Competition to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games narrows

Starter line 

George Black, Visiting Professor, IPPI

George Black
Visiting Professor, International Public Policy Institute

Monday 18 September 2017

A clearer picture is now emerging of the Cities most likely to compete to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Although up to twelve Cities initially showed an interest in bidding to host the Games, the real competition has now come down to two Cities - Birmingham (England) and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), or perhaps only one - Birmingham.

Recent developments

The 2018 Games are being held in the Gold Coast, Australia, so it came as no surprise when Australia said they would only put forward a City if no candidate emerged from another country. This was despite Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney all showing an interest.

It also came as little surprise that no candidate emerged from Canada, despite a strong interest from Victoria. After all, Hamilton withdrew from bidding for the 2014 Games due to lack of Government support, and Edmonton withdrew from the initial competition to host the the 2022 Games as a result of the fall in oil prices.

In England, both London and Manchester decided not to pursue a bid, although Manchester did say they would work to support another English City. In the event, they were part of Liverpool’s bid which competed against Birmingham. However, it was Birmingham that was selected as the Candidate City for England.

In Malaysia, although there was always going to be just one potential bidding City – Kuala Lumpur, the fact that the Southeast Asian Games have just been held there was seen as an real impediment to the City receiving Government backing, at least in the required timescales.

What happens next?

The deadline set by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) for Cities to formally announce they are bidding is 30 September. In view of the tight timescales involved it will be crucial that any bidding City is able to demonstrate full financial backing from their national Government, including provision for cost overruns.

If Kuala Lumpur are able to secure the financial backing of their national Government, and it is a big if, then the CGF will have what they most desire – competition to host the Games. It is competition that forces Cities to sharpen their pencils and entice voters.

On the other hand if, as seems likely, only Birmingham is able to secure the financial backing of their national Government, then the hand of the CGF will be substantially weakened. And, with a decision expected in November, time is on no one’s side.

See-saw affair

Competition to host the 2022 Games has been a real see-saw affair. To start off with there was only one final bidder in the initial competition to host the Games. Then, when the Games were withdrawn from Durban, up to twelve Cities expressed an interest in hosting the Games.  However, this interest has, to a large extent, evaporated to leave a situation where only two Cities may compete, or even just one.

Future Games

The most likely scenario to emerge is that Birmingham will be awarded the right to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, either in competition with Kuala Lumpur or, as a sole bidder. In either event, Kuala Lumpur is likely to emerge as a leading contender to host the 2026 Games, perhaps the only contender. Looking further ahead, 2030 will be the 100th anniversary of the Games which were first held in Hamilton, Canada. In such circumstances, any bid from Canada, particularly Hamilton is likely to have wide appeal to the CGF, and again could be a sole bidder

So, although competition to host the Games is not as strong as the CGF would like, it does appear there is sufficient interest in hosting future Games. In such circumstances it would make sense for the CGF to work in partnership with these Cities, rather than encouraging competition between them.