ONLY a month ago, athletes from around Victoria in Australia came together to mark the milestone of 1000 days to go until the state was to host the Commonwealth Games.

“If the Games were a relay, we’d be at the first change with three legs to go,” the Australian Chef de Mission Petria Thomas said.

But last week Victoria premier Daniel Andrews didn’t just drop the metaphorical baton, he threw it entirely out the stadium with his announcement that the state was cancelling the 2026 Games, claiming it was no longer affordable.

Less than a decade after Glasgow celebrated sucessfully hosting the event, it has left questions not only over who will step in to save the Games in three years’ time, but its long-term future.

Andrews announced his decision saying Victoria was not prepared to spend as much as $7billion on “a 12-day sporting event” – up from an earlier estimate of $2.6billion.

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However in a statement the Commonwealth Games Federation hit back saying there had been changed to the original plans, which had “added considerable expense” and were “often against” its advice.

It’s not the first time the event had run into such difficulties - the 2022 Games were originally planned to be held in Durban in South Africa but scrapped due to concerns about costs spiralling out of control.

Birmingham stepped into save the day, but it means Africa has still never hosted the Games.

The costs have not been the only issue raised – some have speculated whether the Games, with their intrinsic link to Britain’s colonial past as a competition set up to bring members of the British Empire together - can remain relevant today.

It’s reignited debate in Australia over the country’s future as a constitutional monarchy following the decision earlier this year that King Charles III would not feature on a new five dollar bill design.

A statement issued by the Australian Republic Group in the wake of the Games announcement said: “As proud Australians fighting for our independence, however, it is particularly interesting that such a decision can be made, which was once unthinkable.

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“Australia’s demography, identity and place in the world has fundamentally changed since the Commonwealth Games was invented as the British Empire Games in 1930 and while many are aggrieved at the loss of an opportunity to play and watch sport, few are concerned at the impact on the relationship with our existing Head of State.”

But Professor Gayle McPherson, director of Centre for Culture, Sport and Events at the University of the West of Scotland, said while the Games has always has a “tricky relationship” with its colonial past, much work had been done to change that image and promote it as an event for “unity and peace”.

“You have to remember Commonwealth Games are quite unique in what they do – they involve a lot of smaller nations, they give nations a brand identity, Scotland gets to compete under its own banner which it doesn’t get to do at the Olympics, for example,” she said.

“So it is a really important Games, especially for Scotland and other smaller nations, who don’t get to do that and they tend to be in with others.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf looks into Scotland staging Commonwealth Games

“It is also an important Games for smaller sports, like netball, squash, lawn bowls – all of these quite culturally significant to nations like Scotland, Canada, Australia, where they are not played elsewhere, and so don’t really have a platform other than at their world cups.

“And not to forget, it is also an integrated event – so it puts para sport on an equal platform with able-bodied sport events, it doesn’t get showcased at other events, it tends to be separate.

“So it does offer a possibility for something quite unique and I don’t necessarily think the appetite for the Commonwealth Games is waning.”

It’s still far from clear who might host the 2026 event now. The mayor of the Gold Coast – which held the Games in 2018 – has said it could step in but reports suggest the Queensland state government is against such a move.

Meanwhile Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf said he would explore the possibility of hosting the event as part of a multi-country bid – but also warned it would be “financially challenging”.

The National: The First Minister with MP Chris Law

McPherson said she would like to see Scotland working on a joint bid with England and Wales to bring the Games back to the UK if the Gold Coast did not opt to host it.

She said this idea of more use of existing facilities and sharing hosting of different competitions between countries is the way forward to secure the future of the Games.

“We can’t keep doing what Athens did [for the Olympics] in Greece, where we get a small nation which can’t afford to run it and ends up in huge debt,” she said.

“Those days are gone, we need to look at much more sustainable ways of sharing and running events.”