4 September 2023

Is Canberra totally off the radar when it comes to hosting major sport events?

| Tim Gavel
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woman mountain biking on Mt Stromlo

Mountain biking at Stromlo Forest Park. This could remain Canberra’s only venue attracting international competition. Photo: File.

Have a look at a calendar of international sport. Try to spot the events to be played in Canberra over the next 12 months.

The cupboard is looking decidedly bare.

This can be partly attributed to the rising financial demands of organisers and a lack of facilities in the ACT to host major international basketball, netball and volleyball events with the AIS still out of action.

When it comes to swimming, we don’t have a pool of competition standard with adequate seating capacity or the technical facilities required to run a major event.

Limited capacity at Canberra Stadium means we’re missing out on major international sports such as rugby union, rugby league tests and soccer.

Canberra Stadium

Canberra Stadium/GIO needs more than tinkering around the edges. Photo: Supplied.

Next year, there are no plans for rugby union tests, and the British and Irish Lions in 2025 is the lone shining light on the horizon for Canberra.

At this stage, venues have not been announced for the 2027 and 2029 men’s and women’s World Cups. It would be an absolute travesty if the city is ruled out as a host city because of a lack of facilities.

For several reasons, Canberra didn’t proceed with a bid to stage matches in the Women’s Football World Cup. The first was the financial demand from the organisers. The second reason was the inconvenience and cost associated with finding an alternate venue for the Raiders.

Cricket, it would appear, is the savour when it comes to Canberra hosting international sport.

Alana King of Australia runs out Anya Shrubsole of England during day four of the Women's Test match in the Ashes series between Australia and England at Manuka Oval. Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images with permission from Cricket ACT.

Alana King of Australia runs out Anya Shrubsole of England during day four of the Women’s Test match in the Ashes series between Australia and England at Manuka Oval. Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images with permission from Cricket ACT.

Next year, the world champion Australian women’s cricket team plays South Africa in two T20 games at Manuka, while the Australian men’s side faces South Africa in a day/night match.

This is clearly slim pickings compared to what the city could pull off during the centenary celebrations in 2013.

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In those 12 months, we experienced non-stop international sport. Australia played New Zealand in a men’s rugby league test, the Australian netball team faced New Zealand, and the Australian men’s basketball team also took on New Zealand. The British and Irish Lions game against the Brumbies was a must-see, as was the Australian Ladies Golf Open at Royal Canberra. Additionally, the Australian Mountain Bike Titles, the Oceania Road Cycling Championships, and the Australian Archery Titles all took place along with a host of other events.

It was a special year, but it’s unlikely that Canberra will ever achieve those heights again.

One key reason is that rival cities, beyond the capitals in each state, are now chasing major sporting events like never before as they see the value in hosting significant competitions.

Townsville is a case in point and the city is keen to capitalise on their new stadium.

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In September, Cairns and Hobart will host the three-match netball series between Australia and South Africa. This would have been an ideal event for Canberra if we had a decent facility.

As things currently stand, we can’t stage Super Netball, let alone a test involving the world champion Australian Diamonds.

Mountain biking at Stromlo Forest Park. Photo: Stromlo Park Facebook.

Stromlo Forest Park is a world-class venue in the ACT. Photo: Stromlo Forest Park Facebook.

Hopefully, mountain biking will be back on the radar with improvements to Stromlo. The only problem here will be getting back into the market with so many rival centres now in the mix, which weren’t there when Canberra hosted the World Championships 10 years ago.

At some stage, Canberra will need to decide whether there is an appetite to pursue major sporting events outside the regular seasons involving the existing codes.

It really is a sad state of affairs for the nation’s capital.

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Pete Macca Lyn Stapes is right’ Stop it! The tram is a reality (and at over 20% of public transport boardings, proven useful). Twisting things to suit your biases doesn’t help your credibility. Kaleen and Giralang are not, and never were, Gungahlin suburbs.

Hang on, all those spectator, CO2 belching jets flying into Canberra – Barr and Rat will have conniptions!

HiddenDragon8:37 pm 06 Sep 23

To the extent that this is about lack of suitable facilities, the drought of major sporting events is really just another symptom of the dismal reality that Canberra is such an expensive place to get anything done, a big problem which is compounded by the fact that we have a government which is so good at wasting the funds available to it, with the result that it struggles to fund even its core responsibilities.

In general, our sporting venues probably rank somewhere between 6th and 10th in Australia in terms of their fitness for major events, and there aren’t a lot of events that need to go that deep for numbers of venues. Additionally, we’re only 3 hours drive from Sydney which has better venues, a bigger population to draw from, etc. There is really no compelling reason for sports to come to Canberra.

Not The Mama8:11 am 06 Sep 23

I remember Andrew Barr announcing that we would not host any of the Women’s Soccer World Cup games as they were prohibitively expensive and very poor value for public money. Not fair to disagree in retrospective, these things cost a huge truckload of money to host, and you have to wonder why…

I don’t agree that Capacity is holding back Bruce Stadium. Sometimes when the bigger stadiums in Sydney Melbourne and Adelaide are used you can see seas of empty seats. All of the codes have signed up deals with Fox and Stan and others for exclusive broadcast rights – and having paid for expensive subscriptions, the fans are staying home to use them. It’s a bit rich to then turn around to the fans and blame them for lack of support when they refuse to pay $100 for a ticket, a cold wet seat and cold pies and warm beer.

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