Victoria has cancelled its plans to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games because of a massive budget blowout.
The state government set aside $2.6 billion to stage the event which would have seen Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat and Gippsland host their own athletes’ villages and sports programs.
Premier Daniel Andrews revealed the latest cost estimate had more than doubled to at least $6 billion, saying: “Frankly, $6 billion to $7 billion for a 12-day sporting event, we are not doing that. That does not represent value for money, that is all costs and no benefit.”
Mr. Andrews said the government considered moving the games to Melbourne, holding fewer sports and having fewer regional hubs, but all the alternative options were also too expensive. “None of those options stack up and we’re not going to be hosting the Games in 2026,” the Premier declared.
State Treasurer Tim Pallas had been seeking a dollar-for-dollar matching contribution from the federal government, but Mr. Andrews asserted that even if Canberra did come to the party, the Games were not worth the money. “I wouldn’t spend half of that money even if I got the other half from Canberra, because you know that’s coming at the expense of something else – hospitals, schools, roads,” Mr. Andrews pronounced.
However, while Victoria will no longer host the Games, the legacy infrastructure from them will still be built.
There will be $1 billion spent on more than 1300 new social and affordable housing homes across regional Victoria. $150 million will be spent on tourism and events and all of the planned permanent new venues and sporting facility upgrades will go ahead.
Mr. Andrews said his government had informed the Commonwealth Games Federation of the decision to seek to terminate the contract, adding that “amicable and productive” meetings had occurred in London overnight. The Federation said: “We are disappointed that we were only given eight hours’ notice and that no consideration was given to discussing the situation to jointly find solutions prior to this decision. Up until this point, the government had advised that sufficient funding was available to deliver the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games. The numbers quoted to us today are 50% more than those advised to the Organising Committee board at its meeting in June.”
Commonwealth Games Australia chief executive Craig Phillips called the forecast cost overruns a “gross exaggeration” and accused the government of not seriously considering other options. “The Victorian government ignored recommendations to move events to purpose-built stadiums in Melbourne and remained wedded to temporary expensive venues in regional Victoria,” he said, adding that the decision will damage Melbourne’s global reputation as the sporting capital of Australia.
State Opposition Leader John Pesutto and Nationals Leader Peter Walsh described the scrapping as “a massive humiliation for Victoria” They said in a joint statement: “The cancellation of the Commonwealth Games is hugely damaging to Victoria’s reputation as a global events leader.”
Premier Andrews said Victoria had been approached by the governing body last year and had been “happy to help out” but “not at any price”. Regional Victoria became the only bidder for the games after Durban in South Africa lost the 2022 event and the original 2026 host city Birmingham had to step in for last year’s competition. The cost of breaking the Games contract is yet to be settled, but Mr. Andrews pledged it would be revealed at a later date.
With so much infrastructure already in place from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018 as well as preparations for the 2032 Olympics, Queensland loomed as an alternative host state, but that was quickly shut down by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk who said it was not an option with all the state’s focus and finance firmly committed to the Olympics.
With Australian Associated Press