Victoria, Toronto in battle to bid for 2022 Commonwealth Games

 

It has come down to Victoria versus Toronto in the race to become the Canadian bid city for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

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The Commonwealth Games Federation, the international governing body, has completed its site visits to both Victoria and Toronto as part of its process to find a replacement for the 2022 Games, which were taken away from Durban, South Africa.

Three members of the London-based federation were in Victoria on Friday to look over potential venues and facilities, including Saanich Commonwealth Place pool and CARSA at UVic.

The Toronto visit took place earlier last week and included venues such as BMO Field.

“We had meetings in Vancouver [with the federation] followed by meetings and a tour here in Victoria,” said John Simmons, a volunteer member and spokesman for the Victoria group looking into the feasibility of a bid.

“It was for them to see our landscape. It was very much at an introductory level.”

The federation has indicated it wants official bids by the end of August. Because of the tight timeline — five years to prepare for the Games instead of the usual seven —it has said it will announce the replacement for Durban this fall.

Simmons said the Victoria group will determine whether to bid “in a couple of weeks.” He said the group will have no further comment until that time.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, several regional mayors, and the B.C. Liberals, in their election platform, have expressed support for a Greater Victoria bid. Commonwealth Games Canada has submitted a request to the federal government for its support of a Canadian bid for 2022. A decision on that request is pending.

The 2022 Commonwealth Games were originally awarded unopposed in 2015 to Durban after Edmonton dropped out of the bidding when the bottom fell out of the Alberta oil market. But the federation extinguished Durban’s right to host on March 13 of this year when the South Africans were unable to meet scheduled financial obligations.

That set off an energetic scramble among cities in Canada, Great Britain, Australia and Malaysia to become the replacement host for 2022.

Victoria and Toronto emerged as the Canadian cities expressing interest in hosting the 2022 Games; Commonwealth Games Canada will make its pick in the summer. Both cities have experience in staging multi-sport events, with Victoria hostng the 1994 Commonwealth Games and Toronto hosting the 2015 Pan American Games.

Meanwhile, the international race came into sharper focus with London and Manchester deciding not to bid for 2022. That leaves Liverpool and Birmingham as the two bidding cities from the United Kingdom, although Wales expressed interest over the weekend. The governing Conservative Party has listed support for a U.K. 2022 Commonwealth Games in its election platform.

Australia will choose among Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide as its 2022 bid city. But any Aussie bid must contend with the fact Gold Coast is hosting the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and the event has never been held back-to-back in the same country.

Malaysia, the first Asian host of the Commonwealth Games in 1998, has expressed interest in returning the Games to Kuala Lumpur in 2022. The Commonwealth Games Federation delegation is reportedly to visit Kuala Lumpur this week.

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

Victoria is the last Canadian city to host the Commonwealth Games, in 1994. 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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