Steel to Gold: Reimagining the role of sport to create an overarching economic, social and environmental blueprint future for Hamilton.

Steel to Gold: Hamiltonian and veteran journalist calls 2026 “Hamilton’s moment”

September 22, 2020
By Teddy Katz

As a proud Hamiltonian and someone who has covered dozens of multi-sport games around the globe over the years as a journalist for CBC, I understand why people say there’s a risk for Hamilton to put its name forward in the middle of a pandemic to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

Some suggest waiting to bid for the 2030 Games with other cities hoping to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Commonwealth Games which began in Hamilton in 1930.

But, to me there’s an even bigger risk in letting this current once in a lifetime opportunity slip away.

Ever since I was a kid, I can remember the city talking about hosting the world once again for a Commonwealth Games.  Bids came and went unsuccessfully.  Hamilton was always left on the sidelines.

But this time it’s different.

There won’t be any backroom dealing. No bidding wars.  The Commonwealth Games Federation has been working exclusively with the bid committee in Hamilton for the 2026 Games.  Hamilton is being offered a chance to host the games for pandemic relief, economic recovery and regeneration. 

And before you say – who needs it – well it’s important to understand the context and how this same Commonwealth Games Federation is revolutionizing what a multi-sport event will look like in the future.

The games are being transformed right now and Hamilton could help set the new standard that will make these 2026 Games a pivot point both in Hamilton and around the world.  Covid-19 has shown the sport’s world the need to make major changes, but the Commonwealth Games Federation was already moving in that direction.

Gone are the days of having cities build venues they might not need for a two-week sports spectacle.  They are reducing the number of events and telling cities like Hamilton to look at their longstanding priorities and find ways to leverage the games to make them happen.

Gone is the top down approach to no one looking at more grassroots community development.  What cities can do to leverage the games to ensure sustainable development through sport.  How cities can become more accessible for all its citizens, more inclusive in every way, and to ensure reconciliation with its First Nations peoples among others.

The games could provide tangible training and job opportunities for more marginalized communities that many in Hamilton long to see.  And that’s not all.

A trip to visit my mother the other day showed what a pressing need there is for affordable housing in the city with dozens of tents pitched alongside Jackson Square and people living on the street.

That’s the reason the Hamilton bid committee is looking to use this opportunity to make one of the important legacies building an athlete’s village that will be turned into 3,000 units of much needed affordable housing.

When I was on the Organizing Committee of the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games, one of two buildings in our village in the newly developed Canary District became affordable housing for 250 residents.

The building is managed and owned today by the Fred Victor organization which provides affordable housing to people in need.

In a report post games, the organization said almost half of the units went to refugee families or newcomers.  Other tenants include veterans, seniors, people with disabilities and homeless youth.

The same post games report highlighted the story of one family who escaped from Iraq and a life of violence and oppression to find a new home there.

That’s not the only way lives can change by hosting a Games.

The games bring federal, provincial and municipal leaders along with leaders from Corporate Canada together to invest in the community in ways that just don’t happen otherwise.

As a member of the Board for the Canada Games, I saw another example of this first-hand last year at the 2019 Canada Games in Red Deer Alberta.

That city of 100,000 people was suffering economically with the downturn in the oil industry.  It had its highest unemployment in about 40 years.

Yet municipal and community leaders were thankful that a few years before they saw an opportunity and thought big.

They took advantage of the games to get funding from partners to modernize existing facilities that were in need of major upgrades including an aging hockey arena that was demolished and rebuilt.

They were able to breathe new life into a derelict and boarded up building downtown that is now a cultural centre and preserved as a heritage resource.

They worked with the province to get a major upgrade of the highway and an airport extension they had been waiting years to see come to fruition.

They worked with the Community College to build a new community recreation centre that had been part of the long-term vision but never materialized.  This also helped pave the way for the college to become a university.

And the city is scheduled to host other big sports events including next year’s World Junior Hockey Championship alongside Edmonton.

Go to Red Deer now and ask people what they thought about hosting the Canada Games, and you’ll see a big smile come over people’s faces.

They’ll tell you the games were a magical time, left a legacy and brought the community together at a time when it needed it most.

It stabilized the local economy during the recession.  It positioned Red Deer for the future.

The slogan in Red Deer was “This is our Moment”.

To me, it’s pretty clear, 2026 is “Hamilton’s Moment”.

Steel to Gold September 2020 ~


Teddy

About the Author:

Teddy Katz spent two decades and was an award-winning sports journalist with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. As a national news reporter, he was frequently heard on the radio from coast to coast from many of the world’s top sports events.

From 2012 to 2015, Teddy was Director of Communications and Chief Spokesperson for the Toronto 2015 Pan American and Parapan American Games.

Teddy recently founded his own communications and journalism company called Think Redefined Inc. which helps national and international organizations tell their stories.