York bid checking the waters

MARK KEAST -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:10 AM ET

Paul Henderson has been down this road before, and has some words of wisdom for the York Region team trying to land the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

"If the tide is going your way, you have a chance," he said. "If the tide is against you, you haven't got a hope in hell."

That is what the people on the bid team have to assess, or they are in for a rude awakening, says Henderson, who is part of that team, listed as one of the technical sports advisers.

"If they don't assess it, then they get mad (if they don't win the bid)," he said.

Henderson saw it for himself while on the front lines during the Toronto bid for the 1996 Summer Olympics. He saw it again when Beijing clearly was the front-runner for the 2008 Olympics, when Toronto again was left in the wake. He saw it when New Delhi beat out Hamilton for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. India, the largest country in the Commonwealth, had never hosted a Commonwealth Games.

Still, Henderson likes Canada's chances for 2014, and likes York's even more. York Region confirmed its intention to bid on Wednesday.

"It's never a slam dunk, and you never know what's going to happen at the last moment," Henderson said.

Henderson and the York team, plus other major players on the amateur sports scene around the GTA, all bemoan lack of facilities in the area and the decrepit state of many that are in existence.

An event as big as the Commonwealth Games -- with more than 6,000 representatives from 72 countries -- can be the jolt the area needs to better the infrastructure, and to open government and corporate funding faucets.

David Adames, leading the Hamilton bid, is again pushing the legacy envelope.

"An event like this can bridge the gap between grassroots sports development and elite amateur athletics," he said.

The York Region bid, with a budget in the $650-million range, includes a National Sports Institute. The facility would include world-class training facilities and expertise in coaching, sport medicine and sport science. A cycling velodrome, upgraded playing fields and recreational facilities are other staples in the bid.

Ottawa and Halifax also are in the mix. The announcement of the Canadian bid city will be in December. The host city will be announced in October 2007 in Sri Lanka.


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