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Interview: Joe Anderson, mayor of Liverpool, on entering the bidding for the Commonwealth Games in 2026

The mayor of Liverpool has made his city the first to enter the bidding for the Commonwealth Games in 2026

by Tom Walker, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management 02 May 2016 issue 119
Anderson says a successful bid could pave way for major regeneration for Liverpool
Anderson says a successful bid could pave way for major regeneration for Liverpool

Speaking to Sports Management a day after he announced his city would launch a bid to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games, Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson is in buoyant mood. Listing the city’s sporting achievements, he’s confident that the people of Liverpool will get behind the bid.

“Sport is in the DNA of our city,” Anderson says. “Our football clubs, Liverpool FC and Everton, are world famous and we’ve produced countless athletes – swimmers and boxers particularly. Some of the country’s finest golf courses are located within the Liverpool City Region and we also have great racecourses in Aintree and Chester. Sport is a crucial aspect of life for the people of Liverpool.”

With a population of around 465,000, Liverpool would be the smallest city to host the Games since the 1974 edition was held in Christchurch, New Zealand. Anderson is keen to point out that, despite it’s size, the city already boasts many of the elements which would underpin the Games. “We have the infrastructure needed to bring people in,” he says.

Connected city
“We have excellent transport connections and an international airport. In that regard, we’re as good as any other city in the world. We also have enough hotel capacity to deal with the visitors and within the university campuses we have ready-made accommodation for athletes and officials.”

Anderson adds that a large part of the sporting infrastructure – especially the supporting and training venues – would also be in place. “As well as our football stadiums, we have the Wavertree Sports Park and athletics club, an Olympic pool at the Liverpool Aquatics Centre and a number of other, national standard centres which would act as training facilities. It’s pretty much all ready to go.”

While many of the components are in place, Anderson says the city would also utilise the opportunity to use the Games to stimulate significant regeneration and redevelopment – for which there are plenty potential avenues to explore. “Securing the Games would offer an opportunity to regenerate parts of the city and the surrounding region,” he says. “We’ve got a coastline, running all the way up to Southport, where we could do the sailing events.

“Everton FC is about to build a new stadium in the next few years, so we could look at whether we could include a Games element in the design there.

“We’ve got plenty of space for development in the Wirrall in Knowsley, at St Helens and in Huyton. These are areas which make up the city region, so we’d have opportunities to do something similar to Manchester when it worked with the Greater Manchester area during the 2002 Commonwealth Games.”

Northern powerhouse
Anderson announced Liverpool’s bid via an open letter to culture secretary John Whittingdale. Liverpool has darted out of the blocks early – the Commonwealth Games Federation has yet to officially open the bidding process for 2026 and is not expected to announce the host until 2019.

The reason for the early announcement was, according to Anderson, to get the ball rolling and prepare the ground for a bid which will seek to involve partners from all areas of sport and industry. “We know that the bid process hasn’t opened yet, but we’re simply putting a marker down and saying that we’re serious about a bid – and that we want to talk to the government about it,” he says.

“We’re also keen to work with the private sector on this. In the letter to the minister I mention that we want to launch the bid under the Northern Powerhouse badge – an initiative which the government launched last year to promote and develop business in the north of England.”

Building on success
Liverpool’s track record in successfully hosting a diverse range of major events is another factor which Anderson hopes will boost the city’s hopes for improvement. The city is active in the major events market – it was European Capital of Culture in 2008 and will host the 2019 Netball World Cup.

“Securing the Netball World Cup was a huge vote of confidence, for Liverpool” Anderson says. “We’re confident of our abilities to deliver major events. We’re ambitious about our city and I think it’s the right time for us to be making a major bid.”

Commonwealth rivalry

Liverpool could face competition from Belfast, Birmingham and Cardiff in its bid to become the UK entry to host the 2026 Games. Belfast is already bidding to host the 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games and has hinted at making a bid for 2026, while two Birmingham MPs – Khalid Mahmood and Liam Byrne – have publicly encouraged the city to bid. Meanwhile, Cardiff has a staunch supporter for a bid in Paralympic legend Tanni Grey-Thompson, who said Cardiff’s recent hosting of the World Half Marathon should prompt an attempt to bring the Games to her home country.

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