There’s lots of buzz around City Hall because all of the sudden, if Edmonton wants it, our city can be back in the Commonwealth Games business. Word came early Monday morning out of London that Durban dropped out of its hosting obligations for the 2022 games. The South African city ran into money troubles.
Once that word hit, there began a flurry of conversations to see if Edmonton can pull off an eleventh hour bid.
City manager Linda Cochrane confirmed that there were persistent concerns in the background that Durban couldn’t pull it off. In the interim, the city and Commonwealth Games-Canada had been in conversation about not only a possible 2026 bid, but also keeping tabs on 2022.
“We’ve had constant conversation with them and you know that if we decide that we wanted to make a bid we no longer have first right of refusal so we now have to get the rights to have a Canadian bid. But if they reach out to us in the next few days I’m sure we’ll take something quickly to council,” Cochrane said.
Late last year, the city asked CGC for an extension on its bid, but the request for that first right of refusal was denied. At the same time Cochrane put together a citizen’s panel to explore bidding opportunities. That group is headed by Reg Milley, who was on the original Commonwealth Games bid committee that disbanded when Premier Jim Prentice informed the city that because of the financial situation, Alberta could no longer support a bid.
The Commonwealth Games Federation is hoping someone steps in to fill the void. “They should declare as soon as they can. That would obviously be the best because the time frame to 2022 is certainly ticking down, so certainly the soon the better,” said CGF vice president Brian Robertson reached in London. The Canadian is second in command, and said he’s been very careful to separate his dealings from CGC to avoid any possible conflict of interest.
Mayor Don Iveson has already floated the idea of a joint bid to help ease the burden of entering the race at the eleventh hour. “Are there opportunities under the new roles potentially for the cities or the Calgary-Edmonton-Red Deer corridor to work together on one or the other of these events? Those were all things we expected our committee to explore over the six months of their work and this is one more curve ball possibility for that group to look at.”
Iveson wondered if the same needs are in place from three years ago, to now, since it’s so late in the game. “Would they be specifying the same size of games. Would it have the same footprint for facilities and for housing. Would any flexibility around those things make it more feasible for a city or cities working with the provincial and federal governments to put something together?”
“We have a lot of what we need. That was one of the premises of our original bid is we have a lot of the infrastructure in place, or plan to be worked on anyway to get to international spec, like the velodrome, we have to do some work on Kinsmen in the fullness of time.”
The original bid envisioned housing at Blatchford to serve as an athletes’ village, which would be converted to students housing. LRT to Blatchford was also talked about to link that housing to the competition venues, and after the games, the major campuses at the U of A, NAIT, and McEwan.
It’s early times for provincial interest. “At this time, the Government of Alberta has not yet received official notification or an official request for support from the City of Edmonton. The economic context must be favorable and the bid must have the full support of all three levels of government. We will continue to work with our partners in both the municipal and federal government to bring major events to Alberta in a way that balances our fiscal responsibility to Albertans with the benefits that come with hosting world-class events,” Marion Nader, Press Secretary, Minister of Culture and Tourism said in a statement.
Commonwealth Games-Canada’s CEO Brian McPherson was unavailable for comment, while Reg Milley was also away from Edmonton, however Cochrane said the hope is Milley’s panel will have some number crunching for city council to consider soon.
“They’re going to have some analysis, some conversation and some debate about what’s appropriate for the city to go forward, and I’ll be bringing that forward to council in June or July,” Cochrane said.