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Francesca Rudkin: Will there be another Commonwealth Games?

Francesca Rudkin,
Publish Date
Sun, 6 Aug 2023, 9:49AM

Francesca Rudkin: Will there be another Commonwealth Games?

Francesca Rudkin,
Publish Date
Sun, 6 Aug 2023, 9:49AM

In April last year Daniel Andrews, the Premiere of Victoria, Australia said “It is a privilege and honour to have Victoria chosen as the host venue for the 2026 Commonwealth Games – we can’t wait to welcome the World to Victoria.” 

Well, by July this year the invitation had been withdrawn, with Andrews claiming the cost of holding the games had blown out and he wasn’t prepared to redirect money from other parts of the  Government’s budget to cover the cost.  

Turns out the state had underestimated the cost of hosting, with Andrews stating that the cost would be more around AUS$6 billion to $7billion as opposed to the $2.6 billion budgeted. The Commonwealth Games Australia CEO considered this was a gross exaggeration.  

It was thought the idea of spreading the games around the region rather than using existing stadiums and infrastructure within Melbourne was to blame – but it doesn’t really matter – someone got the numbers wrong and didn’t secure funding in time. The Commonwealth Games Federation is desperately trying to find a replacement for Victoria. Gold Coast and the UK are thinking about it, but with no one standing up to take the Games on just yet athletes may need to reconsider their event schedules.  

On top of that, Alberta, Canada, was the only remaining confirmed bidder for the 2030  Commonwealth Games. This week they decided to withdraw their bid. 

So you have to ask, will there be another Commonwealth Games?  

The question of relevance always comes up as we head into a Games. Is it worth having? Do enough of the world’s best compete to make it relevant? Does it create a sports legacy? Is it too costly to run – do host cities benefit?

If you’re asked these questions on the eve of the Games or when it’s underway it’s easy to be all for it. We love a distraction and we’re swayed by the drama of sport, the storylines about the athletes, the unexpected joyful wins, and the discovery or rediscovery of sports we haven’t seen or thought about for 4 years.  

If you ask me right now, in the middle of the Fifa Women’s World Cup - an event that while just at the knockout stage has broken records for ticket sales, broadcast figures and digital media us, I’d suggest there are plenty of other successful world-wide sports events to keep us entertained. There’s also a thrilling Netball World Cup on now, and a highly anticipated Rugby World Cup to start soon.  

But there’s a sentimental factor with the Commonwealth Games that kicks in – they’re a part of our lives and history. It feels like they’ve always been there – and since 1930 they pretty much have - it took World War II to get in the way, twice. It’s hard losing something so familiar.  

Of course, only athletes can say what the Commonwealth Games means to them, what kudos they hold, and how important a stepping stone they are to world championships and the Olympics. As someone who would only ever get to participate as a volunteer – if they’d have me – I would think that surely just qualifying must feel awesome.  

When it comes to financial rewards, well, Birmingham held the 2022 Games and claim it was the best attended Games on record, both by athletes and audiences. It cost around 778 million pounds but generated 870 million pounds for the UK economy. So if you can afford it, you can benefit. However the Games in Delhi, Glasgow and Gold Coast all went over budget.  

But the reality is that if the Commonwealth Games are too expensive for cities or states to host then the Games will need to change and adapt, find new ways to fund itself, be rigorous about which sport take part, and appeal to a contemporary audience.  

I love the idea of New Zealand as a whole hosting the Commonwealth Games – as long as, unlike in Victoria, someone gets the numbers right - but with this mysterious fiscal hole and a looming double recession it would be a hard sell.  

As wonderful as Birmingham was, the time has come for the Commonwealth Games Federation to make some big decisions about how they’re going to keep the Games alive over the next decade, and beyond. 


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