Commonwealth Games in regional Victoria have been canceled

Photo of Countdown to Games: Victorian Tourism, Sport and Major Events Minister Martin Pakula, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, Commonwealth Games Federation president Dame Louise Martin, Regional Development Minister Mary-Anne-Thomas and MP Michaela Settle with athletes and children at the launch of the 2026 Commonwealth Games. Photo: AAP/Con Chronis Photo by CON CHRONIS

Photo credit CON CHRONIS.

Summarized: The government has opted to cancel its 2026 Commonwealth Games hosting plans due to the high expenses involved. Consequently, the funds originally designated for the Games will be reallocated to enhance sporting facilities and housing in regional Victoria.

The decision made by the Victorian government to cancel the hosting of the 2026 Commonwealth Games in regional Victoria has left the Australian sports community disheartened. Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Tuesday that Victoria will no longer fulfill its obligations of hosting the Commonwealth Games.

The cancellation is attributed to a significant escalation in costs, with estimates indicating that the Games could have incurred expenses of at least $6 billion. Initially, it was projected that the Games would contribute over $3 billion to the Victorian economy. Mr. Andrews stated, “It has become evident that the cost of hosting the Games in 2026 exceeds the budgeted and allocated amount of $2.6 billion.”

He further expressed his stance, saying, “I will not compromise funding for hospitals and schools to host an event that is three times more expensive than the estimated and budgeted cost from last year.” Instead of the Games funding, Mr. Andrews unveiled a spending package of $2 billion specifically for regional Victoria, which falls short by $600 million compared to the initially promised investment for hosting the Games. Within this package, a $1 billion Regional Housing Fund has been introduced to construct 1,300 new homes across different regions of Victoria.

When questioned about the expenses associated with terminating the state’s agreement to host the Games, Daniel Andrews chose not to provide speculative figures. He clarified that he would not engage in negotiations with the Commonwealth Games authorities through the media in Melbourne, as his team in London is handling those discussions. This response marked a notable shift from the enthusiastic tone he had exhibited last year during the Games’ announcement at Ballarat’s Eureka Stadium.

In April of the previous year, Mr. Andrews had expressed his enthusiasm, proclaiming it would be “a games like no other, exactly what we promised.” He confidently anticipated that the Games would generate job opportunities, improve facilities and housing, and serve as a global showcase. As of now, no other cities have come forward to offer hosting for the Games, and on Tuesday, all other Australian state and territory leaders released statements affirming their disinterest in assuming the hosting role relinquished by Victoria.

Games chief blames Victorian government for cancellation

Craig Phillips, the chief executive of Commonwealth Games Australia, strongly criticized the government, accusing them of intentionally ignoring recommendations to relocate events to Melbourne and instead persisting with expensive temporary venues in regional Victoria.

Phillips highlighted the example of the velodrome, pointing out that a purpose-built velodrome already existed at John Cain Arena in Melbourne, but the government insisted on using a temporary venue in Bendigo that would not have any long-term value. He disclosed that these concerns were raised in discussions with the government over several months but were disregarded.

According to Phillips, the newly projected costs were significantly overstated and did not align with the figures presented to the 2026 Organising Committee as recently as June. He expressed curiosity about the government’s methodology in arriving at the estimated $4 billion cost for hosting the Games in Melbourne, particularly in comparison to the price tags of approximately $1.2 billion for the 2018 Gold Coast Games and $1.8 billion for the upcoming 2022 Birmingham Games.

Phillips found it difficult to believe that the costs would more than double for the Melbourne Games. Phillips viewed the decision as highly embarrassing for Melbourne’s reputation as a hub for sports and events, cautioning international sporting bodies to approach conducting business in the state with caution in the future. Commonwealth Sport disclosed that they were given only eight hours’ notice of the cancellation and had previously been assured of sufficient funding availability.

The opposition is urging the Andrews government to take responsibility for their actions

Opposition Leader John Pesutto expressed his belief on Tuesday that the cancellation of the Games was a significant source of embarrassment for Victoria. In an official statement, Mr. Pesutto characterized the decision as a betrayal of regional Victoria and suggested that it highlighted financial strain within the state, indicating that the Labor party struggled to manage major projects without encountering substantial cost overruns.

He emphasized the negative impact the cancellation would have on Victoria’s reputation as a global leader in hosting events. Mr. Pesutto directed his criticism towards Jacinta Allan, the former Minister for Commonwealth Games Delivery, emphasizing the importance of ministerial accountability and advocating for someone to be held responsible for the decision. He raised concerns about Deputy Premier Allan’s continued role in the government.

Expressing the need for transparency regarding the financial aspects of the Games, Mr. Pesutto pointed out that Premier Andrews had failed to provide satisfactory explanations for the discrepancy in cost estimates. While budget papers indicated a figure of $2.6 billion, the Premier mentioned a potential cost of up to $7 billion.

In response, Jacinta Allan explained during an interview on ABC Melbourne radio that the increased costs became apparent to the government only in recent weeks as they engaged in the tender process and obtained concrete figures from market soundings. She clarified that the initial budget estimate of $2.6 billion was determined by consultancy companies hired by the government.

The news has caused regional Victoria to be deeply shocked and troubled by the announcement

Regional communities and sporting clubs in Victoria voiced their deep disappointment and a sense of being caught off guard by the government’s decision. Mayor Shane Sali of Greater Shepparton City Council shared that he, along with the rest of Victoria, only learned about the announcement at approximately 9:30 am, and described his reaction as more than just disappointment. He expressed a dedication to exploring potential opportunities arising from the announcement in order to ensure investment in regional Victoria.

Mayor Kellie O’Callaghan of Latrobe City acknowledged the disappointment felt by councils but acknowledged the immense challenge of fulfilling the initial commitments that were made. She expressed appreciation for a decision that would prevent further burdens, considering the current escalated costs associated with purchases, engagements, and contracts, which have become unreasonably burdensome. Notably, specific details about Commonwealth Games funding were not included in this year’s state budget.

During an Inquiry of the 2023-24 Budget Estimates in June, Minister for Commonwealth Games Legacy Harriet Shing provided a rough breakdown of the planned $2.6 billion funding for regional Victoria. This allocation included $292 million for new facilities in Armstrong Creek and Waurn Ponds in Geelong, as well as a promised $150 million upgrade for Ballarat’s Eureka Stadium.

Australian athletes express their own responses to the ‘devastating’ announcement

Kieren Perkins, former Australian swimmer and former Australian Sports Commission chief executive, acknowledges the challenges of finding a replacement location for the Games, given the proximity to the planned 2026 date. He believes that organizing the Games at this stage will be a significant task and a crucial test for the Commonwealth Games Federation.

The immediate focus of the Australian Sports Commission is to provide support for athletes, coaches, and the high-performance and support staff. Jemima Montag, a race walker who achieved gold at the 2018 Gold Coast and 2022 Birmingham Games, expresses her deflation and disappointment over the cancellation. She highlights the significance of competing in front of a home crowd, as it offers a unique and rare opportunity due to the financial constraints of friends and family traveling overseas.

While news is circulating among athletes through group chats, Montag notes the absence of formal communication from the Australian Commonwealth Games Association, leaving athletes somewhat uninformed. Natalie Cook, an Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist and member of the Brisbane 2032 Olympics organizing committee, describes the cancellation as a significant setback.

She expresses her deep concern for the athletes and her disappointment for regional Victoria, which would have experienced economic growth and increased tourism as a result of hosting the Games. Cook conveys her surprise, shock, and profound disappointment for the athletes.


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