Yes We Khan, London Rescues Commonwealth Games
Fresh from his political drubbing for the “crime” of wanting to bring fresh air to the capital, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has seemingly come to the rescue of the Commonwealth Games by agreeing to host the embattled event.
Tens of thousands of punters, perhaps millions, around the world who love to wager on unfancied, and often obscure events, such as lawn bowls, netball and rugby sevens, will breathe a huge sigh of relief because the Commonwealth Games, aka “The Friendly Games”, reaches the far corners of the betting universe not touched by the Olympics, Champions League and Super Bowl.
Where else can you cheer and bet on Eswatini, Kiribati, Lesotho, Nauru, Tonga and Vanuatu–even Scotland, for that matter–knowing that they’ve got a good chance of winning, or claiming, a medal?
Khan’s rescue act comes after the upcoming 2026 Commonwealth Games hosts, the Australian state of Victoria, pulled out last week, citing: “All cost. No benefit,” with projected spend more than trebling from an initial AUS$2.6 billion (£1.35bn) to AUS$7 billion (£3.7bn).
London now “stands ready” to step into the breach and host the games if they can secure £500 million from the Central Government, confirms the Mayor’s Office.
It goes without saying that all the sporting infrastructure, much of it built for the British capital’s brilliant hosting of the 2012 Olympics, is already in place.
Looking beyond London’s laudable last-minute rescue act, The Commonwealth Games, itself, has been suffering from an identity, if not existential, crisis for some time — only partially allayed by last year’s valiant and, by most metrics, successful hosting by Birmingham.
Launched in 1930 as The Empire Games–and manifestation of British imperial glory–, the games, redubbed the Commonwealth Games in 1970, is a multi-sports contest which attracts over 50 of The Commonwealth’s 70-odd nations, all of them, barring Mozambique, former British colonies, and is held every four years.
If Australia, which has previously hosted the games five times, is going soft on the event then the games, in favourite Ozzie parlance, are “well and truly buggered”.
Because rather like the U.S.A. and China at the Olympics, and previously the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union, England and Australia are the two big beasts of the competition, with both countries, inevitably, vying to top the medals table every quadrennial.
The precipitous withdrawal of Victoria as host has stoked further speculation over the future of the games; coming, moreover, soon after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, who was seen, perhaps, as one of the last unifying symbols of the Commonwealth.
The 12-day sports tournament is now fighting for attention–and relevance–in a crowded and glamorous international sporting calendar.
The organising Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) struggled to find a host before Victoria volunteered in April 2022.
And Birmingham’s hosting of last year’s games was also an emergency fix after initial host city Durban in South Africa dropped the baton, also citing economic difficulties.
The CGF has called Victoria’s decision “hugely disappointing” and affirms it is “committed to finding a solution”.
London, one hopes, Khan ride to the rescue.