Durban Seeks to Win Backing for Games ‘Cheaper Than Glasgow’

Durban, the South African Indian Ocean city, will stage an edition of the Commonwealth Games that will cost less than the 575 million pound ($875 million) 2014 event in Glasgow, a government official said.

Government employees will be drafted in to provide 60 percent of operational staff for the event, which Durban has bid to stage in 2022, Alec Moemi, director-general of the Department of Sport and Recreation, said in South Africa’s third-largest city on Friday.

Durban was the only candidate city to present its bid for the event this week after Canadian rival Edmonton withdrew, citing the financial strains caused by lower oil prices. The games, set to open on the birthday of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically elected president, have attracted opposition from local critics concerned that the country can’t afford them.

“Our operational costs alone most certainly will be less than the three billion rand ($254 million) equivalent it cost Glasgow,” Moemi told reporters at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, declining to give an estimate. The Durban arena was built for the 2010 World Cup and will be the centerpiece of the July 18-29, 2022 games.

The Durban organizing committee is working with their counterparts in Gold Coast, the Australian city hosting the 2018 games, “to learn how they maximize spending,” Moemi said.

The South African city has little building to do before the teams arrive, he said. “The reason for Edmonton withdrawing its 2022 bid was the cost of having to construct infrastructure Durban already has.” The event would contribute 11 billion rand to the South African economy and generate more than 11,000 jobs, Durban’s bid document shows.

Winter Games

The games would fall during winter in Durban, South Africa’s most popular domestic tourism destination because of its beaches and sub-tropical climate. The city has an average of 8 hours of sunshine a day during July, with temperatures ranging from 12 to 23 degrees Celsius (54-73 degrees Fahrenheit). The city of 3.5 million people has the third-busiest container port in the southern hemisphere.

“Yes, I’m not going to lie to you, the games will cost a lot of money,” Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula said at the same briefing. “But people forget the positive spin-offs.”

The organizers would build a 7,500-unit athletes’ village about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) north of Durban, speeding up the construction of housing that would otherwise take 17 years to complete, Mbalula said.

While Durban is the only city in the running, its bid must still be scrutinized by the Commonwealth Games Federation. The body is due to announce in Auckland in September who the 2022 host will be.

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