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Australia's Victoria state withdraws as host of 2026 Commonwealth Games

Commonwealth Games Commonwealth Games - The Canadian Press

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australia’s Victoria state has withdrawn as host of the 2026 Commonwealth Games because of a blowout in projected costs.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday said his government last year agreed to host the next edition of the multi-sports event, “but not at any cost.”

He said his government initially budgeted 2.6 billion Australian dollars ($1.8 billion) to stage the Games in five regional cities but recent estimates put the potential cost as high as 7 billion Australian dollars ($4.8 billion).

Andrews told a news conference he'd notified Commonwealth Games organizers of his government’s decision to pull out of the hosting contract.

“Today is not about finding fault with those cost estimates,” he said, declining to outline the reasons for the cost blowouts. “Frankly, AU$6-AU$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."

The Commonwealth Games Federation issued a statement saying it was taking advice on its options.

The CGF said the estimated cost escalation was mainly due to the regional, multi-city host model and the Victoria government's decision to change plans for venues and include more sports.

“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,” the CGF statement said.

The 2026 Games had been scheduled for March 17-29 in the regional centers of Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat, Gippsland and Shepparton.

The state government had promoted the multi-city model as a game changer, with the five regional centers hosting 20 sports and nine fully-integrated Para sports.

The government's website had promoted Victoria 2026 as a showcase of “what makes the people of our state tick: our unity, our diversity, our sense of community, our welcoming attitude and our love of sport.”

Commonwealth Games Australia chief executive Craig Phillips said the government's decision was a “comprehensive let down" on a concept it had pitched to organizers.

“The stated costs overrun, in our opinion, are a gross exaggeration and not reflective of the operational costs presented to the Victoria 2026 organising committee board as recently as June," Phillips said in a statement. "Beyond this, the Victorian Government willfully ignored recommendations to move events to purpose-built (venues) in Melbourne and in fact remained wedded to proceeding with expensive temporary venues in regional Victoria.”

It's the second time in as many editions there's been issues with hosting the Commonwealth Games.

Birmingham stepped in late to host the 2022 Games in England to replace Durban, South Africa.

Victoria state hosted the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. The most recent edition held in Australia was on the Gold Coast, Queensland state, in 2018. The Gold Coast was part of the southeast Queensland bid that in 2021 was awarded rights to the 2032 Olympics.

Andrew Liveris, president of the Brisbane 2032 organizing committee, responded to the Victorian government's decision by saying the Commonwealth Games and Olympics run on different business models in terms of event delivery, infrastructure usage and commercial revenue.

The 2032 Olympics have federal, state and local government backing, and Liveris said the International Olympic Committee's contribution to running costs and support in terms of best practice from prior Games helped give organizers solid grounding.

“Brisbane 2032 was awarded the Games under the New Norm – a new efficient model for games delivery designed to drive legacy outcomes for the host region, before and after the Games," he said. “Brisbane 2032 has an 11-year runway for best-case planning and preparation.”

The Commonwealth Games started out as the British Empire Games in 1930 at Hamilton, Canada, and since 1978 has operated under its current branding. England, Australia, New Zealand, Wales, Jamaica, Scotland, Malaysia and India have hosted the Games, which are staged every four years and involve teams from 54 members of the Commonwealth network and 17 overseas territories and island states.


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