Gavel / The Games people play

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IT’S a common question raised many times over the past fortnight: do you think Canberra would be capable of ever hosting an event such as the Commonwealth Games?

Tim Gavel.

To be brutally honest, the answer at the moment would have to be “no”. The idea is a wonderful one, but the reality is expensive.

Some locals are taken aback by this stance, given the “can-do” nature of people staging sporting events in the ACT. Sure, we have the best sporting volunteers in Australia, but to put it simply, we don’t have the infrastructure nor the apparent desire to spend an estimated billion-plus dollars to pull it all together.

I remember writing a similar column after the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006.

At these events you come across many people involved in Canberra sport, whether it be through the AIS or grassroots events. Many have a strong desire to showcase the ACT’s ability to host a major sporting event such as the Commonwealth Games.

I can think of a couple of events that Canberra could stage without any major infrastructure spend. Hockey is one. There are plenty of similarities between the ACT hockey centre and the one used during the Gold Coast Games.

Road cycling is another event, which lends itself to Canberra’s natural terrain. Stromlo is one of the best mountain bike facilities in Australia. Basketball and netball at the AIS Arena; marathon, walks and triathlon could happen around the lake.

There are glaring shortfalls though. Central to the success of the Gold Coast was the main stadium. It wasn’t over the top by any stretch, nor was the aquatic centre – simply an outdoor pool with temporary seating. But it worked.

The track cycling and the shooting took place in Brisbane, as there is no velodrome or major shooting range on the Gold Coast.

Which brings me back to Canberra. At the moment we don’t have a stadium capable of staging major track events at an international level. One solution would be to significantly upgrade Canberra Stadium or build a new one. The proposed rectangular facility won’t cut it as a track and field venue.

We don’t have a competition swimming pool designed to cater for 16,000  fans, nor a diving venue.

Somebody did say to me that the Civic Olympic Pool could be upgraded or replaced with temporary stands added. This would be costly.

When it comes to track cycling the lack of a decent velodrome prevents any chance of any bid getting up.

I am not sure whether “bid fatigue” is taking place in Canberra at present, with the continual push for an A League team or a Big Bash side starting to wear people out. But I sense there is no momentum whatsoever for an ACT bid for the Commonwealth Games in the next decade at least.

A shame really, but all things, including hosting the Commonwealth Games, come at a cost!

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Tim Gavel
Journalist and ABC sports broadcaster

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