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Thursday 10 February 2022

Bread and circuses: Tasmania wants to host the Commonwealth Games

I will try to report this with a straight face.

Hobart and Launceston want to host or co-host the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

Tasmania does not have one single venue capable of holding 20,000 people. The main indoor arena in the state holds fewer than 5,000 people.

The state's infrastructure is groaning; hospitals and ambulances are under pressure, there are not enough police and no international flights. .

As someone who has covered several Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games dating back to Brisbane in 1982 I'm happy to declare this plan as crazy.

Here is a nod and a wink from Matilda (above). At best, Tasmania could perhaps host a couple of sports, maybe lawn bowls, badminton, or road cycling.

I'm pretty sure Premier Peter Gutwein and his team have no idea of the infrastructure needed to put on an event like the Commonwealth Games, which will attract athletes and officials from up to 72 nations.

Over 5,000 athletes compete at the Commonwealth Games in around 15 different sports and more than 250 events. Plus officials, plus media, plus spectators from around the globe.

Where would they all stay in Tasmania? In tents beside the River Derwent, perhaps?

Birmingham in England was the 2026 host, but was then awarded the 2022 Games after Durban in South Africa was stripped of the rights because of glacial infrastructure progress.

The reasons for Gutwein and Sports Minister Jane Howlett putting their hands up to be noticed are many. But mainly just to be noticed.

Commonwealth Games host cities saw an increase in tourism by up to 25% four years after hosting the games, a recent report found. That is a bonus.

But the Games don't come cheap, and the cost of staging them would be in the hundreds of millions.

Tasmania would need federal money to help construct suitable venues - and four years is simply not enough time.

Gutwein said today he had written to the chief executive of Commonwealth Games Australia, Craig Phillips, formally requesting that Tasmania be given consideration as a host for the event.

Sports Minister Howlett said the state was ready to make the most of the opportunity.

"Our government is committed to delivering more elite sporting content for Tasmanians to enjoy - and importantly, provide pathways for local sportsmen, women and children," she said.

Howlett said the state government would even consider Tasmania co-hosting the event.

"We are confident that we can work collaboratively with Commonwealth Games Australia on the opportunities Tasmania presents as either a host or co-host," she said.

Tasmania has recently pushed for entry into the AFL and the A-League, but lacks suitable stadia. So co-hosting a couple of events is the most Tasmania could hope for.

Australia last hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2018 on the Gold Coast.

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