Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) chief executive David Grevemberg has said the organisation is working flexibly with Hamilton over the prospect of the Canadian city hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games, framing the event as a potential stimulus package in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The group Hamilton 100 is working to develop a potential plan for the 2026 Commonwealth Games, having been encouraged to consider switching from its initial aim of hosting the multi-sport event in 2030.
It followed Hamilton being chosen as Commonwealth Sport Canada’s (CSC) preferred candidate city to host the Commonwealth Games.
The coronavirus pandemic has added a new dimension to Hamilton’s plans to bid for the event, with Hamilton 100 stating last month that it was examining how a planned Games could provide financial investment and employment amid a likely recession.
Grevemberg said the coronavirus pandemic has further highlighted the need for major sporting events to show their potential to benefit a host.
A report published today by the CGF highlights examples of how the Games can boost revenue growth in a region by creating jobs, boosting tourism and accelerating development projects around the multi-sport event.
The report, produced by PricewaterhouseCoopers, claims hosting the Commonwealth Games has boosted gross domestic product in a host city or region by between £800 million ($980 million/€900 million) to £1.2 billion ($1.47 billion/€1.35 billion).
The report is based upon research and data from four Commonwealth Games, beginning with Manchester 2002 but excluding Delhi 2010 due to less complete "evidence on costs and benefits".
"This document I believe gives the bid team a tool to talk with Government and other stakeholders," Grevemberg said.
"It enables them to show clear case studies and examples of how this proposition can work, whether it is a stimulus package or part of the coronavirus pandemic recovery efforts.
"We feel the timing of this document is really important.
"I think it is more important than ever to have done a piece of work like this to show the value-added benefits of hosting the Games when done right.
"There is a need to demonstrate the benefit you can provide to communities that you serve.
"COVID is certainly teaching all of us the importance of agility, contingency and ensuring investments are long-term and sustainable.
"I think it is forcing us to cooperate and collaborate differently.
"It may start to have us consolidate things, including how we make things more efficient."
Councillors from Hamilton gave the city's proposals the go-ahead in February, with the aim of staging the 2030 event to mark the centenary of the inaugural Empire Games.
Hamilton 100 would also need to secure Government support should it opt to bid for the 2026 Commonwealth Games.
The Canadian city is widely seen as the favourite for the Games, should backing be given to a move for the 2026 event.
The CGF aims to award the Games at its General Assembly at the end of this year, but Grevemberg acknowledged that the organisation needed to remain flexible in the current environment.
"We are incredibly sensitive to the priorities right now," he said.
"I think our flexible approach is critical right now.
"We need to respect the situation, their decision-making timelines, their concerns and their ambitions.
"We need to learn how they would measure success and then really collaborate with them to work on that.
"The timing is a big issue in terms of how we position our Games as a legitimate benefit and stimulus package to support communities in their recovery efforts, following the pandemic and the aftermath.
"That is not just for us, but for everyone.
"We need to look towards opportunities and partnership, not only to weather the storm but to bounce back.
"We need to do right by the partners we are working with."
Grevemberg added that the organisation was working with Hamilton and CSC on different concepts for the potential Games, including assessing the infrastructure required and how the sport programme would fit within the local context.
Hamilton reportedly expects a 2026 Commonwealth Games to require greater private-sector involvement, while the number of sports envisaged to be held in the city could be reduced compared to the existing plan for the 2030 Games.
A more regional plan could lead to several sports being held in existing venues outside of Hamilton, elsewhere in Ontario.
Grevemberg said the CGF was continuing to look at co-hosting arrangements as the Games attempts to evolve to the local climate.
He admitted that "tough decisions" on the appropriateness of sports on the programme could be needed long-term to fit different locations for the Games.
"We have got a really good committed group of people around the table for Hamilton, representing a number of different groups," Grevemberg said.
"We have had engagement with the province and Federal Government.
"We are where we need to be right now to put together the options and concepts.
"Some of that includes the sports that fit together with the programme, what the ambitions are locally and how does this tie into legacy ambitions they have?
"We are working flexibility and it depends on the footprint they have.
"If they want to accelerate builds and provide infrastructure plans, then you need a longer time to do that.
"There may be other options or configurations that are just as manageable, such as co-hosting arrangements within Ontario and other satellite cities.
"We are working with them on that right now, working out what is realistic within the timeframe and the context we are working in."