The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has received a proposal to bid for the 2026 Commonwealth Games – centred on south London, with Crystal Palace National Sports Centre undergoing a substantial, and overdue, refurbishment.
With the Rio Olympics underway and the memories of London 2012 still fresh, former Labour MP Derek Wyatt is lobbying Mayor Khan to utilise one of the world’s biggest sporting festivals to unlock untapped potential in the area south of the River Thames.
And Wyatt is seeking support from councillors and leaders in Croydon, as well as from Crystal Palace Football Club.
Wyatt, a former England rugby international and the co-founder of the Women’s Sports Foundation, has recommended to the Mayor that London should bid to stage the 2025 World Expo and the Commonwealth Games the following year.
Bids for the Commonwealth Games have to be compiled within the next two years. London has not staged the Games since 1934, when they were still the Empire Games, and following the success of the 2002 Games in Manchester and 2014 edition in Glasgow, the Commonwealth Games Federation would welcome a bid from the English capital with open arms.
The Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park was the forerunner of the World Expo, but London has never staged that event, which is next to be held in Dubai in 2020. Wyatt suggests that the Crystal Palace area, which after all is so named after the Great Exhibition’s gigantic glass house was moved to Sydenham for its post-expo existence, could provide an ideal centre in 2025 and 2026.
Wyatt laid out his vision in a letter to his former parliamentary colleague Khan in a letter this week.
“I would like to see a joint south London bid for both Expo and the Commonwealth Games,” Wyatt told Inside Croydon.
“I would like to see the theme of the 2025 Expo to be social housing and digital medicine. The various forms of housing for 2025 would become the Athletes’ Village for 2026 and then a the basis of a new university digital town from 2027. The stadium could become a new track and field centre of excellence and the home of Crystal Palace FC and perhaps a Premiership rugby club.”
Wyatt points out that major sports events have tended to benefit London north of the river, with only Wimbledon’s fortnight of tennis straying south of the Thames.
The publicly owned Crystal Palace NSC has suffered from nearly 30 years’ of disinvestment, but recently escaped being “Boris-fied”, when the former Tory Mayor wanted to hand over a large chunk of the public park to a Chinese industrialist and got a Seb Coe company to devise a plan to bulldoze the athletics stadium.
Both schemes have since collapsed, but the need for some plan for the venue’s future is urgently needed.
The Commonwealth Games is not burdened by some of the more gross demands of the Olympics. Utilising London’s existing sporting infrastructure, including some of the venues in the Olympic Park, would help keep staging costs under control and could provide some revived sporting facilities locally, as well as unlocking the capital for public infrastructure schemes such as the long-delayed Crystal Palace tram extension.
Wyatt’s scheme may be too late to secure the private sector involvement of Premier League club Crystal Palace, though: they were deterred from a move to Anerley Hill after encountering the Boris Johnson-run City Hall, and now with a new American co-owner on board, are looking at investing in their existing Selhurst Park home.
A bid for the Commonwealth Games, as part of a major events strategy for the city and in conjunction with UK Sport and other partners, is estimated could be delivered for less than £1 million. The host city for the 2026 Commonwealth Games is expected to be decided in 2019, shortly before Mayor Khan might be seeking re-election.
- Still Croydon’s only independent news source, and based in the heart of the borough: 1.97 million page views 2013-2015
- Inside Croydon: Named among best regional media campaigns, 2014
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event to publicise, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org