London is ‘ready’ to host the Commonwealth Games for £500m

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London “stands poised” to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games at an estimated cost of £500m from the central government, according to City Hall officials, as organizers scramble to find a new home for the competition.

The nearly 100-year-old Games, which take place every four years, feature nations from the Commonwealth – made up largely of nations with historical links to the UK – competing in a variety of sports, from badminton to lawn courts.

The sudden withdrawal of the Australian state of Victoria as host has sparked intense speculation about the future of the Games following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, who was seen as one of the last unifying symbols of the Commonwealth.

Daniel Andrews, Victoria’s Labor premier, pulled the state from hosting the event this week, citing escalating costs that have tripled to A$7 billion (£3.7 billion) from A$2.6 billion (£1.35 billion) initially projected last year.

Andrews said the decision to withdraw was not difficult because it would be an “all costs, no benefit” issue for the heavily indebted Australian state.

However, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is among a handful of city leaders who have expressed interest in hosting the Games in 2026.

Officials in London estimate the event will cost around £500m, well below figures offered by other potential host cities, largely due to the capital’s sporting infrastructure.

A spokesman for Khan said London was “ready to provide support if required”, but indicated that the final decision to submit the bid would be made by the government.

One person familiar with the UK government’s thinking said the preference at Westminster remains for Australia to take over.

The games struggle for attention in a crowded international sports calendar, with fierce competition for investment, business partners, and fans. The Commonwealth Games depend almost entirely on government funding.

“I’m not sure we’re going to move away from the public funds requirement,” said Ian Reid, chief executive of the Birmingham 2022 Games.

Birmingham was given a £778m budget to host the tournament and Andy Street, the mayor of the West Midlands, said the event attracted more money than it cost.

Economists said Victoria’s plan to stage events in the state’s rural and coastal areas – which have increased costs – is not in line with the model adopted by the Olympics. The Olympic Games select cities with existing sports infrastructure to reduce the financial burden of hosting a major event.

Tim Harcourt, an economist at the University of Technology Sydney, said the public was becoming increasingly unwilling to fund expensive events in the hope of generating old revenue.

The mayors of the Gold Coast, the coastal region of Queensland that staged the Games in 2018, and Christchurch in New Zealand have also expressed interest in hosting the Games if central government funding can be secured.

The Gold Coast bid for A$1.2 billion could have been shelved, according to the region’s mayor, but was promptly canceled by the Queensland government as the state is focused on the 2032 Olympics in Brisbane.

Meanwhile, the Scottish government said it was examining the feasibility of hosting some events if it were to become a multi-city and multi-country competition.

The Welsh government, which had considered bidding for Cardiff to host the event in 2022 at a cost of £1.3-1.5 billion, has ruled out the possibility this time due to “budgetary concerns”.

If the Commonwealth Games are held in England in 2026, it will be the fourth time in the competition’s 22-game history. It has been hosted by Australia five times.

A UK government spokesperson said: “We hope the Commonwealth Games Federation and Commonwealth Games Australia will now work together to find a viable solution to host the event in 2026.”

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