The 2026 Commonwealth Games could be coming to the Welsh capital , if council bosses are successful with an audacious bid.
The Games were last held in Cardiff, ‘The Empire Games’, in 1958 where 36 nations competed in nine sports across 94 events.
Steve Morris, sports development manager for Cardiff council, said: “Cardiff has always had an ambition to host the Commonwealth Games, since the late 1990s we’ve been talking about it.
“We originally talked about bidding for the 2014 Games, then 2022, but we wanted to bide our time and get it right.”
The Games, which comprises ten core sports, will see 5,000 athletes from across the world competing for international glory. WalesOnline reported in October 2009 how council chiefs had planned to bid in 2022.
Mr Morris revealed the council held talks with the Assembly government’s heritage minister Alun Ffred Jones last summer about bringing the Games to Cardiff.
The Assembly government requires a report to be submitted, with costings, before it will decide whether to back the bid.
If the Cardiff bid gets the go-ahead they will need to produce a £50,000 feasibility study for the Commonwealth Games Federation.
The Millennium Stadium could be reduced in capacity for the Games, with a raised running track taking the place of the first few rows of seating.
The Wales Millennium Centre could host wrestling, archery at the SWALEC Stadium and Newport hosting cycling at the Velodrome.
View photos from the 1958 Empire Games
Mr Morris, who spent six days at the Delhi Games last year on a fact-finding mission, said the bar had been raised.
He said: “The scale of Delhi was impressive. I don’t think there’s many host cities who would be able to match what they did there – but I know the Commonwealth Games organisers are looking at reducing the scale of the event so more people can bid.”
An athletes village would need to be constructed and Mr Morris hinted this could be one of the greenfield developments proposed in Cardiff’s local development plan. Plus other areas of South Wales would get involved.
“We want this to be a South Wales games, not just Cardiff,” said Mr Morris, “we’ve got the Valleys for events like mountain biking and we could see events like bowls, one of the Games’ core sports, going to Barry.”
Cardiff council’s executive member for sport and leisure, Nigel Howells, said: “We are an ambitious city and we’ve got a track record for delivering major sporting events.
“I know we’d be able to deliver a great Games and we’ve shown with the Rugby World Cup, Six Nations and Ashes tests we know how to deal with big events in this city.”
Chris Jenkins, executive director of the Commonwealth Games Council for Wales, said keeping the costs down were important.
He said: “We’ve got a lot of venues in Cardiff and around South Wales we can modify and use in any bid. It’s important to remember the bid process is a very long and complicated process.
“I think we’re well placed though and there’s been a lot of work done in the last six months to lay the groundwork for a strong bid. Whether it’s 2022 or 2026 doesn’t matter, I’d urge people not to get hung up on the date.
“The important thing is we don’t end up with a load of ‘white elephants’ like Athens did after the Olympics with stadiums and venues they can’t use for any other purpose.”
Bridgend-born Lynn Davies, president of UK Athletics, competed in the Commonwealth Games for Wales four times.
The 68-year-old said he hoped Cardiff submitted a bid for the 2026 event.
He said: “When you look at what Wales has staged in the last decade, with the FA Cup finals, the rugby World Cup and the Ryder Cup, I think Cardiff really is a sport city.”
The former long jumper, who took Olympic gold in Tokyo in 1964, said the capital already had infrastructure in place to support any potential bid.
“Why not capitalise on it and show the rest of the world what Cardiff and Wales has got?”
And, having competed in the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games in 1970, he said the feeling of lining up in front of a British crowd was exciting for competitors.
He said: “What a fantastic thing it would be for Welsh athletes to be competing in front of a home crowd – it would be brilliant.”
Huw Jones, chief executive of Sport Wales, said: “Wales has a proud history at the Commonwealth Games and there is no doubt that hosting the event on Welsh soil would help inspire the next generation of potential stars and spur the medal ambitions of our very talented sportsmen and women.
“We must, however, be absolutely clear on what we would want to achieve from hosting the Games, and what the benefits might be – immediate and long term.”
Mr Jones warned the Delhi games had estimated costs of $6.8 billion and any Games would require “significant levels of financial commitment.
Cardiff’s sporting ambitions could also see it named as the ‘European Capital of Sport’ in 2014, the same year as Glasgow hosts the Commonwealth Games.
The 2014 Games are due to be held in Scotland, with Glasgow landing the competition from the 23rd July to 3rd August.
Key plans for Cardiff’s Commonwealth Games bid
– The Millennium Stadium would host the athletics and opening/closing ceremonies, with some of the lower tiers of seating removed to allow a raised athletics track. A warm-up track would potentially be underneath.
– SWALEC Stadium could be home to archery and other sports
– The Wales Millennium Centre and St David’s Hall could host wrestling, table tennis and other indoor sports
– Cardiff would need to build an indoor arena capable of holding 10,000 people for major indoor sporting events
– An athletes village, to house 5,000 athletes, with transport links and other facilities, could be built as part of the city’s new local development plan. Candidate sites submitted by developers, who would need to be involved in the bid, show swathes of houses could be built on the city’s greenfield land in the West and North East of the city.
– Some roads in the city, and possibly the M4, could have dedicated ‘Commonwealth Lanes’ – like the M4 Bus Lane in London – allowing competitors and officials easy access to venues.
– Outside of Cardiff, Newport could host the cycling events while mountain biking could take place in the Valleys, while bowls could be held in Barry.
– Cardiff’s international athletics track would not be able to host many events, due to a lack of seating, but could be used as a training base.
Additional reporting by Ciaran Jones
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