The Commonwealth Games : ” How is this still a thing?”

Jul 29, 2014

The Common Wealth Games …

Why do countries and cities bid to host mega sporting events? Despite some of the negative issues surrounding these events – such as the costs, labour disputes, white elephants and so on – there seems to be no shortage of bidders wanting to host them. So what motivates the bidding? Primarily bidding and hosting mega events provides countries and cities with a significant marketing opportunity. The events show the world what a country is capable of and builds goodwill and tourism. They can also build the economy of a city or country through stimulating local demand. They can, but don’t always.

Careful Planning and Management … and avoiding cartel collusion

Getting the full benefit from hosting an event involves careful planning and management. You have to make sure construction cartels don’t collude and overprice the construction. You have to find ways to ensure that local businesses benefit rather than just encouraging foreign imports. You have to make sure that the infrastructure you build is part of a bigger plan and isn’t only useful for the event itself.

And importantly, you have to pick the right events.

2010 FIFA World Cup – 2010 and beyond

Almost ten years ago, on winning the bid to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Durban coined the term “2010 and beyond” and devised a strategy focused on using the World Cup to reinforce Durban’s role as a major sporting hub. Collectively, Durban did its best to ensure that everything done for the World Cup also accommodated possible future opportunities for major events.

Although we never spent funds on promoting ourselves as a possible venue for the 2020 Olympics, and never made a formal bid, our spin got the world talking about Durban’s bid to host the 2020 Olympics. There is no doubt we would have been a major bidding contender, but national Cabinet decided (correctly, we think) to prioritise expenditure on other forms of development.

Durban Olympics 2020

For a few months the world talked about Durban’s bid and the publicity we gained was really significant, continuing even today so that a google search for “Durban Olympics 2020” gets over 85000 results.

Surprise surprise

So it was with some surprise that we read about Durban putting itself forward to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Our surprise appears to be shared by both our Provincial Government and National Government who appear not to have been kept in the loop.

We are surprised because it appears that the bid doesn’t seem to be part of a larger development strategy which should have guided which events to prioritise and what events to ignore. There doesn’t seem to have been any research into what the Commonwealth Games are about and the benefits they have brought to previous Host Cities

Bidding on the International Stage

Bidding for events on the international stage is a serious game and we believe cities should only enter that game is they have a serious, and in our case, developmental, strategy in place. Bidding, done properly, is a costly process. A bid could cost tens of millions of Rands and if done properly, is a good way of promoting and marketing a city. But if done outside of any city strategy they can have a negative impact as well, prostituting good intentions and creating a negative image of the city.

Doomed to Dissappear?

A desktop research into the Commonwealth Games would show that unless it reinvents itself, it is doomed to disappear. Comedian John Oliver asks “How is this still a thing?” of the Commonwealth Games, suggesting that the Games are a case of a “once mighty nation (England) gathering together the countries it lost and finding a way to lose to them once more.”

Google Trends don’t lie

A Google trends comparative analysis of the Commonwealth Games, shows just how far they are behind the Olympics and the World Cup in online interest – perhaps not the greatest indicator, but gives a sense of their global popularity. Interestingly some of the peri-2011 popularity seems to have been based on the popularity of a Commonwealth Games Hotties website!