David Grevemberg, chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), has described the process of matching a particular Games with a particular host as being "almost a courting exercise, a process of exploration and discovery."
By that token, the CGF is now looking like a jilted suitor following this week’s strong indication by Durban, sole bidder for the 2022 Games, that it will not be able to honour its intentions.
Poor CGF! And only a couple of years after that nice Edmonton let them down!
Following the admission by the South African Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula that the Games were likely to prove too expensive, the doleful news is likely to be confirmed at the CGF Executive Board’s meeting in London on March 10 and 11.
Will the Federation now fall into the willing arms of Liverpool? Will Liverpool net the CGF on the rebound? (Sorry, the metaphors are sliding a little here, best halt before we get completely carried away. Or over the threshold. Stop it.)
Grevemberg, a former wrestler in the United States, is grappling with a very awkward problem right now. (OK. That’s your lot.)
For several months, he and his organisation have been putting a brave face on their forebodings about Durban’s intentions.
On the eve of last October’s CGF General Assembly in Edmonton, Grevemberg told me: "These will not only be the first Games in South Africa, but the first on African soil, so they have a huge relevance and importance."
At that point he was in receipt of what a member of Donald Trump’s administration might refer to as "alternative facts" about the capability of this South African city to stage the next Games but one.
The message from the Province was that the Games could not be afforded. The message from Gideon Sam, President of SASCOC, was that they would be delivered.
Alternative facts. Elvis is dead - and Elvis is alive…
Whether Durban 2022 is dead or alive, Grevemberg knows - just as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach knows - that bidding for major sporting events is becoming an increasingly fraught and fragile process.
Transformation 2022, the Commonwealth Games Federation Strategic Plan for 2015-2022, shares some of the aspirations of Bach’s initial guiding vision upon taking up the Presidency of the IOC, Agenda 2020.
The keynote aspiration is lofty indeed: "As a cornerstone of the Commonwealth itself, our dynamic sporting movement - driven by its values of Humanity, Equality and Destiny - has a key role to play in an energised, engaged and active Commonwealth of Nations and Territories."
Aspirations, naturally, soar. But the business of matching huge sporting events with hosts, as the IOC is also noting with full attention, is increasingly a process of convincing highly sceptical, dynamic and well organised local opposition that the whole thing is worth the candle.
Given the recent list of cities that have decided against pursuing Olympic or Commonwealth events - Oslo, Hamburg, Boston, Edmonton, Rome, Budapest and now it seems Durban, the process is in danger of becoming more honoured in the breach than the observance.
"In 2017 we will be rolling out how we plan to nurture cities through the future process of bidding," said Grevemberg. "We are working to make that process more comfortable and collaborative."
However comfortable and collaborative that process becomes, however, cost remains the key. Alternative facts: The Olympics (or Commonwealth Games) are a huge waste of public money. The Olympics (or Commonwealth Games) are a massive boost to infrastructure and the economy.
Experience attests that only one version of these facts fits certain cities. But both versions have been operative down the years. Against the Olympic images of rotting stadia from Athens 2004 and - sadly but not surprisingly - Rio 2016, set the examples of the profitable 1984 Los Angeles Games, the successfully transformative 1992 Barcelona Games.
Against the sad, damp, boycotted business of the 1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games, set the vibrant, and profitable most recent version of the Games - Glasgow 2014.
Last July, Wales announced it had ruled out a possible 2026 bid because of financial uncertainties resulting from the Brexit vote in June.
However, the estimated costs of a Games put forward by Welsh Economic Secretary Ken Skates – between £1.3 billion ($1.7 billion/€1.5 billion) and £1.5 billion ($2 billion/€1.8 billion) – caused some sharp raising of eyebrows within the CGF.
"On the subject of the Welsh decision not to bid for the 2026 Games, we were a bit outspoken about the financial figures that were put forward," Grevemberg said.
"A lot of the projected Games costs we felt were actually investments in general infrastructure. Glasgow 2014 cost £543 million, and that was £37 million under budget.
"This is the big danger in estimating costs for Games. There is the cost of the Games delivery, and then there is the cost of improving infrastructure. Those improvements may be brought forward by having the Games, but they are not part of the Games delivery budget. I think it is important to differentiate between these costs.
"Games delivery costs require a return on investment. Capital investment in infrastructure is a generational, or even multi-generational project."
That is a key point of debate for both the Olympic and Commonwealth Movements.
One of the items thoroughly discussed at the last CGF General Assembly was how to differentiate branding in order to leverage both the Commonwealth and Olympic Games elements to gain the maximum benefit.
But there is a more fundamental task here, which is to sort out what the Commonwealth Games, however they may be branded, are actually about.
On this topic Adam Paker, the former Chief Executive of Commonwealth Games England, was instructive.
Speaking with 100 days to go before Glasgow 2014, Paker reflected on the controversy that had recently been provoked over UK Sport’s "no compromise" funding policy for elite Olympic competitors - a controversy that has since been regenerated by that body’s decision last month to reject appeals from numerous sports from which it had withdrawn funding for the next Olympic cycle.
Paker believes that this vexed area highlighted a benevolent feature of the Commonwealth’s quadrennial sporting event.
"I think one of the things which distinguishes the Commonwealth Games from the Olympic Games is the fact that there is a unique blend in the Commonwealths," he said.
"Of course there is world class sport- you have Jamaican sprinters, Canadian and Australian swimmers, African middle and long distance runners, and of course you will have a very strong team from England in Glasgow – but there is another side to it.
"The Olympics is all about fastest, highest, strongest, but at the Commonwealths there’s a sense that for many of the athletes attending from all around the Commonwealth it’s the pinnacle of their career to be at the Games and that it is fantastic that they are going to be there competing.
"Although I am not a big fan of the Friendly Games tag, there is a vital element of that within the Games which you don’t find at the Olympics.
"I think from the UK Sport point of view they want to raise competitive standards as much as they possibly can, but there are multiple objectives at a major Games such as we are about to have in Glasgow.
"Clearly we are striving to excel and to enable our elite athletes to be as strong as they can be to do well in the medal table. But we are also being aware of what we can do to inspire people to take up sport themselves."
That could prove to be a hugely persuasive argument in the Commonwealth Games’ favour over the next few years.