Malaysia right to reject hosting Commonwealth Games, but it’s still a premier sporting event

Malaysia right to reject hosting Commonwealth Games, but it’s still a premier sporting event
"Malaysia right to reject hosting Commonwealth Games, but it’s still a premier sporting event"

Before the announcement that Malaysia had declined to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games, numerous comments appeared on mainstream and social media about the pros and cons of replacing Victoria, Australia, as host.

Victoria withdrew because it became prohibitively expensive when the initial cost of A$2.6 billion (RM8.03 billion) ballooned to A$7 billion (RM21.69 billion). The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) offered Malaysia a subsidy of £100 million (RM602 million) to defray the cost of holding the Games, but it was too little, and we wouldn’t have had enough time to prepare.

Some commentators regard the Games as a colonial relic of the British Empire, which once straddled the globe, prompting Sir Winston Churchill to remark, rather pompously, that “the sun shall never set on the British Empire”. But the sun has already set, as most colonies have gained independence.

Others think that the Games indirectly binds us to the colonial mentality and the supremacy of the British Empire as we sing the anthem ‘God Save the Queen’ (which has since become ‘King’, following Charles’ ascension to the throne), lauding the magnificence of the British Crown. There are those who take exception to the Games as it reminds us of the subservience of the indigenous people to the British and how the latter plundered the wealth of the colonies to feed their insatiable greed, leaving the natives in the lurch.

The British colonial attitude regarded the natives as savages, bereft of mental acumen and lacking the refinement of the British gentleman. But others stand by the Games and say it should be continued in the sporting spirit.

The Commonwealth Games was started to showcase British sportsmanship and supremacy. It was first held in 1930 and was known as the British Empire Games until 1950. Then, it was called the British Empire and Commonwealth Games from 1954 to 1966, and the British Commonwealth Games from 1970 to 1974.

From 1978, it became known as the Commonwealth Games, a quadrennial international sporting event.

CGF offered Malaysia to host because it had the experience of organising the 1998 edition, which was a great success. But Malaysia had six years to plan, execute, and put on a stupendous show on a par with the Olympic Games.

It was not only the Games. Malaysia also organised side events that included the festival of the arts – dance, music, and theatre – by local and international groups. It showcased the best of our multicultural artistic expressions. This time, Malaysia declined the offer to host the Games because of the limited time.

This does not reflect its ability to plan and organise. Malaysia does not want to put on a show that is not on a par with, or better than the 1998 Commonwealth Games. It must meet this benchmark threshold. Malaysia has a reputation to maintain.

Not only that, there is also not enough time to organise the side events of arts festivals, exhibitions, and conferences, turning the capital, Kuala Lumpur, into a sporting and cultural paradise.

Perhaps it is best to postpone the Games rather than have another country organise a scaled-down affair. The Commonwealth Games must maintain its position as a premier sporting event and as a gathering of Commonwealth nations bound by history but no longer subservient to a long-lost empire, in a showcase of the sporting spirit.

The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer and do not necessarily represent that of Twentytwo13.

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