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Sports commissioner blasts bombshell plan to host Commonwealth Games
Published on: Tuesday, March 12, 2024
By: FMT, Frankie D Cruz
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Sports commissioner blasts bombshell plan to host Commonwealth Games
Suhardi Alias wants the plan for Malaysia to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games scrapped. (Bernama pic)
PETALING JAYA: Sports commissioner Suhardi Alias has criticised an audacious proposal for Malaysia to rescue the Commonwealth Games by hosting the 2026 edition at short notice.

He said the plan by the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) was shocking, financially risky and short-sighted.

Suhardi, the first top Malaysian civil servant to oppose the move led by OCM president Norza Zakaria, said he was against wasting public funds for the unsound purpose.

“Why do we want to be the saviour for the Games when Victoria dumped it, and nobody else wants it?” he said.

Last week, youth and sports minister Hannah Yeoh said the Cabinet will decide on the matter soon.

Yesterday, Norza announced that the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) had offered Malaysia the opportunity to replace the Australian state of Victoria as host for the Games.

The offer includes an investment of £100 million (RM602 million) to support the local delivery and legacy planning of the event.

Suhardi noted Victoria’s decision simply came down to hosting costs which had grown beyond expectations, with the government saying it could go as high as A$7 billion (RM21 billion).

Kuala Lumpur was one of the original bidders for the 2026 games, along with Cardiff, Calgary, Edmonton and Adelaide, but pulled out due to concerns about costs.

Suhardi asked: “If Victoria had to pay A$380 million to the CGF for breach of contract, how much will Malaysia have to pay if we decide not to host the games after signing the contract?

“A$380 million is more than RM1 billion. Is it worth it?

Suhardi said many were puzzled when the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) turned down an offer to host the Thomas Cup and Uber Cup in 2026.

“I wonder why there suddenly are certain people who are so adamant on the country hosting bigger events such as the Commonwealth Games,” he said.

Norza is president of BAM and the Commonwealth Games Association of Malaysia.

Of money and athletes

Suhardi said the idea of Malaysia hosting the Commonwealth Games for the second time must be treated cautiously.

He questioned whether the government would have enough time to study the financial implications with the quadrennial Games just two years away, and with the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur the following year.

“We have to also take into consideration the fate of the Birmingham city council, which organised the last Commonwealth Games.

“The council ignored advice not to host the Games despite being in serious financial difficulties and declared bankrupt last year,” he said.

Suhardi pointed to the tasks ahead for Malaysia, which may include building a new Games village for the athletes and other new infrastructure, as well the need for heightened security.

He said public opinion and expectations were equally important, as is the Malaysian athletes’ preparation and performance.

“The government must be sensitive to public opinion due to the fact that there are challenges in closing the accounts of the 1998 Commonwealth Games (Sukom 98) and the 2017 SEA Games.

“It has to be transparent and public friendly. If we need a town hall to get public opinion before we decide, that will be better.

“The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, in asking the government to be prudent in their spending, reiterated that we have been having a fiscal deficit since 1998.

“So is it a coincidence or post-Games collateral damage?”

Asked whether Malaysian athletes had enough time to put up a good performance at the 2026 Games, he said: “We got 10 gold medals, 14 silver and 12 bronze in 1998 after six years of preparation.”

“Can we beat that record with only less than two years to go?”

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