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Glad we didn't get the Games

Opinion
Call me a spoilsport, but I’m as pleased as punch that Durban didn’t get to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, says Dennis Pather.

It was a well-intentioned, but hopelessly overambitious, notion. Had any of the organisers bothered to seek my humble opinion, I could have saved them the R118 million spent in the early bidding process.

The first question I would have asked them: Whose common wealth would the Games benefit? Certainly not Durban’s, nor South Africa’s.

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Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula sad South Africa was determined not to be “duped, manipulated or threatened” into accepting a deal. Picture: Leon Lestrade

We all know our country has more urgent priorities than to celebrate a colonial heritage that consigned millions to servitude at the barrel of the gun.

Truth be told, the only ones who would have scored from the Games in Durban would have been the Commonwealth Games Federation, who tried to hoodwink us into accepting.

To be fair to Durban, its officials put forward the original bid in the hope that it could stage the Games on the cheap.

They had taken a decision to not build a single new facility if Durban could choose codes for which it already had venues. That’s why popular sports like track cycling and gymnastics, which would have required costly indoor facilities, were omitted.

But the federation had other ideas. It pushed for a much higher budget, in the hope that this would buy it flexibility to change the programme later and sneak in other codes when some member countries demanded such changes.

But, as Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula says, South Africa was determined not to be “duped, manipulated or threatened” into accepting a deal.

Although the disappointment in some quarters is understandable, Durbanites should welcome the decision. Just look at the many indoor sports halls and outdoor facilities now lying idle in Rio. The cost of refurbishing these white elephants just a year after the Olympics is huge.

Nor has track cycling taken off with any vigour in New Delhi, India, since the 2010 Commonwealth Games there - and they paid more than $100m for their velodrome.

While one can perhaps understand an oil-rich kingdom like Qatar wanting to host the 2022 Fifa World Cup for vanity, a developing country like South Africa has far more pressing concerns. Ensuring more than 17million citizens get their pensions and grants at the end of the month is but one of them.

So let’s cut our losses and share in the common wealth of our beloved country.

[email protected]

The Sunday Independent

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