The Australian state of Victoria will no longer host the Commonwealth Games in 2026 due to the enormous expected costs involved.
It has left organizers of the sporting spectacle “extremely disappointed” as they scramble to keep arrangements for the games on track.
Daniel Andrews, premier of Victoria, says the initial estimate of A$2 billion (about R24 billion) needed to host the Commonwealth Games is likely to end up at around A$7 billion (more than R85 billion) instead, which he labeled as “really too much”.
“I have had to make many difficult decisions in this job and this was not one of them. Paying A$7 billion for a sporting event is simply too much; we are not going to do that,” Andrews said during a news conference in Melbourne on Tuesday.
“I will not take money away from hospitals and schools to host an event that costs three times as much as what was planned and budgeted for last year.
“The Commonwealth Games will not take place in Victoria in 2026. We have informed the organizers of our decision to terminate the contract.”
The event – with 20 sports and 26 disciplines – was to be held at five regional centres; each with its own athletes village at Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Gippsland and Shepparton.
According to Andrews, his team considered alternatives such as reducing the number of centers or even moving the Games to the state’s capital, Melbourne, but “none of the options worked out”.
Instead, he announced a support package of A$2 billion for the Victoria region.
Andrews declined to say what it would cost to suspend the deal, but said talks with the Commonwealth Games Federation had been “amicable”.
However, the federation in London was not happy with the decision and labeled Victoria’s withdrawal as “extremely disappointing”.
“We are disappointed that we were only given eight hours’ notice and that the situation was not discussed with us in advance to find joint solutions before the government made the decision,” says a statement from the federation.
The official opposition in Victoria says Andrews’ decision is a “massive humiliation” and “damaging to Victoria’s reputation”. It could also harm the state’s chances of hosting major sporting events in the future.
Victoria was awarded the contract as the presenter of the 2026 Commonwealth Games 14 months ago. According to the federation, the state has since decided to include more sports, add an additional regional center and change plans for venues.
“These additional costs have often been against the advice of the federation and Commonwealth Games Australia, but we have received assurances that sufficient funding is available to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games in Victoria.”
Ben Houston, president of Commonwealth Games Australia, says the new cost estimate is a “gross exaggeration”.
“This is very upsetting for us and a disappointment for the athletes and excited host communities.”
The fate of the Commonwealth Games in 2026 is now in the balance, with countries that have recently lost interest in hosting a sporting event that is gradually “losing its relevance”.
However, the federation says it remains “committed to a solution for the Commonwealth Games in 2026 that is in the best interests of all athletes and the wider Commonwealth sports movement”.
The event usually attracts more than 4,000 athletes from the 54 member countries of the Commonwealth, almost all of which are former territories of the British Empire.
The previous Commonwealth Games were last year in Birmingham, England.