The fate of the 2026 Commonwealth Games hangs in the balance as the Australian state of Victoria withdraws its plans to host the event due to budget overruns. Initially stepping up as the volunteer host in April 2022 after the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) struggled to find a suitable city, Victoria has now tripled its projected costs, deeming it unsustainable for the state.
The CGF expressed deep disappointment and affirmed its commitment to finding a resolution. The cancellation of the Commonwealth Games has only occurred previously during World War Two.
Victoria’s Premier, Daniel Andrews, explained that the estimated cost of the 12-day tournament, which was initially projected to be A$2.6 billion, has now escalated to over A$6 billion. This figure exceeds the anticipated economic benefits for Victoria, making it an unfavorable proposition for the state. While the government will honor its promises to upgrade stadiums, the funds saved from the cancellation will be redirected towards housing and tourism initiatives.
The decision came after careful consideration of various options, including the possibility of moving the games to Melbourne. Despite overnight meetings in London being described as amicable and productive, the CGF expressed surprise at the sudden announcement, noting that they were given only eight hours’ notice and were not given an opportunity to explore alternative solutions.
The CGF attributed the cost escalation to the unique regional delivery model chosen by Victoria, which involved decisions to include additional sports and make changes to venues against the advice of the CGF and its Australian arm. This led to significant expenses that were not anticipated.
The cancellation is a major blow to Victoria’s reputation as a global events leader, according to opposition leader John Pesutto. Commonwealth Games Australia’s CEO regarded the cost blowout as a gross exaggeration and pledged to seek another Australian host for the 2026 games. However, all Australian states have ruled out stepping in to host the event.
Finding suitable hosts has become increasingly challenging for the Commonwealth Games in recent years. Durban, South Africa, initially awarded the rights to host the 2022 games, had them stripped in 2017 due to financial difficulties and missed deadlines. Birmingham eventually agreed to host the event nine months later. The CGF had hoped to name the 2026 host in 2019 but faced withdrawals from potential bidders over cost concerns, ultimately leading to Victoria’s selection in 2022.