Commonwealth Games
Wikimedia Commons/ Jimmy Harris from Melbourne, Australia

Costly and anachronistic: Are the Commonwealth Games worth saving?

28 July will mark one year since the eyes of the Commonwealth and wider world were set on Birmingham. For ten days, the 2022 Games enraptured the city and its global audience. And I know, because I was there. It was fun from start to finish, a celebration of all the good sport can deliver and create.

And yet, on Monday evening, there came the most crashing indication yet that the Games’s time could be up. Less than three years out from when they were due to be hosting the event, the Australian state of Victoria pulled the plug. Citing escalating scots, Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews said the frivolities would be too much for his budgets to bear.

It is a worrying sign. While in theory any of the Commonwealth’s 56 member nations could host the competition, few are big enough to bear the pressures. And of those that are, the UK and Australia have been the most willing participants in recent years, hosting four of the last five events.

The Commonwealth has been here before, after Durban’s approved bid to host the 2022 Games collapsed amid financial pressures. With no Australian states coming forward to pick up Victoria’s mess this time around, and New Zealand already ruling themselves out, many are looking to the UK once again.

The jubilance which came with Birmingham’s hosting of the Games last year generated a feeling that they had found a renewed drive and purpose

But with Britain in pole position to win hosting rights for Euro 2028, a decision to come in September, would the nation really be prepared to foot the costs for another Commies? Birmingham and Glasgow (2014 hosts) would be obvious choices as far as infrastructure preparedness goes. But just because the facilities are there does not mean such a huge scale event comes for free.

The identity of the Commonwealth Games, as Britain and the wider world begins to reckon with the legacy of colonialism, is increasingly under threat. There are some who would not lose a moment’s sleep at the news that the Games could come to an end.

Despite this, the jubilance which came with Birmingham’s hosting of the Games last year generated a feeling that they had found a renewed drive and purpose. Since then, the Commonwealth has of course gained a new sovereign following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. It has not, however, muted suggestions that the Commonwealths represent merely a long-passed imperial age.

A scramble will now begin to attempt to find a host for 2026. Even if something is pieced together, the long-term sustainability of this event is in grave danger. It is up to the Commonwealth Games Federation to make the argument that they warrant saving.


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