London could offer safety net for 2026 Commonwealth Games: Mayor

London Mayor Sadiq Khan is reportedly ready to step in and offer to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games after Tuesday’s announcement that Victoria in Australia has canceled plans to stage the event amid skyrocketing costs.

London 2012 Olympic Park (IOC Photo)
London 2012 Olympic Park (IOC Photo)

“The decision to bid for the Commonwealth Games would need to be taken by the Government,” a spokesperson for Mayor Khan told British media outlet iNews.

“However, London is the sporting capital of the world, with a wealth of experience in hosting major sporting events. The Mayor stands ready to support a submission for 2026 and future global events.”

London has a wealth of legacy infrastructure from the 2012 Olympics, including in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and could be ready to stand in on three years short notice. Games are typically awarded seven years in advance.

But U.K. officials don’t want to jump the gun, telling iNews reporters “Today’s announcement [of Victoria’s cancellation] is disappointing for both fans and athletes. We hope that the CGF [Commonwealth Games Federation] and Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA) will now work together to find a viable solution to hosting the event in 2026 so that athletes have the chance to compete and fans have the opportunity to enjoy this incredible event.”

The CGA, Victoria 2026 and other stakeholders could be held financially liable for the cancellation and it would be beneficial if Australia could offer another site to stage the quadrennial event. Sydney and Adelaide already opted out of a 2026 bid before Victoria was elected unopposed in April 2022, and those two Australian cities are among others that have rejected this new opportunity as well. Perth Mayor Basil Zempilas instead sees the development as a possible “second chance” for his city.

He said on Twitter “Here’s how it should work – we tell the CGF how much we will pay. We tell them ‘here are our venues’ you make YOUR games fit around what we have.”

“Perth is in the driver’s seat they need us.”

Without Australia, there are few places for the CGF to turn. A joint bid by Calgary and Edmonton in Canada’s Alberta province is targeting the 2030 centennial edition and could be challenged to move the dates four years earlier.

If not, London is a capable replacement on short notice.

It wouldn’t be the first time the UK has stepped in to save the day. Durban in South Africa was stripped of the 2022 Games by the CGF after the city that was  elected unopposed in 2015 failed to deliver on a financial milestone in 2017. Birmingham was chosen to stage the event instead, organizing on a shortened timeline.

Birmingham could also be a candidate to reprise the Games in 2026 with most of the legacy still intact.

Birmingham’s original target was 2026, but Durban’s dismissal pushed the city’s timeline four years sooner leaving the gap that Victoria filled. The region was elected after one-on-one negotiations when no other countries across the Commonwealth showed serious interest in hosting.

The CGF lambasted Victoria 2026 and the state government in a statement Tuesday for giving them only “eight hours’ notice” of plans to cancel “and that no consideration was given to discussing the situation to jointly find solutions prior to this decision being reached by the Government.”

“The numbers quoted to us today of [AUD] $6 billion are 50 percent more than those advised to the Organizing Committee board at its meeting in June,” the statement read.

CGA CEO Craig Phillips wrote in a statement “The stated cost overruns, in our opinion, are a gross exaggeration and not reflective of the operational costs presented to the Victoria 2026 Organizing Committee board as recently as June.”

He said recommendations against the planned use of “expensive temporary venues” instead of existing purpose-built facilities were ignored, contributing to the growing costs.

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.

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