Golden opportunity gone missing: Zemplias
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews announced yesterday that the state’s tender for the Commonwealth Games, which were set to be held in regional venues across the state, had been withdrawn due to supposed cost blow-outs.
City of Perth lord mayor Basil Zempilas believes the state government is missing a golden opportunity by not putting up an offer to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games.
WA premier Roger Cook has also ruled out launching a bid for the Games, saying he would rather see money invested into schools and hospitals, but Zempilas told Sports Breakfast it would be possible to do both.
“I absolutely accept that schools and hospitals are priorities for people in Western Australia, as they should be,” Zempilas said. “I also note we are a remarkably prosperous state with a remarkably healthy balance sheet.
“I think what the Premier has missed is the very unique set of circumstances that exist here. The Commonwealth Games, in terms of finding a host for 2023, is on its knees. We are in a position to say ‘here’s what we’ve got, here’s how much we’re prepared to spend, here’s the scale of event we are willing to host, take it or leave it’.
“What do you think they’d say to that? They’ve got nowhere else to go, I think there’s every chance they’d say ‘no worries, we’ll come’. That’s a missed opportunity if we don’t make the most of that.”
Cook said the event would be a “sugar hit” and “ruinously expensive”, but Zempilas said the event could create opportunities to ease strain on the state’s under-pressure housing market.
“I think this position is the position that was held by the previous premier,” he said.
“I’m disappointed that they haven’t seen the new opportunity that exists with these new circumstances.
“I suppose the door is open to a combined or multi-city games, I don’t think that works … typically, Perth doesn't get the cream of the crop when it gets distributed with that sort of system.”
The Victorian submission was the only option for the 2026 Games and their ongoing viability has been thrown into question in the wake of the cancellation, with Zempilas, a long-term broadcaster of the event with Channel Seven, admitting he feared for their future.
“I accept that in the cycle of sport, the Commonwealth Games have slipped down the rankings in terms of anticipation,” he said.
“The days of the federation having all these demands and saying we want to fly all these VIPs and we need A-level hotels, those days are gone. They have to be cost-effective, they have to be streamlined. The spirit of sporting competition, which they started from, that should be the essence, not the gravy train.
“What I will say is, having been to six of them, when they’re on, they’re profound, and they have a profound impact on the host city and the people of that host city and indeed the legacy that they leave. Gold Coast 2018 was an attendance record-breaker.”
Reports emerged overnight from the UK that London was ready to step in to stage the Games, with a spokesperson for mayor Sadiq Khan saying his office would support a submission.
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