Victoria shows how | Sunday Observer

Victoria shows how

23 July, 2023

The State of Victoria has cancelled the 2026 Commonwealth games. The Prime Minister of the Australian State has issued a statement that Victoria will not host the games because the costs have increased up to some 7 billion dollars which the Government of the State absolutely refuses to spend for a 12 day sporting event.

The hosts having pulled out, the games themselves now are under threat of being cancelled unless the Commonwealth Games Committee finds an alternate host in a hurry which is not an easy proposition, when the last games too were parceled off to Birmingham because there was no other city in any member country willing to host the event.

Rich nation

This is Australia we are talking about, a rich nation refusing to host the games. It’s not the Jamaicans, Kenyans or even the Malaysians pulling out. But, wait a minute, didn’t Sri Lanka put up a bid to host the games way back in 2011 or thereabout?

What’s not even good for the Aussies was at that time deemed to be a worthy cause for us mighty Sri Lankans to sponsor and host with grand illusions of grandeur. Fortunately, our bid was spurned, in favour of guess who — Gold Coast Australia. At that time those Aussies from a different State were willing and able to do it. Thankfully they saved us off from an earlier shot at bankruptcy, even though the fellow State of Victoria now has had visions for a better way to spend 7 billion dollars than on a sporting extravagansa.

We were never a good fit to host the Commonwealth games as the subsequent events of 2021 would testify to amply. There were people however that were so stubborn as to never accept that reality and these included Government officials so called. A little bit of humility would do. They made a mistake, and only if they’d own up to it? Securing hosting rights for those games at that time would have been disastrous as that would have got us into more debt faster, and there is no reason whatsoever to be unaware of our debt situation and the mountains of borrowed money that we have to pay off.

The bid that was made on that occasion remains a prime example of why there ought to be more accountability in the matter of public servants and policymakers accruing debt that had to be paid by the ordinary people of this country. The people didn’t ask for these types of borrowings to be run up, and in most instances they didn’t know of it. Apart from a few journalists — and the writer counts himself among those — attempting to expose for instance the futility of Sri Lanka bidding for those 2018 Commonwealth games in the early second decade of the 2000s, the public was not aware of how dangerously we were flirting with the possibility of future penury.

The State Government of Victoria has set a shining example. Not for them the secondary considerations of what the Commonwealth elite may think or how other countries would react. The people and their well-being was the most important factor. What are the Commonwealth games anyway? They are generally a celebration, ostensibly, of the sporting skills of the people of the ex-colonies. The event began because a journalist some 90 years ago suggested that there be an alternate to the Olympics because there was some sort of competition at that time developing between the teams representing Canada and the United States.

This year, the Government of Victoria was willing to host the games under certain conditions. They wanted far-flung venues distributed over a broad geographical range so that there is even distribution of spectator interest, and all that was allowed by the organisers because they knew fully well that there were almost no other countries that were willing to host these games. Nobody wants the folly except it can be said tongue in cheek, perhaps the Sri Lankans.

We need the humility from public officials to accept their mistakes as at least that would be a starting point for their redemption, and at least privately it’s hoped that public bids for hosting these anachronistic games are now taken to be a mistake.

The Australians that walked out on the hosting plan giving apparently less than eight hours notice to the organisers, had stated that the money is better spent on other crucial public facilities inducing sports stadiums in locations in which they are much needed. Hats off to these officials. They were able to see the folly of hosting games that were going to be forgettable at best, even as the plans were ongoing, and contrast that with some of the obdurate attitudes of certain Sri Lankan public servants who always insisted they were right despite the colossal amounts of money that were to be spent for ghost-stadiums and other facilities which would have been frying away in the tropical heat after the buzz of the games had ended. This indeed is what happens to most games villages, as those who have perused the historical record would know.

The Australians have set a great example, even if they were a host-nation that — if things really became necessary — could have managed to afford it, even at the cost of being mean to their taxpayers. In contrast we in this country could not have afforded these games at all, as the events culminating in the 2022 meltdown would indicate to all except the most rigid and recalcitrant of minds.


It’s a personal reaction, but this writer is sure that there would be many who would agree that the Common Wealth authorities should think about making the Aussie pullout a reason to consider putting a stop to the games by ensuring that the event held in Birmingham four years go would be the last, period.

It’s not worth inflicting these games on largely unwilling hosts in these economically difficult times. At least the Commonwealth from the point of view of the nations at the centre of the organisation could be kept somewhat relevant if indeed the member nations had the knowledge that the chief actors within the organisation were sensitive to the needs of the citizenry of member nations.

These countries by and large don’t want games that are held and forgotten that leave ghost-stadiums and gyms in their wake — but they do want hospitals, schools and other facilities for their citizens, especially at a time their people are suffering the effects of a global economic slump resulting from a devastating pandemic.

Decision makers

There was a time when the decision makers of Empire commanded as if by edict, and the people in the colonies and at home merely obeyed the orders, but that sort of dynamic of subservience and mindless acquiescence is obviously not what those who run the Commonwealth wants member nations to be reminded of.

A lot of the member nations anyway are not entirely certain they want to remain in that club of nations in the first place because there is hardly a rationale to do so. At least hats off to the Government of the State of Victoria Australia that was bold enough to ensure that pragmatism trumps the keeping up of appearances.

Yes, even the hosts can walk away if events are far too expensive and are an affront to the citizens of host nations that deserve better. The citizens of Victoria Australia can be happy that they had public officials of the type Sri Lankans never had when they made a bid for hosting one edition of the Commonwealth games, when there was not enough money in the tank to last a few more years, leave alone host fun and games that were not in the least appropriate for a nation recovering from a debilitating war that lasted decades.