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INSIDE THE GAMES – St Lucia has withdrawn as host of the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games, it was announced here today.
The decision to pull out was revealed during the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) General Assembly in a video message from St Lucia’s Prime Minister Kenny Anthony.
The Caribbean island had been awarded the event in November 2011 but its preparations have been hit by doubts over venues and financial concerns, particularly over the lack of a stadium to host athletics.
A fire had caused severe damage to a hospital in the south of the island, meaning the George Odlum Stadium in the Vieux Fort, containing the country’s only International Association of Athletics Federations-accredited track, had been adapted into a temporary medical facility.
The rebuild of the hospital is now not due to be completed until 2016 and the cost of returning the Stadium to a sports facility was in excess of $15 million (£10 million/€13 million) and would also not be completed in time for the Games.
A deal to hold athletics on the neighbouring island of St Kitts and Nevis could not be reached in time for this General Assembly, Anthony revealed, so the Government no longer believed they could support the project.
Canada and Scotland have already contacted the CGF to offer to step in as hosts.
The CGF have also asked for any other “expressions of interest” and hope to announce a new host by the end of next month.
“The [CGF Execuitve] Board met earlier this morning and decided to put this to the meeting, but also give the other members who would like to offer to host the Youth Games in 2017 a chance,” outgoing CGF President Prince Imran said.
This year’s edition of the Commonwealth Youth Games is due to start in Apia, Samoa’s capital, on Saturday (September 5).
About 1,000 athletes from 71 countries and territories were expected to compete in St Lucia in what would have been the biggest CGF event to be held in the Caribbean since Jamaica’s capital Kingston hosted the 1966 Commonwealth Games.
“We are obviously disappointed to hear St Lucia has taken the difficult decision to withdraw its commitment to host the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games,” said David Grevemberg, chief executive of the CGF.
“Whilst appreciating the economic and environmental challenges they face as a small island nation, we will continue to work closely with the Commonwealth Games Association of St Lucia and their Government partners to support and ultimately realise their ambitions to deliver a positive and lasting legacy for the young people of their island, the Caribbean and the Commonwealth.
“Our attention for now focuses enthusiastically on delivering an inspiring Youth Games in Samoa in a few days time, showcasing a joyous celebration and impactful sport, personal development and new Commonwealth friendships made on the level playing field of sport.”
Paul Bush, chairman of Commonwealth Games Scotland (CGS), confirmed they were interested in stepping in as hosts.
“We note the withdrawal of St Lucia as hosts of the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games and along with a number of other countries, we have agreed to consider hosting the event,” he told insidethegames.
“CGS will now work with Scottish partners to evaluate the options over the coming weeks.”
Edinburgh had hosted the first-ever Commonwealth Youth Games in 2000.