Durban loses 2022 Commonwealth Games: Liverpool to step in?
South African city, which would have been continent's first to host event, forced to withdraw because of financial problems
Durban, in South Africa, will no longer host the 2022 Commonwealth Games after it failed to meet the criteria set down by the event's governing body.
"Durban was awarded the Games in 2015 as the only city to make a confirmed bid and it was to have been the first African host of the event," the BBC reports. However, last month, "South African sports minister Fikile Mbalula indicated the city may not be able to host the event because of financial constraints".
It was decided to look for a new host venue at a meeting of the Commonwealth Games Federation in London today.
Gideon Sam, president of the South African Olympic committee, told Reuters: "This is a huge disappointment for us and for the whole African continent but without the necessary government guarantees, we couldn't move on.
"Everybody was very excited to see the Commonwealth Games staged in Durban, which was very well equipped to host the event, but once the economics started to play a role, it became difficult."
When rumours about Durban's ability to host the Games first emerged, the city of Liverpool said it would be willing to take over. It is already bidding to host the games in 2026.
"Liverpool would not be able to step in without alternative bids being considered by the Commonwealth Games Federation, but the Mayor has indicated he believes Liverpool is in 'a good position' to host them," reports the Liverpool Echo.
"The likes of Jamie Carragher, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Tony Bellew are among the sporting figures who've offered their support to Liverpool's 2026 bid."
News that Durban had pulled out came on the day the Queen started the countdown to the 2018 Games in Gold Coast, Australia, by launching a baton relay at Buckingham Palace.
The Commonwealth Games began as the British Empire Games in 1930. The event, held every four years, is open to athletes from more than 50 nations.
Liverpool offers to host Commonwealth Games
Liverpool has offered to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games if, as seems likely, Durban relinquishes the role.
South African sports minister Fikile Mbalula admitted this week that the city might not be able to meet its obligations as host city, saying: "We gave it our best shot but we can’t go beyond. If the country says we don’t have this money, we can’t [host the Games]."
Durban was awarded the Games in 2015, after preferred option Edmonton, in Canada, pulled out after local opposition. However, "the South African government has been unable to come to agreement with the Commonwealth Games Federation over paying for the tournament", says the BBC.
A final decision is expected from the Commonwealth Games Federation in the next few days, but the BBC reports that "Liverpool, which is bidding to host the 2026 games, has now offered to step in if Durban cannot host".
Mayor Joe Anderson has written to sports minister Tracey Crouch to express the city's interest.
"I am very confident that the city will be able to cope with the demands of holding the Games," he told the Liverpool Echo, saying it would "give us a great opportunity to regenerate the north of Liverpool and create a lasting legacy".
However, there could be competition from the other side of the world – "Auckland has pretty much everything needed to host a Commonwealth Games", says the New Zealand Herald.
Other hosts are thin on the ground, adds the paper. Melbourne could step in, but next year's Games are being held on the Gold Coast, which should rule Australia out. Canada is not interested and India did not enjoy the experience of hosting in 2010.
London is also an option, "but maybe that goes against the point of showcasing how far and wide the Commonwealth spreads".