Friday, 24 August 2012

Games and pennies

It's hard to disagree with much of what Jeff Jones had to say last week about the idea of bringing the Commonwealth Games to Wales.  The experience of other countries shows that it's a costly project, and particularly difficult for any government with no tax-raising powers; there is inevitably a danger that other areas of spending will be hit.
When I saw the first reports about the proposal, I was – and remain – concerned about the Cardiff-centric nature of the plans.  The Olympics demonstrated clearly how holding an event in one part of the country can suck resources in from elsewhere.  It looked like another example of Wales emulating the way the UK behaves – pouring resources into the south-east at the expense of the rest.
The scheme's supporters talk about the "economic benefits" – another parallel with the Olympic hype.  I didn't believe it then, and I don't believe it now.
And yet, for all that…
For those of us who want Wales to become a confident, outward looking member of the international community, who wouldn't want to see Wales hosting the premier sporting event in which we actually compete as a nation in our own right?  And, to repeatt the point I made in relation to the Olympics, isn't there more to events celebrating human endeavour and achievement in the field of sports than mere pounds and pennies?
None of that makes the cost questions go away – but Wales is not the only nation competing in the Commonwealth Games to be facing financial difficulties.  If all those worried about the cost failed to bid, there'd be no games at all.  Economics rules, OK.
If we want to see major sporting events like this continue, and if we want them to continue to be held in a range of different countries (and why shouldn't all those countries participating aspire to host them?), then we need a different approach to funding.
My preferred option would be to see all countries involved contributing an annual amount – based perhaps on GVA/head – to a central pot which can then be used to assist host countries in turn, rather than allowing the whole burden to full on one country at a time.
But at the least, we can move away from the attitude which encourages each host in turn to promise – and then try and deliver – the most lavish overall plan and to outdo its predecessor.  There's too much emphasis on the premises and ceremonies, and not enough on the sport itself.


Peter D Cox said...

Of course any hosting by Wales will end up Cardiff-centric but .....
Let's assume the region can get its act together and embrace city region planning, develop within ten years the metro for the region, start building new infrastructure projects to serve the region and not just Cardiff, then maybe it can make sense.
Couldn't the athletes village be a new community development in the valleys (but now with easy access to city based stadiums where necessary)? Couldn't facilities such a cycling, road racing, and a new Olympic sized pool all be out of the city? Couldn't such an event be timed to ensure a profitable kick-off for legacy projects such as hotels and tourist developments?
If you combine what is needed with what is necessary, and don't run away with grandiose ideas, then south east Wales would be a perfect place for such an event - and if timed properly could be part of a year long celebration of Wales with the National Eisteddfod, international arts festivals (eg Artes Mundi) etc all plugged in.
Anyone out there have the vision to deliver .....?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that the Commonwealth Games is the premier sporting event in which Wales competes as a nation. Both the soccer and rugby World Cups are bigger, I believe, albeit that we don't often get far in the former.

Even with an annual contribution of the kind you describe, it is still likely to veer towards the larger countries as hosts, partly becasue of exisitng infrastructure and facilities/venues. It's difficult to see, say, the Cayman Islands, Malta or the Isle of Man being able to host, even if the costs were contributed in the way you suggest. This will be more so if the number of different sports continues to increase and given that not only venues but the accompanying media faciliites etc. need to be available.

The Games have been a financial millstone for a while now, and will be so regardless of how funded.

John Dixon said...


Fair comment about football and rugby, although it depends on how you measure size. I was thinking more from the point of view of the participants than the fans; a multi-sports team inevitably gives more athletes in more sports an opportunity to represent their country - in this case, Wales.

I see no reason why smaller countries should not be able to host events within a wider regional 'hosting'; it's the approach which has been used in other sports in recent years.

I also take the point about the Games being a financial millstone, and I didn't disagree with Jeff Jones' comments on that. My point, however, is that there are two possible responses to that. The first is to say that 'we cannot afford them', and in that case they will, ultimately, perish. The other is to try and find more creative ways of funding them and/or reducing the costs.