Will Ghana ever host the Commonwealth Games?

APIA, SAMOA - SEPTEMBER 05: Athletes from Ghana enter the arena during the Opening Ceremony of the Vth Commonwealth Youth Games at Apia Park on September 5, 2015 in Apia, Samoa. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

The recent news of the deportation of some ‘Ghana journalists’ from Australia, the visa racketeering scandal and the subsequent resignations have overshadowed the Commonwealth Games and other benefits therein. For now, we need to forget about the scandal and focus on the positive aspect of the Commonwealth Games and the benefits Ghana can derive form hosting this tournament in the near future. For some media houses, they see the current happenings as an opportunity to score some political points. What is wrong is wrong and we all have condemned the actions of those who caused the bad press, nonetheless we must not continue dueling on the negative news because it tarnishes the image of the country. The more we do that the more it affects all of us.

The Commonwealth Games

Many Ghanaians don’t know what the Commonwealth Games are about. The Commonwealth Games are an international multi-sport event involving athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations. The event was first held in 1930, and has taken place every four years since then (with the exception of 1942 and 1946, which were cancelled due to the Second World War). The most recent Commonwealth Games were held on the Gold Coast (which bears Ghana’s former name), Queensland, Australia from 4 to 15 April 2018. The Commonwealth Games were known as the British Empire Games from 1930 to 1950, the British Empire and Commonwealth Games from 1954 to 1966, and British Commonwealth Games from 1970 to 1974.

 The Commonwealth of Nations?

The Commonwealth of Nations is a worldwide political organization of independent nations with their dependencies, all of which recognize the British monarch as head of the Commonwealth.
The origins of the Commonwealth lie in the British Empire. Starting in the 16th century, Britain invaded other lands. This was very violent most of the times. Some colonies, such as India, had large local populations ruled by British overlords. Others, such as Australia, became colonies for settlement by the British. When World War II broke out, these Commonwealth nations and the colonies fought alongside the UK and its allies for the ideals of liberty. They helped the Allies to win in 1945. Independence for the remaining colonies followed soon after.  Independent countries from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Pacific have joined The Commonwealth. Membership today is based on free and equal voluntary co-operation. The last two countries to join The Commonwealth – Rwanda and Mozambique – have no historical ties to the British Empire.

History of the Commonwealth Games

A sporting competition bringing together the members of the British Empire was first proposed by John Astley Cooper in 1891, when he wrote an article in The Times suggesting a “Pan-Britannic-Pan-Anglican Contest and Festival every four years as a means of increasing goodwill and good understanding of the British Empire”. Johnfer Astley Cooper Committees were formed worldwide (e.g. Australia) and helped Pierre de Coubertin to get his international Olympic Games off the ground.

The Gold Coast bulleting reports that with a global audience of 1.5 billion and hundreds of thousands of visitors, the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) presented a massive opportunity for tourism. GC2018 provided a significant opportunity to strengthen Queensland as Australia’s premier tourism destination. More than 1.1 million visitors were expected in the lead up to, during and post the Games spending more than $870 million in Queensland. Within this it was the forecast that the Games themselves will attract approximately 672,000 visitors, spending $323 million, 356,000 day trippers, spending $35 million, 265,000 domestic overnight visitors, spending $225 million, 50,000 overseas visitors (including more than 6000 athletes and officials), spending $63 million. Apart from those visitors attending the Games, the event was predicted to attract an additional 490 000 visitors, spending $550 million over the period of nine years (four years pre and post Games) as an induced effect:

  • 100 000 visitors from overseas, spending $143 million
  • 390 000 domestic visitors, spending $407 million.
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Games Partners worked with stakeholders in the tourism industry across Queensland to ensure Games visitors had a great experience in order to help encourage return visits which is key to the growth of tourism in a destination and for visits by their friends and family. The Games was therefore an avenue to showcase the iconic Gold Coast and Queensland’s spectacular tourism destinations to a global audience.

Accessible and Inclusive Tourism

To enhance accessibility and inclusive tourism, the Queensland Government’s Embracing2018 Legacy program  developed a guide to support the tourism industry to be more accessible and inclusive. Six Simple Steps to Accessible and Inclusive Tourism provided businesses with information about easy, low cost changes they could make to add value and improve guest experience. The legacy of GC2018 was to have more pride in its city, its public transport thereby improving tourists visiting and making them feel much more loved and wanted, and thereby helping their kids being inspired to dream big.

Host cities of Olympic and Commonwealth Games seek to develop “legacies”.

The London 2012 Olympics aimed to make the United Kingdom a world-class sporting nation and transform the heart of East ­London. The Beijing Games in 2008 were regarded as an opportunity to show its “long forgotten pride” and a chance to address air pollution. Glasgow followed the same path last year with its Commonwealth Games aimed at building a cleaner and greener city. Sydney in 2000 created a green space that locals and tourists alike continue to enjoy.

Following the successful hosting of the commonwealth games, the Gold Coast will become Australia’s next hub for major international events following. The tourism industry is hoping the Gold Coast’s transformation into a city able to host major events will rake in millions of dollars in years to come. The city has already booked in a major international conference to take place less than a month after the Commonwealth Games. The Infinitus conference is expected to bring about $50 million and 6000 delegates to the region.

Are there lessons we can learn from them and make Ghana an international destination for sporting events? Can Ghana boast of hosting this event the very near future let say 5, 10 or 20 year from now? If we cannot, the continuous hosting of international sporting events like the Commonwealth Games will mean that Ghana will not be able to compete with the developed world in terms of tourist arrival and receipts. What about conferences? Can Ghana handle 6000 delegates attending a conference? Answers to these questions will be very important to those at the helms of affaires. Ghana stands to benefit tremendously should the Olympics ever come to us. Someone told me Ghana does not have an indoor basketball court unlike some other African countries that have already begun the process and own quite a number. The beginning of hosting the Commonwealth Games in the near future will begin with the building of the needed infrastructure and unearthing the talents that will make Ghana competitive.  The planning should begin by building multi-purpose indoors and outdoors games facilities across the country. Meanwhile, South African which was set to become the first African country to host the Commonwealth Games was stripped of its right to hold the Games in four years’ time as the South African city did not meet the criteria set by the CGF.  Some few countries rushed to replace South Africa as hosts, with the English city of Birmingham eventually winning the bid. It is reported that hosting the next commonwealth game will cost Britain $ 1 billion. It is also reported that the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games was one of the low points in the history of the event. Engulfed by controversy, there were criticisms about spending millions on a sporting event in a country with extreme poverty. There were also construction delays, infrastructure problems and poor ticket sales. Speaking to CNN Grevemberg said, “Post-Delhi a lot of soul searching was done, in terms of the relevance of the Commonwealths and the Games,”  Ghana putting a bid to host the tournament in the future may attract this same criticism. What these cynics don’t realize is that, tourism erases poverty. “The platform of the Games, on the Gold Coast, on the land of Indigenous people, with the whole public discourse of reconciliation in Australia — why would we take the opportunity to miss the opportunity, particularly knowing where the Commonwealth has come from. It’s like walking into a room full of elephants and pretending they’re not there.  “We have to be bigger than that, be better than that, if we truly want to have the impact we want.”We all have this history, it’s what we do with it.

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“By attacking some of these issues straight on, by creating a willingness to listen to people, we really can change the dial. If you haven’t created a strong granite foundation for all people, it’ll always be a fragile base.” “We will be taking the lessons learned from here and instigating a number of initiatives with Indigenous communities across the Commonwealth in terms of discourse and discussion in how we establish a declaration in Indigenous reconciliation through sport,” added Grevemberg. “One of the things we’ve already done in our host city contract, for 2022 and beyond, is that if you do host the Commonwealth Games there’s a requirement that you promote and respect Indigenous people. It’s obligatory. That’s putting our money where our mouth is, so to speak.” Hosting the event will be good for Ghana however the question many ask is: who can afford to host the Games?  Post Birmingham 2022, five of the last six Games will have been hosted in either the UK or Australia, two of the world’s most affluent nations. They are however having returns on their investment. By hosting the event, will Ghana be able to make returns on the investment that comes with hosting such events through the multiplier effects? My answer is yes. This must not be a debate but an opportunity to grab ten years from now.

Philip Gebu is a Tourism Lecturer. He is the C.E.O of FoReal Destinations Ltd, a Destinations Management and Marketing Company based in Ghana and with partners in many other countries. Please contact Philip with your comments and suggestions. Write to forealdestinations@gmail.com / info@forealdestinations.com. Visit our website at www.forealdestinations.com or call or WhatsApp +233(0)244295901/0264295901.Visist our social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: FoReal Destinations.

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