Major setback for squash as Australia withdraws from hosting 2026 Commonwealth Games

July 19 2023

The survival of the Commonwealth Games is not just about preserving a historic event; it is about securing the future of squash. This global platform has the unrivaled power to expose our sport to new audiences, kindle unbridled emotions, and celebrate the brilliance of squash on the world stage. Ther sport of squash needs to rally behind the cause to ensure that sport's rightful place in the Commonwealth Games remains secure for generations to come.

As we reflect on the unforgettable moments of Birmingham 2022, when squash took center stage at the Commonwealth Games, it becomes evident why this prestigious event must endure for the sake of our beloved sport of squash. The Games have consistently offered squash a unique platform, elevating it beyond the confines of regular PSA World Tour events, and captivating the attention of a broader, non-squash playing audience.

While the PSA World Squash Championships, British Open, and Tournament of Champions hold their esteemed positions, they fail to break through the squash bubble to engage the masses. It is the multisport Games, like the Commonwealth Games, that possess the transformative power to make squash matter.

However, recent developments have cast doubt on the future of the Commonwealth Games and relevance. The cancellation of the 2026 edition by its intended hosts, Australia's Victoria state, and Canada's withdrawal of its bid for 2030 have brought forth concerns. Rising costs of hosting the event, the absence of high-profile athletes from some nations and major sports, and debates around the Commonwealth's significance all contribute to the questioning of the continuity of the Commonwealth Games.

Yet, amidst the International Olympic Committee's persistent neglect of squash in favour of less worthy pursuits, the Commonwealth Games remains the most viable platform to bestow upon squash the recognition it deserves. Once every four years, squash assumes a position of significance, standing shoulder to shoulder with mainstream sports, and seizing the opportunity to impress.

Birmingham 2022 had a profound impact on spectators. Even those who had never set foot on a squash court were captivated by the intensity and drama unfolding before their eyes. The passion displayed by the players was palpable, leaving lasting memories etched in the minds of all who witnessed Gina Kennedy's tears, Paul Coll and Joelle King's spine-tingling haka, or the Greg Lobban's intense rivalry in the Mixed Doubles.

The Commonwealth Games provided a glimpse into the brilliance of squash as a product - the electrifying rallies, the charismatic personalities, the sheer athleticism, and the intricate strategies that define this deceptively simple game.

Despite the challenges faced by the Commonwealth Games itself, squash must remain optimistic that a new host will step forward for the 2026 edition and that future Commonwealth Games will continue to serve as a dazzling stage for showcasing our sport at its finest.

Squash has received a significant setback following Australia withdrawing hosting rights for the 2026 Commonwealth Games, delivering a devastating blow to the sport. Victoria, the Australian state set to hold the Games, cited escalating costs as the primary reason for their decision to cancel the event, which was scheduled for 17th to 29th March in three years' time.

Originally projected at AUD$2.6 billion (£1.3 billion), the Games' budget has ballooned to a staggering AUD$6 billion (£3.1 billion). Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews expressed his concerns during an impromptu press conference, asserting that even an increased budget of AUD$7 billion would be insufficient to adequately fund the 12-day sporting extravaganza. The enormous cost, nearly three times the initial estimate, led to the state's withdrawal, as diverting funds from essential services like hospitals and schools was deemed unacceptable.

Squash enthusiasts were eagerly anticipating the competitions in Bendigo, a town located 93 miles northwest of Melbourne. However, these hopes have been dashed with Victoria's exit as the host city.

For squash, the Commonwealth Games have held a significant position as the blue-ribbon multi-sport event since their inclusion in Kuala Lumpur in 1998. The sport was designated as one of the 16 core sports for the 2026 Victoria Games.

In light of the cancellation, the Australian Government and Australian Institute of Sport's pledge to invest AUD$2.36 million (£1.23 million) in squash over the next four years for Games preparation now hangs in the balance.

The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) expressed its profound disappointment, stating that it was given only eight hours' notice before Victoria's decision was announced. The financial reasons cited by the state government were significantly higher than the figures discussed during the Organising Committee Board meeting in June.

The CGF now faces the arduous task of finding a new host with a mere three-year window for preparation. Previous contenders such as Sydney and South Australia might rekindle their interest, while India or Malaysia could also step up to take on the hosting responsibilities. Another intriguing possibility is Birmingham hosting back-to-back Games after their successful staging of the 2022 event, stepping in as saviors once again.

The fate of squash in the 2026 Commonwealth Games remains uncertain, and the CGF is actively exploring options to secure the best outcome for athletes and the broader Commonwealth Sport Movement.