Victoria blamed for Canadian decision to dump 2030 Commonwealth Games

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The collapse of a Canadian bid to host the 2030 Commonwealth Games has dramatically upped the stakes for the Andrews government as it seeks to extricate itself from its contract to stage the 2026 event.

Commonwealth Sport Canada today revealed that Alberta had abandoned its interest in hosting the Games in seven years’ time, citing the Victorian government’s shock move to dump its planned regional Games as a “significant factor” in the decision.

Mars stadium in Ballarat was to be used in the 2026 Commonwealth Games.Credit: Jason South

The development, which raises further questions about the future viability of the 93-year-old sporting movement, has prompted lawyers representing the London-based Commonwealth Games Federation to seek advice on whether Victoria should be held partially responsible for the death of the Games.

“We knew there was a potential and now it has come to pass,” a senior Games figure explained from Port of Spain, where the Commonwealth Youth Games are being staged in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago.

“We are seeing the impact beyond just Australia’s reputation; it has damaged the reputation of the Commonwealth Games movement itself.”

A Commonwealth Games Canada statement issued earlier today announced that Alberta’s provincial government had “decided to discontinue the exploration” of its bid to co-host the 2030 Games alongside Calgary and Edmonton and the Tsuut’ina Nation.

“We believe the recent decision by the Victorian government to withdraw from the 2026 Commonwealth Games was a significant factor in Alberta’s decision, as well as an over-dependence on taxpayers’ support for the planning and delivery of the Games,” the statement read.

Alberta’s tourism minister Joseph Schow told the Calgary Herald the estimated cost of the Games was $2.6 billion – the same figure attached to Victoria’s 2026 bid before the estimated costs blew out to more than double that amount. “Frankly, the Commonwealth Games placed the majority of the financial part of the risk on government and taxpayers,” Schow said.

The Victorian government has been contacted for comment.

Alberta’s decision lends support to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ publicly stated position that rising costs associated with staging the 2026 Commonwealth Games meant they no longer offered value for money.

The Victorian government’s cost estimates are disputed by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), which remains furious at the decision to cancel the Games less than three years before the opening ceremony was due to take place.

The possibility that Victoria’s decision hastened the death of a multi-sport event already struggling to attract host cities could add considerably to the damages pursued by the CGF. Commonwealth Games Australia and Commonwealth Games Partnerships, a specialist services provider owned by an international sports marketing agency Sportfive, are also parties to the settlement negotiations with Victoria.

Victoria secured exclusive bidding rights for 2026 in December 2021 when it signed a memorandum of understanding with the CGF to develop a novel regional Games concept that would have led to events being spread across Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.

By the time Victoria was announced as the host state last April, Gippsland had been added as a fourth host region. As the government counted down to a state election, more host cities and sports were added to spread the benefits of the Games across more electorates. This masthead previously revealed how the swimming was shifted from a safe Labor seat in Geelong to marginal one, at considerable additional expense to the Games budget.

In April this year, the provisional budget for the Games had blown out to between $5 billion and $6 billion. In announcing his decision to cancel Victoria 2026, Andrews said he was not confident the event would be delivered under $7 billion.

Brendan Williams, a two-time Commonwealth Games high jumper from Dominica and the chair of the CGF Athletes’ Advisory Commission, this week said he was “profoundly disappointed” by Victoria’s decision to axe 2026.

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