Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ decision to ax the 2026 Commonwealth Games could be the final nail in the international sporting event’s coffin.
Experts warned 18 months ago that the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games could be the last to be held after global interest in hosting the event disappeared in recent years.
The 2022 Games were originally planned to be held in Durban, South Africa, but the city’s plans were scrapped due to concerns about costs spiraling out of control.
‘We gave it our best shot, but we can’t go beyond that,’ admitted South African sports minister Fikile Mbalula at the time.
‘If the country says we don’t have this money, we can’t [host it].’
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ (pictured) decision to ax the 2026 Commonwealth Games could be the final nail in the coffin of the landmark international sporting event.
The state government said on Tuesday the estimated $7 billion cost could cover its budget or justify the 12-day sporting event (pictured, Australia’s netball team celebrates winning gold in Birmingham in 2022).
Birmingham, the UK’s second-largest city, stepped in to take over the 2022 event if none of the 70 Commonwealth Games Federation nations showed interest in hosting it.
The city in the English Midlands was originally due to host the Games in 2026, with event organizers scrambling to fill the new gap in the schedule.
The lack of interest in the event continued when a ceremony to announce the hosts of the 2026 and 2030 Games to be held in Kigali, Rwanda in 2019 had to be canceled due to a lack of willing participants.
Another announcement date in 2020 was also canceled due to the Covid pandemic.
Games organizers were then forced to skip the usual request for bids and instead went directly to Victoria to ask the state to host the quadrennial extravaganza.
Premier Andrews agreed at the time that it would be held in regional Victoria rather than Melbourne to boost the rural economy.
But Mr Andrews said on Tuesday that the expected cost of $6-7 billion was beyond what the budget could afford or justify for the 12-day sporting event.
The decision has now thrown the entire future of the Games into doubt.
In its 93-year history, the event has almost always been hosted in the United Kingdom, Australia/New Zealand and Canada, with Jamaica, India and Malaysia being the only other single hosts.
With Victoria now pulling the plug on 2026, there are concerns about who will be able to quickly fill the void and the message it will send to future hosts.
Canada was widely predicted to host the 2030 event to mark the Games’ 100th anniversary, returning to Hamilton, Ontario, the original site of the first Games in 1930.
Because of the centenary celebrations, the city is unlikely to be ready to move the Games forward to 2026 to fill the void created by Victoria.
As one analyst predicted in 2022, when Birmingham stepped in to replace Durban, ‘it looks like the whole thing could collapse unless something is decided quickly’.
Jack Revell wrote in The Latch in February 2022: ‘There appears to be little interest from many of Britain’s former colonies.
‘After 92 years, only three countries are interested in keeping the sports event of the tired empire alive, and even then, only in a pinch.
‘While top-level international sporting events such as the Olympics and FIFA World Cup attract more attention with each round, second-tier events such as the Commonwealth Games may soon be seen as too much hassle to bother with.’
With Victoria now pulling the plug on 2026, there are concerns about who will be able to quickly fill the vacancy and the message it will send to future hosts (pictured, Australian athletes at the 2022 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
The Commonwealth Games Federation said the decision was “extremely disappointing” and blamed rising costs for the region’s decision to host it.
“This is extremely disappointing for the Commonwealth sports movement, the athletes around the Commonwealth and the organizing committee who are well advanced in their planning and preparations,” a CGF statement said.
‘The reasons are financial.
‘The numbers quoted to us today at $6 billion are 50 per cent higher than suggested at the organizing committee’s board meeting in June.
‘These figures are attributed to price increases primarily due to the unique regional delivery model Victoria has chosen for these Games, and particularly in relation to village and venue construction and transport infrastructure.’