Australia, UK and now Malaysia: Why countries are refusing to host 2026 Commonwealth Games | Sport-others News

CWG 2026: Malaysia pulls out

The next Commonwealth Games, on paper, are just two years away. But it’s still searching for a host country.

First, it was the Australian state of Victoria – the original host – that backed out. Gold Coast, which hosted the CWG in 2018, mulled a rescue bid before pulling out. Then, the UK government, which had already stepped in at the last minute to save the 2022 CWG after South African city Durban gave up, decided against similar actions this time.

And now, another country has decided it will not bail out the troubled Games. It dealt another body blow to an already battered event.

Wasn’t Victoria supposed to host it?

Yes, but the Australian state withdrew last year after claiming the estimated cost had blown out by $4.5bn.

After Victoria withdrew their plans to host the games, the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) went into a frenzy trying to get a new host on board. After trying multiple options, Malaysia seemed to be the option and the organisers were positive about them pulling it off.

Why did Malaysia pull out?

Festive offer

Malaysia has rejected the offer because of uncertainty over costs and insufficient funding being offered. Though the CGF offered £100m in supporting funds, Malaysian officials deemed that insufficient.

While they said the funding wasn’t enough, they also said they couldn’t commit to hosting the event at such short notice and with little time to assess the potential economic impact.

Indian contingent at CWG 2022 The athletes of India enter the stadium during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony at the Alexander stadium in Birmingham, England. (AP)

“If we had a longer time, we would definitely do it, but because there’s such a short time, we definitely can’t do it,” the government spokesperson and communications minister, Fahmi Fadzil, told a regular briefing, according to The Guardian. “When we assessed the viability of hosting the Games, the length of time needed and the cost was seen to be particularly prohibitive.”

Wait, wasn’t Birmingham the original host for the 2026 games?

The English city of Birmingham, which had been due to play hosts in 2026, was forced to step in to save the 2022 event after South Africa was stripped of hosting rights over a lack of progress in preparations.

Birmingham successfully pulled off the Games despite the time crunch but the move led to CGF scrambling to find another host for 2026. Victoria had been the only viable candidate after several other cities withdrew from the bidding process over cost issues.

Are the CWG struggling to find hosts and is it the case with other mega sporting events?

The Commonwealth Games in particular have struggled to find a willing host in recent years and five of the last six editions have been held in Australia or Britain.

Hosting international sporting events like the Olympics, the Fifa World Cup, and the Commonwealth Games has become a gamble. Host cities have to weigh up the towering and often uncontrollable costs against the benefits of a two-week (or month-long) economic boom, some investment in sporting facilities and infrastructure, and intangibles such as a boost to local pride.

While the Olympics and the Fifa World Cup garner a huge worldwide audience, with sky-rocketing revenues from television and streaming deals, the relevance of the Commonwealth Games has been severely questioned. Comparatively, the CWG’s TV viewership is only marginal and the revenue from the same is scarce.

Why is the relevance of the CWG being questioned?

Victoria’s withdrawal had already placed the future of the event in doubt and raised questions about whether a Games with colonial origins was still relevant in the modern era and over its place in an already packed global sporting calendar.

The relevance of the event, with most of the competing teams drawn from former British colonies, has come under scrutiny amid persistent questions over the UK’s colonial legacy.

CWG 2022 mascot Perry, the 2022 CWG mascot , at the gates of the Buckingam Palace. (Reuters)

The Games are typically contested by about 70 countries and territories of the former British empire. Medals tables have been dominated by Australia, England, Canada, India, New Zealand, and South Africa in recent editions while the level of competition is nowhere in comparison to the Olympics.

Is the existence of the Games in threat?

Even if the 2026 Games are rescued at the last minute, CGF’s problems are far from over. The Canadian city of Hamilton’s bid for 2030 has already collapsed. The 2030 CWG were supposed to be a grand ocassion, marking 100 years since the first edition, when they were called the British Empire Games. While there is still plenty of time for the Centenary Games, hosting the event seems to have become more of passing the parcel.

Is postponing the 2026 CWG or downsizing it a possibility?

As far as the 2026 games are concerned, it’s likely that they may have to be postponed by a year for the host city to gear up.

Reports say that the CGF may increase funding while mooting Singapore or a Canadian city as potential hosts.

With costs spiralling out of control, the Malaysian Olympic Council had initially proposed holding a downsized Games, with limited spending on athletes’ accommodation, smaller opening and closing ceremonies and limiting the number of disciplines to just 10. The CGF will need to have a closer look at those recommendations as it looks more likely to be the future of the Games.

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