After hosting 1st games in 1930, should Hamilton bid for the 2030 Commonwealth Games?

2030 will mark 100 years since Hamilton hosted the first version of the games, then known as the British Empire Games.

'I'm certainly keen': Mayor Fred Eisenberger

The winners of the hammer throw in 1930 appear on a tiered podium -- the first time that was a feature of international games. (British Empire Games commemorative book)

The people who think far ahead about these things are beginning to talk about Hamilton as a host city for the Commonwealth Games in 2030.

It would mark 100 years since Hamilton hosted the first version of the games, then known as the British Empire Games.

The Civic Stadium, later Ivor Wynne, where Tim Hortons Field now stands, was the original athletes village, pool and track and field stadium.

"It's somewhat premature to use the word 'bid'," said Greg Maychak, who works for the city's public works department and also serves as a member-at-large at Commonwealth Games Canada.

But, he said, city staff are working on a preliminary report to present to city council members next week, awaiting councillors' direction to explore or investigate what that would look like.

"There's some logic to hosting the 100th anniversary of those games," said Mayor Fred Eisenberger. "I'm certainly keen on doing that."

'The 2030 Games would surely go to Hamilton'

Eisenberger emphasized that his colleagues on city council would have to sign off on the idea, but said "there are certainly a lot of good emotional reasons" to host it here, where a Hamiltonian invented it.

"I would think the organizing committees would be pretty keen on having it come back to Hamilton where it started."

Elsewhere, at least some eyes are on Hamilton for Canada's chosen city for a 2030 bid. On the heels of a failed 2022 bid, the Commonwealth Games Federation encouraged Victoria bid organizers to look at 2030.

But David Black, the bid organizer in Victoria, told the Victoria Times-Colonist he doubted they'd stand a chance for federal support against Hamilton.

There's sentimental value attached to the chance for a special centennial celebration in the place the games began.

"Victoria 2030 would be great. But the 2030 Games would surely go to Hamilton," he told the newspaper.

A champion rower named Bob Pearce heads out for practice at Leander Boat Club during the 1930 British Empire Games, with coach Bob Hunter. (British Empire Games commemorative book)

Hamilton would have some wrinkles to iron out.

The city got a new stadium when it hosted the soccer events in 2015 for the Toronto Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. 

But it doesn't currently have a world-class pool and diving facility. The city's stadium, though ready by the time Pan Am and Parapan Am Games kicked off, was a debacle to construct and finish and is still giving the city headaches.

And it would need provincial and federal buy-in, as international games come with hefty price tags.

But, the Queen's Baton Relay – equivalent to the torch relay for those other international games – came here last month on its way to Gold Coast in Australia next spring.

And the Hamilton baton stop did get some wheels turning.

"As the founding city, it'd be a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the Commonwealth Games, on our city and how we changed, how we're growing," Maychak said.

The bid process usually begins about eight years ahead of time. But a headstart could leave enough time to develop a special centennial celebration. 

Games founded in Hamilton

MM "Bobby" Robinson, founder and organizer of the British Empire Games, now known as the Commonwealth Games. (1930 British Empire Games commemorative book)
The games were dreamed up by M.M. "Bobby" Robinson, the sports editor of the Hamilton Spectator. 

He came back from the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam with the idea to launch a games for British Commonwealth competitors.

The city pitched in $30,000 (about $425,000 in 2017 dollars) to cover travel costs for athletes coming in from 11 countries to compete in athletics, boxing, lawn bowling, rowing, diving, wrestling and swimming.

The Commonwealth Games nearly returned to Hamilton for 2010, but the inaugural host city lost out in the bidding process to New Delhi, India.

And then Hamilton lost again its bid for the 2014 games, which were awarded to Halifax. When Halifax later withdrew its bid, the games went to Glasgow, Scotland.


With files from Jesse Campigotto


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