IOL's Athletics reporter Ockert de Villiers. Photo: Masi Losi
This time next week the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, will be in full swing.

It is the seventh time since South Africa’s readmission to international sport in 1992 that the country will take part in the quadrennial showpiece.

It may be a bit melodramatic to suggest that the Gold Coast Games’ success could determine the future of the multi-sports event.

The Durban 2022 debacle which included the awarding of the hosting rights to South Africa and the aftermath may suggest that we are seeing the sun setting on the Games.

South Africa was the sole bidder for the 2022 Games after Edmonton in Canada pulled out of the race.

And Commonwealth nations did not exactly fall over their feet to host the Games in four years’ time.

It ended up being a two-horse race between Liverpool and Birmingham with the latter getting the nod.

The decision to award Birmingham the rights pretty much perpetuated the cycle in which the Commonwealth Games land in the hands of either Canada, Australia or Great Britain.

New Zealand has hosted twice while Jamaica, India, and Malaysia have had a turn each over the 20 times the Games have taken place since 1930.

The appetite for hosting the event among Commonwealth nations is clearly waning and it seems like nations feel obligated to send teams instead of showing real enthusiasm to take part.

South Africa have behaved like an abusive partner in the relationship by bidding for the Games only to break up the relationship through inference.

There seems to be very little interest from the public while the athletes themselves have been sending out mixed signals about their interest in the Games.

The Commonwealth Games Federations (CGF) did not do itself any favours with its ambiguous process of allotting slots to member nations.

It also depends on which athletes one speaks to. Some would say it has no relevance as some individual sponsors do not include clauses in athletes’ contracts to perform at the Commonwealth Games.

To many it is a risk to compete at the Games, especially this early in the year where they still have almost half a season in which they have to honour their contractual duties.

The Games are ultimately a platform for South African athletes to do their duty for the country but without getting much in terms of financial incentive.

An athlete like Caster Semenya sees the Games as an opportunity to entrench her legend as one of the best middle-distance athletes ever.

Semenya is bidding to become only the third female athlete in Commonwealth Games history to win the 800-1500m double gold.

A Commonwealth title would add to her world and Olympic gold medals over the last 10 years.

For South African 100m champion Akani Simbine the Games provides him with the ideal opportunity to claim an elusive podium place at a major championship.

One would only know the true value of something once it is gone, and the demise of the Commonwealth Games could have a detrimental effect on many of the so-called Cinderella sports.

The Games are the also a perfect platform for relatively inexperienced athletes to get a taste of the pressures of participating in a multi-sport event.

Athletes that graduate from the Commonwealth to the Olympics generally find the transition a lot less daunting.

One can argue that the exposure Chad le Clos and Wayde van Niekerk had at the Delhi 2010 and Glasgow 2014 Games respectively played a significant role in their successes at the Olympics.

In terms of developing future talent, the Games still have relevance and hopefully, they will continue to give us the rising stars of South Africa for years to come.


Saturday Star

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