The recent announcement that Durban has won the bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games came with much fanfare and excitement and there is no doubt that South Africa - and Africa in general, will benefit greatly from this privilege.
But, while the games will be a tremendous boost to the local and regional economy and has been sold as a 'sustainable' event because of the low construction and development needs, like many mega events of its kind, the Commonwealth Games has an often unseen and under-appreciated negative environmental impact. It is this impact that the LOC has perhaps not fully addressed in its bid submission, but one which needs to be discussed more openly.
Plans are in place to reduce the need for construction and other environmentally impactful planning and we are pleased to see that issues such as 'responsible' and 'sustainable' transport systems are addressed in the submission, but on issues related to true event greening performance standards, it is a little light! In much the same way as the 2010 World Cup benefitted this country (or did it?), the lack of accurate and objective measurement of the direct and indirect environmental impacts associated with that event still lurk in the dark corners of SAFA and the LOC - probably never to be revealed.
What we need is a clear, unambiguous commitment by the Durban OC to ensuring that every environmental, social and economic benefit or impact associated with the event is measured fairly and reported-on so that we as a nation can understand the true value of these events. What will be the emission impacts of the games - including the tons of emissions created flying visitors from around the world to South Africa? What emissions are associated with the use of energy, transport and the creation of waste and how will these be offset and mitigated? How will local communities benefit from the games in a sustainable and environmentally beneficial way?
Environmental impacts associated with mega-events are not limited to the amount of waste collected or recycled - or the number of efficient busses that are used. There are deeper and more sustained impacts that last well-after the games have ended and which need to be considered when determining the actual cost of such events. Can we meet the example set by Glasgow in 2014 and the promises of the Gold Coast in 2018 regarding clear and objective reporting, or are we set to repeat the greed of 2010?
These and many more questions will need to be answered and explained if we are to be considered truly worthy of hosting this event. Let's hope the rest of the country - and indeed the world, shares that opinion.