— Published 4 August 2023

The Commonwealth Games, the event nobody wants any more

Each new episode confirms that something is no longer right with the Olympic movement. The major events on the international calendar are no longer attracting bids. And the new processes for selecting host cities, which are supposed to reverse this trend, are doing little to change the gloom.

The latest example is the Commonwealth Games. Last month, the Australian state of Victoria put its foot down and withdrew the 2026 edition, justifying its decision on budgetary grounds. Too expensive, and far more expensive than expected, explained the authorities.

On Thursday 3 August, the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) was dealt another blow. A spokesperson for Alberta’s Department of Tourism and Sport confirmed a report in the Canadian media that Alberta had withdrawn its bid to host the 2030 Games.

The bid was submitted by two of the state’s cities, Calgary and Edmonton. It was tipped to be the favourite, and even the almost certain winner, provided it could meet the required guarantees and go all the way without getting its feet tangled in the carpet.

But the Alberta government explained on Thursday 3 August that a more in-depth study of the costs of the multisport event had revealed a financial risk that was too great for the public authorities. At last count, the project had a budget of 2.68 billion Canadian dollars (1.83 billion euros). Above all, it would have been more than 90% financed by taxpayers due to “the corporate sponsorship model and limited broadcast revenues for the Commonwealth Games”.

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek confirmed the withdrawal of the bid. “The provincial government’s decision to withdraw from Alberta’s 2030 Commonwealth Games bid process effectively terminates the bid and the City of Calgary’s participation,” she said in a statement.

With seven years to go before the event, the Commonwealth Games Federation is seeing its strongest candidate disappear from the scene. Worse still, it has no plan B to turn to for the 2030 edition. Another Canadian city, Hamilton, had at one time put its hand up to host the event, either in 2026 or 2030. But without the support of the Ontario government, it shelved its project.

With Victoria withdrawing its bid for the 2026 event, and Alberta announcing that it will not host the next one, the Commonwealth Games have a blank page. This is unprecedented for an event that has been held every four years, without interruption, since 1954.

A bad patch? The most optimistic would say yes. But, let’s be clear, the Commonwealth Games Federation is not the only body in the sporting movement to suffer from air pockets.

International Rugby League (IRL), the international rugby XIII federation, also announced on Thursday 3 August that the next edition of the World Cup would be postponed until 2026. It will be held in the southern hemisphere. The event was originally scheduled to take place a year earlier in France, but the organisers have moved it back to the IRL. The reason was the refusal of the French authorities to grant them a budget extension, their search for private funding having failed to produce the expected results.

The IOC has also fallen victim to the same phenomenon of applicants withdrawing their bids. Admittedly, the Olympic body never tires of multiplying its exchanges and dialogue with more than a dozen potential host cities or countries for the next Games, winter or summer. But the facts contradict the official line.

The last two editions of the Winter Games – 2022 and 2026 – were awarded after campaigns in which only two candidates went all the way: China and Kazakhstan for 2022, and Italy and Sweden for 2026. Skinny.

For 2030, the situation became so confused last year, with the withdrawals of Spain (Barcelona-Pyrenees), Canada (Vancouver), and the prolonged pause of Japan (Sapporo), that the IOC had no option but to postpone the designation of the host country until next year.

Since then, Sweden, then Switzerland, and most recently France, have come out of the woodwork by announcing their wish to join the dialogue. But none of these three bidders has yet completed its bid, announced its figures or obtained guarantees from the public authorities.