POSTED: October 28th 2016

JOHN GOODBODY: Durban must get its act together for Commonwealth Games

Durban is set to host the 2022 Commomwealth Games © Bigstock
Durban is set to host the 2022 Commomwealth Games © Bigstock

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) The staging of most major sports events undergoes crises. The Rio Olympics and Paralympics were not immune to this, with justifiable fears that venues would not be built on time, let alone the scare stories about the zika virus and the polluted water -anyone know of someone, who actually was infected in August or September ?

Tokyo's problems are currently giving concern to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) with questions over the location of the rowing, aquatic and track cycling events following the controversy over the main stadium. And this in a city, which was awarded the Games in 2013 because, in the words of Australian IOC member, John Coates, "we wanted a safe pair of hands."

The latest multi-sports event to worry officials is Durban, due to stage the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Africa is the only continent in the world not to have hosted the Summer Olympics and the Commonwealth Games in six years' time could be seen as a long-term preparation for an eventual Olympic bid, given that South Africa is the best-placed country in Africa for such a venture.

Durban was awarded the Commonwealth Games 13 months ago, when its rival Edmonton in Canada withdrew because of the collapse in oil prices. It was the first time that any African nation has been given the event and its significance cannot be underestimated.

But since September 2015, there has been precious little action and as any city, which has ever staged a major event, will emphasise, one needs every day possible for the organisation and construction of venues.

But so far Durban has not signed the host city contract, made any payments to the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) or even set up an organising committee, which it was expected to do within 180 days of getting the event. The CGF has given Durban a deadline of November 30 to fulfil these conditions or it will take the Games away.

Earlier this month, Louise Martin, the CGF chair, and David Grevemberg, the chief executive, visited Durban no doubt to urge the city to start preparations in earnest. Martin, the former CGF chief executive, was vice-chair of Glasgow's highly successful  Commonwealth Games  in 2014 and is an accomplished  administrator.

Unless the deadline is met, the CGF will have to search for a replacement. Given that the Gold Coast  is already hosting the event in 2018, Australia, which has a particular affection for the Games, would not want to stage another one in 2022.

For 2026, two English cities, Birmingham and Liverpool, have already expressed interest but whether they could step in at such relatively short notice would be a different matter. Although Manchester put on the 2002 Games -and extremely well--London, amazingly, has not hosted the event since 1934, although it has staged the Olympics twice since then, in 1948 and 2012.

London would appear to be the ideal substitute because so many of the facilities, built for 2012, remain, including the main stadium, aquatic complex, indoor velodrome, the Copperbox, a decent sized indoor arena with all of them situated in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which is wonderfully well served by public transport. In addition, there remains the O2 arena, used for gymnastics in 2012, and the nearby Excel centre, which housed so many of the indoor sports at those Olympics. The one problem would be the location of the Commonwealth Village, because the land surrounding the Olympic Park is now being filled with housing.

When Boris Johnson, the colourful Foreign Secretary, was Mayor of London, he was unenthusiastic about the Commonwealth Games but his successor, Sadiq Khan, may have a different view.

However, this is presuming that Durban does not fulfil its obligations. It must do so. If it doesn't, it will stop any bidding for any major multi-sports event by an African country for years to come. And that would be a pity.

** JOHN GOODBODY will cover the 2016 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 13th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.  

****The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sports Features Communications.


Keywords · Olympics · John Goodbody · durban

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