Commonwealth games officials feel 'excitement and energy' in Hamilton visit

Commonwealth games officials wrapped up a three-day whirlwind tour of Hamilton Friday as the community continues its campaign to bring the event back to the city where it all began for its 100th anniversary.

Hamilton100 says its focused on delivering a bid that will benefit everyone in the city

Commonwealth Games officials toured Hamilton this week as community leaders continue their effort to try to bring the multi-sport event back to the city for its 100th anniversary in 2030. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Commonwealth games officials wrapped up a three-day whirlwind tour of Hamilton Friday as the community continues its campaign to bring the event back to the city where it all began for its 100th anniversary.

The 2030 games mark a milestone for both the games and Hamilton, the city where the first-ever version of the games, then known as the British Empire Games, back in 1930.

Since then, every attempt to spark enthusiasm around hosting the games again has fizzled. But this time a community group called Hamilton100 is leading the pack with a focus on engaging the community and building excitement around the games.

That passion wasn't lost on David Grevemberg, CEO of the Commonwealth Games Federation during his visit to various venues across the city this week.

During a media conference he spoke of a "fantastic swell of enthusiasm, excitement and energy" and said the city could be a "real contender."

"We're really proud to call Hamilton a proud city of the Commonwealth, because the citizens and communities are really benefiting from the power of sport," Grevemberg added, saying the city is home to world-class venues that are already being used to attract business.

100th anniversary no guarantee

As for the idea of circling back to Hamilton for the 100th anniversary, the CEO said doing so would provide an opportunity to showcase how both the games and the city have evolved.

"I think there's some wonderful synergies there. If the planets are aligned and this looks like something that's going to work for everybody … I think there could be some really amazing opportunities."

But, despite the novelty of circling back for such a significant celebration, there's no guarantee the games will wind up in Hamilton.

While the milestone might be important to Canadians, it will most likely be lost on other 70 nations and territories that vote on which city will be host.

"For them it's going to be the 100th anniversary no matter where it's held," pointed out Linda Cuthbert, director of Commonwealth Games Canada and chair of the country's bid and hosting committee.

David Grevemberg (left) and David Leather (right) from the Commonwealth Games Federation were presented with red maple leaf hats, along with a picture of Percy Williams, the 100-yard champion at the original games held in Hamilton. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

She said several Canadian cities are interested in hosting the games. Each hopeful will have to submit Part 1 of their hosting plan, including its vision and general ideas around finances and budgeting by Nov. 22.

Part 2 of the plan is due in March and Cuthbert said all levels of government must be on board with a bid before Canada's preferred bid is moved forward internationally.

That's important because while words like "destiny" and "excitement" were tossed around during Friday's update, there are still plenty of unanswered questions around the games.

Hamilton is still at the dialogue stage of the process. The bid is in the exploratory stage meaning the city hasn't locked down the games, let alone been chosen as the Canadian city which will get to try for them.

Business plan will be brought to council in November

Although council has supported Hamilton100's involvement in the bidding process, some councillors are still raising questions about how much of the cost the city will have to carry. Preliminary estimates for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia indicate a price tag of over $1.8 billion. The cost to hold the 2022 games in Birmingham, England is expected to hit about $1.5 billion.

Hamilton100 bid president P.J. Mercanti said over the next three months they'll be working to put together a business plan which will be presented to council in November.

He stressed the bid is all about delivering maximum value to Hamilton's citizens, with plans for accessible youth sports programs before and after the games, along with a focus on affordable housing solutions.

P.J. Mercanti is the bid president for Hamilton100. He says the group is focused on delivering a bid that will benefit everyone in the city. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Now, thanks to the visit, he added, the team is also armed with new "operating models and efficiencies" passed along by the commonwealth federations which will help reduce the cost of the games and make sure they're "right-sized" for the city.

In the meantime, Mercanti said, the biggest challenge they face is making sure everyone in Hamilton — including council —understands the benefits the games could bring.

"The games are a catalyst for change in the community," he explained. "It's more than just sport. It's about community building."


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