The 2026 Commonwealth Games has been orphaned. Again. This time, it’s Malaysia who have rejected the Commonwealth Games Federation’s (CGF) offer to host the event. That leaves the Games without a host, two years from its scheduled start.

In an official statement, Malaysia said its decision was due to time constraints, costs and an insufficient offer of funding.

The CGF had asked Malaysia to step in after the Australian state of Victoria withdrew, citing ballooning costs. The governing body even threw in a sweetener; 100 million pounds ($126 million) in supporting funds.

Still, Malaysia said no.

But before saying no, Malaysia explored all possible means of making this work. They even considered a downsized games.

"We feel that this can be a downsized Games," said Mohd Najib, the secretary-general of the Olympic Council of Malaysia.

"For example, it doesn’t have to be 15 sports, it can be 10 sports. And then we have a smaller opening and smaller closing (ceremonies).

In the end, even a significantly downsized games was deemed too expensive.

But why has the Commonwealth Games become a poisoned chalice of sorts?

Victorian miss

It's July 18 and - Australia's state of Victoria has just withdrawn as host of the 2026 Commonwealth Games over escalating costs.

Victoria Premier Dan Andrews said the cost of the Games, could far exceed the earlier estimated $4.8 billion if they hosted it.

"Frankly A$6-A$7 billion for a 12-day sporting event, we're not doing that," Andrews said.

By his own admission, Victoria made the decision even before working out the cost of breaking its contract with the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF).

As it turns out, Dan Andrews would later confirm that the Victoria State had agreed to pay $243 million to Commonwealth Games organizers.

Victoria’s decision may have something to do with Birmingham’s.

Birmingham Blunder

On 5th, September 2023, the Birmingham city council effectively declared bankruptcy to meet equal pay claims.

In a statement, the Labour council of the largest local authority in Europe said the notice was a “necessary step as we seek to get our city back on a sound financial footing”.

Next, the authority said it would only spend on essential items for the foreseeable future.

Naturally, the UK went into a post mortem to understand why the Council was broke.

Although there were several questionable expenditures, one was unmissable; the Commonwealth Games in 2022.

It stuck out like a sore thumb.

Max Caller, once upon a time an adviser to the Birmingham City Council, described the decision to host the Commonwealth Games as a mistake considering "its legacy of financial problems."

According to the former Chief Executive of the London Borough of Hackney and the London Borough of Barnet, the Games had been a "challenge too far" for the cash-strapped Council.

So just how much did it cost Birmingham to hold the Commonwealth Games?

In 2019, the CGF revealed that the Birmingham 2022 games would cost an estimated £778million. The UK government had agreed to a 75-25 with the Birmingham City Council.

The central government contributed £594 million, while the city council and its partners coughed up the remaining £184m.

Although Birmingham reportedly coughed up £25 million, the consequences of the Games had left the Council crippled.

Expired value?

The value of hosting the Games is fast receding due to the astronomical cost of hosting the Games.
That is not to say that Games has lost its lure. Far from it.

Dr Matthew Lyons, a regional economist at the University of Birmingham, knows where the Games’ true value lies.'

These events only really provide value for money if they are used as a catalyst to deliver other things and, to Birmingham’s credit, it has consciously worked to attract tourism and business investment over the long term.”

“Worries about the costs of mega-events are becoming increasingly common. In Victoria, the costs seem astronomical so I would agree with the assessment that it won’t represent value for money,” says Dr Matthew Lyons.

For developing countries that need the Games as an excuse to invest in relevant infrastructural and intellectual capacity, its pulling power remains strong.

The argument then, is that such new-found infrastructural and intellectual capacity will become catalysts for sports development in such countries.

But is that always the case?

Many countries have been slapped with the reality that that view is often fraudulent for one reason; maintenance and the phenomenon of white elephants.

These are newly constructed facilities that, because of their size or specialized nature, are no longer as useful after these Games.

For those that are still useful, the sheer cost of maintaining them may prove too expensive.

The same holds true for the Olympic Games and countries that host it.

The Sydney Olympic Stadium in Australia costs the city up to $30 million a year in maintenance fees alone.

In China, the “Bird’s Nest” stadium which cost $460 million to construct in Beijing, requires $10 million a year to maintain. Like many of such facilities, the facility has served no major purpose since the Olympic Games in 2008.

So you can understand why countries are not lining up in their hundreds to host the Commonwealth Games.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.