Last year, I started an e-petition suggesting we rename Victoria before hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2026. It looks like the government has gone even further, completely abolishing the event, originally known as British Empire Games. It is an odd coincidence, the minister and I both attended the same school in regional Victoria.
Commonwealth countries were somewhat surprised to learn that Victoria, Australia, has abandoned plans to host the Commonwealth Games in 2026. Victoria is a leader in major events, including the 1956 Olympics and many annual events like the Australian Open tennis grand slam, the Formula 1 Grand Prix and the Melbourne Cup. If a state with this much experience couldn't save the Commonwealth games, maybe nobody can.
In some ways, the situation reminds me of the French submarine contract: did an Australian state government commit to a project that we weren't serious about in the first place? If so, that is really disappointing. On the other hand, the government had stepped in to try and save the games after South Africa failed. This dramatically truncated the normal preparation period from ten years down to just four. Maybe they were acting in good faith and simply bit off more than they can chew.
A key feature of Victoria's bid was the plan to hold the games in regional cities rather than Melbourne, the state capital. The deputy premier, Jacinta Allan and I both grew up in one of those cities, Bendigo, and that is the region Jacinta represents in the state parliament. In addition to her role as deputy premier, Jacinta was assigned the ministerial portfolio for games delivery.
In the latter capacity, it is not hard to imagine her inviting visiting dignitaries, including the new King, to spend time in Bendigo supporting their teams. By canceling the event, she has done the opposite, effectively uninviting King Charles. In doing so, rather than delivering the games, as her portfolio alludes to, she may have ended the games for good and put another nail in the coffin of imperialism.
Melbourne has over five million people, Bendigo is less than one hundred thousand. This makes a big difference to the potential revenue for ticket sales. The strategy to have the games in regional cities always involved a huge and obvious risk for revenue.
The Commonwealth Games today faces many challenges and contradictions. It has been a great place for commonwealth athletes to practice before the Olympics and world championships for their sports. Numerous world records have been set by competitors in the Commonwealth Games. On the other hand, in Birmingham 2022, Australia took more medals than anybody else. Is it really fair to expect sports fans in the UK to get up in the early hours of the morning and watch on TV as their athletes' hopes are snuffed out by the scorching heat and the Australian home crowd? When you think about it like that, it seems kind of silly to spend $7 billion on hosting sports where the outcomes in some sports are a foregone conclusion.
Before the Internet and cable TV, Commonwealth Games would be broadcast far and wide through regular TV stations. Today, with many people living their lives through social media, it is much harder for any event below the level of the Olympics to get people's attention. The reduced TV audiences and reduced spectators willing to visit regional cities may have had a significant impact on economic viability.
…when [a parade held in the Duke’s honour] was at its height, an unfortunate catastrophe occurred. The model of the [Duke’s ship] Galatea suddenly rushed through the crowd— its canvas, bulwarks, and wooden decks all a-blaze…the fireworks on board had ignited, and the conflagration was so rapid that all the boys in the ship were more or less burned before they could be extricated. Three who were seriously burned—were at once removed to the hospital, and only survived their injuries a short time. The Prince evinced the liveliest concern for the sufferers on hearing of the sad mishap, and sent Mr. Yorke, his equerry, to the hospital, to inquire how they were progressing.
The Alfred Hall also mysteriously caught fire and burnt down fifteen minutes before the Prince was due to attend a ball in his honor.
It looks like the tradition of the Commonwealth Games may have endured a similar fate in regional Victoria.