Who will play host as Australia bows out of the 2026 Commonwealth Games?

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Athletes of Australia enter the stadium during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony at the Alexander stadium in Birmingham, England.

Australia decided to withdraw from hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games on Tuesday, citing the soaring costs that escalated from $1.8 billion to over $4 billion. Premier Daniel Andrews stated in a press conference that these expenses had become “well and truly too much” for the host state of Victoria to bear.

He emphasized that diverting funds from essential services like hospitals and schools to support an event that exceeded the previous year’s estimates by threefold was not acceptable.

This move has reignited a debate about the relevance of the Commonwealth Games in today’s global sporting arena and whether the substantial costs associated with hosting such events are worthwhile. Experts argue that the economic benefits often do not justify the underestimated expenses, causing strains on local budgets.

Research by Oxford University revealed that every Olympic Games event since 1960 has surpassed its budget by an average of 172%, and spending on these events often outpaces investments in critical infrastructure like transportation.

The staggering cost of hosting the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, estimated at $220 billion, sparked criticism over the host nation’s human rights record and treatment of migrant workers involved in constructing the necessary infrastructure, although many argued that what the World Cup achieved for Qatar’s soft power is priceless – bringing a celebration of sport as well as unity to an otherwise divided region. Garnering immense ticket sales from supporters in the Middle East and Asia and record-breaking streaming views were merely the cherry on the cake.

Some propose a potential solution of designating a permanent host nation for sporting events, eliminating the need for extensive rebuilding and saving significant financial and environmental resources.

The Commonwealth Games, which were initially established in 1930 as the British Empire Games, aimed to foster unity among Britain and its colonies. However, in the last two decades, Australia’s cultural landscape has evolved, becoming more diverse and multicultural, critical of the Commonwealth and the British royal family which in turn is leading to a diminished significance of the tournament, particularly among newcomers and those born overseas.

Additionally, the Commonwealth Games are often perceived as second-tier event, with prominent athletes occasionally opting not to participate. Lack of enthusiasm from potential hosts has also been evident, as seen in Durban, South Africa, in 2015, when it was the only city to bid for hosting rights but was later stripped of its role due to financial issues and missed deadlines. England’s city of Birmingham eventually hosted the event.

As of now, uncertainty reigns as to who will host the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

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