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Relevance of Commonwealth Games remains in ‘question’ ‘Lack of interest’

GLASGOW, Scotland, July 23, (AP): It’s a question that comes up at every Commonwealth Games: How relevant is an event held every four years which often fails to attract top competitors or a large number of spectators? This time around, and on the eve of the Glasgow games, the suggestion has become more compelling with the spiraling costs of the Olympics — the flagship of all multisport events. On Tuesday, the Commonwealth Games Federation, which runs the games that attract countries and territories of the former British Empire, said at the end of a two-day meeting that it would review the number of sports at future games. Like the IOC, it will also try to ensure that bidding does not become out of reach of cities or countries wishing to host them.

“It’s very much about ensuring that the scope and scale of the games, and the number of sports we have, keep the games affordable for potential bid cities or countries,” said Mike Hooper, the federation’s outgoing chief executive. “Quality over quantity.” This month, the International Olympic Committee retained three cities that had indicated they wanted to bid for the 2022 Winter Games after the withdrawal of three candidates, mostly due to concerns of the costs of hosting them.

The Commonwealth Games has similar issues with a lack of interest in hosting future games. The Gold Coast, north of Brisbane, Australia, won the right to host the 2018 games when it beat the only other bid city — Hambantota, Sri Lanka. Durban, South Africa and Edmonton, Canada are the only cities vying so far to host the 2022 games. Final bids have to be lodged by March of next year, and a decision will be made by September 2015.
 
Reg Miley, chairman of the Edmonton bid, said Tuesday he has no doubt about the relevance of the Commonwealth Games. He said when the games were last held in Edmonton in 1978, they attracted 1,400 athletes. Glasgow will represent the largest-ever games with 7,300 athletes. “I count two statistics that blew me out of the water — one-third of the world’s population, 2.2 billion, live in Commonwealth countries,” said Miley. “And more than 50 percent of those are under 25. So that’s where our future is.”
Mike Stanley, president of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, said the Glasgow games are his country’s only multisports event outside of the Olympics. They’ve held the Commonwealth Games three times and suggestions are that they might try to host them again in 2026.
 
“We don’t see them as an anachronism in any way,” said Stanley. “As the IOC is doing, we realize it’s a fast-moving world out there, and our voice and our brand has to be seen in a positive light and recognized.” As usual, the Commonwealth Games suffer from a lack of star power. Sprinter Usain Bolt is the biggest name here, but he will only compete in Jamaica’s 4x100-meter relay. Mo Farah, who won both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters for Britain at the London Olympics in 2012, is scheduled to run in both events.
 
Judy Simons, president of the Bermuda Olympic Association, said Tuesday that the lack of high-profile athletes might create a more level playing field for some of the lesser-populated countries. The Commonwealth Games usually include sports like lawn bowls and netball, which aren’t part of the Olympic program. “It gives smaller countries a real platform to show their athletes in a different light to the Olympics,” said Simons. “You can get swallowed up in the Olympics.” John Dawanincura, a member of the Papua New Guinea Olympic Committee, had a simple answer for critics of the Commonwealth Games. “A lot of people have their opinions, but getting 71 nations here is a testament that most everyone is in favor of them,” said Dawanincura. “We’re a family of nations, and I hope we retain them forever.”

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