Future of Australia Commonwealth Games 2026 in doubt after Victoria cancels plans to host over budget concerns
The Commonwealth Games Federation struggled to find a host before Victoria volunteered in April 2022
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The future of one of the world's premiere sporting events has been thrown into chaos after the Australian state of Victoria announced it has cancelled its plans to host The Commonwealth Games in 2026.
It comes just more than a year after organisers struggled to find hosts for the competition before Victoria volunteered in April 2022.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has confirmed that the state has informed The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) of its decision to terminate the contract and that productive meetings were held on Monday night. Further talks are expected to take place on Tuesday.
The decision has not gone down well with the CGF, which has described the move as "hugely disappointing" and are "committed to finding a solution". Victoria officials have blamed budget concerns with estimates revealing costs have tripled to at least A$6 billion.
The Commonwealth Games has only ever been cancelled once previously and that was during the Second World War.
This is not the first time the future of the Games was up in the air after Durban was stripped of its hosting rights in 2022 as the South African city failed to meet project deadlines. The event was later awarded to Birmingham, which turned out to be an outstanding success.
Here is everything you need to know about the future of the 2026 Commonwealth Games in Australia; including the reason why it has been cancelled and whether or not the event will go ahead.
Why has Victoria pulled out from hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games in Australia?
The main concern Andrews has raised in regards to the future of the sporting event was the cost of hosting skyrocketing above their early estimates. Plans initially forecast that The Commonwealth Games hosted across cities including Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat would cost A$2.6 billion and the Federal Government would foot the bill - however the 12-day tournament is now expected to cost more than A$6 billion.
Andrews said the new figures are "more than twice the estimated economic benefit" it would bring to Victoria and that it became no longer financially viable for the Australian state to continue its plans.
Talking to reporters on Tuesday (18 July), he explained: "I can’t stand here with any confidence that the $7 billion dollars could fund these games, it could be more than that. The sum is well and truly too much for a 12-day sporting event.
"I will not take money out of hospitals and schools in order to fund an event that is three times the cost that was estimated and budgeted for last year. We don’t just make popular decisions, we do what’s right and it would simply be wrong.”
The Victoria Premier blamed factors such as security, transport and other logistical services for the rising costs.
Jeroen Weimar, chief executive of Victoria’s organising committee, said the decision to axe the 2024 Commonwealth Games is "disappointing" but that the rising costs made it no longer viable.
The Federal Government had budgeted A$2.6 billion for the event, but in its budget published in May it included more than A$1 billion to the 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games and no contribution to the 2026 Commonwealth Games. It is expected that the legacy benefits of the event will still be delivered with a regional package worth over $2 billion to build the permanent sporting facilities in the state.
Victoria has become overwhelmed in debt thanks to borrowing huge sums for infrastructure projects and facing the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. The state’s debt is expected to surge even further, by almost A$40 billion to about A$170 billion in four years.
What has the CGF said about the decision?
In a statement released on Tuesday, the CGF admitted that it felt blindsided by the news of Victoria stepping away from its 2026 Commonwealth Games hosting duties and that the rising costs suggested are a "gross exaggeration".
The CGF said: "Since awarding Victoria the Games, the government has made decisions to include more sports and an additional regional hub, and changed plans for venues, all of which have added considerable expense, often against the advice of the CGF and Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA). We are disappointed that we were only given eight hours’ notice and that no consideration was given to discussing the situation to jointly find solutions prior to this decision being reached by the government.
"Up until this point, the government had advised that sufficient funding was available to deliver the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games."
The Commonwealth Games Australia's chief executive Craig Phillips added: "The stated costs overrun, in our opinion, are a gross exaggeration and not reflective of the operational costs presented to the Victoria 2026 Organising Committee board as recently as June."
Will the 2026 Commonwealth Games still go ahead?
The future of the sporting competition remains unclear at the time of publication, and despite reports linking the likes of Melbourne or Sydney to pick up the mantle, it has been confirmed that all other Australian states have ruled out hosting the Games. New Zealand authorities have also refused.
Organisers have had great difficulty finding viable tournament hosts in recent years, with most previous tournaments held in either Australia or the United Kingdom. But they will have to do so for 2026 soon unless they wish to cancel the first Commonwealth Games in over 80 years.