India as host for CWG 2026: Yay or Nay?

Why India could step up and save the Games. Or, why India should follow suit and keep its distance.

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With Victoria saying no to hosting the Commonwealth Games (CWG) in 2026, the Commonwealth Games Federation is scrambling to find someone to pick up the baton, so unceremoniously dropped, to finish the race and host the event.

While the host of the 2022 Games Birmingham has shown some interest in taking over, the cities in Australia’s eastern seaboard have made themselves scarce. The city often proclaimed as hosting the best Olympics Games ever, Sydney, has been categorical in its reluctance. Brisbane is citing commitments to hosting the Olympic Games in 2036, as its excuse. CWG 2026 India

There are whispers of India putting its hand up, and the reasons are many. One outcome of the Indian Premier League has been the setting up of many cricketing grounds in mid-tier cities – these will allow the Games to be widely spread out, much like Victoria had intended. While the infrastructure is better in the major cities New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, medium-sized cities now not only have good airline connectivity but also other facilities like hotels and tourist attractions.

Hosting the Games across parts of India would no doubt be an inspiration to the young athletes – who often hail from small towns. Seeing their athletic heroes up close could be a life changing experience for some.

In the only Commonwealth Games India has hosted – in 2010 – India brought out the best in its athletes.

CWG 2026 India
The Opening ceremony of CWG 2010 took place at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi (Source: Global Village Space)

India won 101 medals in total then, including 38 gold, which put it in the second position on the medals tally behind Australia. It has been only the time India has won more than 100 medals in any Commonwealth Games. In fact, since the Games began in 1934, in 18 appearances, India’s tally has been 564 medals, with the Delhi Games bringing in just under 20%.

While the athletes will shine brighter than before, and the crowds will swell with pride with the strains of Jana Gana Mana, India needs to say No to hosting the CWG. The 2010 Games also held the dubious distinction of being the most expensive Games ever, with a cost of US$ 7.5 billion. They were also hampered by fraud and poor management. Even more serious was the reputational damage which India suffered because of corruption at the highest levels.

The architect of the Delhi Opening Ceremony Ric Birch was on the front pages of Australian media months later, complaining about his payments being withheld and his equipment stuck at Delhi airport pending him ‘taking care of Games officials’.

Over the years other reports of fraud surfaced, such as bus services budgeted at A$80,000 coming in at A$120,000. The opening ceremony aerostat budgeted at A$80,000 came in at A$130,000. Reports by leading media in India stated that the CWG scam included an astounding pilferage of Rs. 70,000 crores (A$12.5 million).

And yes we may be 13 years down the track, and while levels of corruption have changed, it will take a brave person to accpet a new international sporting challenge – with the shame of CWG 2010 still hanging around.

Yet, all of this notwithstanding, perhaps a case could be made that if India does indeed take it on, it could do it all again this time with a cleaner approach. Perhaps it will help wash away old sins of corruption, and give a fresh perspective to India’s capabilities to host world events. CWG 2026 India

Read more: ‘Existential questions’: is this the beginning of the end of the Commonwealth Games?

Pawan Luthra
Pawan Luthra
Pawan is the publisher of Indian Link and is one of Indian Link's founders. He writes the Editorial section.

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