POSTED: March 1st 2017

NEIL WILSON: Please, Mr Mayor, will you host our Olympics?

Durban may be out as host of the Commonwealth Games 2022 if the government doesn't agree on the funding © Bigstock
Durban may be out as host of the Commonwealth Games 2022 if the government doesn't agree on the funding © Bigstock

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) Another city is on the point of withdrawing its bid to host one of the world's great multi-sports events. Not the Olympic Games this time. That was Budapest last week.

This time it is the Commonwealth Games, the so-called Friendly Games which brings together all those nations that in days of yore were dominions and colonies of the British Empire.

Dismiss if you like but its 53 nations and 17 more dependent territories represent every continent,   more than 20% of the world's land mass and almost a third of its population. So not small beer, as they say.

The Commonwealth Games suffers the same problem as the Olympics. Fewer cities can afford to host it. For the 2022 version, there was only one bidder - Durban in South Africa.

But even Durban has found it impossible to sign the Host City Contract. It says it cannot afford the potential cost of $630 million and a meeting of the Commonwealth Games Federation next week in London is likely to strip the city of the hosting rights awarded it in 2015.

The significance of its loss - and for the Olympic Games - is that Durban would have been the first African country to host the Games. It is Africa's only member of the G20, its second largest economy and produces almost a quarter of the entire continent's GDP.

If it cannot afford the Commonwealth Games, what chance Africa ever hosting an Olympic Games at probably 10 times the cost.

And if that is the case, is it not troubling that a massive continent that has almost a quarter of those countries that participate in the summer Olympic Games is denied forever the privilege of playing host to it?

The International Olympic Committee's primary concern for now - after doping, of course - is not that Africa cannot afford its Games but that most of the developed world cannot make the sums add up.  They cannot see an economic case, and if they are not in need of the projection and publicity it brings, what value has it for them.

Hamburg, Boston, Rome, Oslo, Stockholm, Davos...the list of those who have withdrawn interest in summer or winter Games grows ever longer. Budapest will not be the last.

IOC president Thomas Bach's Agenda 2020, passed unanimously more than two years ago, was a 40-recommendation paper which in part was to make bidding easier and less expensive, and in its pompous introduction "present a project that fits their (cities) sporting, economic, social and environmental long-term planning needs."

So far it has not inspired a rush to bid, only a rush for the doors. And after Rio's experience last year and Durban's decision this month, we can be pretty certain that no city from their two great continents will be making their way to Lausanne with a bid any time soon.

So how about the IOC itself going on the road to look for a suitable candidate. Why wait for bids, seek them out.  If its awards the 2024 and 2028 Games this year to Los Angeles and Paris, it has plenty of time for the search before 2032.

And plenty of money. The IOC sits on a war chest of $1.5 billion, and contracts with television and corporate sponsors that safeguard it to 2032 at least.

Why not seek a city, and ask it not what the city can do for the Olympics but what the Olympics can do for it. Like splitting the costs and removing the customary demands for new arenas and for fancy hotels and servicing for IOC members. And foregoing the $100 million or so that simply bidding to host the Games costs.

The time when cities go cap in hand to the IOC is over. Time for role reversal.

** NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

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

Keywords · Olympics · Neil Wilson

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