By Steve Keating
BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) – The Commonwealth Games is poised to return in 2030 to Hamilton, the Canadian city that launched the multi-sport event 100 years ago, with Niagara Falls providing the backdrop for beach volleyball and a push, men’s cricket add the program.
With federal and provincial governments expressing their support and no other cities having officially thrown their hats in the ring, Hamilton’s bid manager Louis Frapporti told Reuters that the “Steel City” is the favorite if the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF ) will make a decision sometime next year .
“Without jinxing it, we’re clearly the penalty favorite simply because we put so much time and energy into actually creating a proposal,” said Frapporti. “The only country we hear rumors about is New Zealand.
“What we understand is that we are so far ahead of them in terms of preparing an offer that they are more interested in 2034 than 2030.”
If selected, it would be the fifth time Canada has hosted the biannual event, but the first since 1994 when they were held in Victoria, British Columbia.
Hamilton held the first competition in 1930 when it was known as the British Empire Games and had only six sports; athletics, boxing, bowling, rowing, swimming and wrestling.
Women only competed in water competitions.
Nearly 5,000 athletes from 72 nations and territories competed in 19 sports at the Birmingham Games, which ended on Monday.
For the first time at a major multisport event, there were more women’s (136) than men’s (134) medal events and a record eight integrated para-sports with podium finishes included in the overall medal count.
While the 100th anniversary provides an obvious hook to hang a pitch on, the Hamilton100 Commonwealth Games Bid Corporation will not play the sentiment card, instead focusing on the elements that made the Birmingham Games a success.
“We are very careful with the centenary elements,” Frapporti said. “Some people, like our mayor (Hamilton), are very keen on this, but from the perspective of us who actually drafted the proposal, we see that as the least compelling part of it.
“We want to get away from the concept of the games as an event in good time.
“Rather, we’re trying to take the CGF’s value proposition, which encompasses inclusivity, diversity and sustainability, and make it a movement.”
Diversity, inclusion and private finance are buzzwords that get government ears pricked up, especially when it comes to spending taxpayers’ money.
Originally, the Hamilton100 offering had an operating budget of approximately $1.5 billion (CDN).
But that was slashed to around $1 billion, about the same cost as the Birmingham games, with the private sector bringing in between $250 million and $500 million, according to Frapporti.
“What differentiates the Games framework at this point is a very significant investment by the private sector in infrastructure asset deployment,” Frapporti said.
The largest infrastructure project on Hamilton’s bid would be the construction of an athletes’ village, which according to current plans would be privately supplied.
The private sector would also be responsible for the refurbishment of the FirstOntario Center in downtown Hamilton and would help build a state-of-the-art cricket facility.
Otherwise, the bid relies heavily on existing facilities in the so-called “Golden Horseshoe,” such as the Velodrome in nearby Milton that was built for the 2015 Pan Am Games.
The bid will also take advantage of one of the world’s natural wonders, with Niagara Falls providing the backdrop for beach volleyball.
“To the extent that the Commonwealth Games aspires to be the ‘Olympic Light’, that doesn’t translate to success,” said Frapporti. “We wanted to leverage those values and opportunities that really differentiate the sport so much about inclusivity.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Birmingham. Editing by Christian Radnedge)