Victoria’s rival in 2022 Commonwealth Games bid getting cold feet

Victoria’s competition in Canada for the 2022 Commonwealth Games is close to being sidelined.

Toronto’s proposed bid has been hobbled by a city staff recommendation, released Tuesday, that it not go ahead with the bid because of the risks and potential high costs.

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“While hosting the Games has the potential to generate significant economic and tourism benefits for Toronto, staff are recommending Toronto not pursue a bid at this time,” said the report.

Victoria is the only other Canadian city that has expressed interest in bidding for the 2022 Games. The group looking into the feasibility of a Victoria bid downplayed the developments in Toronto. “Nothing changes for us with this news,” said John Simmons, a member and spokesman for the Victoria group.

“If the decision is to move forward with a Victoria bid, which I hope it is, we will let our intentions be known to the Commonwealth Games Federation and will put a bid together,” said Simmons, the CEO of Carmanah Technologies.

Victoria previously hosted the Games in 1994.

A delegation from the London-based Commonwealth Games Federation, the international governing body, visited Victoria and Toronto last week.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said many of those who were involved in the 1994 Games are enthusiastic about putting something together for 2022.

“So we’ll see if enthusiasm meets reality. But … we’ve done this once and a lot of the people who were here, and who made it an original success, are keen to go again.”

Helps said no decision has been made about whether hosting the 2022 Games is viable. “It’s still early [and] exploratory. We’ll keep our options open and keep the conversations happening and see where it goes.”

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 include Liverpool and Birmingham in England, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, and Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide in Australia.

The Commonwealth Games Federation wants official bids by the end of August and will announce the replacement for Durban this fall.

Simmons said the Victoria group will determine whether to bid “in a couple of weeks.”

In the U.K., the governing Conservative Party has listed support for hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games in its election platform. 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.

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

Victoria is the most recent Canadian city to host the Games. Previous Canadian hosts included Hamilton with the inaugural Commonwealth Games in 1930, Vancouver in 1954 and Edmonton in 1978.

— With files from Bill Cleverley, Times Colonist

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