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Christchurch mayor says the city and New Zealand should share hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games
Christchurch mayor says the city and New Zealand should share hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games

The BulletinJuly 19, 2023

Not the moment for Victoria to host Games, Christchurch mayor says it could be ours

Christchurch mayor says the city and New Zealand should share hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games
Christchurch mayor says the city and New Zealand should share hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games

Our athletes and the future of the Games are in limbo after Victoria pulled out of hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2026. Phil Mauger says “all the stuff” to host in Christchurch is “already built”, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

Games canned by Dan

I have a lot of affection for the Commonwealth Games. I suspect it’s based purely on going to the Games when they were in Auckland in 1990. Halcyon days. I also have a deep love for the song we offered up to the sporting gods that year, This is the Moment. Victorian premier Daniel Andrews decided yesterday that it was not Victoria’s moment and pulled the plug on the state hosting the 2026 Games citing ballooning costs. Andrews told a press conference yesterday that the cost of hosting had ballooned from A$2.6b (AUD) to at least $6b. The Commonwealth Games organising body has blamed the Victorian government for considerably increasing the 2026 Games expenses by going against official advice and adding more sports and venues.

Christchurch mayor puts hand up to host

I suspect that like a lot of people, despite lingering nostalgia, I question the cost and economic return of hosting large sporting events. When news circulated that New Zealand was mulling a bid for the 2034 Commonwealth Games in April  Mad Chapman had similar thoughts. Economist Eric Crampton and Chris Simpson, head of major events for Tātaki Auckland Unlimited, duked this issue out in June over the economic benefit figures being cited for the Fifa World Cup. Despite this, and despite the New Zealand Olympic Committee ruling New Zealand out as an alternative host for the 2026 games, Christchurch mayor Phil Mauger says the city and New Zealand should share hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games. He reckons we don’t need to build anything or find any additional money saying the Christchurch wouldn’t need any, as “all the stuff’s already built”.

New host for 2026 and 2030 needed

The plan for the 2026 games in Victoria was aligned with a new era for the Games.  A more dispersed and innovative event, held across regional hubs in Victoria cities aligned with investment in housing and world-class sporting facilities. After the Birmingham Games in 2022 where the host city stepped in after Durban lost the rights due to financial problems, Dame Louise Martin, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), said the Birmingham Games would be the last one of that size. Five cities pulled out of bidding for the 2026 Games because they were concerned about costs. Victoria was the only viable candidate. The Guardian has a very good explainer on what’s happened to date with the Games and what’s next. The CGF now needs to find a host not only for the 2026 Games but the 2030 Games after a bid to host what would be the centenary games from Hamilton (the Canadian one) collapsed earlier this year. It does feel a bit like the Spiderman meme right now with the United Kingdom hoping an Australian state or city might still volunteer to host in 2026, while all Australian states bar Queensland have ruled it out, shunting hope back to the originators of the Commonwealth as a possible option.

NZOC remains confident the 2026 Games will go ahead.

All this leaves New Zealand athletes and potentially the slated bid to host the Games in 2034 in New Zealand in limbo. The New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) remains confident the 2026 Games will go ahead. NZOC chief executive Nicki Nicol also said Victoria pulling out has not dented confidence in a New Zealand concept for 2034. Nicol cited the Birmingham model for hosting as one it would learn from, rather than the ambitious Victorian plan. It’s unlikely they can count on support for that bid from another New Zealand mayor. When Leo Molloy had his hat in the ring for Auckland’s mayoralty last year, he got very excited about the prospect of hosting the 2034 games. At the time, Wayne Brown called it a  “pipe dream” and “another billion-plus-dollar promise, made from the wallets of Aucklanders.”

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