Commonwealth Games returning? Victoria may be in bid for 2022

 

Here we go again. Will there be a Victoria Commonwealth Games 2.0?

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Canada has joined the race to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, with Toronto, Edmonton and Victoria suggested as possible sites in media reports. Toronto hosted the 2015 Pan Am Games, while Edmonton and Victoria hosted the 1978 and 1994 Commonwealth Games, respectively.

“We’re very excited about this possibility for Victoria,” Mayor Lisa Helps said.

“The next step is to put together a bid committee, but we need support from the region, province and federal government. A lot has changed since 1994, and the biggest cost item now for the Games is security.”

The 2022 Commonwealth Games were originally awarded to Durban and then taken away after financial guarantees were not met by the South Africans.

In an era when nations and cities are wary about hosting the Olympics, with several recent bids abandoned, the more manageable Commonwealth Games have ironically become a hot property. Games associations from four countries jumped into the fray to replace Durban for 2022 by Friday’s deadline. Cities that have already come forward and expressed interest include Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham in England with London considering; Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide in Australia; and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

Victoria would seem hard pressed this time to beat such opposition and is clearly a longshot.

But that hasn’t stopped the B.C. Liberal Party from including the issue in its election platform for Vancouver Island: “We all remember the community spirit in the South Island that made the 1994 Commonwealth Games a huge success. The legacy investments of those games remain in use today — from the Commonwealth Games pool in Saanich to the student housing that was created at UVic — the Games left a lasting imprint on our Island. Today’s B.C. Liberals will work with the communities of the South Island to put together a bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games and create more legacy housing for Island residents.”

There was no monetary amount attached to the B.C. Liberal plank.

“The province is the key to this,” said Helps, who said she had discussions on the matter with the province before the writ was dropped for the May 9 election.

When Durban began to flounder, representatives from 10 local governments met businessman David Black in 2015 and agreed to write a letter of interest regarding 2022 to the Commonwealth Games Association of Canada.

But with the U.K. government strongly backing a bid for 2022, it looks to be England’s to lose.

“England, with several city bidders, has some pretty firm commitments in place and is a strong opponent,” said Jim Reed, who was No. 2 to George Heller on the 1994 Victoria Games organizing committee.

But even if it is unlikely to happen for 2022, Reed said this at least puts a future Victoria Games — Commonwealth, Pan Am or Canada Games — back into the regional conversation.

“Victoria is quite capable of hosting another Commonwealth Games, and it’s a great economic and sport development opportunity for the region,” he said.

“The question is whether the feds and province would be prepared to cover 75 per cent of a potential $1-billion budget. It might be time to bring more sanity to the Games costs issues through an alternate concept, with lower cost.”

The Commonwealth Games Federation said it would convene an “expert review team” to vet all the bidders, and hopes to have a replacement for Durban 2022 in place by early fall.

Canada has hosted the Commonwealth Games four times — Hamilton in 1930, Vancouver in 1954, Edmonton in 1978 and Victoria in 1994. The 2014 Games were in Glasgow, Scotland, with the 2018 Games scheduled for next April on the Gold Coast, Australia.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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