Victoria drops Commonwealth bombshell

Soaring costs behind decision by state government to pull out of hosting 2026 Commonwealth Games. Threat of legal action looms over the Australian state as war of words breaks out

A SHOCK announcement by Australia’s State of Victoria to abandon its hosting of the 2026 Commonwealth Games has left organisers of the international multi-sports event reeling.

Victoria premier Daniel Andrews said cost estimates for the 12-day games have soared to more than A$6 billion (about US$4bn) – nearly three times the original figure. Events were planned across Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat and other regional communities to help drive development.

The Commonwealth Games is held every four years with member countries competing in an Olympics-style format. Most of the countries involved were once part of the British Empire.

Organisers of the Games are now scurrying to find a new host with an international war of words erupting following Andrews’ comments at a press conference in Melbourne this week.

Backgrounder… Tastes of Geelong and The Bellarine

Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Katie Sadleir told The Times of London that lawyers were being consulted over the contractual arrangements after Victoria agreed to host the Games.

“When Victoria came to us, and it’s important to stress that they came to us, they said they saw an opportunity to employ a dispersed model, using multiple cities across the state, to drive economic growth in their region,” Sadleir told The Times.

“As prices started to go up, we questioned whether or not they were making the right decisions as part of their unique regional development model. And they assured us that they had the money they needed. So to hear yesterday [July 17] that it’s not the case, that the government has decided it was too expensive, was a surprise.”

More… Golden chorus as Australia set to welcome Games

Andrews said the new cost for hosting the events would be “more than twice the estimated economic benefit” the Games would have brought to Victoria. “That is all cost and no benefit,” he told the press conference.

“I’ve made a lot of difficult calls, a lot of very difficult decisions in this job. This is not one of them. I will not take money out of hospitals and schools to fund an event that is three times the cost what was estimated and budgeted for last year.

Frankly, six to A$7 billion for a 12-day sporting event, we are not doing that. That does not represent value for money.
– Daniel Andrews, Victoria state premier

Andrew said the state government had considered options such as moving the Games to Melbourne before making its decision. He said stadia upgrades in regional Victoria would continue with the Games budget redirected to housing and tourism initiatives, the BBC reported.

Speculation is mounting in Commonwealth countries on whether the event might be held in another Australian city or nations such as Canada – but New Zealand is reported to have declined the opportunity. Organisers are being joined by athletes and Victoria’s political opposition in voicing their disappointment at the decision.

More… ‘Mega May’ puts Melbourne in gear for more

“The announcement made by the Victorian Government… is beyond disappointing,” Craig Phillips, the chief executive of Commonwealth Games Australia chief, was quoted by The Times as saying.

“It’s a comprehensive let down for the athletes, the excited host communities, First Nations [Aboriginal] Australians who were at the heart of the Games, and the millions of fans that would have embraced a sixth home Games in Australia.”

John Pesutto, leader of the Victoria parliament’s opposition, described the decision as a “massive humiliation” for the state and “hugely damaging“ for its reputation as a global events leader, the BBC reported.

Main picture: Statues of lifeguards at Geelong seafront. The Victoria city was one of the regions set to host events during the 2026 Commonwealth Games

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