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Hosting the Commonwealth Games may soon become more trouble than its worth

IN the same week as Glasgow 2014 celebrated 100 days to go to the start of Commonwealth Games, it was announced that London would not bid for the 2022 edition and had never any intention of doing so despite rumours to the contrary.

If the Commonwealth Games keeps expanding, there is a danger that only first-world countries will be able to afford facilities such as the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome. Picture: Getty Images
If the Commonwealth Games keeps expanding, there is a danger that only first-world countries will be able to afford facilities such as the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome. Picture: Getty Images

This leaves just two cities - Durban in South Africa and Edmonton in Canada - as prospective hosts for the Games in eight years' time. The closing date for bids is March next year but it seems unlikely that any further candidates will appear with so little interest having been expressed so far.

That no English city was prepared to bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games is unsurprising: the London 2012 Olympics and Glasgow 2014 - as well as the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games - will still be so fresh in the memory, it is unlikely that the event will be headed back to British shores quite so soon.

Adam Parker, the chief executive of Commonwealth Games England, admitted that his organisation never seriously considered the possibility of a bid from London, or from Sheffield or Birmingham for that matter, the other two English cities that had expressed an interest in bidding for the 2022 Games. He did not, though, rule out completely the prospect of a city in England hosting the Games in years to come.

Both Durban and Edmonton waited until the March 31 deadline before expressing an interest in hosting the 2022 event, with the Commonwealth Games Federation having suggested that they were concerned about the lack of interest from the 71 member countries.

The probability is that, if Durban can put together a competent bid, the Games will be on their way to South Africa. The Games have never been staged in Africa.

Hence the unease when Glasgow was up against Abuja, Nigeria, for the final vote in 2007. Although the Glasgow bid appeared to be superior, members of the 2014 team were worried that the African factor could trump all other considerations.

The shortage of cities interested in hosting future Games is a real concern. The Commonwealth Games is a curious beast. It is only relatively recently that the event has grown into the behemoth that we will see in Glasgow this summer.

It was the 1998 edition in Kuala Lumpur which really got the bit between its teeth and poured considerable resources into the event. The Games before then have been described to me as resembling a school sports day and, while this is something of an exaggeration, it is not unfair to say that the Games pre-1998 were unrecognisable to those held now.

Is this increase in scale a worry? Glasgow 2014 will spend more than half a billion pounds, but it would be unfair to say that any significant proportion of this has been frivolously spent; almost all of the venues are already being used by the public and will continue to be gainfully employed in the aftermath of the Games this summer.

There is no guarantee that any legacy will be left post-Glasgow 2014 but, in all fairness, the city is having a damn good shot at it.

If the event is to continue in the long term, then this legacy template that must be followed. These Games are not the Olympics; no city will invest millions of pounds for scant lasting impact. Hosting the Olympics, on the other hand, carries with it such prestige that potential candidates will remain keen to bid almost irrespective of the cost.

The Olympics can now only be held by wealthy countries and the Commonwealth Games is in danger of finding itself in a similar situation.

It is in danger of becoming too big for its own good. There would be something lost if only first-world countries could host the event; part of the charm is in its smaller scale compared to its Olympic counterpart, making it - in theory at least - more manageable.

Reducing the number of sports from the current 17 has been touted as a possibility to cap the scale of the event which, for me, is a sensible and workable proposition. It is simply not feasible to expect the size of the Commonwealth Games to continue to grow exponentially. Curbing the number of sports would be a good way of policing this.

There appears to be a real eagerness for the Commonwealth Games to be awarded to Africa and with Durban's potential bid it is likely it will come sooner rather than later. However, the future of the Games beyond 2022 nevertheless remains uncertain.

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