this weekend for an extraordinary general meeting. The meeting has been called to deal with outstanding matters that were not able to be resolved at last year's general assembly.

The 20th Games begin in Glasgow on July 23, with the 2018 event to be staged on the Gold Coast.

Money is the major factor in all bids - the Glasgow Games are estimated to be costing the city over $1 billion - an investment few nations within the Commonwealth can afford. But beyond that the Commonwealth Games brand suffered significant damage in the lead-up to the Delhi Games, with concerns over security, the readiness of venues and the standard of accommodation, resulting in the withdrawal of marquee athletes and general apathy towards the event.

There are also fears a major dispute over governance between the federation and its members could be having a detrimental effect on interest.

NZOC general secretary Kereyn Smith said the differences went back to a strategic review of the CGF, which called for significant change. The findings of the review were presented at last year's general assembly in Glasgow, with 38 recommendations made, 30 of which were accepted.

"The Commonwealth Games board had a strong view of what they wanted to progress with and did not think it needed to be addressed at this time and it's fair to say the leadership did not necessarily agree with that assessment. So there was widespread discussion - it was certainly a very lively and frank general assembly - and as a result of that there were a number of issues identified that needed further discussion."

Smith said the more contentious issues were the governance structure, the mechanism for funding and support of nations and a proposal from CGF president Tunku Imran, a Malaysian prince, to move the organisation's headquarters from London to Kuala Lumpur for tax purposes.

Smith expects the discussion at this weekend's meeting to be frank and robust, but is confident the issues will be fully aired and resolved.

Despite growing public apathy towards the Commonwealth Games since Delhi, Smith believes the event is still vitally important and there is no danger of it being phased out.

"From a New Zealand point of view, we'd certainly say the Delhi Games were not good for the brand of the Commonwealth Games - there's no doubt about that. My sense is that the next two Commonwealth Games will be very successful and I think that will give a lot of heart and energy to the Commonwealth movement."

The host city for the 2022 Commonwealth Games is due to be announced at a congress meeting in New Zealand in September next year.

- NZ Herald

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