Calls for Newcastle to bid to stage the Commonwealth Games

The event could help put the city on the global map, say councillors and leaders at State of the City event

Newcastle should put itself forward to stage the Commonwealth Games to put itself on the global map.

The suggestion was made by city council leader Nick Forbes at the annual State of the City event this week.

A packed Newcastle City Council chamber of business leaders, civic groups, academics and councillors had gathered for the public debate to discuss ways to promote the region’s future.

Among demands for the Government to be less ‘centralist’ and allow local authorities to access more of the cash they generate to re-invest in their areas, talk turned to the Commonwealth Games, currently underway in Glasgow.

Malcolm Dix of Sport Newcastle which offers funding to men, women and children seeking to realise their sporting dream, had queried the level of North East representation at the games.

He said: “What is the future for sport in the city? Facilities have been hived off. Do we have to declare UDI [unilateral declaration of independence], have a revolution and take it back and forget about London?”

Speaking on the panel, Coun Forbes asked why Newcastle and Gateshead shouldn’t have the “ambition” to stage the games in future.

“We staged Olympic football in 2012 and are holding games in the Rugby World Cup 2015. We have a great sporting legacy and we should build on that. Sport can transform people’s lives,” he said.

“One of the challenges would be getting the facilities in place. We’ve got a range of sports here.”

Speaking after the event, David Hart, communications director for Nova International which is in charge of the Great North Run, said staging the Commonwealth Games was not beyond Newcastle.

He said: “In the North East we stand a good chance just because we’re used to doing things people wouldn’t necessarily expect us to do.”

And Mr Hart said a prime example was the Great North Run itself.

“Who would have thought when it started in 1981, that 30 plus years it will be the first event of its kind in to reach its one millionth finisher, ahead of iconic events around the world.

“The Great North Run is a huge event to organise logistically so we have the skills in place to do that. As for staging the Commonwealth Games itself - never say never.”

The games are currently being held in Glasgow and while the legacy for cities which have staged them has been mixed, Newcastle can draw inspiration from the experience of Manchester where they were held in 2002.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester council, recently said: “The Commonwealth Games in 2002 was designed to be a driver and a catalyst for change in the host city.

“The year 2002 saw 18 million people visit Manchester. Today millions more people visit the city each year – a testament to the city gaining a genuine status on the world stage as a renowned destination for arts, culture, sports and business.

“A reputation that has helped the city secure the much needed investment that keeps the city’s economy healthy – critical in these difficult financial times.”

On Tuesday night Alnwick runner Laura Weightman won silver in the 1,500m in Glasgow, while South Shields-born Sarah Clark won gold in judo last week.

Other North East athletes are taking part in the games include boxer Warren Baister, bowls international Stuart Airey, and long-distance runner Alyson Dixon, all from Sunderland, and Birtley boxer Pat McCormack.

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