A-Grade Opportunity

Why the Commonwealth Games is the answer to Adelaide’s apathy.

City Collective’s research shows that saying yes to a Commonwealth Games bid is actually about saying yes to the constructive transformation of our city.

Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Athletes Village

Infamously, Adelaide’s tentative steps toward hosting the 2008 Commonwealth Games were unceremoniously halted when then-SA Treasurer Kevin Foley called it a “B-Grade” event.

But now, the State Government is wading back into the fray – announcing last month that Adelaide will be part of early-stage talks to bid for the 2026 Games.

The change in attitude might be explained by a change of leadership, but could just as easily be attributed to a little deeper thought being applied to what the Games could mean for Adelaide.

“We’ve got a real opportunity here,” says City Collective Director David Cooke. “We can make this deadline and investment and event work for us.”

David has invested a significant amount of time investigating just how much of an impact the Commonwealth Games could have on Adelaide. His research study on the subject has become a key part of South Australia’s rekindled interest in the Commonwealth Games.

“I came back from completing this research at Berkeley, California and met with [prominent local businessman] Rob Gerard, and he very kindly commented that the study was fantastic and just what Adelaide needed,” says David.

What the research reveals is that for Adelaide, the Commonwealth Games is much more than the chance to get some international attention and a temporary spike in population and tourism.

David’s study demonstrates that, if approached properly, the Games could be the catalyst for the cultural and infrastructure change Adelaide so sorely needs.

“We all know we need to spend money on roads, transport and infrastructure but what the Commonwealth Games does is it gives us a deadline to spend that investment,” he says.

“Rather than spend that money over 30 years – we could spend it in 10. This results in the city gaining the benefit of those upgrades for 20 years longer than we would otherwise, and the major event actually offsets the costs through increased tourism and economic activity.

“What this means is that in bidding for the Games we’re not actually focusing on 2026… We’re focusing on 2046.”

Historical examples of well-executed Commonwealth Games strategies prove that the potential David highlights can become a reality. Cities like England’s Manchester and our own Melbourne are still capitalising on the events they held respectively in 2002 and 2006.

The key to making more from the Games than a short-term party and expense is in planning how developments like the athlete’s village, new stadiums, and extra public transport capacity are redeployed after the event is over.

  • The residential accommodation of the Athletes villiage needs to be planned where the city needs housing now and as well as providing a long-lasting legacy.
  • International examples show that this housing could be initially developed for the Athletes Village requirements before being transitioned to University housing, affordable housing and aged accommodation.
The transformation of north-west Birmingham will be significantly accelerated thanks to the housing legacy from the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games
After the Games, the Village accommodation will be converted and become available as a mixture of homes for sale and market rent as well as for social and affordable rent.

“How awesome would it be to have athletes housing located in a part of the city – whether it’s the south west or all sprinkled through the city – to have these Games hotspots?”

With a potential for infrastructure like this to be financed through the emerging City Deal model, which attracts public and private investment to achieve a positive community outcome, there’s a lot of good that could come from the Games, and less economic risk than some might assume.

Using the City Deal is a delivery mechanism but it also has the important outcome of bringing all tiers of  government – Federal, State and Local – as well as the private sector together to focus on city-wide development. With a catalyst like the Commonwealth Games with its boon of a hard-and-fast deadline plus the framework of the new City Deals – there’s is an amazing opportunity to make Adelaide the biggest City Deal yet and deliver city-wide impacts for generations to come.

“Our city is beautiful, it is unique,” says David. “This could be a way to solve many of the problems that are holding our city back.”

That’s definitely an A-Grade opportunity.