Northern Ireland should aspire to host the Commonwealth Games in the ‘long-term future’ if there is ‘significant investment in facilities infrastructure’ due to the changing nature of how the event multisports is organized, according to the new Team NI mission leader. Alison Moffitt-Robinson.
Moffitt-Robinson’s fascinating comments come just days before the start of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, with the opening ceremony taking place on Thursday.
Beginning as the British Empire Games in 1930, the Commonwealth Games were hosted by England and Scotland on several occasions and Wales in 1958, but never Northern Ireland, with a lack of appropriate sporting facilities and funding required for such a huge event as the major. stumbling blocks.
The Birmingham Games are expected to cost around £778m, with the majority paid for by the government.
Four years ago Northern Ireland lost the chance to host the 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games after failing to secure funding, with the NI executive at Stormont collapsing before ministers agreed on a financial package.
The idea of Northern Ireland hosting the Commonwealth Games has always been seen as a pipe dream, but Moffitt-Robinson, the NI team’s first female chef de mission, says ‘never say never’, pointing to the change momentum for the 2022 Games with a city not hosting all sports, such as cycling in London and others taking place in the West Midlands region as well as Birmingham.
When asked if Northern Ireland could ever host the Commonwealth Games, Moffitt-Robinson said: “We’re a long way off at the minute, but if we’re talking about something for the long term future, it’s something potentially as a nation that we could aspire to, but the investment would have to be significant in the infrastructure of the facility.
“That would be a wonderful thing to do. The Games are now starting to change the structure with the way they are delivered, and Birmingham will be the first Games where they have multiple venues rather than a central village where all the athletes had to be based, which made logistics impossible for many. of nations to welcome.
“In these Games and the Victoria Games, which have been identified for 2026, we are now seeing multiple bases and multiple venues, and that certainly makes it much more possible for smaller nations to be able to respond and deliver, so never say never. ”
Speaking in an interview to promote National Lottery funding for sports stars, Moffitt-Robinson added: “We would definitely need to look at facilities and infrastructure. They should certainly be improved, but I don’t want to get into the political side of investments.
“A velodrome, for example, would be the one we would currently miss. We have a 50m pool and we have lanes and most other facilities, and with National Lottery investment in the future, who knows what will be possible?
“Obviously the Games have minimum requirements and I know there have been discussions about facility development on both the existing track facilities and how they look.
“It would be amazing to have them literally on the doorstep and in the province and not just on the continent as an option for the home Games.”
Of the total cost of £778m, it was reported that Birmingham City Council and local partners would contribute around £184m.
The funding either built new world-class sports facilities or rejuvenated existing sports facilities, including the multi-million pound transformation of Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium, where the Athletics and Opening and Closing Ceremonies will take place at this year’s Games.
Northern Ireland has fine athletics facilities at the Mary Peters Track in Belfast and the NI Centenary Stadium in Antrim, but work at the Alexander Stadium has made it a 30,000 capacity arena for the Games.
Northern Ireland does not currently have a sports stadium of this size, but when Casement Park is finally built the capacity will be 34,500.
The Ulster GAA have said they are open to discussions about the ground being used as part of a British/Irish bid for the Euro 2028 final to have tournament football matches played in Northern Ireland .
Some might suggest that adding an athletics track to the long-awaited new stadium at Casement Park, when it is built, could be an option to help a potential Commonwealth Games bid in the future.