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Commonwealth Crisis as Host Search Continues



The future of the Commonwealth Games is under real threat after Victoria, Alberta, and Malaysia have all turned down offers to host the event in 2026 and 2030. If a suitable host isn’t found soon, the Games will be cancelled for the first time since 1946.

 

Birmingham was supposed to host the next Games, but England’s second city had to step in at short notice in 2022. The honours of the last Games initially went to Durman in South Africa, but they were revoked after multiple deadlines were missed. The city’s financial troubles were at the heart of this failure, a concern which should have been addressed before their bid was accepted. The late change has had a serious knock-on effect on future planning, leaving the Commonwealth Games in a precarious position. Andy Street, Mayor of West Midlands, has ruled Birmingham out of hosting consecutive events, so the search for a willing location continues.

 

Malaysia, despite being offered £100 million to host the Games in two years, say that this additional funding would not adequately cover the costs. They feel the issue was sprung upon them at short notice, meaning they cannot determine the financial ramifications of taking charge. Hopes had been high in Malaysia following the positive experience of hosting the 1998 Games, but they simply couldn’t justify the risk of making a loss on such a large-scale event.

 

Similarly, Victoria was hoping to replicate its success in 2018, but officials from the Australian state claim the price of hosting has risen rapidly. The original projected cost of hosting in 2026 was around £1 billion, but more recent data suggested that the sum could now be over £3 billion. Australia has formed the backbone of the Commonwealth Games, having hosted more than any other country, so it is particularly concerning to see such a champion of the Games lose faith in the event.

 

The Commonwealth Games worry prospective hosts both for the financial risk they pose and the potential negative feedback from the public. The net profit of the 2022 Games amounted to under £100 million; with such a tight profit margin, cities and countries are understandably tentative to take on hosting rights. Beyond the fiscal implications, hosting will likely spark public backlash. To many, the Games are a remnant of a period in history which ought not to be celebrated; as Andy Bull wrote for The Guardian in 2022, “the Commonwealth Games ought to be prefaced with one of those warnings about outdated attitudes”. After protestors dubbed the 2022 event ‘the Plantation Games’, it is clearer than ever that work must be done to improve the organisation’s reputation.

 

With Alberta also withdrawing its bid, there are no current plans from any committee to host the Commonwealth Games in 2030. There were even rumours of the 2026 event being pushed back a year to find another Australian city after Victoria backed out, but even that hasn’t attracted any new offers. Paul du Feu, former president of Jersey’s Commonwealth Games Association, worries that the competition’s days are numbered. If the Games are to continue their legacy, immediate changes to its image and organisation, as well as an increase in funding, must be introduced soon.



Image: Wikimedia Commons

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