Victoria Withdraws from Hosting 2026 Commonwealth Games Citing Cost Concerns

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Commonwealth Games - Closing Ceremony - Alexander Stadium, Birmingham, Britain - August 8, 2022 Vanessa Amorosi performs during the closing ceremony REUTERS/John Sibley/File Photo

Victoria Premier Dan Andrews announces budget blowout as the state pulls out of hosting the quadrennial multi-sport event

MELBOURNE – In a surprising turn of events, Victoria, Australia’s state, has announced its withdrawal from hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games. The decision comes as projected costs for the event reached an alarming RM31.75 billio, more than triple the original budget of RM11.79 billion. Premier Dan Andrews expressed his concerns during a media conference, emphasizing that such an exorbitant expense cannot be justified for a 12-day sporting event.

“I will not take money out of hospitals and schools to fund an event that is three times the cost as estimated and budgeted for last year,” Andrews stated firmly.

The state government of Victoria has already informed the global Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) about its decision. However, the financial implications of breaking the 2026 contract are yet to be determined.

Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA) described the pull-out as “beyond disappointing.” CEO Craig Phillips expressed his disappointment, particularly for the athletes, the excited host communities, and the millions of fans who were looking forward to Australia’s sixth home Games.

The Commonwealth Games Federation flag is carried into the arena during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Melbourne, Australia on March 15, 2006. Australia's Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday, July 18, 2023, said his government has withdrawn as host of the 2026 Commonwealth Games because of a massive increase in the projected cost of staging the multi-sports event. (AP Photo/Mark Baker, File)
The Commonwealth Games Federation flag is carried into the arena during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Melbourne, Australia on March 15, 2006. Australia’s Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday, July 18, 2023, said his government has withdrawn as host of the 2026 Commonwealth Games because of a massive increase in the projected cost of staging the multi-sports event. (AP Photo/Mark Baker, File)

Future of the Commonwealth Games uncertain as Australia’s largest state backs out due to projected cost overruns

Victoria’s withdrawal raises concerns about the future of the Commonwealth Games, a sporting event primarily featuring former British colonies. In recent years, the Games have struggled to remain relevant, with five of the last six editions held in Australia or Britain.

Birmingham, England, stepped in to host the 2022 Games after South Africa lost the hosting rights in 2017 due to inadequate preparations. While Australia hosted the Games as recently as 2018 on the Gold Coast, Victoria expressed its interest in hosting the 2026 edition when no other countries showed enthusiasm.

Victoria officials had touted the legacy benefits of the event, including new infrastructure in the regional hubs of Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, and Gippsland, as well as an economic boost of over ARM13.61 billion. However, Premier Andrews announced an alternative plan, with the government now allocating more than ARM9.07 billion for a “regional package.” This package will focus on constructing permanent sporting facilities originally intended for the Games, along with ARM4.54 billion for social and affordable housing.

Australian Emma Snowsill celebrates as she crossed the finish line to win the women's triathlon at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia on March 18, 2006. Australia's Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday, July 18, 2023, said his government has withdrawn as host of the 2026 Commonwealth Games because of a massive increase in the projected cost of staging the multi-sports event. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)
Australian Emma Snowsill celebrates as she crossed the finish line to win the women's triathlon at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia on March 18, 2006. Australia's Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday, July 18, 2023, said his government has withdrawn as host of the 2026 Commonwealth Games because of a massive increase in the projected cost of staging the multi-sports event. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) expressed its disappointment, as the 2026 Games were seen as a stepping stone towards hosting the 2032 Brisbane Olympics. Similarly, the New Zealand Olympic Committee expressed its unease, as their athletes had planned for a Games close to home.

Suggestions have been made that New South Wales, Australia’s largest state, could take on the hosting duties. John Coates, an International Olympic Committee Vice-President, proposed this option, highlighting that Sydney successfully hosted the 2000 Olympics. However, New South Wales Premier Chris Minns rejected the idea due to budgetary constraints, and states such as South Australia and Western Australia have also ruled out hosting the Games.

The high costs associated with the Commonwealth Games and their vague long-term benefits have faced criticism in the past. Even the CGF acknowledges the need for downsizing to ensure the event’s survival. A bid by Hamilton, Canada, to host the 2030 Games collapsed earlier this year due to a lack of government support.

As the future of the Commonwealth Games remains uncertain, stakeholders must consider new approaches to reinvigorate and sustain the event’s appeal for athletes and fans alike. – Reuters