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Sebastian Coe sees future for troubled Commonwealth Games

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe says the Commonwealth Games is a strong enough brand to survive its latest crisis, but it must innovate to do so.

The multi-sport event suffered a major setback last month when the Australian state of Victoria pulled out of hosting the 2026 edition, citing escalating costs.

It left the Commonwealth Games Federation searching for a viable replacement at short notice amid an apparent lack of interest in a spectacle seen as losing relevance.

The last Games in 2022 were held in Birmingham, but only after the English city stepped in to replace Durban in South Africa, which was stripped of hosting rights after a series of missed deadlines and financial problems.

Victoria was the exclusive bidder for 2026.

Despite this, Coe said he saw a future for an event which typically attracts more than 4,000 athletes from the 54 nations of the Commonwealth, almost all of them former territories of the British Empire.

“The Commonwealth Games will survive this, it’s a strong product, it is about innovating and the Commonwealth Games has opportunity to do that,” he told The Australian newspaper late Tuesday, without detailing the innovations.

“It has less branding (restrictions) than the Olympics and sometimes the World Championships, so it has potential.

“I don’t see the Commonwealth Games disappearing, it has a problem at the moment, and I am hoping others are prepared to step in.”

Coe, a former middle-distance world record holder, said the event remained a vital stepping stone for the Olympics, particularly track and field.

“The Commonwealth Games track and field is a strong event: to win a sprint you have to beat Jamaicans; in endurance you have to beat the Kenyans and there are very strong powerful nations there,” he said. 

“Just under a quarter of those nations in world athletics are Commonwealth nations. It is important for track and field that the Commonwealth Games is seen as successful.”

Victoria — which was due to hold the Games across five regional hubs — pulled out after claiming the initial cost of Aus$2 billion (US$1.36 billion) would more likely spiral to around Aus$7 billion.

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