Opinion

No one wants to host 2026 Commonwealth Games. What if Glasgow had another go? 

The Commonwealth Games could provide a jump start for Glasgow, with benefits beyond the sporting

2014 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony at Celtic Park, Glasgow. Image: Kevin Quigley/Daily Mail/Shutterstock

The row around the Commonwealth Games is fascinating. At present, nobody wants to host in 2026. Victoria in Australia pulled out. Neighbouring city Gold Coast, in Queensland, which had suggested it could step in, quickly stepped out. The hokey cokey then saw Singapore and Malaysia also say no dice. The Canadian province of Alberta ruled themselves out of the 2030 games, just to make it clear there was NO WAY they’d get in on the 2026 action. So don’t even think about asking.  

At present, if you have an Argos gazebo and a water feature in your back garden the Commonwealth Games Federation might come knocking. 

A fortnight ago, Glasgow was asked if they’d take on the event. Games organisers were quick to insist there would be no cost to the public purse, that it’d be a scaled-down version, that they’d make £100 million available to the host city and that the rest, the odd £30m-£50m, could be raised through commercial means. That’s confidence for you. 

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Glasgow hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2014. It was a fantastic event.  

The sun shone, the streets gleamed, the city felt alive. The event cost £543m. The arguments about
legacy remain. It unquestionably helped lift the city – there is a world-class velodrome that frequently hosts global events, the athletes’ accommodation built in the east end of the city is now occupied by a generation of people on the housing ladder, bringing life and investment, and there will be young athletes who were inspired to take up sport because of it. It also helped remind those outside the place that Glasgow is a great, big, successful European city. 

On the other hand, there is an argument that half a billion spent on infrastructure development with more staying power could have delivered similar outcomes. 

Which brings us to the question of 2026. Should Glasgow host? Or should there be a Commonwealth Games at all. Glasgow, like most major cities, has its own financial pressures at present.  

The city council declared a housing emergency in November. There is a fear of a budget shortfall of £107m over the next three years within the council. Vital services will inevitably be cut. And with vacant city centre properties and streets that could do with some TLC, the city doesn’t feel quite where it was in 2014.  

Inevitably, there will be a public purse burden. Even with the investment from organisers, big projects have a habit of soaking in costs. But what if Glasgow were to say yes? What if the positive influx of people, who’ll spend, boosting the city, the hotels, the restaurants and the theatres, kickstarted something that would have been impossible without a catalyst like the Commonwealth Games.  

Glasgow is on the cusp of something. Amid the inequality there is investment. Big financial employers like Barclays and JP Morgan have been growing their bases in the city. Given how close the Commonwealth Games in 2026 is, this could become a test for similar-sized cities looking for a jump start. Take a massive event, mostly without damaging meagre public resources, see the city improved, then test for lasting boosts. It goes beyond the sporting benefit into something that residents could feel for years. 

If some of the big financial institutions got involved, then things could really go through the gears. The
Commonwealth Games becomes about the common good, not simply a sporting jamboree.

Whether there should actually be a Commonwealth Games at all in this era is a whole other, more complex, issue. 

Paul McNamee is editor of the Big IssueRead more of his columns here. Follow him on Twitter.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy!

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