Michael Pavitt

The landscape of bidding for major sport events has changed dramatically during my time at insidethegames, with contested races dwindling.

Referendums have seen numerous bids drop out of the race, while the contested 2026 Winter Olympic bid race largely seemed to rest on whether the Swedish Government would fully back the proposition.

That effort came up short after the International Olympic Committee cast doubt on the strength of its Government guarantees and Stockholm opting against signing the Host City Contract.

The challenge of attracting potential host cities and providing justification for the event to an increasing sceptical public was increasing even before the coronavirus pandemic. But it has certainly become trickier now.

The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) is an example of how tricky the landscape has become as a major event organiser.

Having been forced to re-award the 2022 Commonwealth Games to Birmingham after stripping the event from Durban, the organisation would have hoped for a much more straightforward process for 2026, particularly after holding what were considered successful editions of the Games in Glasgow in 2014 and more recently Gold Coast in 2018.

As pointed out on Twitter by our editor Duncan Mackay, the CGF has probably had better weeks than the one just passed.

Hamilton’s possible pivot to 2026 from its original plan of hosting a centenary Commonwealth Games in 2030 was handed a blow this week.

Hamilton's bid for the Commonwealth Games was handed a blow this week ©Getty Images
Hamilton's bid for the Commonwealth Games was handed a blow this week ©Getty Images

The Bid Committee was encouraged by Ontario Premier Doug Ford to look into the possibility of staging the event "in 2027 or beyond".

Hamilton 2026 does not currently have City, Provincial or Federal Government backing for a bid for the Games in 2026, with the Ontario Premier having prioritised provincial capital Toronto hosting FIFA World Cup matches in that year.

The CGF has stressed it believes the Games could be held in the same year, suggesting the events could make for an unprecedented year or sport for the province and the country.

The blow regarding Hamilton 2026 appeared to be alleviated somewhat when Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA) had earlier begun a push for Adelaide to reconsider a bid for the 2026, publishing a new PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report claiming it could boost the local economy by AUD2.5 billion (£1.4 billion/$1.8 billion/€1.5 billion).

Having gone to sleep by the time the report had been published and interviews with athletes’ conducted, the next morning brought news that South Australian Treasurer Rob Lucas had dismissed the report as flawed.

The week has prompted the question of whether the CGF will be able to secure a host for the Games, albeit the organisation has previously said there has been interest from the likes of India.

The situation is certainly not ideal for the CGF, which does not have the luxury the IOC does of having several future hosts already tied down. But it is worth remembering that Birmingham was only awarded the 2022 Games roughly four years prior to the event.

Events such as the African and European Games, which are of similar scale in the number of sports, have previously named hosts with less than four years to prepare.

I wonder though whether the pandemic may accelerate a move towards a different approach towards hosting, that multi-sport event organisers have dipped their toes into but arguably have not yet fully embraced.

The CGF received some criticism for its decision to host archery and shooting competitions in India, with the events linked to the final medals table for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. The move was seen by many as a diluting of the concept of the Games, which bring athletes and nations together from across the sporting spectrum. Yet, the current situation might call for some creative thinking from organisers as they aim to ensure their events can navigate the pandemic.

Could Canada's faltering bid lead to the CGF opting for a more creative solution for the 2026 Commonwealth Games ©Getty Images
Could Canada's faltering bid lead to the CGF opting for a more creative solution for the 2026 Commonwealth Games ©Getty Images

I wonder whether the CGF or another multi-sport organiser could opt to fully embrace a format which sees multiple hubs or host cities, with a view to reverting back to their traditional version should it not prove successful or the economic circumstances allow for a single host to throw its hat into the ring.

Arguably the opportunity to trial this out was passed up by the European Olympic Committees (EOC) when it debuted its European Games at Baku in 2015. Having been given a blank piece of paper for a new multi-sport event, it does seem something of a missed opportunity for organisers to have adopted for the traditional way of hosting.

As it was, the rival European Championships arrived with a new and more flexible approach to hosting, with multiple sports in two different locations being stitched into one coherent event by television coverage.

Perhaps we will see more of this, both as part of a revised way of securing hosts but equally to keep International Federations (IFs) happy.

The desire of IFs to either join or remain on the programme of multi-sport events has led to the events growing to, some would suggest, an unsustainable size.

Take the CGF for example again. The organisation was effectively forced into finding a solution when India objected to the optional sports of archery and shooting being left off the programme for Birmingham 2022.

Even prior to naming a 2026 host, the International Shooting Sport Federation has expressed concern it may be left off the programme.

Would a revised model help to prevent these stand-offs, as well as potentially offering greater flexibility in finding hosts?