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John MacDonald: Let's aspire for more than just the Comm Games

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 20 Apr 2023, 2:11PM
In 1974, Christchurch was the host city for the games. Photo / Supplied
In 1974, Christchurch was the host city for the games. Photo / Supplied

John MacDonald: Let's aspire for more than just the Comm Games

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 20 Apr 2023, 2:11PM

Hand on heart, I have never heard anyone say they'd love to go to the Commonwealth Games one day.

The Rugby World Cup? Heard heaps of people say they'd love to go to that. Football World Cup? Who wouldn’t love to go to that? The Olympics? Absolutely. Wimbledon? A grand prix somewhere? Yes, yes, yes to all of the above.

But I have never had someone look me in the eye and say: “Now John, if I only get to do one thing in my life, it would have to be the Commonwealth Games. I want to be there for every bowls game, John. I want to be there to watch our team walk out onto the green and just smash it. I’ll mortgage the house if I have to.”

I’ve never heard anyone talk like that about the Commonwealth Games. But watching Sport Minister Grant Robertson on TV last night, I wondered if I’d missed something. Maybe there are people gagging to go to the Com Games.

Because the Government and the New Zealand Olympic Committee are mulling over the idea of putting in a bid to host the games in 2034.

Grant Robertson says, if it happens, it’ll have a distinctively New Zealand flavour. But I think it’s got a New Zealand flavour to it already. Because what they’re talking about is not having the Games in one city, but sharing it around towns and cities all over the country.

It’s a very New Zealand approach. It’s a bit like having a wedding or a 40th birthday party, realising the lounge and the living room are a bit small, and getting a marquee in or asking a mate with a lifestyle property to host it.

Because it seems to me that Grant’s looked around the place and thought ‘oh Phil down in Christchurch, he’ll have a stadium we can use’. And the crew in Cambridge have got a velodrome. And there’s truckloads of bowling greens around the place.

‘Yeah, I reckon we can pull it off if we all do our bit’.

And so, last night on the news, Grant was banging on about the tourism opportunity and all that. But, like I say, I have never heard anyone say that the Commonwealth Games is on their bucket list.

I’m sure for the athletes, the idea of having the Games in their home country is pretty cool. The ones I’ve seen and heard in the news over the past 24 hours have been very enthusiastic.

But then, they would be, wouldn’t they? Why’s that do you think? Because they’re athletes?

That’s partly right. The athletes in the news have been all for it because they're athletes who rely on the likes of the Sports Minister and the Olympic Committee to chase their sporting dreams.

So I will be very surprised if we hear any current athletes coming out and saying it’s a daft idea.

I don’t have those constraints - and I am more than happy to say that I think it’s a daft idea.

For several reasons:

First of all, I think we’re dreaming if we think there’d be a huge influx of tourists coming for the Games. It just would not happen.

Secondly: this idea of having events all around the country would be a logistical nightmare. The Commonwealth Games are all about unity - and we know that athletes love being around eachother.

Third reason why I think it’s a daft idea: who knows how many countries there’ll be in the Commonwealth in 11 years time?

Reason number four: I just don’t think hosting the Games really benefits the sports themselves. Think back to 1982 and how every kid suddenly wanted to play football after the All Whites made it to the World Cup?

Was that because of games in New Zealand? Of course, it wasn’t.

And probably the main reason why I think it’s nutbar to be talking about the Commonwealth Games, is the fact that we already have some major global sporting events on our plate.

And this is where I thought last night that, as Sports Minister, Grant Robertson was barking up the wrong tree.

Instead of the Commonwealth Games in 11 years' time, the Sport Minister should be focused on the world’s biggest women's sporting event - the FIFA Women's World Cup - which is happening here in New Zealand and Australia in July and August.

Why on Earth he would be trying to sell this idea of having the Commonwealth Games here in 2034, I will never know.

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