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 in Ballarat, 15 months later he cancelled them. Photo: FILE

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 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 Ballarat, Geelong, Shepparton and parts of Gippsland, Bendigo was to jointly host the games and put on sports like netball at Red Energy Arena, and lawn bowls at the Bendigo Bowling Club.

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 Game 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.

“There’s a lasting legacy, not just for 12 days but for every day.”

City of Greater Bendigo mayor Cr Andrea Metcalf said the municipality had been caught off guard by the cancellation.

“It was only a couple of weeks ago we were out at the ICE conference at the Four Seasons on how to put in the expression of interest for the Commonwealth Games for businesses, so it’s come out of the blue for us,” she said.

“The $2 billion that was already committed to the all the regional cities for the Commonwealth Games is still there so we’re getting exactly what they said they would commit, so that hasn’t changed.

“The games are designed for TV, it was going to go right around the world and we’ll miss out on that from a regional cities perspective so it’s disappointing from that aspect but we’ll wait and see what the detail is around that tourism infrastructure spending.”

Andrew Cooney had taken on the role of local Commonwealth Games head for the City and said the announcement, “was a hell of a shock and a disappointment, I’ll be honest about that. That’s the first reaction.”

“As we’re finding out a little bit more information there’s certainly some confidence that we will get a lot of what we’ve been working towards through the permanent infrastructure builds,” he said.

Liberal upper house MP for Northen Victoria, Wendy Lovel lashed the State Government announcement.

“Daniel Andrews’ cancellation of the regional Commonwealth Games is a massive humiliation to Victoria and the decision is hugely damaging to our reputation as a global sporting events leader,” she said.

“The Premier’s decision to scrap the Commonwealth Games is proof the Government did not do their due diligence before agreeing to host the Games.

The decision is evidence the Andrews Labor Government cannot be trusted to properly cost or manage major projects and casts further doubt on Labor’s promise to deliver the infrastructure and tourism packages they announced today.”