Friday, March 09, 2007

Risk And Reward

The city of Halifax in Canada has pulled out of the race to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games. While good news for Glasgow, now the clear favourite to beat the only other contender Abuja, the decision is a bit of a shame.

On one level it's understandable. Canada is still haunted by the spectacular financial failure of the 1976 Montreal Olympics, the debt for which was finally paid off just a few months ago. Despite more recent successes including the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, city leaders in Halifax could be forgiven for playing it safe unless they're sure they've got the cash in place.

But that's the coward's way out. Middling-sized cities like Halifax (population 385,000) around the world aspire to joining the big league of important places. Hosting a major sporting or cultural event is just about the most obvious way of making that happen. It can be expensive, and there's no guarantee of success, as Liverpool may discover with its Capital of Culture celebrations next year. But if city leaders have the confidence to put a big event on properly, the rewards can dwarf the risks. The decision to withdraw from a winnable contest is one the people of Halifax will have plenty of time to rue over the next few years. Nothing much else is going to be going on there.

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