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Why waste money on the games no one really wants?

by ZwemZa on March 5th, 2017
The Moses Mabhida Stadium, built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup will be the centrepiece of the Durban bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games (AFP/Getty Images)

The Moses Mabhida Stadium, built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup will be the centrepiece of the Durban bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games (AFP/Getty Images)

Maybe, just maybe, it is a blessing in disguise if Durban retreats from hosting the Commonwealth Games. Maybe, for once, we don’t need to parade ourselves as the host with the most, and realise that some things are best left untouched, and uncomplicated.

This week, the Razzmatazz was at it again, telling the media that it doesn’t look good with regards to Durban crunching the necessary numbers to host the B-list party that the Commonwealth Games has become.

In a calendar that is increasingly crammed with sponsors’ engagements that earn the likes of Usain Bolt and (soon enough) Wayde van Niekerk more in one shoot than they do in the Commonwealth shift, the Games are, irrelevant quick-sand.

To no great surprise, they are now the event that nobody wants.

Liverpool has put up their hand at the 11th hour, saying that they can do the job if Durban fail to meet the financial requirements. That is the crux of the matter; it always is.

At last, tentative count, the Commonwealth Games would cost the city of Durban over R8 billion. At the current exchange, it is half a billions pounds, so it is no chump change, wherever you are in the world.

The bulk of that cost is converting a city that is increasingly crammed by its own populace coming in and out for work, and school and merriment, to suddenly accommodate a daily wave of about 10 000 people, who expect designated lanes, extra security and several other indulgences that pinch the public pocket.

Durban sent a delegation to Rio, and they saw just how strenuous it is to play host for these lavish, global get-togethers. These types of Games make the Fifa World Cup look like a long weekend over Easter, because the events never end, the demands never relent.

In times of austerity, there is honour and honesty in walking away from responsibilities that you simply cannot handle. However Fikile Mbalula and his choir arrived at the same song sheet that much of the nation has been humming for a while now, it is a good thing that they have got there before too many signatures went onto paper.

Yes, there may be some embarrassment in pulling out at this stage, but rather red faces than a city being in the red for the foreseeable future, for an event that will be forgotten before the flags are pulled down at the closing ceremony.

The mooted tourism boost is not something Durban and the rest of the nation hasn’t heard before. And, lest we forget, it’s not so much the people who visit long after the event is over that concern Durban and its citizens, but rather the herd of white elephants that will join the Moses Mabhida Stadium as relics of one glorious month of practicality, and then a lifetime of awkward questions.

Durban was ready to go to town with more developments, so they could put its best foot forward for the (British-owned) world to see. It would be the height of excess, at a time when Durban is trying to become more self-sustainable.

The promenade is starting to flourish, and key improvements of previously unseemly parts of town are making Durban ever more inviting to outsiders with wallets of all sizes. They will come, with or without the Commonwealth Games.

They will come for the warm waters and people, the warmer food, and the potential of a city that is establishing itself, on its own back.

They will come, because Durban is growing into its reputation as South Africa’s playground.

That R8 billion bill that they would foot in 2022 would be no child’s play if it came to pass. Let’s hope that, for the sake of the city, the suits see fit to say ‘Thanks, but no thanks,” this time.

It is the right thing to do.

Lungani Zama | The Sunday Tribune


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