Alberta’s Mostly Harmless Sorta Kinda Maybe Commonwealth Games Bid

What exactly was announced this week? We're still trying to figure that out

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“O Deep Thought computer,” he said, “the task we have designed you to perform is this. We want you to tell us….” he paused, “The Answer.”
“The Answer?” said Deep Thought. “The Answer to what?”
“Life!” urged Fook.
“The Universe!” said Lunkwill.
“Everything!” they said in chorus.
Deep Thought paused for a moment’s reflection.
“Tricky,” he said finally.
“But can you do it?”
Again, a significant pause.
“Yes,” said Deep Thought, “I can do it.”
“There is an answer?” said Fook with breathless excitement.
“Yes,” said Deep Thought. “Life, the Universe, and Everything. There is an answer. But, I’ll have to think about it.”

— Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

If Douglas Adams was alive today, he’d have a chuckle about it. “It” being this week’s press conference that was held in Calgary to announce Alberta’s intention to answer the question of if we should think about maybe or maybe not hosting the 2030 Commonwealth Games.

It was about as non-committal a media event as we’ve ever seen. It was truly a Canadian moment — as if we were telling the world “excuse us, we’re sorta thinking about maybe doing a thing.”

That’s right, this was not a press conference to confirm that Edmonton, Calgary, the Bow Valley and Indigenous partners would combine on a bid to host the Games, which bring together 74 member nations of the Commonwealth. It was a press conference to let the public know that, after some private musings, the process will now begin to decide if we’ll go forward with such a bid or not — and that we should have that decision by August.

So mighty was this announcement, that Minister of Community of Social Services Jason Luan confirmed that the province will chip in an entire $2 million to support our deep thoughts about maybe sorta hosting the games.

There was very little in terms of detail.

“We’re not in a position today to discuss the final budget,” said Roger Jackson, the CEO of the maybe sorta kinda bid.

He wasn’t able to confirm what venues would need to be built or renovated. But he did confirm that Edmonton would get the lawn bowling competition — if the bid was kinda sorta maybe successful, that is. If we even bid at all.

It was funny — and, on the surface, seemed like an unnecessary exercise. But, Edmonton’s bid to be a 2026 World Cup host city was recently shot down by FIFA. Calgarians voted overwhelmingly in a plebiscite to not go forward with a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics. So, the citizens of both cities may not be super-receptive to another bid for another big-ticket sporting event, and organizers know it. That’s why they want to lead Albertans by the hand at such an early point in the process.

In fact, Jackson referred to the failed Olympic process in Calgary; he said that Commonwealth organizers “will not repeat” the mistakes made by those who came before them. He said the Winter Olympic hopefuls struggled to communicate and involve their city, where the Commonwealth Games backers have been actively meeting with community groups over the past four years.

For Edmonton, the golden fleece is a possible renovation of Commonwealth Stadium. Ironically, the stadium that was built for the 1978 Commonwealth Games could use the 2030 edition of the competition as the reasoning for a major facelift. Had the World Cup push been successful, hundreds of millions worth of federal and provincial dollars would have gone to refurbishing Canada’s largest stadium. If the Commonwealth Games are indeed awarded to Alberta in 2030, City officials could use that as reasoning to lobby the province and feds for the money it didn’t get when the World Cup went poof.

“The Games are a great way to unite Albertans and citizens around the world through the festival of sport, and with the creative opportunities for our province to share our stories globally,” said Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi.

Jackson said the Commonwealth Games would attract 1.5 billion viewers over two weeks in the summer of 2030… if we host it, that is, if we even decide to bid for it.

In 2022, at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, a video presentation by Queen Elizabeth II was watched globally by an estimated audience of one billion. An estimated 1.5 million tickets were sold for events at the Birmingham games, despite the global COVID hangover. In 2018, 1.2 million tickets were sold for events at the Games, held in Australia’s Gold Coast.

Those numbers give us a lot to think about. And think about. And think about. We’ll get back to you in August.