Victoria leave in lurch Commonwealth Games



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Victoria pulls out of hosting Commonwealth Games 2026 Image: Commonwealth Games Australia

The Australian State of Victoria will not host the 2026 Commonwealth Games, after the State (Victoria) Premier, Daniel Andrews, said the cost had “blown out” and he was not prepared to redirect money from other parts of his Government’s budget to make up for the shortfall.

‘The Guardian’ stated that the sudden announcement means that with less than three years to go, one of the major events in many athletes’ calendars is now up in the air.

The decision by Victoria to scrap the Games just over a year after it announced the event to great fanfare is just the latest sorry chapter for the Commonwealth Games, as it struggles for hosts – and relevance.

The 2026 Commonwealth Games, officially known as the XXIII Commonwealth Games, is a multisport event for members of the Commonwealth. The 2026 Commonwealth Games would be the first to be held since the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the accession of King Charles III as Head of the Commonwealth on September 8th, 2022. However, Australia’s Victoria State has withdrawn from hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games, causing major disruptions to the event.
 

Cost Factor

The leader of the Australian State of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, says his decision simply came down to cost. It’s just 17 years since Victoria last hosted a Commonwealth Games, so when his Government announced its bid it said it would be “different”. The Government planned to host the event across five regional sites and predominantly outside the major City of Melbourne.

In April last year, when Andrews thanked the Games’ organizers for accepting his bid, he acknowledged it could be more difficult than other editions – “I’m sure from their point of view, it’s a bit riskier than just running it in the middle of a large City.”

On July 18th, Andrews said the cost of hosting had grown beyond his expectations – “What’s become clear is that the cost of hosting these Games in 2026 is not the $2.6bn (£1.3bn) which was budgeted and allocated. It is in fact at least $6bn and could be as high as $7bn.”

Commonwealth Games Australia Chief Executive Craig Phillips has said that he sees the stated cost overrun as “a gross exaggeration”.

He added, “The Victorian Government willfully ignored recommendations to move events to purpose-built stadia in Melbourne and in fact remained wedded to proceeding with expensive temporary venues in regional Victoria. It will cost Melbourne its reputation as a sport-friendly City. I would be very careful if I was an international sporting body coming and doing business in this State in the future.”

Phillips described the decision as “beyond disappointing” and said he first heard of Andrews’ revised $6bn cost estimate at 6.30 am on July 18th.

Melbourne, Victoria (Australia)-based Commonwealth Games Australia is the Commonwealth Games Association for Australia and is responsible for representing and promoting the Commonwealth Sport movement in the country and organizes the participation of athletes at the Commonwealth Games and Commonwealth Youth Games.

Andrews has said the Government will still build the sporting facilities it had promised the regional communities, but he would not take money from other parts of the budget, such as health, to deliver the Commonwealth Games.
 

Picking up the Tab

The Victoria Government had faced questions for some time over how the Games would be paid for. $2.6bn was initially allocated, but in the State’s May budget, no additional funding was set aside.

An argument over funding with the Prime Minister of Australia Anthony Albanese’s Federal Government doesn’t appear to have helped matters.

While the Federal Government’s budget in May included more than $1bn for the 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games, nothing was allocated for the 2026 Commonwealth Games. Andrews vowed to not let the Commonwealth “off the hook” for help to fund the event.

The 2032 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXXV Olympiad and also known as Brisbane 2032, is an upcoming international multisport event scheduled to take place from July 23rd to August 8th, 2032 in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

In June, the Federal Sports Minister, Anika Wells, said that the Albanese Government was “still working through with the Victorian Government their proposal for Federal support”.
 

Nobody’s Baby?

Within hours of Victoria’s announcement, the neighboring State of New South Wales – whose State capital Sydney hosted the 2000 Olympic Games – said it would not step in, citing budgetary pressures. The leaders of other Australian States, with the exception of Queensland, poured cold water on the idea, too.

The Games have only been canceled twice in their history – in 1942 and 1946, both due to the Second World War. It’s unclear whether a new host will be able to be found in time, but the Games have form at finding willing and able Cities to host at short notice.

In 2015, the South African City of Durban was awarded the 2022 Games after its only competitor in the bid – the Canadian City of Edmonton – withdrew citing cost concerns.

Just two years later though, the City was stripped of the rights to host after failing to meet promises contained in its bid. Like Andrews, South Africa’s Sports Minister cited financial constraints, saying, “We gave it our best shot but we can’t go beyond. If the country says we don’t have this money, we can’t.”

In 2017, Birmingham and the British Government stepped in to save the 2022 Games. The UK Government stumped up more than £560m to ensure the Games could go ahead in the West Midlands City, and the local Council putting in another £190m.

Birmingham had been scheduled to host the 2026 Games and so the 2022 decision left a hole in the schedule. The Commonwealth Games Federation was due to announce the 2026 Host City in 2019, but the decision was postponed until 2020, and then again to 2021, and then again to 2022.

For the 2026 race, Kuala Lumpur, Cardiff (UK), Calgary (Canada), Edmonton (Canada), and Adelaide (Australia) all pulled out from proposed bids because they were concerned about costs, leaving Victoria as the only viable candidate.
 

Is it Just About Money?

In recent years, criticism of the Games has expanded beyond just the financial burden. The colonial origins of the Games – they were once known as the British Empire Games – have also been a point of contention, as have their inability to attract younger audiences.

Prior to last year’s Birmingham Games, British Olympic diver Tom Daley also condemned the “homophobia” across many Commonwealth countries.

Out of 56 Member-States, 35 criminalize same-sex relations, making up half of the countries globally that outlaw homosexuality. Seven Commonwealth nations have a maximum penalty of life imprisonment under laws imposed by Britain in the 19th century when it was a colonial power.

Dame Louise Martin, President of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), has said she recognizes that the Games need to adapt and modernize in order to maintain their “relevance”. But after the July 18th announcement, that task will be all the harder. The CGF must find a new host for 2026, while at the same time securing a host for their centenary in 2030, after a bid from the Canadian City Hamilton collapsed earlier this year.

The CGF labeled the cancellation “hugely disappointing”, and said it was given just eight hours notice of the decision.

After Andrews cited a “financial blowout” for the decision, the CGF took aim at the Premier’s justification and claimed the State had “walked away” from the agreement.

The CGF said in a statement, “Since awarding Victoria the Games, the Government has made decisions to include more sports and an additional regional hub, and changed plans for venues, all of which have added considerable expense, often against the advice of the CGF and the Commonwealth Games Australia. Up until this point, the Government had advised that sufficient funding was available to deliver the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games.”

London (UK)-based the Commonwealth Games Federation, currently known as the Commonwealth Sport, is the international organization responsible for the direction and control of the Commonwealth Games and the Commonwealth Youth Games, and is the governing body of the Commonwealth Games Associations.
 

Breathe Fire

‘The Guardian’ further stated that the current and former athletes have criticized the Victorian Government’s (Australia) shock decision to pull out of hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games, while the head of the Games in Australia called it “absolutely embarrassing”.

The most decorated athlete in Commonwealth Games history, swimmer Emma McKeon, said the events “inspire young Aussies to go after their dreams. I’m disappointed to hear the news”.

The Paralympics and Commonwealth Games gold medal winner Rowan Crothers said the decision stung those with disabilities and “will suck for the state of inclusion”.

Crothers tweeted, “For some athletes, a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games means more than a gold medal at the Paralympics – it’s not just a similar level, it’s the exact same thing the able-bods get. Recognition and equality can mean more than achievement.”

The Australian Sports Commission Chief Executive, Kieren Perkins, said it had been a difficult day for the sporting community and that the Commonwealth Games remained an important event for Australia – “For many of our athletes, coaches and the support staff, Victoria 2026 was going to be an important stepping stone ahead of the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and for others it was to be the pinnacle of their careers.”

He informed that mental health support would be available to athletes and those involved in the bid.

Canberra (Australia)-based the Australian Sports Commission is the Australian Government Commission responsible for supporting and investing in sport in Australia. The Commission incorporates the Australian Institute of Sport. From 2018 to 2022, it was known as Sport Australia.

The 2028 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXXIV Olympiad, and commonly known as Los Angeles 2028 or LA28, is an upcoming international multisport event scheduled to take place from July 14th to July 30th, 2028 in and around Los Angeles, California, United States.

John Coates, an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Member, said the canceled Games raises questions about Australia’s ability to host events – “It must reflect on Australia when we’ve committed to host an event and thinking that we had the support of the State Government and they’ve pulled the plug. You can’t run an event like this without the commitment of the Federal Government and I understand Mr Albanese (Prime Minister of Australia) said it wasn’t forthcoming.”

The International Olympic Committee is a non-governmental sports organisation based in Lausanne, Switzerland. It is constituted in the form of an association under the Swiss Civil Code.

Criticism of the decision from the heads of Australia’s major sports has been almost universal.

The Chief Executive of AusCycling, Marne Fechner, said the decision to withdraw rather than to adapt the bid was a “missed opportunity”.

The Hockey Australia Chief Executive, David Pryles, said he was “disappointed for our Hockeyroos (Australia women’s national field hockey team) and Kookaburras (Australian sports equipment company)”.

Swimming Australia’s interim Chief Executive, Steve Newman, said the news was a blow to the athletes and the public, while the Athletics Australia Chief Executive, Peter Bromley, said it was a “great disappointment”.

Netball Australia Chief Executive, Kelly Ryan, said she was disappointed but that “we understand and respect the decision”.

The CGF said it remained committed to finding another host for the 2026 event.

Melbourne, Victoria (Australia)-based AusCycling, the trading name of the AusCycling Limited, is the national governing body for cycling in Australia and represents the interests of affiliated cycling clubs and its individual members.

Melbourne (Australia)-based Hockey Australia is an organization that formed from the merger of the Australian Hockey Association and Women’s Hockey Australia in 2000. It is the national body responsible for the promotion, development and administration of field hockey in Australia.

Swimming Australia is the peak governing body for competitive swimming in Australia. The body has approximately 100,000 registered members nationally in 1,100 clubs across the country, which includes swimmers, coaches, officials, administrators, and volunteers.

Melbourne, Victoria (Australia)-based Netball Australia is the main governing body for netball in Australia. It is affiliated to World Netball. It is responsible for organizing and administrating the Australia national netball team, Suncorp Super Netball and the Australian National Netball Championships.

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