Wales politics

Commonwealth Games economic boost might have been 'zero'

2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow opening ceremony
Image caption The 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow was the third time the event was held in Scotland

A report on an abandoned proposal to bid on the 2026 Commonwealth Games has revealed the Welsh Government was told its economic benefit might have been zero.

The advice from the government's chief economist Jonathan Price is detailed in a study into the feasibility of the idea.

But the report warned of damage to Wales' reputation if no bid was made.

Ministers had decided against bidding for the 2026 games in July.

The government released the full report - previously only published in summary - following a Freedom of Information Act request by BBC Wales.

The report estimated costs of up to £1.5bn for the bid.

The Welsh Government had blamed the games' high cost for its decision, as well as funding uncertainty due to Brexit and the understanding that an "all-Wales bid was less likely to be supported".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Usain Bolt was one of the stars of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow

According to the report Mr Price found "that the potential economic benefits of holding a Commonwealth Games in Wales would unlikely (be) large and may even be zero".

He came to the view after he reviewed a Scottish Government economic assessment of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

The document, which was drawn up by Welsh Government officials, said "there may be major non-economic reasons for holding the games, so this does not imply that no case can be made for bidding".

But the report said "in the longer term there is little evidence that the games would have a positive impact on the wider economy".

"The primary source of economic return would result from investment in infrastructure that could be brought forward" without the expense of the games, the study said.

'No clear evidence'

Estimates for the number of jobs that could be created ranged from 9,000 to 17,000 over a period of ten years, with a potential contribution of £870m in gross terms to Wales' economy.

Other potential non-economic benefits are listed by the report - such as raising the profile of Wales on a world stage and having a positive impact on health.

But for the latter, the report said there is "no clear evidence that holding major sporting events leads to sustained increases in physical activity or increased participation in sport".

The report also warned that by not bidding it was likely there would be "reputational damage to the Welsh Government and to Wales on the global sporting stage".

A Wales 2026 bid was likely to face competition, but the fact the games had not been held in Wales since 1958 and the potential that 2026 might be the Queen's 100th birthday was said to give Wales a potential advantage over other proposals.

What would the costs be?

The feasibility study lays out how a games could take place, offering a short-list of options and estimated costs over a 15 year period, running up to 2032:

  • a games in the south east, with new venues including an athletics stadium and velodrome in Newport - £1.323bn
  • an all-Wales games, with events spread across the country with a new athletics stadium in Wrexham - £1.542bn
  • a south east Wales games with table tennis at the existing tennis centre in Wrexham - £1.317bn
  • a south east and north east Wales option with two Cardiff/Newport and Wrexham/Deeside "hubs" - £1.451bn

The figures include inflation and 24% for contingencies.

The favoured location for an athletes' village was Glan Llyn - the former steelworks site in Llanwern, Newport - with a satellite village in Wrexham if events were dispersed more widely.

Ministers had favoured an all-Wales bid - but Commonwealth Games Wales (CGW) had advised the government that a widely dispersed bid was "simply not winnable" and that it would be "unlikely that the other voting Commonwealth Games Associations would support such a proposal".

The report said the organisation had argued that the strongest option was the south east model. It would support a south east/north east Wales plan, although it was at the "limit of acceptability".

It was also suggested it would be difficult for the Welsh Government to manage the financial challenge of holding the games.

"This level of financial commitment would be unprecedented, extremely challenging, and allow almost no flexibility in budget allocation should Welsh Government priorities change over the intervening years," the report said.

Neil McEvoy, Plaid Cymru shadow minister for sport, said: "Any departmental study I commissioned would have focused on how to achieve economic benefits.

"We should have had a plan to make a profit."

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns has said that Wales should have bid to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games to show it was "open to the world".

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