Liam Morgan

Even the more cynical among us will reluctantly admit the International Olympic Committee (IOC) probably did the right thing when they awarded two editions of the Games at the same time.

The Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 double award may have been more of a fluke than a formulated plan but the marriage of convenience seemed the ideal solution for both cities and the IOC.

It is perhaps no great surprise that others, such as the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), now seem to be following that path. At a time where apathy towards bidding for major events is at its highest in recent memory, the need to ensure the best option for all involved is paramount.

The CGF may be trying to distance themselves from the IOC – officials here have been constantly pushing "we are not the Olympics" message – but they appear to be taking a leaf from Thomas Bach’s playbook by considering doing the same for the 2026 and 2030 Commonwealth Games.

"It would be great if we could do that," CGF President Louise Martin said here following the conclusion of the General Assembly today.

While the move makes sense on the surface, numerous details need to be ironed-out by the CGF before they can do any form of double award.

The CGF need to ensure they are clear and concise throughout the entire process, something which the IOC were unable to do.

Right from that moment in December 2016 where Bach publicly revealed that it was an option, the course the IOC were taking was obvious. Yet the following months proved to be dogged by unnecessary secrecy, accompanied with an unavoidable air of inevitability, before the "historic" decision was finally announced at the Session in Lima in September.

Already, the CGF are facing questions from their membership. Ian Metcalfe, the chairman of Commonwealth Games England, asked how exactly it was going to work after a presentation was given to the membership.

Under the proposed pathway, a "dialogue phase" will begin immediately before those with concrete interest progress to the "feasibility" stage providing they have given firm commitment of their intention to bid by December 31.

A candidature phase then follows, again mirroring a similar method being used by the IOC for the 2026 Winter Olympics, before the cities are evaluated.

They are then likely to be put forward to the CGF General Assembly, who will decide on the next steps, but it is not yet confirmed whether they will indeed award two in one go or purely announce the 2026 host when the members convene in Kenya in September 2019.

Those with a fancy for an occasional flutter should hedge their bets on a double allocation, with Canada in pole position to land the 2030 Commonwealth Games to mark the 100-year anniversary of the first event, held in 1930 in Hamilton in Ontario under the title of the British Empire Games.

Birmingham 2022 paid more than double that of Durban to host the Commonwealth Games ©CGF
Birmingham 2022 paid more than double that of Durban to host the Commonwealth Games ©CGF

The CGF, after all, are in desperate need for financial stability after a tumultuous period in their history following Durban being stripped of the 2022 event in March 2017.

The exact state of their current situation was there for all those who attended the General Assembly to see; the CGF need money and they need it sooner rather than later.

A guaranteed hosting agreement with not one but two cities would certainly give them that. Coupled with the additional fee Birmingham has had to pay to stage 2022 - nearly double what was asked of the South Africa city before they were removed as hosts - they would be able to recover financially and ensure they are on much more stable footing.

The extra cost demanded by the CGF for Birmingham 2022 – they paid £20 million (£35 million/€28 million) compared with Durban’s £10.5 million ($14.7 million/€11.9 million) - may prove to be somewhat of a double-edged sword, though, as it could feasibly put off other cities from bidding.

Martin was insistent that they want to go to a "new" destination in 2026 but would the likes of an African bidder, or somewhere from the vicinity of the Indian Ocean, be able to afford the additional money?

CGF chief executive David Grevemberg added they remain "cognisant" and “committed to the eventuality” of an African attempt despite the Durban debacle, which plunged the Commonwealth Games movement into near-crisis, and the obvious issues which still hang over any bid from the continent.

This is, after all, a continent where the host of the 2019 African Games has still not been decided 18 months before the event is due to start.

"Again, that would need to be under the right conditions and at the right time," he rightly warned. 

When that "right time" for Africa will be remains a key question the CGF need to answer.

The withdrawal of Durban 2022 dealt a significant blow to the Commonwealth Movement ©Getty Images
The withdrawal of Durban 2022 dealt a significant blow to the Commonwealth Movement ©Getty Images

Going to a different destination is a delicate balancing act for the CGF. They may want to select somewhere which has never hosted the Games but the Durban 2022 situation should make them wary.

One of the main criticisms of the Commonwealth Games, alongside the ongoing battle for relevance, is that they always end up in the same places. Of the last six Games, five have been held in either Australia or somewhere in Britain.

"We know there are a lot of countries out there who are interested," Martin said.

“"There will be new countries, be it for the main Games or the Youth Games. All our ducks are in a line and we are going to make it much easier to bid and we will keep the costs of bidding down."

Singapore has emerged as the preferred option for 2026 at this stage. The country has the money to build the necessary infrastructure, is easily accessed from most parts of the world and has the added bonus of never having staged the Games before.

Malaysia, hosts in 1998, is another serious contender. The nation flirted with a 2022 bid to replace Durban before instead deciding to pursue an attempt at landing 2026.

Should neither materialise, the CGF run the risk of being forced to go back to perennial hosts Australia. Commonwealth Games Australia have repeatedly claimed there are "plenty" of cities across the country capable of having the Games at short notice, meaning they are always there as a possible contingency choice.

"We have continued the dialogue and a number of countries have expressed interest and are taking place in the observers programme here," Grevemberg said.

"We are exploring their interest and we have cities that are interested, so there are a number of scenarios we are looking at."

The exact nature of those scenarios will only become clearer in the coming months but the pressure is on for the CGF to get this right and avoid the protracted way the IOC went about it.