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Playing host is no easy game

I would like nothing more than to see New Zealand host the Commonwealth Games.

Oh what fun we could have. Just imagine it, amazing athletes from all over of the commonwealth arriving in Aotearoa with youthful good looks and the world at their sporting feet.

While it sounds like a barrel of laughs and more of a knees-up than the triple jump, it is considerably more complicated than sending out invitations and seeing who sends back an rsvp.

For starters, who gets an invitation?

The list can be a bit confusing but leans toward inclusion rather than the once-was-in, but now-is-out approach.

The Commonwealth is, apparently, a voluntary association of 56 independent countries. It is home to about 2.5 billion people, comprising a broad spectrum of advanced economies and developing countries. There are 32 small states, including many island nations.

This is interesting because the participating nations at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, totalled 72. It would seem the criteria to be in one [the Commonwealth] is perhaps more demanding than to be part of the other [the Games].

A quick look at the list of participating countries over the years raises an eyebrow or two from a historical standpoint. The Federation of South Arabia was there in the 1960s, for instance. But, more specifically, the names of countries I would have no chance of placing on a map. Do you know where the Turks and Caicos Islands are? Be honest.

Anyway, we welcome all teams from all corners of the globe. And we will pick up the tab, as any good host would be expected to do. Thank goodness we are aiming to host the 2034 Games, because we should probably start putting any spare cash we might have into a large jar now. We haven’t been given any numbers around how much it might cost, but if you think of a big number, double it and then add 15 per cent, you might be in the ballpark of the softball venue.

Hosting such an event requires playing the long game. The return on money invested comes many years later in the form of tourism receipts for the most part. Having said that, I can’t imagine Birmingham is currently overrun with holidaymakers. Birmingham, by the way, forked out about $1.5 billion to be the host. Pricey.

In a clever sidestep to avoid tackling any cost questions, the New Zealand Olympic Committee said our hosting would involve several venues around the country, and not just one city as has been the Games norm up till now. Spreading the events around will require less new infrastructure to be built in one place because different events could be held in different areas. Sevens rugby could be in south Auckland, for example, while cycling could go to the world-class velodrome in Cambridge.

It sounds plausible, but the timing is less than ideal. The bid proposal comes at a time when the country is facing enormous economic pressure and a cost of living crisis. Perhaps we should forget about it for a while, pick it up again when the recession has come and gone. One big challenge at a time.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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