Don’t Dream It’s Over
It’s understandable that some people are going through post-RWC blues now the excitement is all over and all there is to look forward to is depressing Treasury forecasts on how much debt NZ is in and the tedious election bickering about to hit us.
But let’s not get too carried away by dreaming of bigger things, when the RWC left the country with millions in debt, businesses, especially restaurants holding their head in their hands at the poor trading conditions, and only the IRB money-men leaving town gleefully rubbing their hands loaded with cash.
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker is today suggesting NZ host the 2022 Commonwealth Games with his city showing off itself as rebuilt and hosting the opening and closing ceremonies and at least the track and field events.
To be frank, one would have thought the city had enough on its hands to be still struggling to get the CBD Red Zone rebuilt and re-opened and to stop the continuing bleed of businesses and citizens as they flee elsewhere amid bureaucracy delaying progress and the ongoing shakes still emerging from underneath the city landscape.
Those Treasury forecasts on rebuilding Christchurch today went up another $5 billion to $30 billion. How can we be talking of a Commonwealth Games bid at the same time?
Christchurch hosted the Commonwealth Games back in 1974 at QEII park then billed as the most modern in the world. The event enabled NZ state TV to switch from black and white to colour and the event was then known as the British Commonwealth Games.
Times have changed. Staging a Commonwealth Games no longer comes at any sort of affordable price. Scotland which hosts the 2014 one has to spend two billion pounds at least on improving public transport and motorway links alone. Of course we benefited from numerous improvements for the RWC.
Gold Coast which is bidding for the soon to be announced 2018 Games also needs about $500m on transport improvements. Transport is only a small part of the facilities needed. The Gold Coast bid alone is costing around $11m to stage let alone the cost of building what is needed if that bid is successful in a few weeks. The talk of Auckland also putting in a bid for 2018 was quashed by the Government because of the cost.
A secret to the RWC success was the decision to spread the event around NZ providing a collective experience. Parker wants the same for his Commonwealth Games with events spread around NZ but Christchurch being the anchor city, as Auckland was for the RWC.
In practical terms, I am not sure how that would work as the Games are a smorgasbord of sports not just one as the RWC was –and the RWC was spread over a month. If your interests were swimming and track and field, having to fly between Auckland and Christchurch for them at short notice may not be practical and affordable.
But the problem with this is more about focus and money. Christchurch needs to get sorted. To the casual observer in the North Island, it seems to be taking for ever to even inform some Christchurch residents whether they can stay in their homes.
Mounting a Games bid and getting the infrastructure seems like adding another Everest hurdle to the already huge mountain of things to be done and being done far too slowly for the poor residents and businesses of Christchurch who have had enough.
Only today did Christchurch see the opening of a Central Station bus exchange in Lichfield St and the return of Metro bus services to part but not all of Central Christchurch.
And if you read today’s grim NZ Treasury summary, our country is bust and will be struggling to pay its debts for decades. The media has been so obsessed about the RWC, the growing European financial collapse has not even rated a mention in news bulletins but if you have been following it, it’s full of scary scenarios as this time around, the money is not around to stem the tide of massive deficits of countries.
To talk of a Commonwealth Games is a fantasy that needs to be put to rest. And the awful truth, is with ongoing earthquakes around NZ lately – Hawke’s Bay and Bay of Plenty in the last few days alone- there is no guarantee Christchurch is ever going to be a safe city.
Just ask those who had RWC tickets to Christchurch’s AMI Stadium.
Nice try Bob. Your heart’s in the right place. But the party’s over and we need to get real about the state of our finances and the massive repair jobs thanks to our recent calamities.
The party’s over. It;s back to work and the hard slog ahead.