London is “ready” to host 2026 Commonwealth Games, with an estimated central government cost of £500mn, officials at City Hall said. Organisers are scrambling to find a venue for the competition.
The games are held every four years and involve countries from the Commonwealth, mainly states with historical connections to the UK, competing in sports ranging from badminton lawn bowls.
After the sudden withdrawal of the Australian state of Victoria from hosting the Games, there has been intense speculation about the future of these games. Queen Elizabeth II was seen as the last symbol of unity for the Commonwealth.
Daniel Andrews, Labor Premier of Victoria, pulled out the state from hosting the event in this week. He cited spiraling costs that had tripled to A$7bn, (£3.7bn), from the A$2.6bn, (£1.35bn), initially projected last.
Andrews stated that the decision to pull out was not difficult, as the Australian government would suffer “all costs and no benefits”.
London’s Sadiq Khan, however, is one of a few city leaders to have expressed their desire to host the Games in 2026.
London officials estimate that the event will cost around £500mn. This is a far lower figure than other potential host cities. The reason for this is the sporting infrastructure in the capital.
A spokesperson for Khan stated that London was “ready to assist if needed”, but added that the final decision on whether to bid will be made by the government.
According to a person who was briefed by the UK government, the preferred option in Westminster is for Australia take the lead.
In a packed international sporting calendar the games are in fierce competition with each other for fans, sponsors, and commercial partners. Commonwealth Games is almost exclusively funded by government.
Ian Reid, the chief executive of the Birmingham 2022 Games, said: “I don’t think we’ll be able to get rid of the need for public funding.”
Birmingham’s budget of £778mn for the tournament was not met. Andy Street, West Midlands Mayor, stated that the event brought more money into the city.
Economists said Victoria’s plan to host events in rural and coast areas of the state – which increased costs – was not in line with the model adopted at the Olympics. To reduce the cost of hosting large events, the Olympics choose cities that already have a sporting infrastructure.
Tim Harcourt is an economist at the University of Technology Sydney. He said that the public was increasingly reluctant to fund expensive events with the hope of generating revenue in the future.
The mayors of Gold Coast in Queensland, which hosted the 2018 games, and Christchurch, New Zealand both expressed an interest in hosting the Games if funding from the central government could be obtained.
According to the Gold Coast mayor, the bid could have cost A$1.2bn but the Queensland government immediately cancelled it because they are focusing on Brisbane’s 2032 Olympic Games.
The Scottish government is also studying the feasibility of hosting certain events, if the competition were to be a multi-city and multi-country event.
The Welsh government has decided to reject the idea of holding the event in Cardiff, Wales, at a cost between £1.3 and 1.5bn. This is due to “budgetary concerns”.
The Commonwealth Games in England 2026 would be the fourth in the 22-year history of the competition. Australia has hosted it five times.
A spokesperson from the UK government stated: “We are hopeful that Commonwealth Games Federation Australia and Commonwealth Games Federation will work together in order to find a solution for hosting the event 2026.”