Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Durban dodges a bullet by losing the Commonwealth Games

I read with interest this week that Durban has been stripped of the hosting rights for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The New Zealand Herald reported on Tuesday:
Durban was stripped of the right to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games mainly because the South African government couldn't provide financial guarantees.
Also, other commitments the city made when it won the bid had still not been met nearly two years later.
Durban presented a revised budget and hosting proposal to the Commonwealth Games Federation over the weekend but the last-ditch effort to save Africa's first international multi-sport event wasn't enough.
"It is with disappointment that the detailed review has concluded that there is a significant departure from the undertakings provided in Durban's bid, and as a result a number of key obligations and commitments in areas such as governance, venues, funding and risk management/assurance have not been met," the CGF said in a statement.
The CGF was "actively exploring alternative options, including a potential replacement host," CGF president Louise Martin said.
Those of us who have read Andrew Zimbalist's excellent book "Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup" (which I reviewed here) will know that this outcome is probably a good thing for the government and the people of Durban. There is little evidence that there is any short-term or long-term positive impact on the economy of hosting a large event like the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, or FIFA World Cup.

However, I did read this paper recently, by Paul Dolan (London School of Economics) and others, which shows a short-term increase in subjective wellbeing (happiness) in London at the time of the Olympics, compared with Paris and Berlin. However, the increase in happiness was short-lived, and had disappeared within a year of the event.

So, perhaps the people of Durban will be less happy in 2022 than they would have been while hosting the Commonwealth Games, but by 2023 they will be just as happy having not hosted it. And they won't be saddled with a bunch of white elephant venues and a significant public debt to pay off.

Read more:

[HT: Tim Harford for the Dolan et al. paper]

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