Victoria, Australia will no longer be hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games. Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Tuesday that due to expanding costs, the state won’t be going through with its hosting duties. Andrew said that current cost estimates were roughly $7 billion AUD ($4.8 billion USD), compared to the original $2.6 billion AUD ($1.8 billion USD), and that it could rise more as the Games draw nearer.
“It is in fact at least $6bn and could be as high as $7bn – and I cannot stand here and say to you that I have any confidence that even [the] $7bn number would appropriately and adequately fund these Games” said Andrews.
It was also a significant increase from the original bid, according to Commonwealth Sport, the international organization that manages the event, which says that the numbers quoted alongside the decision are 50% more than those given in early June, just over a month ago.
Commonwealth Sport blamed the increasing costs largely on choices made by the local government and organizers, including adding more sports and adding another regional hub as part of organizers’ regional hosting plan. That regional hosting plan, Commonwealth Sport says, is part of why the Games were more expensive than prior editions, and that the changes further escalated those costs.
This is hugely disappointing for the Commonwealth Sport Movement, for athletes around the Commonwealth and the Organising Committee who are well advanced in their planning and preparation.
The reasons given are financial. The numbers quoted to us today of $6 billion are 50% more than those advised to the Organising Committee board at its meeting in June.
These figures are attributed to price escalation primarily due to the unique regional delivery model that Victoria chose for these Games, and in particular relate to village and venue builds and transport infrastructure.
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 Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA).
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 being reached by the Government.
Up until this point, the Government had advised that sufficient funding was available to deliver the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games.
We are taking advice on the options available to us and remain committed to finding a solution for the Games in 2026 that is in the best interest of our athletes and the wider Commonwealth Sport Movement.
Craig Phillips, the CEO of Commonwealth Games Australia, criticized the claimed cost overrun as a “gross exaggeration”.
“The Victorian government wilfully 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,” Phillips said.
Andrew says that the government will still build the sporting facilities that it had promised to regional communities.
Before Gold Coast 2018, Australia hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1938 (Sydney), 1962 (Perth), 1982 (Brisbane), and 2006 (Melbourne).
When it was announced that Victoria would host the 2026 Commonwealth Games, the plan was to divide the action across the state’s five regions: Melbourne, Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat, and Gippsland. Andrews announced that instead of allocating money towards the Games, Victoria will build a permanent sporting facility and will invest in more affordable housing in the state.
“That is a much better way to go forward and we are simply not going to invest that sort of money and have to take it from key service delivery, from other parts of government, in order to deliver a 12-day sporting event”
According to the Guardian, the Victorian government received criticism from both the official opposition and the Greens party, with the leader of the former saying that this cancellation is “hugely damaging to Victoria’s reputation as a global events leader.”
Australia’s reputation as a global events leader, and specifically as a sporting events leader, will be important for the foreseeable future as the nation will host the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane. Brisbane was announced as the host of the Olympic Games in July 2021, more than 11 years before the Games’ start date. As of February 2023, the Australian federal government and the Queensland state government were preparing to spend $4.9 billion USD ($7.2 billion AUD).
Another sporting event set to occur in Australia is the 2024 Junior Pan Pacific Games, which is scheduled for August 2024 in Canberra. As the country is set to host multiple multi-sport events in the coming years, Victoria’s decision to pull out of the Commonwealth Games for financial reasons will likely make international sport leaders anxious. It’s not yet clear if the Commonwealth Games will still occur in 2026 and if they will, where they will be.