COMMENTARY: The cost of Durban losing the Commonwealth Games
When one counts the cost of losing the 2022 Commonwealth Games‚ you can start with Ricardo and Miranda Malajika.
They are the youngest of five boxing brothers in the south of Johannesburg‚ poor as your proverbial church mice and as talented at the sport as the best I’ve seen in this country — amateur or professional.
They were among the many young sporting hopefuls who could have benefited from a financial investment into sport that had been planned for the Games.
The Durban bid had promised to set aside R1-billion for the development of athletes‚ not just those at elite level‚ to catch the 15 and 16-year-olds in 2015 who would have been hitting their prime by the 2022 Games.
That would have been the first time serious money had been pumped into age-group sport in this country.
Ricardo‚ a multiple South African age-group champion and a gold medallist at the under-20 Regional 5 Games in Angola last year‚ could well have been a recipient of that moneey.
Miranda‚ a losing finalist in his category at the national tournament last year‚ would have been deserving‚ too.
Boxing needed a boost in South Africa. Since readmission at the 1992 Olympics‚ local amateur boxers have struggled.
Bongani Mwelase has won SA’s only gold medal at a Commonwealth Games since then‚ in the welterweight division in 2006. Since then SA boxers have won just one Commonwealth medal‚ a bronze at Glasgow 2014.
There were no SA boxers at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Durban 2022 could have resuscitated boxing‚ and it could have boosted other struggling sports‚ like hockey‚ which also missed out on the Brazil showpiece last year.
The recent successes of swimming and athletics could have been consolidated and amplified.
Team SA could have exceeded the 10 medals of Rio 2016 — the country’s best Olympic haul since 1920 — at 2020 and the 2024 Games.
When calculating the cost of losing Durban 2022‚ don’t forget the nearly R120-million that was spent on the bid by the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).
That money is reflected in Sascoc’s annual financial statements‚ but it came from the Lottery‚ effectively paid for by you and me.
The Games would have cost more than R8-billion — some R6.6-billion for capital expenditure and the rest for an operational budget.
But an economic impact report submitted with the bid showed that hosting the Games would boost GDP by R11-billion.
If those figures were correct‚ that sounded like a win for the country. Manchester 2002‚ Melbourne 2006 and Glasgow 2014 were said to be profitable. If those figures were grossly wrong‚ then somebody should be fired.
The investment in upgrading venues didn’t have to be only for the 2022 Games.
Moses Mabhida Stadium was supposed to get a state-of-the-art athletics track‚ and with minimal further investment‚ the city could have bid for a world athletics championships down the line.
Had they decided to upgrade the King’s Park swimming pool complex — instead of constructing a temporary pool on the beachfront — they could have done the same with swimming.
If nothing else‚ SA swimming is in drastic need of a modern Olympic-sized pool.
And what about Durban bidding for the Africa Games in 2027?
Several of those Games venues could have been used two times over‚ if not three.
There are some who argue that losing 2022 is a blessing in disguise‚ because of the hidden costs.
Even if that is true‚ which we don’t know for sure‚ it doesn’t hide the incompetence behind this fiasco.
Heads should roll‚ starting with sport minister Fikile Mbalula and his director general‚ Alec Moemi.
They allegedly asked cabinet for R2-billion less than the Games budget required. Their accusers say that’s why they started trying to negotiate the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) on all the issues they did‚ to make up the shortfall.
Government hijacked Durban 2022 from Sascoc‚ which was supposed to be the interface between government and the CGF‚ the international body.
Normally it’s the relevant sporting body in the country that fronts all hosting efforts.
You didn’t see government officials running the 1995 Rugby World Cup‚ 2003 Cricket World Cup and 2010 Soccer World Cup.
Louis Luyt‚ Ali Bacher and Danny Jordaan were the faces of those events.
According to sources‚ government had included not a single Sascoc member on their proposed local organising committee.
That doesn’t exonerate Sascoc‚ who kickstarted the Games bid back in 2013.
They failed because they were too weak to stave off government interference‚ and they were too silent when it happened.
Sascoc failed to speak truth to power‚ resorting only to whispers here and there.
Sascoc might argue that they didn’t want to go public‚ but none of the individual sporting federations I spoke to had a clue of what was going on.
Sascoc clearly failed to keep their constituency informed.
Sascoc president Gideon Sam‚ Durban bid committee chairman Mark Alexander (who as president of the SA Rugby Union will be involved in the bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup)‚ and the other Sascoc board members linked to the bid should resign.
But nobody will go voluntarily. They don’t have the integrity or the guts of this country’s sportspeople‚ from Wayde van Niekerk and Cameron van der Burgh right down to the lesser-knowns like the Malajika brothers.
The politicians and administrators will stick it out as long as they can‚ and that will be to the cost of sport in this country.
-TMG Digital/Sunday Times