Fireworks light up over the Commonwealth Games venues in Glasgow, Scotland. File Picture: REUTERS/RUSSELL CHEYNE
Fireworks light up over the Commonwealth Games venues in Glasgow, Scotland. File Picture: REUTERS/RUSSELL CHEYNE

There have been awkward and deliberate silences between issuances on Durban and the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

In between deadlines missed, payments not made and financial guarantees promised with crossed fingers, the South African organisers have kept shtoom. In between each of the line-in-the-sand meetings, there has been a head-in-the-sand response.

It is understood that an absolutely, bloody final meeting will be held at the end of February, with Louise Martin, the Scottish president of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), heading south to have a chat with President Jacob Zuma.

It is expected Martin will tell Zuma the 2022 Games will not happen in Durban. Zuma will tell Martin he wants them to go ahead. Martin will demur.

Zuma desperately wants the Games to be held in KwaZulu-Natal. He may get on the blower to Donald Trump again and ask him how those executive order things work. That may be too late, though. The federation has apparently had enough.

"A review team appointed by the CGF is in the final stages of evaluating the submissions received from SA to determine whether Durban’s proposals for hosting the Games are consistent with their original bid commitments," quoted a federation spokesperson as saying in January.

"A final recommendation will be referred to the CGF executive board once the review team has completed its deliberations."

The review team will present their findings to the federation executive in London on March 10-11. The federation has been uneasy, to say the least, with the lack of urgency and diligence shown by SA.

It is aware there is a disconnect between the department of Sport and Recreation (SRSA) and the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).

When a federation delegation flew in for their meeting in October, SRSA did not invite Sascoc until the day before. Relations between SRSA and Sascoc were described by a source close to Sascoc as "distant", to be polite.

"SRSA believe they are the custodian of the Commonwealth Games and are keeping Sascoc at arm’s length," the source said.

The federation will take a particularly close look at the budget SRSA presented to the Treasury. Alec Moemi, director-general of the department of sport, gave them a figure of R4.8bn. The amount in the bid document was for R6.4bn.

Moemi has apparently claimed to have been unaware of the larger figure, although he then said he had given a lower number because he did not think the Treasury would have accepted R6.4bn.

SRSA said in 2016 they were still in negotiations to ensure they get full "value for money" from the Games after being burnt by the ever-expanding costs of the 2010 World Cup and the chunk of change they had to pay over to Fifa.

There is reason to be worried about getting "value for money". The Commonwealth Games are the more affordable version of the Olympics. Last week it was reported Rio’s Olympic venues had fallen into disrepair. The Maracana stadium has been looted.

Electricity was cut off to the stadium because of an unpaid $940,000 bill. The $20m golf course cannot attract members.

The athletes’ village, the high-density housing, is not attracting buyers. The only legacy left by Rio 2016 are fleeting memories and debt.

Durban 2022 may have already given up. The logo on their website still calls Durban a candidate city, which may be all they end up being. The last tweet by @Durban2022 was on September 19 at the end of the Paralympics: "Congrats @teamsa16 for an inspiring performance at the #Paralympics #teamSArise #ReadyToInspire." There is little rising, less inspiration.

The federation has been holding its tongue over Durban since late 2016, perhaps to ensure they have a replacement host, most likely Australia, who have already expressed interest in stepping in.

Perhaps Zuma, a man given to awkward and deliberate silences, will be able to convince Martin and the federation to stick with Durban. It will take some convincing.

It will take for heads to be plucked out of the sand, and, perhaps, for a few of those heads to roll if SA is to save face and the Games.

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