Are we really prepared to spend ONE BILLION DOLLARS to host a 2022 Commonwealth Games wanted by no other city besides Durban, South Africa?

This is one great big dumb idea.

I don’t think a Commonwealth Games would create any meaningful return on investment, or “ROI” to the long-suffering taxpayer, no matter how positive the spin.

The usual ROI rational for the hosting of large events is as follows:

•Tourism: We already know from the 1978 Commonwealth Games and the 2001 World Track & Field Championships that — outside of athletes, their entourages and officials — tourists do not show up to watch track and field. All that money was justified in the name of tourism, but the results were horrendously disappointing. That’s a fact.

•Economic Diversification: After every major event, consultants produce reports to justify the spending of public dollars by measuring “direct”, “indirect” and “induced” economic impact. “Indirect” and “induced” economic impact is the biggest shell game in town, but if removed from the equation, inevitably mean big sporting events cost way more than they deliver … which is not what politicians and organizing committees want to hear.

•Reputation enhancement: The Commonwealth Games have lost their allure. Tell me, what did the games held in Victoria, B.C. in 1994 do for Victoria’s reputation? Other cities aren’t bidding for the Commonwealth Games because they don’t see the bang for the buck. Track and field, outside the Olympics, is not watched on TV. Nobody cares what city is hosting the Pan Am or Commonwealth Games.

•Infrastructure acceleration: Edmonton already has a solid sports and transportation infrastructure in place — thanks to the 2001 Worlds and 1978 Commonwealth Games. A soccer stadium would be nice, the Kinsmen pool could be renovated, the already approved velodrome could be upgraded. That’s about it. We don’t need more roads (just less potholes), and there’s no logical argument linking the 2020 Commonwealth Games bid with LRT expansion.

•Citizen Engagement: This is the only return on the ONE BILLION investment that makes any sense. Edmontonians like to volunteer and working on major events together makes us feel happy and cuddly.

In contrast, let’s look at the taxpayers’ ROI from the most spectacular event, ROI-wise, ever held in Edmonton.

The 2005 World Masters Games attracted 17,000 athletic tourists to Edmonton.

For two weeks, the city was crammed to the gills with visitors like we’d never seen before, tourists staying in hotels (not athletes’ villages), eating in restaurants, travelling to the Rockies and across Canada before and after the event. Citizen engagement with those visitors was stupendous.

Those 17,000 people went back to their homes around the world, told their friends and relatives what a great place Edmonton was, created on-going friendships with Edmontonians.

You want tourism ROI? That’s tourism ROI!!!! The 2005 World Masters Games answered all the criteria for a successful global-reach event, and it cost all of 15 MILLON DOLLARS!!!!

So … What if we took a half, a quarter or even 10% of that BILLION DOLLARS to create a made-in-Edmonton one-off event so unique that it captured the imagination of the world … or at least North America?

What if we accelerated the River Valley Alliance plan to create the world’s biggest urban wilderness park in the North Saskatchewan river valley, from Devon through Edmonton to Fort Saskatchewan? The entire cost, over decades, is estimated at $600 million. By 2017, working at a snail’s pace, $80 million worth of footbridges, trails and boat landings will be built.

Why not tie together the opening of the world’s most ecologically advanced urban park with the return of the World Masters Games, a mega-arts festival, a global aboriginal celebration, a fully developed “Touch the Water” downtown plan and some of the river valley features from the snuffed-out 2017 Expo bid?

C’mon Edmonton! Think about the ROI of using ONE BILLION DOLLARS in a far more creative way than bidding on a tired, stale, declining and unimportant sports event!

A World Masters Games would bring in 17,000 tourists on its own. Eco-tourism is the fastest growing sector of the world travel market. Europeans love all things aboriginal. The expanded river valley park, as the River Valley Alliance’s former chairperson Sol Rolingher said time after time, will be to Edmonton as Stanley Park is to Vancouver, Central Park to New York City, the Eiffel Tower to Paris.

Fill your heads with new ideas, folks. This is the new Edmonton. We’re not in 1978 or 2001 anymore. This is a city with a 34-year-old mayor and a 44-year-old economic development agency CEO.

This is about Make Something Edmonton, not Chase Something Edmonton..

This is not the time to waste a BILLION DOLLARS pursuing a fading 20th Century sports relic.FACTOIDS

•Total athletics and officials at 1978 Commonwealth Games, 1,500. Disappointing turn-out of out-of-town fans.

•Athletes and officials at 2001 World Track & Field Championships, 1,700. Out-of-town fans in attendance, other than dignitaries, again very disappointing.

•TV audience for 1978 Commonwealth Games, insignificant.

•TV audience in 2001 Worlds, strong in Europe, insignificant elsewhere.

•Celebrities (other than participating athletes or royalty) attending either event. None.

•New or upgraded sports facilities and other legacies from 2001 Worlds and 1978 Commonwealth Games, substantial.

•Out-of-town athletes, companions, officials in Edmonton for 2005 World Masters Games, about 17,000.

•National or international TV coverage of Masters’ games, insignificant.

•“Word of mouth” reputation enhancement, significant but not measureable.

•No new sports facilities needed for Masters Games.

• Cost of staging 2020 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, based on 2014 Commonwealth Games budget for Glasgow, Scotland, $1 billion. Expected athletes in Glasgow, 4,300.

•Initial budget of withdrawn Halifax bid for 2014 Commonwealth Games, $1.6 billion. Final estimate before Nova Scotia government pulled out, $1 billion. Commitment from federal government for that never-submitted bid, $400 million.