Sport after the Commonwealth Games

The ongoing legacy of the abandoned Commonwealth Games on recreational athletics is occasionally positive, occasionally dubious

It was "a dark day for Halifax, a dark day for Nova Scotia, and a dark day for Canada." At least that's how a heated Halifax 2014 Board of Directors Chair, Fred MacGillivray, saw it after the city withdrew its Commonwealth Games bid.

Three years later it's unclear how losing the 2014 games affected not only the cityscape, but also our health and well being. While a Halifax CFL team remains sports bar fodder, other planned improvements are very much needed.

When Halifax withdrew its bid for the games, the city said goodbye to $400 million of federal support. Then council member, now Liberal MLA, Andrew Younger was one of a very few to publicly lambaste the federal government.

"Federal recreation funding should be solely based on need and the business case for the sustainability in the long term," he says. "You can't force [cities] into hosting events that will cost them millions and millions of dollars and potentially huge deficits just because they want a rink or a pool."

Venues earmarked for games improvements have since only seen a fraction of funding. The Halifax Forum was to receive $6.6 million in improvements. They've yet to get any funds.

In contrast to these negatives is HRM's new Mainland Common Canada Games Centre in Clayton Park. At $42 million, it's modest compared to the Games' proposed $121 million stadium and $160 million facility planned for Shannon Park.

With its modesty comes what some say is a modest legacy. The new centre fails to even trump a 1987 proposal for a facility in the same area for the '94 Commonwealth Games. Noticeably lacking are a pair of 50- and 25-metre pools needed to host national swim events. Also missing is a proposed velodrome. The indoor cycling venue would deliver immediate impact, says Andrew Feenstra of Bicycle Nova Scotia: If "we got a velodrome we would start producing a lot more track athletes, no questions asked," he says. "By not having it, we've lost out."

But Feenstra is the first to admit "a build it and they will come attitude" isn't the safest business model. Andrew Webber with the Nova Scotia Rifle Association agrees. The planned expansion of the Bull Meadow shooting range in Mount Uniacke from seven lanes to 24 was unsustainable, he says.

But Webber, like many others, can't deny what sustainable funding could mean. Two-time Olympic gymnast David Kikuchi notes how amateur sport benefited from the funds organized initially for the bid. "The money is going to good things in sport and we've really been able to feel that."

And in the end, do you really need shiny mega-stadiums to raise elite athletes and promote sport? "Do you need world class? No," says Ed McHugh, past president of Basketball NS. "But you need something. You need something that works."

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