The Commonwealth Games due to be held in regional Victoria in 2026 have been cancelled by Premier Daniel Andrews.
The reason behind the shock move is down to the state’s money woes, with Victoria’s debt forecast to be $135.4billion in 2024, rising to $171.4billion by 2026-27.
The rights to host the 2026 event were awarded to regional Victoria last year after not one of the 70 countries in the Commonwealth Games Federation put their hand up.
In a dramatic press conference on Tuesday, Mr Andrews said: ‘What’s become clear is the cost of hosting these games is not the $2.6billion which was allocated, it is at least $6billion or $7billion.’
‘I will not take money out of hospitals and schools in order to fund an event that is three times the cost as estimated and budgeted for last year.’
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was asked if the Games cancellation was an ’embarrassment’ but said he would ‘leave the Victorian government to go through those details.
‘I’m focused on the Matildas, and the opportunity to host a World Cup here.’
The Commonwealth Games due to be held in regional Victoria in 2026 have been cancelled by Premier Daniel Andrews (pictured) over the state’s money woes
Despite being pressed several times, Mr Andrews would not reveal the cost of abandoning the games, but said this would be ‘fully accounted for’ at a later date.
He said ‘very little costs had been incurred to this point’.
‘I’m not going to negotiate with the Commonwealth Games authorities via the media in Melbourne, when I’ve got a team of people doing exactly that in London,’ he said, growing frustrated with questions from the media.
‘That’s the appropriate way to go.’
Mr Andrews said he had informed the Commonwealth Games authorities the state would seek to terminate the contract.
He said subsequent meetings had been ‘amicable and productive’.
The Games were set to be held from March 17 to 29 in Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat, Gippsland and Shepparton.
The Premier said ‘I’ve made a lot of difficult decisions in this job – this is not one of them,’ and described the Commonwealth Games as ‘all cost, no benefit’.
‘We are not going to spend $6 to $7billion hosting a 12-day sporting event,’ he said.
Mr Andrews added that ‘you have got to make a choice.
Deputy Premier Jacinta Allan said the ballooning costs far outweighed the benefits of hosting the events.
‘Each one of those sporting infrastructure facilities will be going ahead and we will be wanting to push on and complete those projects with those local communities following consultation with them,’ she said.
‘Do you push on and deliver this at any cost, taking money out of hospitals, schools, roads, all manner of different things to pay for it or do you make the decision we’ve announced today.’
Commonwealth Games Legacy Minister Harriet Shing said the projects related to the Games would deliver more jobs for people who live in the areas where they were due to be held.
‘We also want to make sure that community and sporting facilities are given the attention and the focus that they deserve,’ she said.
She added that the state government would make sure that communities are at the heart of this additional work that will ‘continue’.
Victoria’s Opposition Leader John Pesutto lashed the decision to cancel the Games, saying the decision was ‘a betrayal of regional Victoria’ and confirmed the state was broke.
Team Australia pose with their medals after the men’s final hockey match at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, Monday, August 8, 2022
The Games were set to be held from March 17 to 29 in Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat, Gippsland and Shepparton
Promotional material for the Games said: ‘Victoria 2026 will showcase what makes the people of our state tick: our unity, our diversity, our sense of community, our welcoming attitude and our love of sport.’
Instead, they will not be happening. The Commonwealth Games has never been cancelled with the strict exception of during World War II.
Commonwealth Games staff were reportedly called in for an urgent meeting early on Tuesday.
There was an emergency meeting of the state government’s Expenditure Review Committee – senior ministers who discuss budget decisions – on Monday. The full proposal was taken to the Cabinet late last night.
Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas had been seeking a dollar-for-dollar matching contribution from the federal government to pay for the Games.
While Victoria will no longer host the games, the legacy infrastructure from them will still be built.
There will be $1billion spent on more than 1,300 new social and affordable housing homes across regional Victoria, $150million will be spent on tourism and events and all of the permanent and upgraded sporting facilities planned will go ahead.
TIMELINE OF THE 2026 COMMONWEALTH GAMES
- March 2017 – Durban stripped of 2022 Commonwealth Games after failing to meet key deadlines
- December 2017 – Birmingham named as replacement host for 2022 Games, instead of hosting the 2026 Games
- February 2022 – Victoria makes an exclusive bid to host the Games
- April 2022 – Regional Victoria awarded Games, the first not to be hosted by a city
- May 2022 – Victorian government sets aside $2.6billion for Games
- June 2022 – Former Victorian Covid-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar appointed chief executive of Games organising committee
- July 2022 – Dates locked in for event to be held in February-March 2026
- August 2022 – Former Richmond Football Club president Peggy O’Neal announced as chair of the Games organising committee
- October 2022 – Full list of sports for the Games released
- March 2023 – Former swimmer Petria Thomas reappointed as Australia’s chef de mission for the Games
- April 2023 – City of Greater Geelong says it will spend nearly $8million on the event
- May 2023 – No money set aside for Games in the federal budget
- May 2023 – Tenders begin to go out for sports venue builds
- July 2023 – The Victorian government announces it will no longer host the Games because they will be too expensive