Future of the Commonwealth Games in doubt after Malaysia reject chance to host 2026 event

Fireworks explode above the the Alexander Stadium during the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games, in Birmingham

Fireworks explode above the the Alexander Stadium during the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games, in Birmingham. Photo: Oli Scarff/AFP

Published Mar 22, 2024


Malaysia said on Friday it had decided against hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games because of the costs involved, raising fresh doubts over the future of the international multi-sport event.

The decision, made at a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, follows the withdrawal of the Australian state of Victoria last year.

"The Ministry of Youth and Sports today announced the government's decision not to accept an offer from the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games," minister Hannah Yeoh said in a statement.

The CGF is scrambling to find a host after Victoria withdrew because of soaring costs.

The CGF offered Malaysia and other potential hosts £100 million ($125 million) to step in with just over two years to go until the Games are supposed to take place.

But the Malaysian government said the offer was "not expected to be able to cover the entire cost of organising a large-scale sports event", Yeoh said.

"The government wants to focus on the development of sports as well as the welfare and wellbeing of the people," she added.

A spokesman for the CGF said the search for a host of the event would continue.

"We are disappointed that Malaysia has decided not to submit a proposal for the 2026 Commonwealth Games and thank them for their work to date and commitment to the Commonwealth sport movement," the spokesman said.

"The confidential process to determine a host is continuing with other interested Commonwealth Games Associations (CGAs)."

Victoria's sudden move, and the lack of an obvious alternative, raised questions over the future of the Games, which take place every four years and were last held in Birmingham, central England, in 2022.

The relevance of the event, with most of the competing teams drawn from former British colonies, has come under scrutiny amid persistent questions over the UK's colonial legacy.

Birmingham stepped in as host at relatively short notice after Durban, in South Africa, was forced to pull out due to a number of issues including financial problems.

The CGF earlier this month hailed Malaysia's "fantastic track record", with the country having staged the Games in 1998.

But the CGF also suggested that Malaysia was not the only country it had approached to host the Games.

Singapore recently said it was "assessing the feasibility" of the CGF's proposal.

The wealthy city-state also holds the annual Formula One night race and will be staging the World Aquatics Championships in 2025.


The prospect of Malaysia hosting the Commonwealth Games had sparked fierce debate.

Mohamad Norza Zakaria, president of the Commonwealth Games Association of Malaysia, had called it a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" that could put the country back on the sporting map.

But doubts emerged last week after current and former senior officials expressed reservations.

Khairy Jamaluddin, a former youth and sports minister, rubbished the idea and called it "reckless" because there was little time for planning.

Any host would need at least four years to upgrade venues, plan sponsorship and set up infrastructure, he told AFP.

"The Commonwealth Games is not a significant, marquee sporting event," he added.

"As far as multi-sports Games are concerned, it is nowhere near the Olympics or even the Asian Games in terms of participation, exposure and returns," Khairy said.


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