Future of Commonwealth Games in doubt as Victoria drops out

Australian state cites cost concerns in ‘latest sorry chapter’ for the sporting event

Commonwealth Games closing ceremony in Birmingham 2022
The UK government stumped up £560m to ensure the 2022 Games went ahead
(Image credit: Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images)

The future of the Commonwealth Games has been thrown into doubt after the 2026 hosts dramatically pulled out today.

Just over a year after the Australian state of Victoria announced to great fanfare it was to host the next Games, its premier, Daniel Andrews, said that because of spiralling costs he was not prepared to redirect government funds to make up the shortfall.

Citing a nearly threefold increase in budget estimates, Andrews said it “does not represent value for money, that is all costs and no benefit”.

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The Commonwealth Games Federation was “furious”, calling the decision “hugely disappointing”, said The Independent, while Craig Phillips, the Commonwealth Games Australia chief executive, described Andrews’s estimated cost up to $7 billion for the 12-day sporting event as a “gross exaggeration”.

It leaves organisers scrambling to find a new host for their showcase event less than three years out, but is in fact “just the latest sorry chapter for the Commonwealth Games, as it struggles for hosts – and relevance”, said The Guardian.

Organisers have had “difficulty” finding host cities in recent years, said the BBC. In 2017, Birmingham stepped in to replace Durban as the host of the 2022 Games after the city “missed deadlines and struggled with financial problems, leading to it being stripped of its hosting duties”, reported ITV News.

The South African city had itself been awarded the Games after its only competitor in the bid, the Canadian city of Edmonton, withdrew due to the cost. In total, the UK government stumped up more than £560 million to ensure the 2022 Games could go ahead in the West Midlands, with the local council putting in another £190 million.

As well as financial concerns, there is also a growing backlash against the history of the Games, once known as the British Empire Games. That more than half of Commonwealth countries currently criminalise same-sex relationships has also drawn condemnation from participants.

But not all agree the event is doomed. Event Scotland director Paul Bush, a former chairman of Commonwealth Games Scotland, said despite doubts over the 2026 event and questions over the Commonwealth Games’s “relevancy”, it remains “a strong, viable proposition”. He suggested that Scotland “could play a role in a broader coaltion” of countries that could stage the 2026 event.

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