While athletes across the UK celebrate the success of this summer’s Commonwealth Games, the legacy of the event lives on.
An exclusive poll for The Journal by Other Lines of Enquiry North, using their inhouse Panelbase service, suggests that passion for the Games has not waned as many people in the area would like to see the sporting extravaganza come to the North East in the future.
More than half of those asked said they would back a bid to bring the Commonwealth Games to the North East as 53% would like to see the international event hosted in the region, while 23% said they would not want the event in the area and 24% remained undecided.
The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games has been hailed as one of the most successful of all time and 71% of people polled in the North East said they believed the games was a positive experience.
Calls have been made by Newcastle City Council to bring the Games to the city as leaders say the event could help put the region on the global map, as well as significantly boosting tourism trade and economy.
Coun Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, welcomed the positive results of the snapshot poll taken from 1,000 people in the area.
He said: “The idea of holding the Commonwealth Games here in the North East has really captured everyone’s imagination – the poll demonstrates that it would have popular support.
“The North East has a proven track record for hosting major sporting events such as Olympic football in 2012, the Great North Run, and the Rugby World Cup next year.
“Without a doubt we have the expertise and the experience to make this a big success for the region and the country. At this stage this is just an idea and it would be a considerable challenge but the region is renowned for its can-do attitude.
“It could bring huge benefits; put the region on the international map and give it the opportunity to sell itself to a global audience.
“Millions of people would see what we have to offer, and the boost to the economy would be considerable – for shops, restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions.
“It would also be the perfect opportunity to show how the region’s local authorities and companies could work together and put on a sporting and cultural event that the people of the North East would never forget.”
It is estimated that more than 600,000 people visited Glasgow for the Games between July 23 and August 3 this year - with 1.2m tickets sold - and the impact of the 11-day event was seen across Scotland.
Leading event organisers insist that the North East would have the capacity to host such a big event that would be screened to millions around the world.
Sarah Stewart, chief executive at destination management and marketing organisation NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said: “In 2012 St James’ Park played host to Olympic Football, which welcomed 127,000 people to six matches and contributed £7m to the local economy. This impact is expected to be surpassed when the venue hosts the Rugby World Cup in 2015.
“There is a real economic and reputational benefit to hosting large-scale sporting events in the North East and the Commonwealth Games would certainly add to the growing list of globally important events shining a spotlight on the place.
“This will be demonstrated in a couple of weeks time when NewcastleGateshead welcomes the millionth runner across the finish line in the Great North Run.”
Meanwhile, Stephen Patterson, director of communications at NE1 Ltd said Newcastle and the wider region would gain huge financial benefit from hosting such a sporting event.
He said: “Large scale international events like these do a fantastic job of promoting the city and the wider region, not to mention the significant economic impact they deliver.
“Hosting the Commonwealth Games would bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city and the wider region. We are very proud of the city and the North East and I have no doubt that we would deliver a spectacular welcome to competitors and spectators.”
A number of athletes with a North East connection took part in this year’s Commonwealth Games, including South Shields-born judo star Sarah Clark who ended her career in top form by scooping gold, while swimmer Benjamin Proud set a new Games record of 22:93 sec as he won the men’s 50m butterfly.
At the time Benjamin’s step-grandmother, Jean, of Corbridge, Northumberland, said: “Benjamin has been working very hard for the Games. The family are all cock-a-hoop and people have been stopping me in the street to talk about it.”
The sporting hero behind London’s successful Olympics said he supported any potential bid from Newcastle and its neighbours, arguing that the region has the desire and the wherewithal to become a credible candidate.
He said: “It is not unthinkable for Newcastle to be serious contenders to host the Commonwealth Games.
“Primarily the organisers of the Commonwealth Games want cities that understand the importance of sport and to make a success of it they need people that absolutely want to support and be part of the event.
“You can imagine the interest you would have from the people of the North East in being volunteers for an event like that.
“There also needs to be a political consensus on it. You would need bipartisan support for something like that but you could never accuse Newcastle and the North East of not investing in sport or believing in the potential of sport to make a difference to a city.
“The people of the North East have consistently illustrated that.
“I wouldn’t want people to run away with the idea that creating something as substantial as the Commonwealth Games is an easy initiative. Glasgow’s organisers will tell you they needed every second of their delivery period to make that a success.
“But would the city be a realistic candidate? Absolutely if they were serious about it.”