A jubilant Daniel Andrews went into a provincial Australian stadium fifteen months ago and declared that the state of Victoria would host the 2026 Commonwealth Games. He promised “a game like no other.”
But on Tuesday, Mr Andrews, who seemed noticeably less happy, met a pack of media members and abruptly stated that the state that he represents would withdraw from its contract.
As a result, the preparations for the event are thrown into disarray, and the continuation of the Games is called into question.
Experts believe that after a string of challenging years for the organizers, this could be the event’s undoing.
According to Steve Georgakis, a lecturer in the field of sports studies at the University of Sydney, “this could spell the end of the Commonwealth Games.”
“It could be a death knell,” argues Matthew Klugman, an Australian sports historian.
The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) had planned to choose a city in 2019, but hopeful bids fell like dominoes, primarily due to cost worries. As a result, event organizers were unable to secure a host city until 2022.
According to Mr. Andrews, the premier of the state, the event’s organizers had reached out to their government, and at first, they were “happy to help out.”
“But not at any price,” he said during a press conference on Tuesday. “Not at any price.”
At a cost of A$2.6 billion (£1.4 billion; $1.8 billion), the event was intended to be a significant economic boon for the regional communities that were hosting it.
According to Mr Andrews, the cost of hosting the Games for their full duration of twelve days has increased to more than six billion Australian dollars.
“In this role, I’ve had to make a lot of tough choices as well as a lot of decisions that were quite challenging. He stated to the reporters that this was not one of such instances.
The CGF claims that Victoria’s decision came as a complete surprise to them, and they dispute the estimations.
In addition to this, the organization identified the “unique regional delivery model” of the state as the key reason for the increase in expenses.
Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA), which is the Australian branch of the CGF, stated that they will try to persuade other state governments that the numbers were a “gross exaggeration” and that the investment is a good one.
“We are taking advice on the options available to us and remain committed to finding a solution for the Games in 2026 that is in the best interest of our athletes and the wider Commonwealth Sport movement,” the Commonwealth Games Federation said in a statement.
However, the CGF has unfortunately encountered this challenge before.
Even for the 2022 competition, it was difficult to locate viable participants.
Durban was meant to be the first city in Africa to host the Games, but in 2017 they were deprived of their hosting rights because they ran into financial difficulties and missed critical deadlines.
After a delay of nine months, Birmingham and the British government came to the rescue to salvage the event, contributing a combined one billion dollars to make it the most successful Commonwealth Games in terms of attendance.
Now that we are only three years away from the 2026 Games – a narrow window in which to organize a worldwide multi-sport event – the CGF is looking for a saviour in order to save the organization.
But it appears like an uphill task.
Roger Cook, the premier of Western Australia, referred to the occasion as “ruinously expensive” and stated that “the Commonwealth Games aren’t what they used to be.”
And despite the fact that New South Wales was largely considered to be the most viable alternative in Australia due to the fact that it already possesses a substantial amount of infrastructure, the premier of New South Wales, Chris Minns, stated that “hosting the Commonwealth Games would be something nice to do.” It is necessary to have both schools and hospitals.
It is “impractical to think that any city could step in now with such a short timeframe,” according to the Gold Coast, which was Australia’s most recent host city and hosted the event in 2018. The event took place in 2018.
And even if it were feasible, very few nations have the resources to accomplish this goal.
During the past 20 years, just one Olympic Games competition has taken place somewhere other than the United Kingdom or Australia. That competition took place in Delhi, the capital of India, in 2010.
India wound up paying 16 times as much as they had anticipated, which is about $4.1 billion. The original estimate was $270 million.
According to Dr Georgakis, Australia has traditionally been the event that has had the most enthusiastic support. Australia is one of the wealthiest nations in the Commonwealth.
If Australia is unable to host the games, then the other little countries that were once colonies don’t stand much of a chance.
However, the issue at hand involves more than just the expense.
Critics of Victoria’s decision point out that the state wastes a lot of money on other major athletic events that are comparable. For instance, the state is paying millions of dollars to jointly host the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which will begin on Thursday.
Mr Andrews anticipated this, and he emphasized on multiple occasions that the 2026 Games simply did not give a “return on investment” like other events do.
“[It’s] all cost and no benefit,” he stated. “[It’s] a wash.”
According to the opinions of several experts, the event’s global image and perceived relevance are both declining.
In the first place, the event does not draw the same level of star power as it once did.
In the previous year, a number of prominent athletes decided against participating in the Olympic Games. These athletes included Andre de Grasse, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Shericka Jackson, who are all known for their success in the event of track and field.
The legendary sprinter Usain Bolt is said to have made fun of the competition in the past; however, Bolt asserts that he was misquoted, despite the fact that the journalist published a transcript of their conversation.
According to Dr. Klugman, “There is significantly less interest than there used to be.”
Even in the 1990s, it was already no more the phenomenon that it once was. It is true that it reflects the changing world.
A growing number of people do not appear to care about the reason the Olympic Games were created in the first place.
According to historians, the competition, which had its beginnings in 1930 and was first known as the Empire Games, served as a means to maintain unity among the British colonies.
According to Dr. Klugman, “And in an empire that’s starting to crack under a whole heap of challenges, it is still seen as a chance to maintain and solidify power,”
However, a growing number of Britain’s former colonies are separating themselves from the United Kingdom, with several of them either transitioning into republics or, like Australia, considering the possibility.
“The Australia of 1938 is very different to the Australia in 2023,” stated Dr. Georgakis.
It is challenging to convince those who do not come from a British heritage to support the idea of joining Australia with the home nation and the other countries that were formerly British colonies.
In addition to that, there has been an increase in awareness as well as scrutiny over the colonial past of the tournament.
Indigenous Australians first referred to the games as the “Stolenwealth Games” in 1982; this is a name that the games have been unable to shake since then.
Klugman claims that there is a sound rationale for the name Stolenwealth. These were the locations from which valuable resources were harvested and then transported to other parts of the empire.
And considering that Australia is in the midst of a problem over the expense of living as well as a discussion regarding the recognition of its Indigenous people in the constitution, some people believe that investing billions of dollars in the Games would be a terrible look for the country.
The CGF is aware that it is in a battle for the Games’ continued existence.
In 2018, its president, Dame Louise Martin, referred to the organization’s predicament as an “existential crisis.”
She remarked, “In recent times, the federation has done soul-searching to look at impact and meaning,” and she explained that this had been happening recently.
In addition, the organization stated in a strategy plan that covers the next ten years that “There is no easy way to say that the Commonwealth has a challenging history linked to colonial roots.”
“Efforts have already been made to shift the focus away from the hegemony of the British Empire and toward world peace.”
It is not obvious what exactly this entails in a practical sense.
The athletes in many different sports, including netball, view it as the peak of their competition, and many have voiced their profound dissatisfaction with the decision.
According to race walker Jemima Montag, it has deprived her of the opportunity to earn a third gold medal in front of her home fans in the United Kingdom.
In addition, Australian swimmer Rowan Crothers brings up the issue that the cancellation is especially upsetting for persons who have physical impairments.
The Commonwealth Games are the only major international tournament where athletes with disabilities compete side-by-side with athletes who do not have any physical limitations.
“[It’s] a fantastic chance to bring more attention to sports for people with disabilities. He said on Twitter that the cancellation of the Games would be terrible for the current condition of inclusiveness.
There are certain athletes for whom winning a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games is more significant than winning a gold medal at the Paralympics… It’s possible that acknowledgement and equality are more important than accomplishment.