DURBAN was stripped of the right to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games on Tuesday mainly because the South African government couldn’t provide financial guarantees.
As the outrageous costs of hosting international sporting events sees an increasing number of cities around the world baulk at putting their hats in the ring, chiefs are scrambling for a new venue for 2022 after announcing Durban had failed to meet “key obligations”.
Durban presented a revised budget and hosting proposal to the Commonwealth Games Federation over the weekend but the last-ditch effort to save Africa’s first international multi-sport event wasn’t enough.
“It is with disappointment that the detailed review has concluded that there is a significant departure from the undertakings provided in Durban’s bid, and as a result a number of key obligations and commitments in areas such as governance, venues, funding and risk management/assurance have not been met,” the CGF said in a statement.
The mayor of Liverpool said last month the northwest English city would be prepared to host the 2022 Games if they were no longer in Durban.
Durban’s failure is a major embarrassment for South Africa, with the bid initially hailed as historic as the first African host of the Commonwealth Games.
But ever since it won the games as the sole bidder in September, 2015, Durban missed deadlines to provide the financial guarantees.
“It’s a big disappointment for Africa,” South African Olympic committee president and CGF vice president Gideon Sam told The Associated Press.
Love Durban, gutted to hear -2022 Commonwealth would have been a home games. Not happening. So just going you to focus on 2017 Worlds… ?
— Chad Le Clos (@chadleclos) March 13, 2017
Money was not the only problem, but it was the most significant, and Durban’s fate was another indicator of the heavy cost countries must pay to put on major sports events.
In 2015, the head of the bid committee said the east coast city needed $670 million. The South African government was asked to provide $470 million of that, bid chief executive Tubby Reddy said.
Up to Saturday, when the CGF met with South African officials in London, there was still no signed document from the South African government guaranteeing it would pay for the games, CGF vice president Sam said.
Durban instead presented a scaled-down version of the games to the CGF. “The Commonwealth Games Federation said, ‘That’s not going to work. We’ll look for another city,”’ Sam said.
South Africa has also been touted as a possible Olympic host, and was considering bidding for the Summer Games in as early as 2028. Sam said that any Olympic bid was “definitely not on the table” for South Africa now. Durban is the country’s preferred choice as an Olympic host, and the 2022 Commonwealth Games were seen as an important stepping stone.
“For now, I don’t think anybody (in South Africa) wants to open their mouth about the Olympics,” Sam said.
The CGF said they had completed their review of the “final information” submitted by South Africa on November 30 to determine whether their proposals for hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games honoured their original commitments.
“It is with disappointment that the detailed review has concluded that there is a significant departure from the undertakings provided in Durban’s bid and as a result a number of key obligations and commitments in areas such as governance, venues, funding and risk management/assurance have not been met under the revised proposition,” the statement added.
Durban was named as the 2022 Games host in September, 2015, but Mbalula said in February the South African government and the CGF had still to reach agreement over costs.
“It does not look like we will find each other,” said Mbalula. “We have given it our best shot, but we cannot live beyond our means.”
According to authorities, a budget of 6.4 billion rand ($492 million) had already been set aside for the Games, in a country battling high unemployment and poor growth.
Before the CGF issued its own statement, there was an angry response from South Africa’s main opposition party which slammed the “millions of rand” already “wasted” on a bid where “good money has been thrown after a bad idea” by the country’s governing African National Congress.
Zwakele Mncwango, the provincial leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) party in the KwaZulu Natal region that encompasses Durban, said: “This is a devastating blow to our city, and our people, who can only stand by and watch as millions of rands that could have improved our communities, delivered houses, improved services and created jobs have been wasted by the ANC government.”
Both the 1995 Rugby World Cup and the 2010 Football World Cup in South Africa are seen as milestones in the country’s efforts to promote national unity since the apartheid era.
The Commonwealth Games is restricted to countries that are members of the Commonwealth, a collection of nations that were mainly once part of the British Empire and whose titular head is Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. It was known as the British Empire Games when first staged in 1930.
Tuesday’s announcement came as the Queen sent the Commonwealth Games baton off from Buckingham Palace on a relay that will see it visit every member nation ahead of the 2018 edition on Australia’s Gold Coast.
Commonwealth Games: Retired Olympic Champion Anna Meares joined her long-time British rival Victoria Pendleton as the baton left Buckingham Palace to begin it’s journey down under.
— AP and AFP