A Senate committee in Australia has recommended for the federal government to “get its hands dirty” to salvage the 2026 Commonwealth Games after Victoria paid hundreds of millions of dollars to withdraw as hosts last month rather than manage a ballooning budget approaching $4.5 billion USD.
The Australian state of Victoria initially won the bid for the 2026 Commonwealth Games last April, but premier Daniel Andrews announced in July that Victoria was pulling out as hosts because of rising costs that would have more than doubled the initial $1.8 billion estimate.
The report released on Thursday was chaired by senator Matt Canavan, who criticized Andrews for using the 2026 Commonwealth Games bid as a political pawn to further his own career.
“There is no doubt in my mind Daniel Andrews and his government used the people of regional Victoria for his base political purpose in an election campaign,” Canavan said. “He made the promise just before an election to get their support, and just after he dumped them on the side of the road like a trash can. It’s no way to treat your own people. I just wish the Victorian government show a bit more diligence in the future.”
The report warned that withdrawing as hosts could threaten Victoria’s “enviable reputation as a world-class destination for major sporting events.” The inquiry concluded that the federal government should organize a task force featuring all three levels of government “to examine options to salvage the Commonwealth Games,” pointing out that a “reduced or decentralized” format might be necessary.
Andrews called the Senate committee’s report a “political stunt.”
The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) said it was willing to postpone the 2026 edition by a year to accommodate a new host, but that might not be enough incentive to attract a suitor given the growing budget concerns. A former top official in the organization told The Telegraph that “the Games brand is taking a major hit to its reputation.” The source added that the CGF needs to take “immediate and radical action” to “save the event.”
“If the Games are to continue, and there are no guarantees right now, they will need to look very different and clearly they will be far smaller in scale and cost,” the former CGF executive said. “It looks increasingly likely that Birmingham 2022 will be the last Games on a major multi-sport scale given the lack of appetite from Governments to host the competition in its current format.”