Victoria will submit a bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games by the end of the month that includes building new housing, improving sports facilities and running on a practical, modest budget, said businessman David Black at his Oak Bay home Wednesday.
“We think we have a pretty good shot here … it’s Canada’s turn,” said Black, chairman of the committee putting together the bid.
He was joined by Suzanne Weckend, a two-time Commonwealth Games athlete, former board member and local teacher, on the bid committee team.
“The games have doubled in size and we think we have some creative ways to deliver the facilities that are required for a high-performance, multi-sport event,” said Weckend, who remembers the thrill of arriving at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria as a 16-year-old swimmer, and again in Melbourne in 2006 as a triathlete.
The competition to host the 2022 games is a bit unusual this time around. They were initially awarded to Durban, South Africa, but the designation was rescinded in March when financial commitments were not met.
Several cities stepped forward. Victoria sent a letter of support signed by most of the region’s mayors, and the B.C. Liberals included the Games in their election platform.
Some competitors have since backed away, citing costs and a lack of local buy-in — including Toronto, London and Manchester. But Britain is still a strong contender with Liverpool and Birmingham. Multiple Australian cities are likely to bid, but the 2018 Games are already set to take place there. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is also in the running. The city last hosted in 1998.
Black said Canada — especially Victoria — should be at the top of the list.
“We have a lot of facilities in place, which we think reduces the capital costs,” said Black, who chaired the committee that won the 1994 bid to host the games.
He said the majority of funding for the games will come from the federal and provincial governments, with the rest generated from advertising, sponsorship and sales.
He wouldn’t put a figure on the estimated budget, lest the competition get wind of it, but called it: “much less than the current games are scheduled to be.”
“The contribution requirement for taxpayers will be quite small. But the legacy for Victoria will be tremendous, much higher than the last time around.”
Stan Bartlett, chairman of the Grumpy Taxpayers of Greater Victoria, a citizens’ advocacy group, said he’s concerned about the potential costs, especially with increased security concerns and other cities bowing out.
“Before the project proceeds, taxpayers demand that an extremely strong business case for the games be prepared and examined by an independent third party, a financial firm such as KPMG or Meyers Norris Penny,” Bartlett said.
The Commonwealth Games Federation has strict requirements for host cities and Black said they are not compromising because of the shorter timeline for 2022. More than 4,000 participants are expected and thousands more attendees. The federation will choose a city by this fall, he said.
“We need a village. They want at least 6,500 beds,” said Black, noting 3,000 are already available at the University of Victoria. “So we’ll have to build almost 4,000 more.”
He said one of the bid committee’s ideas is to invest $100 million in housing that will later become 2,000 permanent student residences, with financing in part by a mortgage paid through rents.
Black also said the committee will include $80 million to build housing downtown for the 800 staff, referees and judges in town.
“Then it would be freed up for low-cost housing. We’re in desperate need of a lot more housing in this community,” he said.
Other investments include $80 million for new athletic sites that, after the games, could be used by local and national athletes, as well as by the public.
The 1994 games generated about a $20-million profit that was put toward a financial legacy that, for example, supported athletes, Black said. He said he hopes these games will add $50 million to that legacy and create more national training centres, since Victoria has become a destination for athletes.
Other committee ideas include adding up to 35,000 temporary seats at existing venues such as the University of Victoria for big crowds, having 24/7 live online broadcasting of events and renting or purchasing equipment from previous games.