Victoria committee intends to bid for 2022 Commonwealth Games

Victoria will officially enter the game for the Games.

The local committee for the 2022 Commonwealth Games has confirmed it sent its intent-to-bid letter to the London-based Commonwealth Games Federation by Friday’s deadline.

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“We have everything we need,” said businessman David Black, who is heading the bid.

“It’s good to go. We have a solid, practical and prudent budget plan. I am quite pleased with where we have gone with this.”

Victoria hosted the 1994 Commonwealth Games, and is the most recent Canadian city to do so.

Black said the Victoria committee was not ready to release its budget details. “The full details of the bid will be released soon,” said Black. “We are waiting to see which cities declare by Friday’s deadline before we do that.”

Already announced as rivals to Victoria are bids by two English cities. 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 team Everton’s proposed new stadium on a temporary removable track. The opening ceremonies and rugby sevens would take place at Anfield, the revered home of Liverpool FC.

Birmingham has also announced ambitious plans.

The U.K.’s minority governing Conservative Party listed support for hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games in its election platform.

“Liverpool and Birmingham are wonderful bids. They look terrific,” Black said. But despite that, he remains undaunted, saying the English cities had a big head start and that Victoria can close the gap.

“Those [English] cities had been shooting for 2026 and now have stepped that forward to 2022,” Black said.

That’s because the 2022 Commonwealth Games were originally awarded unopposed in 2015 to Durban, South Africa, which would have been the first African host of the Games. But the Commonwealth Games Federation took the Games away from Durban on March 13 when the South Africans were unable to meet scheduled financial obligations. That set off a scramble to become the replacement host for 2022. Other cities expressing interest have included Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, and Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide in Australia.

A delegation from the Commonwealth Games Federation has visited the cities which 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 is all but dead after a city staff recommendation that Toronto not go ahead with the bid because of the risks and potential high costs.

No more expressions of interest will be accepted by the Commonwealth Games Federation. It will analyze bid books at the end of August and will announce the replacement for Durban this fall.

Black said the Victoria committee will now begin the process of putting together its bid book.

He 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. A decision on that request is pending. Black said he is confident of federal support.

“We have to show we can fund this. All levels of government are supporting it,” he said, without going into specifics, would be coming soon.

“We’ve had a limited amount of time in organizing all the [local] municipalities,” he said.

“We have backing from most players. I am feeling good about it.”

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said she is open to the idea. “I am supportive of a Games bid if the right business case is made,” she said last week at the opening of the new Triathlon Canada national headquarters at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. “The competition [for the Games] is tight. We need to gather forces as a region.”

Black said the reasons to bid are many. Hosting national training centres for various sports has become a business in Greater Victoria, with several national teams based here, and numerous Canadian athletes produced for events like 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.”

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

“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,” said Black.

Previous Canadian hosts included Hamilton with the inaugural Commonwealth Games in 1930, Vancouver in 1954 and Edmonton in 1978.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com 

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