Around one third of the world’s population live in the Commonwealth. Many of these people live in some of the world’s biggest cities, which include emerging mega cities such as Delhi and Lagos, as well as established host cities like London, Sydney, Toronto and Glasgow.
The Commonwealth also encompasses two thirds of the world’s small states and island states, embracing the widest range of cultures of any international association of nations.
The Commonwealth is, in short, incredibly diverse. “Each city, each location is different; it has different strengths and it has different challenges,” David Grevemberg, CEO of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) tells HOST CITY.
The CGF’s aim, declared on its website, is “uniting the world through sport”, which it achieves through the Commonwealth Games. While all 71 Commonwealth nations take part, the majority do not have the scale or technical capability to host the Commonwealth Games.
The smaller Commonwealth Youth Games presents a more attainable proposition for cities that want to benefit from hosting a CGF event.
“The structure and approach that the Federation is taking can appeal to emerging markets, to more regenerative markets and sustained markets. We have different cities, all within different phases of their development,” says Grevemberg.
“I think the Games, whether it’s the Youth Games, a Commonwealth Championship event or a multi-sport event, can play a part in contributing to that journey for cities when approached right.
“The Commonwealth Youth Games have great agility for local hosts to make of them what they will. Events like this are fantastic opportunities to create opportunities for those smaller states to showcase what’s on offer, and what their challenges, ambitions and aspirations are.”
The small island states of Samoa and St. Lucia are hosting the Youth Commonwealth Games in 2015 and 2017 respectively.
“For Samoa and St. Lucia, these are accessible and inclusive events; they will be taking in the local context. They are taking a very agile approach, in terms of providing not only a great competitive experience for the athletes and citizens, but also using the event to have a cultural immersion experience.”
While sports events do present fantastic opportunities for hosts to showcase their qualities to the world, the question of to what extent they can bring wider benefits to society is becoming ever more pertinent – particularly when it comes to mega events like the Commonwealth Games, which require major investment to deliver.
“These events, when used with the right time and place and purpose, have the power to be transformational – not just in terms of infrastructure, but also can have economic and social benefits and changes that can build more peaceful, sustainable and prosperous communities,” says Grevemberg.
“I think there’s demand now that sport delivers on that proposition and that it claims an order as part of a justification of running these events.”
“It’s as much about the journey as it is about the destination of hosting these events. It’s about – what are your ambitions, what are your anxieties and how does this event match up with that – and ultimately is it a good business and social proposition?”
Earlier in 2015, the Commonwealth Games Federation suffered from the loss of Edmonton as a candidate city for the 2022 Commonwealth Games during the height of the oil price crisis in February 2015. The CGF, with Grevemberg appointed as CEO following his leadership of Glasgow 2014, embarked on its “Transformation 2022” programme of reform.
Central to Transformation 2022 is a review of the sports programme.
“Are we being inspiring and innovative in our decisions on the sports we have on the programme? Are we driving efficiency and effectiveness to the delivery of this event? Are we looking at affordability and appeal in getting those balances right?
“Those are the three elements we’re looking at in terms of driving our overall Games proposition to have more inspiring and innovative Games, so the sports on the programme are starting to reflect that,” says Grevemberg.
In making the Games more appealing to potential hosts, the CGF is setting out to communicate more widely and deeply with its network of cities.
“It’s quite important that we remain agile and listen to what our cities and countries are looking for. We have a responsibility now to work with people and the various partners in cities to ensure that we are accountable, that our events are delivering the benefits that they claim they do.”
The goal is not ultimately to stage sports events, but to use them as a means to improve quality of life.
“Part of this notion, in terms of the proposition to deliver inspirational Games, is to engage and embrace with the cities; and how to work with cities and use major sports events within the Commonwealth to share and exchange best practice for using sports as a tool to drive prosperity.
“That is what drives sustainability, and obviously that nurtures future hosts and the power of sport within the Commonwealth.”
Commonwealth Cities Exchange
When it comes to best practice, the Commonwealth is blessed with a large number of some of the world’s most successful host cities.
“If you look at the cities of the Commonwealth that have hosted major sporting events – not just the Commonwealth Games – and the way that they’ve used sport to hold themselves to account, but also to drive some of those sustainable development agendas, there’s no question that the Commonwealth has a strong pedigree of cities that have lived and learned how to do it: the Manchesters, the Glasgows, the Londons, the Sydneys, the Vancouvers, the Edmontons, the Torontos, the Jo’burgs, the Durbans, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore… the list goes on.
“You’ve got a lot of really powerful examples of cities – so how do we create Commonwealth exchange with common purpose, not just to celebrate legacy but also to celebrate ambition?
“The concept is ultimately to share best practice and to help people recognise the power of sport to develop their societies.”
Fully engaging the CGF’s 71 members, the Commonwealth Games Associations – 54 of which perform a dual role as National Olympic Committees – will be crucial to communicate the benefits of hosting CGF events.
“There’s a really strong emphasis on working with the CGAs to build their relationships with private, public and third sector – because you really can’t do anything without that alliance. We need to work with them and their local communities to showcase and drive the value of the events. You also have to look at cities as partners.”
Partnerships with sport’s international federations (IFs) will also be essential for developing sport within the Commonwealth.
“With each of the IFs we are looking at the technical relationship, the developmental relationship; where can we be innovative and have enhancement on our promotional opportunities; promote that sport and its values within the Commonwealth; and finally other opportunities for us as a trailblazing movement to enhance the reputational prominence of that sport.”
Grevemberg cites the Glasgow 2014 athletics track at Hampden Park for as a good example of working in partnership with the IAAF. By raising the ground level, the field of play was widened and the existing national stadium was able to house an athletics track for the Commonwealth Games.
“That created a sustainable solution for athletics in an existing stadium. It minimised cost but created an appealing world class event that wouldn’t leave a white elephant. That was an innovative solution that had enormous reputational benefit.”
Reputation is crucial for rights holders and the popularity of sports should not be taken for granted.
“We, as sports managers and sports administrators and our leadership, need to be conscious that there are lots of competing forces out there and we do live in turbulent times.
“We need to be agile and respectful, conscious and definitive in the approaches that we are taking to really uphold the values that we promote. That’s ultimately, without being overly evangelical, what we have to lead with.
“Otherwise we get overtaken – something else will fill the gap. We need to certainly take the necessary steps to ensure our success in the future.”
The values of the CGF are “Humanity, Equality and Destiny”, which Grevemberg describes as referring to “people, how we treat people and how we give people the opportunity to realise their full potential.”
The CGF uses the “medium” of sport to achieve this.
“The Transformation 2022 starts to put a narrative around those values, which people can really own and understand how we can put those words on the ground. They line up very effectively with the Commonwealth Charter and the principles of peace, prosperity and human rights.
“I believe that sport and the work that we do can play a part in building awareness, advocating or taking tangible action to address those pieces. We are exploring ways with the Commonwealth Secretariat and many sport development bodies to see how we can play a big part.
“So it’s just having those bold, frank, idealistic, but not naïve, conversations about what can we do with the power of sport to be a force for good.”
HOST CITY 2015
David Grevemberg spoke at HOST CITY’s first conference in October 2014, on the subject of “Beyond the Bid: Winning for the Future” and HOST CITY is very pleased to welcome him back in November 2015 speaking on the subject of “How Cities and Events Innovate to Thrive”.
On HOST CITY’s launch event last year, Grevemberg says: “Enlightening. I think the calibre of people that attended and spoke was excellent; it was excellent to meet so many experts with a shared perspective and shared passion and belief that the hosting of major events is a force for good.
“I think it’s a great forum to discuss the fact that we are at this crossroads where the integrity of sport, in terms of how sport is managed and run, and what it delivers, is in question right now – that’s the reality.
“I think forums like that are important for us as the industry and those that may be interested in becoming part of the industry, to be able to come and exchange views, to debate, deliberate and ultimately design some innovative thoughts about where to we go from here.
“Every city, every event is different with different opportunities. At the same time, there is best practice out there that can be transferrable.”