Edmonton mayor backs away from city hosting 2022 Commonwealth Games

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson is dropping the idea of hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games after hearing the province won't back the city and Calgary isn't interested in being a co-host.

'The time has come for us to be honest with ourselves,' Mayor Don Iveson says

Young players from Yellowknife stand with the U.S. and Colombia teams before a FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Round of 16 match at Commonwealth Stadium in 2015. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The flicker of hope for Edmonton to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games is getting closer to being snuffed out, if the mayor gets his way.

"The time has come for us to be honest with ourselves that it's not the right time to be pursuing mega-events on our own," Don Iveson said Tuesday.

The city had been poised to renew its bid for the Games after Durban, South Africa, lost the right earlier this year to host the event.

Durban had been awarded the Games in 2015 but by March of this year couldn't provide financial guarantees or meet other commitments it had made.

Edmonton had dropped its initial bid in February 2015 after the provincial government wouldn't financially back the event.

"We got enthused with the idea of going after Commonwealth Games 2022," Iveson said, pointing out that it's not feasible to host the event considering Alberta's fiscal situation and ongoing economic downturn.

He said Calgary isn't interested in partnering to host either the 2022 Commonwealth Games or the 2026 Winter Olympics. 
Mayor Don Iveson says neither the province nor the city of Calgary are interested in supporting the 2022 Commonwealth Games. (CBC)

"I put it out there to see what the province's reaction would be and what Calgary's reaction would be, to say… maybe it's finally time for Alberta's two cities to start acting like Albertans together," Iveson said. "But we're not there yet."

Iveson's position on stepping back from the Commonwealth Games is echoed by the chair of a new report prepared by a citizens' panel on major sports events.

Edmonton shouldn't bid on events simply because they can host them.- Reg Milley, chair of citizens' panel on major sports events

"I think the mayor has looked at it from a rational approach as to where we are today and what we've got in front of us and what the economy's looking like," Reg Milley said. "And yes, that's a good decision."

In the report, called "The Changing Field of Play," the panel outlines the types of sporting events Edmonton is best suited to host in coming years. The panel looked at various factors, such as the cost of security and accommodation for athletes to how cost-effective the facilities are to build and how much tourism revenues the city would get.

"Edmonton shouldn't bid on events simply because they can host them," Milley said.

The panel suggests Edmonton host one mega-event, such as the Olympic Games or the FIFA men's World Cup soccer tournament, every 20 to 30 years. It recommends the city host at least six major events, such as the Commonwealth Games or the FIFA women's World Cup, every 12 years.

Milley said legacy should be a factor in deciding which events the city hosts, namely knowing what it's going to cost to operate a facility after the event is over.

In the current economic climate, the panel recommends Edmonton host what it calls signature events, such as the 2020 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final, which was awarded to the city late in 2016. Other such signature events include the World Junior Hockey Championship, the Tour of Alberta and the Canadian Finals Rodeo.

"To have some sports like that that we can look at makes a whole bunch of sense because we can use facilities over and over again."

Milley and Iveson agreed the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2015 was a great chance to revitalize Commonwealth Stadium, one of the venues for the 1978 Commonwealth Games.

Iveson said the city has the potential to bid for the 2026 FIFA men's World Cup.