Furlong, Heller join Victoria Commonwealth Games bid

The Victoria bid committee for the 2022 Commonwealth Games has brought on some familiar names.

Additions announced Sunday to the bid committee include John Furlong and George Heller, who headed the organizing committees for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games, respectively.

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Also added to the Victoria 2022 committee is Roger Jackson, who won gold for Canada in rowing at the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics before becoming a leader in Canadian sport administration, including as CEO of the Own the Podium federal funding agency. Iona Campagnolo, former B.C. lieutenant-governor and earlier federal sports minister under Pierre Trudeau, was also appointed to the Victoria committee.

"John Furlong, George Heller, Dr. Roger Jackson and Iona Campagnolo add critical strengths to our Games bid," said Victoria bid chairman David Black, in a statement.

"They are all leaders in the development of a winning bid that will focus on great experiences for athletes, spectators and sponsors during the Games, and on the legacies left in Canada afterward."

Meanwhile, the British government is deciding between Liverpool and Birmingham as the city it will put forward for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. A 15-member internal British inspection group visited Liverpool over the weekend and will do the same in Birmingham later this week before reporting back to the government.

Since the 2022 Games are widely seen as Britain's to lose, the pitched battle between Liverpool and Birmingham is considered the real race for the Games.

Liverpool is promising a 5,000-seat swimming stadium built right into Albert Dock. Fans would be overlooking Pier Head and Mann Island. The track-and-field competitions would be held in Premiership soccer club Everton's proposed new stadium on a temporary removable track. The opening/closing ceremonies and rugby sevens would take place at Anfield, the hallowed ground of the Liverpool FC soccer team.

Birmingham has also announced ambitious plans.

"Liverpool and Birmingham are wonderful bids. They look terrific," Black previously admitted.

Despite that, he remains undaunted, saying Victoria can position itself as providing a template for other medium markets to host the Games in the future.

The Victoria businessman said the B.C. capital will present a Games bid that is "solid, practical, prudent" and a model for future medium markets to emulate. Details of the bid, including financial, have yet to be released.
Victoria was the last Canadian city to host the Commonwealth Games in 1994.

The 2022 Commonwealth Games were originally awarded in 2015 to Durban, South Africa, which would have been the first African host of the Games. But the governing Commonwealth Games Federation withdrew the Games from Durban on March 13 of this year when the South Africans were unable to meet scheduled financial obligations.

That set off a scramble to become the replacement host for 2022 as the Commonwealth Games, sometimes seen as a relic from a bygone era, became an unexpectedly hot property. Other cities expressing interest for 2022 have included Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, which hosted the Games in 1998, and also Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide in Australia. The latter four, however, are severely hampered by the fact Gold Coast in Australia is hosting the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the governing CGF is unlikely to go to the same country back-to-back if other options are available.

A delegation from the CGF has visited the cities that expressed preliminary interest in replacing Durban as 2022 Games host. Victoria and Toronto were inspected in late May by the delegation. But Toronto's proposed bid has since been all but squashed after a city staff recommendation that Toronto not go ahead with the bid because of the risks and potential high costs.

The federation will analyze bid books by the Aug. 31 deadline and announce the replacement for Durban this fall on a date to be announced. This bid process is truncated because this is a replacement situation and the host city will have five years to prepare for the 2022 Games instead of the normal seven years.

Black said the Victoria committee is in the process of putting together its bid book.

He earlier acknowledged the uncertain political situation in B.C but added: "All three party leaders have spoken in favour of a 2022 Commonwealth Games bid."

Commonwealth Games Canada has submitted a request to the federal government for its support of a Canadian bid. Black said he is confident of federal support and noted the feds had promised $300 million to Edmonton before the Alberta capital dropped out of the initial race for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, which allowed Durban to win the bid by acclamation.

Locally, the Capital Regional District approved a motion on June 28: "To support in principle the hosting of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada, subject to a proper business case being presented and approved by local governments and institutions, in public."

There are Games bid critics.

“This one is tough,” said Stan Bartlett, chairperson of the Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria.

“We support economic development and business, and are not opposed to taxes, but just want better value for taxes. We support the Games providing there's a strong business case -- examined by an independent third party like a financial firm or at least the in-house financial resources of the CRD. Also that there's transparency and respect for the taxpayer. It’s a great idea but really awful timing.

“In 1994, there was a tax levy for residents and a hike in business taxes and that likely will happen again. So our community needs to be involved and know what's in store. There are hundreds of millions of dollars involved in the mega-sports event and there are major implications for Victoria. We have a right to know how our 13 mayors and councils stand on the Games 2022 bid proposal."

Black previously said the reasons to bid are myriad. Hosting national training centres for various sports has become big business in Greater Victoria, with several national teams based here, and numerous Canadian athletes produced for events such as the Olympics and Commonwealth and Pan Am Games, he said.

"We need the latest version of infrastructure if we want to keep attracting them," he said.

"Hosting a Games brings publicity and shines a spotlight on your city and brings new infrastructure, including housing [needed for the athletes and officials villages]. It's a win all-around. We heard first hand from athletes how moved and impressed they were that everybody in the city was so focused and emotionally invested in the 1994 Games."

The 2018 Commonwealth Games will take place April 4-15 in Gold Coast, Australia.

Previous Canadian hosts included Hamilton with the inaugural Commonwealth Games in 1930, Vancouver with the Miracle Mile Games in 1954 and Edmonton in 1978.
cdheensaw@timescolonist.com 

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