New Delhi: The Commonwealth Games is a multi-sport event for members of the Commonwealth, a group of countries and territories that were mostly former colonies of the British Empire. The Games are held every four years and feature 21 sports, such as athletics, swimming, cycling, and badminton. The first Games were held in 1930 in Hamilton, Canada, and the most recent Games were held in 2022 in Birmingham, England. The Games are overseen by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), which is responsible for selecting the host city and ensuring the quality and integrity of the event.
Why did Australia withdraw from hosting the 2026 Games?
Australia was initially the frontrunner to host the 2026 Games after the CGF entered an exclusive dialogue period with the state of Victoria in February 2022. Victoria had planned to host the Games across several regional cities, such as Geelong, Ballarat, and Bendigo, as well as Melbourne, which had previously hosted the Games in 2006. However, in July 2023, Victoria announced that it had canceled its bid, citing an escalation in its cost projections from A$2.6 billion (£1.4 billion) to A$5.2 billion (£2.8 billion). The CGF then approached the Gold Coast, which had successfully hosted the Games in 2018, to take over the 2026 hosting rights. However, on December 5, 2023, Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said that he was not getting support from the state and federal governments and therefore could not host the Games. He said that the Gold Coast had other priorities, such as infrastructure, health, and education, and that hosting the Games would be a financial burden.
What are the implications of Australia’s withdrawal?
Australia’s withdrawal from hosting the 2026 Games has left the event in crisis, as there are no other confirmed or potential bidders for the Games. The CGF is scrambling to find a replacement host in three years’ time, which is a very short period for planning and preparing such a large-scale event. The CGF has said that it is open to any expressions of interest from other Commonwealth countries and territories and that it will work with its partners to ensure the delivery of the Games. However, the CGF has also faced difficulties in finding a host for the 2030 Games, as the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Ontario have both withdrawn their bids due to financial concerns. This raises questions about the viability and relevance of the Commonwealth Games in the modern world, as well as the challenges of hosting mega-events in the post-pandemic era.
Commonwealth Games Australia chief executive Craig Phillips said that Australia has not completely ruled out hosting the 2026 Games yet, but that the CGF should seriously consider other options. He said that hosting the Games is our priority and we will try to do so, but if they have better options then they should seriously consider them. He also said that Australia would support the CGF in finding a new host and that he hoped that the Games would continue.
What are the possible alternatives for hosting the 2026 Games?
Some of the possible alternatives for hosting the 2026 Games are:
- London: The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has said that he is “ready” to support a bid for London to replace Victoria as the host. London has previously hosted the Games in 1934, 1954, and 2014, and has the infrastructure and experience to host the event. However, London may face competition from other UK cities, such as Manchester, Glasgow, and Birmingham, which have also hosted the Games in the past.
- Scotland: The Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf has said that he is “willing to consider proposals” for Scotland to host at least some of the events at the Games. Scotland has previously hosted the Games in 1970, 1986, and 2014, and has the venues and facilities to host the event. However, Scotland may need the support of the UK government and the CGF to host the Games on its own or in partnership with other countries.
- Malaysia: Malaysia has expressed interest in hosting the 2026 Games, after hosting the Games in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia has the advantage of being a diverse and multicultural country, as well as having a strong sporting culture and legacy. However, Malaysia may face challenges in securing funding and support from the government and the public for hosting the event.