Friday, March 12, 2010

Daunting cost puts cloud over Games bid

Any hopes Auckland has of hosting the 2018 Commonwealth Games are set to be dashed, with the Government likely to announce next week that it will not underwrite the cost.

The latest estimates on what it would cost to stage the Games are $600 million, half of which would be met by the Government and half by the new Auckland Super City.

Cities intending to bid have to give notice by March 31 and the Government will decide next week whether it would support a bid.

The decision is likely to be no, the Weekend Herald understands.

Sports Minister Murray McCully met the bid feasibility committee in Auckland this week.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee and Sparc have also been involved.

Mr McCully said there had been extensive work over the past few months "and the material that has been put together has been of very high quality".

"But the numbers are daunting and we will make some decisions in the next week or so."

With so little money available to fund new initiatives - only $1.1 billion in this year's Budget - the notion of committing $300 million for a sports event, even well into the future, is thought to be too politically risky.

And given the uncertainties around the Auckland Super City leadership, the costs and job losses, the appetite for handing Auckland a further $300 million bill is not high.

The difficulties the Government faced in dealing with the disparate Auckland leadership over establishing "party central" in Queens Wharf may also have put it off.

Auckland Regional Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer Michael Barnett is on the bid feasibility committee and says he would be disappointed if the decision was no.

He said the Government had a tough call to make.

The short-term political environment surrounding the Super City was volatile.

"But if you play the long game, you have got the potential to say this could be the key that brings the new city together."

"It could be the event that was the making of Auckland."

Mr Barnett said most of the people working on the project were looking eight years out.

"You have to accept that there is huge financial commitment when you undertake any of these major events but I believe that New Zealand needs to have a succession of major events if we are to retain our reputation as being able to host major events and to be able to do it well and be good hosts."

He said that after the Rugby World Cup in 2011 there were not many major events in the pipeline.

Abuja in Nigeria is planning to bid for the Games and the Gold Coast in Australia is thought to be waiting to see whether Auckland bids before making a decision.

Christchurch hosted the games in 1974 and Auckland in 1990.

The next Commonwealth Games are in Delhi in October and the 2014 Games will be in Glasgow, Scotland.

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