Each week, a deal is selected that illustrates the themes driving change in the sports industry. They may not always be the largest deals in value or those of the highest profile, but they tell us where the leading players are focusing their efforts and why. Our thematic deal coverage is driven by our underlying Disruptor data that tracks all major deals across our sectors.

The deal

The Canadian province of Alberta has ended its bid for hosting rights to the 2030 Commonwealth Games over rising costs.

Commonwealth Sport Canada (CSC) chose Alberta as its preferred bidder for the 2030 edition after the collapse of the campaign from Hamilton, Ontario which had been hoping to mark the centenary of staging the first Empire Games in 1930.

The Alberta government had committed up to $2 million, with the city of Edmonton supplying another $1 million to explore the feasibility of hosting the event before making a formal bid.

However, the CSC last week (August 4) said it had been informed by the Alberta government that it was ending its efforts towards bidding for the event, which was to be staged in the cities of Calgary and Edmonton, due to predicted costs of C$2.7 billion ($2 billion) in staging the event.

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Joseph Schow, Alberta’s minister of tourism and sport, said the province could not justify the cost of hosting the event, adding: “The corporate sponsorship model and limited broadcast revenues for the Commonwealth Games would have put 93% of those costs and risks on taxpayers.”

Why it matters

The move comes only weeks after the Australian state of Victoria pulled out of staging the 2026 Commonwealth Games for similar reasons, with the CSC citing the Victorian government’s decision to withdraw as a “significant factor” in Alberta’s decision.

The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) was left blindsided by Victoria’s decision to terminate its deal after new estimates suggested it would cost around AU$7 billion ($4.60 billion) to stage the event.

The CGF has been left to field questions over the future viability of the competition, given the lack of interest in hosting it, as well as scrutiny over the relevance of the Commonwealth generally in these modern times.

Tanveer Aujla, GlobalData Sport analyst, said: “One of the great dangers of event hosting is often the exorbitant costs associated with doing so. Venues need to be refurbished, public transport often needs to be upgraded and accommodation must be added to deal with the influx of tourists eager to enjoy the events.

“Event hosting in cities without the money to cover additional costs or in places where there are no plans to get further use out of venues has historically led to disaster in cities like Athens. Hosting an event rarely comes in under budget, and cities are now understandably facing apprehension.

“With gigantic events like the Olympics, there will likely always be somewhere available to host, due to the immense popularity, viewership, and revenues associated with the visiting tourists and their spending. However, smaller events like the Commonwealth Games are likely to suffer more as seen by the current cancellations. The incomes generated from tourism will likely be far lower, and not enough to offset the costs of hosting.

“This in turn will have a terrible impact on the competing athletes, whose major chance to shine often comes at the Commonwealth Games where casual fans are more likely to take notice of them. The potential cancellation of events like these seriously inhibits opportunities for athletes who aren’t quite at the highest level and harms their potential development and exposure to success and commercial opportunities.”

The detail

The multi-sport event involves thousands of athletes representing 72 Commonwealth countries and territories and is held every four years, but the CGF has been struggling to find future hosts willing to invest the amounts needed as cities and countries recover from the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and current cost of living crisis.  

The last edition in 2022 was hosted by the English city Birmingham, which stepped in to replace Durban, South Africa, which was stripped from staging the event after facing financial issues.

The Birmingham edition was the best attended on record, with more than 1.5 million tickets sold. It was broadcast live to 134 countries as 4,600 athletes competed.

Around £778 million ($989.65 million) of public money was invested into the staging of the event, but an independent report recently said it had generated £870 million for the UK economy.

Victoria was then announced as a host last March after organizers had struggled to find an appropriate location due to a lack of interest and Covid-19 disruption.

Aside from India in 2010, the five events staged so far this century have either been in the UK or Australia, given the costs associated with staging the games.

Responding to Alberta’s decision, the CGF said: “We have already been reviewing our selection timeline as a result of the recent Victorian government decision. The dialogue with other potential hosts is ongoing.”

The CGF’s immediate concern will be finding a replacement host for the 2026 edition, with Australian cities Sydney and Adelaide previously expressing an interest in hosting the event, as well as Malaysia.

Previous host Birmingham was also reported to be open to hosting the event back-to-back due to the success of last year’s event. In April, it was reported New Zealand expressed a tentative interest in hosting the 2034 Commonwealth Games.

More reading

CGF official response

Post-Event Analysis – Commonwealth Games 2022

Image: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images