The South African city of Durban's hosting of the 2022 Commonwealth Games was in serious doubt on Tuesday after the sports ministry said the country won't stage it unless costs are reduced.
Liverpool in England immediately put itself forward as a replacement host.
Preparations in Durban have been troubled ever since it was awarded the games as the only candidate in September 2015.
At the time, the east coast city of Durban failed to get a financial guarantee from the government and also didn't make other commitments required by the Commonwealth Games Federation.
The impending cost of the games, estimated by Durban bid committee chief executive Tubby Reddy at $670 million, remains the problem. Reddy, who made his estimate in 2015, said Durban needed $470 million of that from the government.
In its statement on Tuesday, the office of sports minister Fikile Mbalula said it was in discussions with event owners the Commonwealth Games Federation, but costs had to be cut.
"The Minister reiterated South Africa's readiness to host the games within its available means," Mbalula's office said. "It is against this background that the department and the CGF are having talks ahead of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
"The Minister further indicated that if both parties fail to find common ground on cost cutting measures, the South African government will not host the games."
The 2022 Commonwealth Games were set to be the first international multi-sport event hosted in Africa.
Following its widely-praised staging of the 2010 soccer World Cup, South Africa was also viewed as a possible future host of the Olympics, with the Commonwealth Games seen as a stepping stone.
A South African Olympic bid looks less and less likely any time soon. Should Durban back out of the Commonwealth Games, it would likely hurt the country's future Olympic prospects.
Soon after the statement from Mbalula's office, the English city of Liverpool said it was willing to step in, with Liverpool's mayor sending a letter to the British government indicating its willingness.
"Liverpool is interested in hosting the games in 2022," the city council said. "We had heard Durban might be unable to deliver the Commonwealth Games in 2022 and have already indicated to the Government that we are very willing to host them instead."
The next Commonwealth Games are on the Gold Coast in Australia next year.
AP Sports Writer Steve Douglas contributed to this story.