Durban Games: A sacrifice for 2023 RWC
Did Durban – and in a wider context South Africa – dodge a financial bullet when losing its right to stage the 2022 Commonwealth Games? And if so, should the 2023 Rugby World Cup have rather been sacrificed?
Actually, if you take the Minister of Sport, Fikile Mbalula’s word on this, it wasn’t the Commonwealth Games Foundation who pulled the plug on 2022, but it was South Africa who “withdrew” because of escalating costs.
If that is indeed the case, then my only question would be, why did he wait for the CWF to pronounce their verdict first, which gave the rest of the world the impression that Durban had the bid taken away from them, rather than like the Canadian city of Edmonton did – get their retaliation in first, so to speak, and make the announcement that they were withdrawing.
Reportedly, the costs in staging the 2022 Games were soaring from around R4-billion to R8-billion by the time the event would come round.
Mbalula insisted that Government wouldn’t be held to ransom. However – as we saw in staging the Fifa 2010 World Cup, along with almost every other major sports event around the world – no bid ever comes in under budget.
As someone who is a great disciple of the power of sport and a variety of sports in particular, I feel South Africa has confirmed and committed itself to being a “Big Three” sports country.
If it’s soccer, rugby or cricket, then bring the bids on, at whatever cost to the taxpayer.
We love our sport, goes the mantra. We don’t, because if we did, heaven and earth would have been moved to accommodate Durban 2022.
I was at the presentation to the CWF General Assembly in Glasgow in 2014 and felt the sense of pride as the delegation spoke from the heart about how much being awarded the 2022 Commonwealth Games would mean to Durban, and to South Africa.
Durban’s presentation left Edmonton in the shade and in a vibrant video, former president Nelson Mandela was shown casting his first democratic vote in the 1994 elections in the city of Durban.
“We’ve shown that we have the investment, infrastructure and capacity to deliver world-class events,” SASCOC’s chief executive Tubby Reddy told the Assembly, adding that The City of Durban had already invested some R3.4-bn in sport.
A year later, at the formal announcement endorsing Durban, the Mayor of the City of Durban, James Nxumalo, said: “Today marks a gigantic leap in the affirmation and positive trajectory for the continent of Africa. It is a moment to seize and firmly anchor our position as a decisive force in sports worldwide.
“There can be no better symbolism for South Africa and the Commonwealth of Nations to mark its first ever Games in 2022 in Africa with the opening ceremony on 18 July – the birthday of the greatest statesman of our times, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, a hero and role model for many, young and old – Nelson Mandela.”
Man, it felt good to be South African.
Now, in light of this past week’s developments, many seem to be saying “well done for showing the CGF the finger,” while others are asking what happened to the reported R100-million-plus spent on the bid thus far.
From a sporting standpoint, the Commonwealth Games, to me, are now as redundant to the world of sport as Helen Zille is to South African politics.
If Durban, and by extension South Africa, cannot stage a Commonwealth Games, then what chance do those other Commonwealth nations in Africa have? The Games are clearly a four continent event – Europe, Asia, Australia and North America (Canada).
And, as for the Olympics, well, a similar argument can be made.
How inspiring it would have been for South African youth to see Chad le Clos signing off a glittering career in Durban, for Akani Simbine, Anaso Jobodwane and Wayde van Niekerk dominating the track and field sprints, for our Sevens team to show what strength comes in team unity.
It would also have been an opportunity to show the value of volunteers and what collective effort can do in nation building, all in the city where former president Mandela cast his vote in 1994.
Madiba would have wanted us to host the Commonwealth Games, and the Olympics. He knew the value of unity through sport and he would not have wanted us to be pigeon-holed as a “Big Three” sports nation.
Sport is about more than soccer, rugby and cricket, and a personal belief is that while withdrawing from the 2022 Commonwealth Games bid, therefore ensuring full government backing goes behind the 2023 Rugby World Cup, it should have been the other way round.