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Christchurch mayor wants city at the centre of possible Commonwealth Games bid

Author
Nathan Morton,
Publish Date
Thu, 20 Apr 2023, 1:49pm

Christchurch mayor wants city at the centre of possible Commonwealth Games bid

Author
Nathan Morton,
Publish Date
Thu, 20 Apr 2023, 1:49pm

The mayor of the country’s second-largest city believes his municipality has what it takes to be at the centre of the Commonwealth Games once again if a successful hosting bid is made.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee announced on Wednesday it had signalled early interest in hosting the 2034 tournament.

New Zealand last hosted the games in 1990, with previous stints of hosting in 1950 and 1974.

Christchurch Mayor Phil Mauger was elected to office in October last year. He’s long held the dream to see the games return to New Zealand.

 “I think it’s absolutely fantastic,” Mauger said on the news that the country was contemplating a hosting bid.

Mayor of Christchurch, Phil Mauger has long held the dream to see the games return to New Zealand. Photo / George Heard

Mayor of Christchurch, Phil Mauger has long held the dream to see the games return to New Zealand. Photo / George Heard

“I’m pleased to see the Olympic Committee has embraced my dream - being the leader that I am.”

Though Mauger didn’t know a bid was being proposed, he’s been in conversation with the CEO of Christchurch NZ about what role the city would play in hosting a tournament.

He believes Christchurch would be the ideal location for “the hub” of the games, where the administration of the tournament would be based.

This would suggest to the mayor that opening and closing ceremonies would be hosted in Christchurch.

[[The CEO] is well on top of it, we get along really well and she sees my enthusiasm, I sold her the dream.”

In 1974, Christchurch was the host city for the games. Over 1200 competitors and 372 officials flooded the city over the span of nine days. Public attendance was understood to be strong.

In 1974, Christchurch was the host city for the games. Photo / Supplied

In 1974, Christchurch was the host city for the games. Photo / Supplied

The main venue at the time was QEII Park, a multi-use stadium that could seat 25,000 people and was built specifically for the 1974 games.

QEII Park was destroyed beyond repair in the 2011 Earthquake.

Now $683 million, Te Kaha Stadium is in the works and the city boasts amenities like the modern Ngā Puna Wai Sports Hub, which includes an athletics track, hockey pitch and tennis courts.

Mauger said he grew up across the road from QEII Park while it was being built for the games.

“I spent my formative years sneaking behind the fence, seeing how it was being built,” the mayor remembered.

“It was good - it brought the city together and at the time, the year before I left school I didn’t know about what was happening with the economy, it broke the city.”

But Mauger believes post-quake Christchurch is in much better shape to handle the brunt of a Commonwealth tournament.

$683 million, Te Kaha Stadium is in the works and the city boasts amenities like the modern Ngā Puna Wai Sports Hub. Photo / Christchurch City Council

$683 million, Te Kaha Stadium is in the works and the city boasts amenities like the modern Ngā Puna Wai Sports Hub. Photo / Christchurch City Council

“I’d like to see us become the hub of New Zealand for the games.”

The mayor concedes there’s no need for the city to swallow the whole cake, with other locations across the country providing the necessary infrastructure for the competition.

“We don’t need to build a velodrome, there’s two of those in the country already. We don’t need a rowing lake, one day we maybe hope to, but rather than spend lots of money on things we haven’t got, it’s better to spend less money on the things we have got.”

Mauger was in Auckland for the draw of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, he spoke with Grant Robertson at the time about his dream to see Christchurch’s sporting heyday return.

“He said it would be good to spread it out, everyone has to have a feed,” the mayor said.

When pushed on the notion that Government might want to push costs for hosting a tournament into local councils such as his, Mauger chose an optimistic perspective.

“The benefit we get out of showcasing New Zealand through the games is fantastic. Normally we did it ourselves it would be a hell of a cost. So we’d want to spread it around.”

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