How Durban Lost the 2022 Commonwealth Games

Thursday, 16 March, 2017 - 09:43

Durban lost the right to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games on Monday. In a way, it wasn’t really a surprise. Signs have pointed to the bid imploding for some time now. But what happened?

It was confirmed on Monday that Durban had lost the right to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The lone horse in the race when it came to submitting bids, the city missed a number of key deadlines in the months after they were announced.

While the dream of making Durban the first African city to host the Commonwealth Games looked nice on paper, it all ended rather embarrassingly with a chunk of money thrown down the drain.

So, Durban lost the right to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Why?

The short answer is because an operational budget could not be agreed on. That’s what the bigwigs are telling us anyway. The long answer is that it’s probably far more complicated than that. South Africa missed several deadlines to name a Local Organising Committee and the budget was already an issue last year.

The Sunday Tribune also reported that there were some issues between government and the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) over who was actually going to run the Games. Government apparently wanted to run the show and Sascoc wasn't happy about this.

How much money are we talking about here?

Various sources report that South Africa was committed to spending R4-billion on the Games. The Commonwealth Games Federation apparently wanted double that invested. This shouldn't have been a surprise. The Glasgow Games cost over R11-billion.

Shouldn’t we be happy that, for once, sport is prudent about finances?

In a way. The cost of hosting mega-events can be disastrous for developing countries, but the Commonwealth Games isn’t nearly as a big of an expense as, say, the Olympics. Cities who host it tend to see a brief economy boost and, indeed, the calculation for profit to be made from the 2022 edition was in the region of R20-billion.

Luckily Durban hasn’t started building anything that costs money, right?

Well, not quite. To actually bid for the Games, Sascoc had spent between R98 and R120-million. To put that into perspective, Sascoc spent a similar amount on the county’s entire Olympic team for 2012 and 2016.

Wow, okay, they must have been up against some seriously big names for the bid…

Not really. Edmonton in Canada was the only other country to express interested in submitting a bid, but withdrew a few months before the official submissions were due in 2015.  South Africa’s official bid was submitted in March 2015. Of course bids aren’t just drummed up willy-nilly in a couple of months, but that’s a lot of money when you’re the only team playing.

And they had government backing then?

The bid committee was headed by Minister of Sport and Recreation, Fikile Mbalula, so you would think so.

At least they knew they’d win.

They sort of did, but a full delegation still travelled to Auckland in September 2015 for the announcement of Durban as the host city. So that’s more money down the drain - staggering when there are athletes that have to pay their own way to compete under South Africa’s flag. At least six people travelled to be told something we already knew, including the Minister of Mostly Recreation, Fikile Mbalula.

Were there any signs that pointed towards this happening?

Definitely. Durban missed a number of key deadlines after being awarded the Games including the failure to establish a Local Organising Committee within 180 days of being awarded the Games.  They also failed to make the first payment of £1.5-million (R24-million) to CGF by March 31 2016 for hosting the event.

Is this all down to really bad planning?

Right now, it certainly seems like it. There are many concerns about how this embarrassment unfolded. The money spent on the bid – you can be sure that the delegations for all the submissions and announcements don’t stay in backpackers – the lack of agreement between government and Sascoc, the missing of deadlines, everything has gone down like a cup of cold sick. Equally worrying is that the people who were in charge of this failure are people we entrust with South African sport. A big, glaring name that should be of massive concern is Mark Alexander. He was the chairman of the 2022 Bid Committee and is now the president of South African Rugby.

In March 2016, Alexander actually said he had “no idea when the guarantees will be signed and the money paid” after KwaZulu-Natal Finance MEC Belinda Scott said the province won't be able to pay up the R500-odd-million it initially promised for the Games.

The city’s bid might have been impressive (and it would have to be at that cost), but everything that followed was a disaster and nobody had the foggiest idea of any of the cost implications.

But why did they even go ahead with the bid?

This is the most pertinent question for which we don’t have all the answers. From everything we know about how Sascoc and the Department of Sport and Recreation is run, it is unlikely that this was being done for the good of Durban and South African sport. The question we have to ask – and hopefully answer – is what exactly that bid money was spent on and why anyone thought it was a good idea when there are so many athletes and federations who could do with the sort of cash that was spent on a haphazardly put together bid.

Who will host it now?

Although not confirmed, at the time of writing, all signs pointed towards Liverpool.

  • Antoinette Muller is a Freelance Sports Journalist. This article first appeared on Daily Maverick.

Photo courtesy: Daily Mail

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