The decision by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) to set just two compulsory sports — track and field and swimming — at Games as of 2026 has been described as a “body blow to sports” by Christopher Samuda, the president of the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA).
Samuda, who is off the island travelling with the Jamaican ice hockey team, said the decision reflected the growing trend in which hosting multi-sport games “has become a huge commercial undertaking.”
At Monday’s 2021 General Assembly, the CGF unveiled a new strategic road map, according to their website, “which provides potential future hosts and sports with the renewed flexibility to be innovative and creative in delivering the Commonwealth Games.”
Athletics and swimming would be afforded protected status due to their historical place in the programme, popularity, para(sport) inclusion and gender balance, the CFG said in its release.
Among the recommendations is for “approximately 15 sports to feature at future Games from the 2026 event onwards, less then the 19 sports to feature at the 2022 even to be staged in Birmingham, England, from July 28 to August 8.
“The reduction of the compulsory sports from 16 to two by the Commonwealth Games Federation is really a body blow to sports,” Samuda told the Jamaica Observer onWednesday.
“But clearly it is a response to the growing financial challenges host regions are experiencing in delivering what has become a huge commercial undertaking.”
Samuda said the decision was based mainly on economics.
“Going forward only a few cities will be able to host multi-sport Games and therefore the CGF is creating flexibility in the negotiating process for prospective territories that will give a greater menu of choices to them and which will allow the Games to survive and not just survive but thrive.
“It’s an economic decision that is informed by the sense to survive amidst the social and logistic cost and certainly the cost attendant up on the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic which will be around for some time,” the JOA boss said.
He said, however, it would not change the JOA’s mandate.
“The Jamaica Olympic Association nonetheless will continue to deepen and broaden the nation’s representation at regional and international games, for whatever the global economic challenges of sport, our business at the JOA remain sustainable and our goal to provide opportunities for many sports to excel, remain constant, remain steadfast.”
The CGF said the changes are intended to “make the Games even more cost effective, whilst engaging new audiences, the Commonwealth Sport 2026-2030 Strategic Roadmap invites future hosts to explore innovative concepts, including co-hosting and mass participation event.”
It said consultations with the international federations will seek to “provide hosts with more flexibility to choose from a wider list of core sports. This will now include disciplines that have previously been listed as optional sports such as T20 Cricket, beach volleyball and 3×3 basketball.
The release added: “This will allow hosts the ability to propose entirely new sports, relevant to their nation or culture, to enhance cultural showcasing and community engagement.”