By Mark Gleeson
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Durban will find out later this month whether they will be able to keep the right to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games but chances are looking slim after the South African government insisted the costs were too high.
The writing has appeared to be on the wall for some time for what would have been Africa's first major multi-sports event but a hammer blow was struck on Tuesday when sports minister Fikile Mbalula suggested no agreement had been reached on the budget.
South Africa was forced to reconsider whether it could host the event due to doubts over the economic legacy of the Games and sluggish growth.
It was estimated that it would cost Durban 8.2 billion Rand ($627.11 million) to put on the Games with the government suggesting that they could deliver between 11-20 billion Rand in economic benefits.
That optimism appears to have vanished, however, and Mbalula said on Tuesday that South Africa could not "go beyond what we can afford" for fear of being unable to recoup the costs.
A decision should be made in London on March 10-11 by the Commonwealth Games Federation, who have already extended missed deadline for guarantees that South Africa failed to meet in November.
Durban was initially given a list of criteria to fulfill by Nov. 30 or face the risk of being stripped of the Games.
A CGF review team has since been assessing the city's response and is set to present to their executive board, who recently acquired the power to choose a new host city without a formal bid process.
Liverpool are possible replacements after its mayor, Joe Anderson, wrote to the British Government last month to inform it of the city's intention to step in if the Games were left without a host, the Daily Telegraph said on Wednesday.
Durban were awarded the event in September 2015 but have failed to sign the host city contract, establish an organizing committee or make any contracted payments to the CGF.
When Durban won the right to host the event, after Edmonton in Canada withdrew as a result of falling oil prices, South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee president Gideon Sam said the Games would provide an opportunity to fast track both economic and social development.
($1 = 13.0759 rand)
(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)