There are whispers New Zealand is preparing an emergency bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games should Durban's troubled bid fall over.

Note...New Zealand, not Auckland.

This may be of particular interest to Auckland mayor Phil Goff. His rebuttal of the idea Auckland could step in to rescue the 2022 Games surprised many, especially as the "incredible fiscal and infrastructure pressure" he cited should be completed by then (the city rail link, the downtown development, the new convention centre).

New Zealand's calendar of major sporting events after this year's Lions tour, the World Masters Games and the Rugby League World Cup, has blank space of Saharan proportions.


We've become a bit spoiled after the Rugby World Cup 2011 and the Cricket World Cup 2015. It's a little alarming to gaze into the crystal ball of big sporting events to be hosted here and see...the outside of a crystal ball.

These days the world can pass you by in the bat of an eyelid. Get out of the habit of holding major events and the world looks elsewhere. To bastardise an old saying: "Don't build it and they won't come."

So we'd better enjoy the Lions tour and the huge sporting carnival that is the World Masters Games...25,000 athletes (there were 10,000 at the last Olympics) in 28 sports at 48 venues in Auckland and Waikato, including the bona fide world championships of weightlifting and orienteering. New Zealand's ongoing reputation as a sporting venue may largely hang on these Games.

The Rugby League World Cup, mostly in November, is being held across Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea but there are only seven matches here (two quarter-finals and one semifinal) with the big opener and the final in Australia.

But that's it. From 2018-2022, there seems a largely blank canvas. Auckland's bid for the 2018 Commonwealth Games was stillborn - mostly because the government had no enthusiasm for the price tag: about $650m once the city fathers had slipped in cost-inflating infrastructure that could be built or improved under the convenient banner of the Games.

Auckland Council was distracted with its massive amalgamation at the time of bidding for the 2018 Games - now at Australia's Gold Coast; their budget has swelled out to an eye-watering $2.5 billion.

The Commonwealth Games Federation meet soon to decide on Durban. The bid has been consistently punctuated with missed deadlines, wobbly financial commitments and a feeling Durban has done the bidding equivalent of trying to eat a watermelon whole.

Edmonton pulled out after oil prices dropped and sole candidate Durban has failed to make commitments required by the CGF and the price tag of US$670m includes US$470m from an unforthcoming government.

They could still prevail if the South African government steps in; Australia have positioned themselves as a white knight if Durban and the 2022 Games don't quite make it to the altar. So has Liverpool in the UK.

However, most interestingly, some with the clout to turn such wheels have set in motion a possible bid to host the 2022 Games in New Zealand, should Durban be jettisoned and the CGF have no appetite for two Games in close succession in Australia (2018 and 2022) or the UK (2014 and 2022).

It would include Auckland and Christchurch but with events at venues around the country, a la the 2011 Rugby World Cup and recent Olympics. Apparently the CGF thinks a country approach, using existing venues and facilities, is better than a host city.

In New Zealand, an athletes' village is the major obstacle; some world-class sporting venues have been built since Auckland's 2018 bid fizzled out. Most sports can be accommodated - and at a hell of a lot less than $2.5 billion. Major developments are being planned which could serve as a temporary village and then permanent housing.

But if the 2022 rescue bid doesn't happen - and it must be viewed as a long shot - it may be some time before New Zealand hosts any other major sporting carnival. Maybe Goff should be gearing up for the 2026 Games.

You wonder too about the New Zealand Major Events Fund. With a treasure chest of $10m and five ministries feeding into the MBIE body, their website reveals upcoming events include $900,000 spent on October's Asian-Pacific amateur golf championship, $1.2m on the "Ultimate Waterman" (a contest held to find the best athlete across different water events) and $1.5m on a Rotorua Mud Festival.

To keep really major events rolling in, we may need the Emirates Team New Zealand win-or-die campaign at this year's America's Cup to come off or, irony of ironies, heavyweight boxer Joseph Parker to keep winning and stage world title fights in the city which did not want to help fund him because of misguided public pressure.

But, hey, there's still the Mud Festival, right?