In a blow to the Victorian events industry, Commonwealth Games Australia and wider communities in regional Victoria, it was announced on Tuesday (18th July 2023) that the State will walk away from the commitment it made just over a year ago, to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games.
Commonwealth Games Australia CEO Craig Phillips said that the first he and his organisation heard about the decision was a via a phone call that he took at 8am that morning.
“It’s very disappointing for us. A comprehensive let-down for the athletes, excited host communities, first nations Australians who were going to be at the heart of the game, and the millions of fans who would have embraced the sixth home games here in Australia,” he said.
Victoria Premier Dan Andrews blamed an unexpected blowout in costs and robustly defended the decision to walk away from the games. “I’m not going to apologise for not spending $7 billion – we’re not going to deliver it [the games] at any cost” he said.
An Article in the Australian Financial Review challenged the assertion that the costs were unexpected, pointing out that the state had previous experience of running the games in 2006. “Melbourne has spent $2.9 billion in 2006. Allowing for an average of 5% per year for inflation it was obvious that the event would have cost more that $6 billion,” said the article.
Craig Phillips said the stated costs are overstated, calling them a “gross exaggeration”, claiming they were 50% of those being quoted by Premier Dan Andrews and not reflective of the operational costs presented to the Games organising board.
Victoria Tourism Industry Council CEO Felicia Mariani said the cancellation of the games was disappointing but not surprising, given the challenges arising from a plan to host them in five regions across the state.
“The biggest risk right now for Victoria will be in managing the reputational fallout as a destination for hosting major international events. Pulling the pin at such a crucial time on a major event like this will create concern that needs to be managed carefully.”
“VTIC looks forward to working with the Government as it unveils plans to deliver a significant regional tourism fund in the aftermath of this decision.
The landing page and links for the Commonwealth Games on the Victorian Government’s website was still live at the time of writing (19th July 2023).