I awoke today to a radio discussion on Liverpool’s bid to host the Commonwealth Games. The central point was that a successful bid might be based on the use of the London Olympic stadium, whether the successful city is Liverpool or Birmingham. Ed Warner – head of UK Athletics – also mentioned a possible subsidy from government of up to £500 million. I was left more perplexed than ever. After all, there are many questions yet to be answered.
Firstly, as far as we have been told to date, the grand plan is to use Everton’s new stadium as the central venue for athletics. The problem with this, is that a new stadium is far from confirmed. I would like to hear Everton’s unequivocal commitment to the Bramley Moore project rather than the musings of the mayor. Then I would want to know first of all that there has been a change to the planning permission given to Peel – owners of Bramley Moore.
Such a radical proposed change of use might mean the whole project being called in for ministerial revue. Remember that the original planning consent had no mention of a stadium. What, for example, would be the Section 106 conditions applied to such a major project? What of the affected local businesses – to where would they be relocated, and at what cost? Have they been consulted? This is before the bizarre financing of the project is brought under proper scrutiny.
Assuming that all of this can be satisfactorily covered, we would need to look at the proposed games themselves. The mayor has spoken of “the legacy” of those Games if held in Liverpool. Before every Olympics and Commonwealth Games, proponents talk of “the legacy”; but far too often, the only legacy after the games in question has been debt and disappointment. There may be advantages for hotels and travel specialists, but what of the people of the city?
A brief look at the little that has been said to date is puzzling. Cycling would be at the Manchester Velodrome – little legacy there. There would be a temporary athletics track at Bramley Moore (unless the London option came into play) – again, no lasting benefit to local athletes. The third major venue would be a temporary swimming pool at the docks.
According to the mayor, next year the city goes into financial meltdown after, by then, eight years of austerity. There is no sign of relief from central government, so I wonder from where the necessary finance will come. The suggestion of massive funding for a Commonwealth Games suggested in the radio debate appears to be wishful thinking. That leaves private sector funding as the only option. That in turn tends to come where a profit can be made; but it appears highly unlikely given current uncertainty and the increasing economic strains of Brexit.
My fear is that this could turn out to be another pointless promise consistent with the “bread and circus” style of running Liverpool. Personally, I am not averse to the Commonwealth Games experience – I saw first-hand what can be achieved during the 1982 Brisbane Games. However, the lesson of those games was the close co-operation and support of all levels of government in more propitious economic times, together with first class, purpose –built facilities which are still open to all of the people of Brisbane today.