Could New Zealand host the Games?
Opinion: It has been 28 years since New Zealand last hosted the premier sporting event in the Commonwealth.
Auckland was the host in 1990 when the Commonwealth Games last came to New Zealand, with 2000 athletes from 55 nations storming the city during the height of summer.
In four years, Birmingham will host the Games for the first time, and next year the rights to the 2026 and 2030 Games will be up for consideration.
After a long break, it’s time for New Zealand to again host the Commonwealth Games. It would prove our most successful Games ever.
SOUNDS GREAT, BUT HOW?
Glad you asked. The Games would be jointly hosted by Auckland and Hamilton, using as many existing venues as possible.
There would be two big ticket items that would need to be paid for in order to host these Games. One would solve an issue we’ve had with sporting stadia in Auckland, and the other would, potentially, ease some of the housing issues we have in the city.
You’ve probably guessed it, but Auckland would get a world class stadium capable of hosting the athletics meet.
Imagine the sort of stadium which could also host rugby and cricket and more when the Games are through. It may even have a roof, who knows.
But the kicker is that it doesn’t have to be brand new. A waterfront stadium would be fantastic, but a less expensive option would be to refurbish Mount Smart Stadium into something truly special.
It hosted the Commonwealth Games athletics meet back in 1990, and although it appears a little run down at the moment, it’s the logical place for a stadium rebuild to take place.
That will be a major cost, but it’s a cost that is needed in order to host an event of this magnitude. Then comes the athletes village. Picture an athletes village in south-west Auckland capable of housing around 4000 people. With events also occurring further south, in Hamilton, not all athletes would be in the village, so there wouldn’t be a need for new accommodation for 5000 plus people.
Once the Games were complete, the athletes village would be turned into housing for the people of Auckland.
Everyone seeks the white picket fence and a backyard for the dog, but this stylish apartment complex will hint at the future Auckland needs when dealing with a housing crisis.
If done right, the village will have around 700-800 apartments, and if rules are put in place for the sale of these apartments, firsthome buyers will be front of the queue to purchase them.
THAT’S COOL, BUT YOU PROMISED MEDALS
Ahh, yes. How would these Games be New Zealand’s most successful ever? That comes down to the sports we would get to select as hosts.
There are a number of core sports at the Commonwealth Games. Athletics, swimming, badminton, boxing, hockey, lawn bowls, netball, rugby sevens, squash and weightlifting are perennial Commonwealth Games sports.
It’s then that the host nation can get creative, and select from a list of ‘‘optional’’ sports to add to their Games.
In the past, rowing, sailing and canoeing were optional sports. While the Commonwealth Games Federation have relegated those three sports, a Games organiser could still negotiate to have them included.
Finally, New Zealand get to make the most of the athletes which dominate at the Olympic Games, but can’t find a place when the Queen gets involved.
Lake Karapiro would be humming for the entirety of the Games, while sailing would debut in the water near Rangitoto. We play to our strengths.
With several powerhouses out of the mix (Norway, Croatia, France, Germany, the United States, you name them), New Zealand have even more chance to dominate the sports which make us so successful when the Olympic Games role around.
We’d also reintroduce cricket to the Commonwealth Games, after it debuted in 1998. A short Twenty20 tournament would see the world’s best cricketers on our shores for a mini World Cup.
Beach volleyball and basketball get ditched from the Gold Coast Games, but Games rules state that with cricket being played, we have the option of also adding para basketball which is a no brainer.
SOUNDS GREAT. BUT WHERE?
New Zealand has world class venues for many of the competitions listed above.
Lake Karapiro takes care of the rowing and canoeing, if we get them across the line. Canoe slalom, if included, takes place at the Wero Whitewater Park in Auckland. Sailing will be offshore in Auckland.
Swimming will be held at Henderson in Auckland. It could do with some extra seating, perhaps, so a minor refurbishment could be on the cards.
Netball will be held at Spark Arena in Auckland, rugby sevens will be at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton, hockey is on the North Shore, while cricket will spread a little further, shared between Eden Park, Seddon Park, Bay Oval in Tauranga and Cobham Oval in Whangarei.
Track cycling will take place at the Avantidrome in Cambridge, and the road racing and mountain biking will also be held in Waikato.
Boxing will be at the home of David Nyika, at Claudelands Arena in Hamilton, while triathlon will be on a course around the Auckland waterfront.
Badminton, lawn bowls, squash, judo, table tennis and weightlifting will find quality venues easy enough, and there are enough good arenas, like the North Shore Events Centre, that hosting the gymnastics will be no issue.
Athletics is the big one, which requires that stadium we talked about earlier.
ALL RIGHT THEN, SO 2026 or 2030?
Well, that’s a good question, and is where reality comes into it.
Minister for Sport Grant Robertson is on the Gold Coast enjoying the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
He is well aware that the Commonwealth Games Federation has begun the process to find hosts in 2026 and 2030, and said he is learning plenty from how Australia have hosted the Games.
‘‘At this point the Government does not have a plan to bid for the Games,’’ Robertson said.
‘‘However, it has been useful to attend the Gold Coast Games to observe what is required to host such an event.
‘‘I think it’s important that New Zealanders understand the scale of the modern Commonwealth Games.
‘‘It is a massive logistical undertaking, with a huge amount of organisation going into things like security and accommodation.’’
While there are no plans at this very moment to bid for a Commonwealth Games, Robertson said he is looking into what sort of major events New Zealand could play host to in the near future, and whether the Commonwealth Games would fit.
‘‘New Zealand does has a proven track record of successfully hosting major international sporting events, such as the Cricket World Cup in 2015 and Rugby World Cup in 2011.
‘‘I am currently looking at what the best focus is in terms of the major sporting events New Zealand should bid for - multisport or otherwise.’’
We get similar messages from the chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation, David Grevemberg.
‘‘I think there’s a place for the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand at the right time, the right fit, as long as it’s an investment that can make sure long-term sustainable development,’’ Grevemberg said.
‘‘We believe there’s no question there’s an opportunity to make that fit in the development of various communities in New Zealand and be a real value-added proposition for New Zealanders.’’
So, that means there’s a chance.
With a bit of tinkering the swimming facility at Henderson could accommodate an Commonwealth Games event.
Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium during the 1990 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. It wouldn’t take much to get this facility back up to scratch.
New Zealand made a strong impression when they last hosted the Commonwealth Games in Auckland in 1990.
New Zealand’s Minister of Sport Grant Robertson, pictured with Kiwi skier Nico Porteous, knows what’s involved in hosting major events after attending the 2018 Winter Olympics and the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.