Does anybody beyond the sports industry care about the Commonwealth Games?
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews’ decision to dump the 2026 games, saying a blowout in cost makes them unaffordable for his state, provoked much outrage from Chairman Dan haters, disappointed games organisers and the sports planning to be involved, but elsewhere it passed with a shrug.
As an event, the games have struggled in recent times, Birmingham only stepping into the breach in 2022 when Durban pulled out for financial reasons.
Victoria – it was to be staged in the regions, not Melbourne – was the last man standing when it got the nod.
There has been no rush from other states to take its place – for the obvious reasons.
The nation has come through a costly pandemic, only to be hit with a storm of inflation and interest rate rises.
Nobody wants to take on such a risky and expensive proposition.
Andrews can be criticised for reneging on a commitment and his numbers may be suspect, but confronted with the choice of pressing on and having to spend billions or calling it now and focusing on the present needs of Victorians, it was an easy one for him to make.
The circumstances have changed and Andrews’ position on the games has had to as well.
There has been talk of reputational damage, sovereign risk and national humiliation.
But the Commonwealth Games is nowhere near the Morrison Government’s dumping of the French submarine contract, and there are far more pressing issues for people to get exercised about.
The appalling tone of the No campaign that is passing for a national debate on the Voice referendum threatens to shame the nation even further.
The lack of progress on resolving the housing crisis and the government’s complacency as the heating planet hurtles towards an uninhabitable future are just a couple of issues that put the axing of the games into perspective.
For those who were looking to participate in a home games, particularly the athletes, the disappointment is understandable, but there are far more significant competitions for them to compete in and there is time to find a replacement.
The Commonwealth, a relic of the Empire, is an institution that has faded even in symbolic significance, carries no weight in world affairs and has a disparate membership, some with dubious regimes and many whose values are anathema to ours.
Even as a sporting event it usually comes down to a medal fest for England and Australia, with few world-rated performances.
Compared with the Olympics, World Championships and other international tournaments, a Commonwealth Games medal is worth a lot less.
The material benefits to the community are also much overstated, given the huge bill it faces to build the facilities and host the games.
So is the claimed boost to sporting participation and public health, which is always trotted out to justify spending a lot of money on funding elite athletes.
If this were true, children’s sports would not be facing perennial funding problems and obesity and lifestyle diseases would not be at epidemic levels. Perhaps that is where more attention should be paid.
What Andrews’ decision shows is that the appetite of governments to fund big sporting spectacles may be waning given the more pressing problems they face.
Even staging the Olympics can be a poisoned chalice, something Brisbane will need to be on its guard about.
It would have been better if Andrews had said thanks but no thanks in the first place.
But Victorians will probably thank him in years to come.