Why Auckland could host the Commonwealth Games

By Cameron McMillan

New Zealand gymnast David Bishop (centre), with his family draped in flags, after winning a bronze medal in the floor competition at the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Photo /Greg Bowker
New Zealand gymnast David Bishop (centre), with his family draped in flags, after winning a bronze medal in the floor competition at the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Photo /Greg Bowker

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff is wrong when he says Auckland can't host the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Well half wrong.

Goff today told RadioSport that he wasn't interested in Auckland coming to the rescue if Durban withdrawals its bid for the Games, with Goff citing incredible fiscal and infrastructure pressure.

Not being privy to the council books, we'll have to trust Goff's assessment on the fiscal reasons but in terms of infrastructure and venues not many changes would need to be made. Auckland already has the venues to produce a Commonwealth Games on the cheap.

The hosting of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Durban is looking on shaky ground yet again. After presenting a formal bid as a candidate city in 2015, the South African city ended up being the only one to show up to the hosting party, when Edmonton, Canada (the preferred option), decided it wasn't worth it.

Since then Durban has been trying to get everything in place and present their case for the event, but money has been the big issue. It probably doesn't help, when you're trying to stump up that cash, that there are monthly reminders of how run-down Rio is looking less than a year after hosting the Olympics.

Durban missed a crucial deadline late last year, after a local organising committee wasn't set up within 180 days of winning the bid and an initial payment of NZ$2.42m wasn't deposited as agreed.

South Africa's sports minister Fikile Mbalula has told Reuters overnight it doesn't look good for Durban.

"We gave it our best shot but we can't go beyond. If the country says we don't have this money, we can't," he said.

"I don't want to raise your expectations and say everything looks good. It doesn't, because we don't agree on the fundamentals and that is the operational budget," Mbalula told a media briefing.

The Commonwealth Games Federation was set to make a decision on Durban by the end of February. That is today (GMT), so the clock is ticking.

So what are the options if Durban withdrawals the bid? Gold Coast hosts the event next year, so you should rule Australia out although Melbourne hosted as recently as 2006 and could probably step in a do it tomorrow if needed.

London would make sense, as the city hosted the Olympics in 2012, and the Commonwealth event is all in the name of the Queen, so she might has well have it in her backyard. The last time London hosted the Games was in 1934, but maybe that goes against the point of showcasing how far and wide the Commonwealth spreads.

Canada has already shown a lack of interest and India, the largest country of the Commonwealth, hosted as recently as 2010 in Delhi and as this India Times article states 'It was an exercise in opulence with little or no benefit in the longer term'.

And then there's Auckland - and we don't need a waterfront stadium to do it. As the theme song for Auckland's last Commonwealth Games was entitled - This is the Moment.

Putting money aside for now, Auckland has pretty much everything needed to host a Commonwealth Games.

The city hosts the Masters Games in April featuring 28 sports and 45 disciplines. It's being billed as the 'world's largest multi-sport event'. If true, than how does Auckland have the infrastructure to host that event but not the Commonwealth Games?

You can't on one case talk up how big an event is, then say the city can't host big events.

The venues are all there for a Commonwealth Games and wouldn't need megabucks to get them ready for host in 2022.

Trusts Stadium in Henderson could be set up as the main venue with temporary seating, as the athletics track is already there, as is an indoor venue that could hold the netball, basketball and gymnastics.

Or Vector Arena could be used for those three events, while others like weightlifting, wrestling, boxing, table tennis and squash can be set up in any decent indoor arena, of which Auckland has a fair few.

The Sir Owen Glenn National Aquatic Centre would host the swimming and diving, while Albany's Rosedale Park would be the venue for the hockey. The track cycling would be the only event to take place outside of Auckland, under two hours away in Cambridge.

The triathlon, road cycling, marathon and walking would all be on the waterfront.

And as hosts, Auckland would get to add a new sport, giving the city a chance to show off Whitewater Park and include kayaking. Auckland is also the home of the Nines (just joking) and has a rich sailing history, but kayaking would be the better option. Another medal-friendly option would be to finally introduce rowing to the Games.

A little bit of work of work for Trusts Stadium and everything is pretty much sorted. Other than an athletes' village. Auckland is in a housing crisis, but that wouldn't stop a village being built and then being turned into housing after the Games - it just may be based in Kumeu, Puhoi or Awhitu.

That just leaves the money, always the stickler, and whether Auckland should host the Commonwealth Games is another question. But it could.

Auckland 2022 possible venues
Trusts Stadium - athletics, opening ceremony, closing ceremony, rugby sevens
Eden Park or Albany Stadium- rugby sevens
National Aquatic Centre - Swimming, diving
Vector - Gymnastics, netball, basketball (or at Trusts)
Hockey - Rosedale Park
Bowls - Plenty of options
Weightlifting, Badminton, Powerlifting, Weightlifting, Wrestling, Squash, Boxing, table tennis - Vodafone Event Centre, Aotea Centre or North Shore Events Centre.
Triathlon, road cycling, marathon, walking - all along waterfront
Track cycling - Cambridge velodrome

- NZ Herald

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