Games off but some projects still in play

July 21, 2023 BY

Red Card: Premier Daniel Andrews announced the regional Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games in April last year on the turf of Mars Stadium, 15 months later he cancelled them. Photo: FILE

BALLARAT’S brief time as a 2026 Commonwealth Games joint host has ended after Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Tuesday the state was no longer putting on the event.

First revealed on the grass of Mars Stadium in April last year, Mr Andrews said the projected cost of the Games have blown out from the initial $2.7 billion budget to “$6 or $7 billion.”

While confirming many of the major works as part of the Games we’re still going ahead, he said the overall cost was not worth hosting the event.

“When the numbers add up, and they are so much more than we budgeted, then there’s really no choice but to proceed straight to all the legacy benefits,” he said.

“Housing, stadiums, tourism and major events funds. It’s a big package all within the original budget, as opposed to a Comm Games for 12 days that costs $6 or $7 billion.

“At this time, but perhaps at any time really, you can’t justify that.

“I’ve made a lot of difficult decisions in this job, this is not one of them. This is actually really a straightforward thing.

“The Commonwealth Games is a good thing to do, but at any price, any cost? I don’t think so.”

Along with Bendigo, Geelong, Shepparton and parts of Gippsland, the Ballarat region was to jointly host the games and put on sports like athletics at Mars Stadium, boxing at Selkirk Stadium, and mountain biking at Creswick.

Originally budgeted at $2.7 billion, Mr Andrews said new modelling showed a potential more than doubling in expense.

“Obviously the estimates of what this would cost were not accurate,” he said.

“A lot of work when into it, there was external advisors, senior officials, the Commonwealth games organising authorities had input, they are after all experts on running Commonwealth Games.

“But over time, as we’ve done more and more work, and add up all the costs, and refine all these costings, they have become so much grater than what was budgeted and we just get to a situation where the costs far outweigh the benefits.”

While the Games are off, some capital works projects in the region that were to form part of the event’s legacy are still set to go ahead.

They include upgrades to Mars Stadium and an athletics track on the current site of the Ballarat Showgrounds next door.

“We can deliver all those upgrades within the existing budget,” Mr Andrews said.

“They are commitments we made and those upgrades were not just for the Commonwealth Games, in fact they are very separate to the Commonwealth Games.

“AFL football at Mars is very important, and AFLW, who knows, with that additional capacity there’s almost limitless potential there.

“There’s all manner of potential events that can come to Ballarat. So there’s a lasting legacy, not just for 12 days but for every day.”

City of Ballarat mayor Cr Des Hudson said a State Government minister has been in touch in the wake of the announcement, and thanked Minister for Regional Development, Harriet Shing, for reaching out.

He also said some people would be disappointed that the city won’t be on the world stage.

“We will adapt, we will pivot, we will absolutely move forward,” he said.

Cr Hudson also welcomed confirmation projects associated with the Games were still happening.

“We are guaranteed that our 5000-seat upgrade at Mars Stadium will absolutely go ahead,” he said.

“The train station upgrade… we expect that is a guarantee. Upgrades at the Ballarat Sports and Entertainment Centre will continue.

“The base infrastructure works at our saleyards site including the removal of the King’s Caveat, decontamination of the site, and delivery of services that we think is crucial as part of the Commonwealth Games legacy.

“The Creswick Road site… will continue to become the future home of athletics in Ballarat. The sporting infrastructure at Miners Rest…for the community is also guaranteed.”

Locally based Liberal upper house MP for Western Victoria, Joe McCracken lashed the State Government announcement.

“Daniel Andrews is a complete disgrace and has caused monumental damage to Victoria,” he said.

“We are the laughingstock of the world, and my hometown of Ballarat is at the epicentre of this disaster.

“This is the same man who went to the 2022 State Election claiming the Commonwealth Games would be ‘a games like no other, in a place like no other’.

“The only legacy Daniel Andrews has is a legacy of broken promises.

“The former saleyards site at La Trobe Street Ballarat is now under a cloud. Decontamination works, levelling off the site and other works appear to have been put on the backburner.

“There is no clear information on what ‘legacy’ housing will be offered to Ballarat. This project was supposed to be completed in 2026. When will the housing be completed now that he has no deadline?”