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Bid to host Youth Games 'scuppered by deadlock at Stormont'

By Michael McHugh

Published 14/09/2015

Sports Minister Caral Ní Chuilin
Sports Minister Caral Ní Chuilin

A bid for Northern Ireland to host the Youth Commonwealth Games could fall at one of the first hurdles thanks to the ongoing political crisis at Stormont.

The mothballed Executive has not committed to fund a bid for Northern Ireland to host the Youth Commonwealth Games, a government spokesman said.

Executive meetings have been suspended due to the political impasse - and tourism authorities said the Games would not generate enough money for the economy to justify the outlay.

More than 3,000 people would be expected to attend the 2021 event, including athletes, support staff and spectators.

A Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure spokesman said: "Any decision to host the Games in 2021 depends on a significant financial commitment from the Executive.

"Unfortunately, it has not been possible to secure that commitment to date."

Conal Heatley, executive officer at the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council (NICGC) - which is spearheading the bid - claimed there should have been more official support ahead of an end-of-month deadline for submitting the offer.

He said: "There appears to be a blockage and a lack of responsibility from government."

A total of 16 Northern Ireland athletes took part in this year's Games in Samoa, which ended last Friday, in events including swimming, boxing, athletics, squash and lawn bowls. The team won 12 medals across the five days of competition, their highest total at a Commonwealth Youth Games.

The NICGC has made an expression of interest to host the event in 2021.

Last year, the Assembly supported a proposal that the council prepares a bid - a plan welcomed by Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin.

But a spokeswoman for Tourism NI said it had given consistent advice to Mr Heatley that the application would not meet its criteria for tourism events funding.

The organisers have requested £3m. This would require an economic impact of £15m, she said. The estimated pay-off is £1.25m.

Tourism NI added: "Furthermore, there is limited potential for extensive global media coverage through broadcast/PR that would generate the level of impact required."

The aim of the Games is to potentially attract more than 3,000 attendees including athletes, support staff and spectators. Tourism NI said: "This falls well below the minimum standard required in our events fund criteria.

"The organisers have requested 100% public funding for the event. Tourism NI can only contribute funding of up to 50% of eligible costs of any event."

Mr Heatley added: "There is undoubtedly wide support for a Northern Ireland bid across the Games family, but we will fail unless movement is made very soon."

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