Victoria pulls out of hosting 2026 Commonwealth Games

Featured image: Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium hosts athletics during the Commonwealth Games

The state government in Victoria, Australia has today (Tuesday) announced that it will not proceed with hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games due to rising costs involved with staging the event.

In a statement released this morning, the government said that it is now “certain” that the cost of hosting the Games will exceed A$6bn (£3.1bn/€3.6bn/$4.1bn), which would be more than twice the estimated economic benefit the event would bring to the state.

The government has informed the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and Commonwealth Games Australia that it will be terminating the host agreement. The CGF said the decision is “hugely disappointing” for the Commonwealth Sport Movement, athletes and the local organising committee.

The CGF said that the A$6bn figure quoted by the Victorian government is 50% more than what was advised to the organising committee board at its meeting in June. The governing body added that these figures are attributed to price escalation primarily due to the “unique regional delivery model” that Victoria chose for the Games, and in particular relate to village and venue builds, as well as transport infrastructure.

“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,” the CGF said.

“Up until this point, the government had advised that sufficient funding was available to deliver the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games. We are taking advice on the options available to us and remain committed to finding a solution for the Games in 2026 that is in the best interest of our athletes and the wider Commonwealth Sport Movement.”

Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria, added: “We were pleased to be asked to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games – but not at any price. I think all Victorians would agree that more than A$6bn is just too much. Locals have told us that more places to live and more places to stay across regional Victoria is what really matters – so that’s exactly what we’ll deliver.”

Commonwealth Games Australia chief executive Craig Phillips said the decision was “beyond disappointing”, adding that the Victorian government has “jeopardised Melbourne and Victoria’s standing as a sporting capital of the world”.

Today’s announcement represents a huge blow to the CGF and raises question marks over the future of the Games. The CGF was also forced to switch the location of its 2022 Games from Durban to Birmingham (pictured).

Victoria was announced as the first-ever multi-location host of the Commonwealth Games back in April 2022. The Melbourne Cricket Ground had been due to stage the opening ceremony, with venues in Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat and Gippsland also scheduled to host events.

The announcement came after the CGF had entered into an exclusive dialogue with Victoria and CGA to host the Games, with plans to demonstrate a “new way” to stage the event. The Victorian government said today that it was willing to help when the Games needed a host city to step in, but “not at any price, and not without a big lasting benefit” for the region.

“Now the choice couldn’t be clearer – A$6bn is just too much,” the government said, adding that the decision has been taken before any major building and supply contracts have been signed.

The government has committed to delivering a A$2bn package to ensure regional Victoria still receives all the benefits that would have been facilitated by the Games. The government will also provide a new A$1bn regional housing fund and a new A$150m regional tourism and events fund.

Each of the permanent new and upgraded sporting infrastructure projects planned as part of the Games will still be completed, including a new Aquatic Centre at Armstrong Creek, a six-court indoor stadium at Waurn Ponds, an upgraded Eureka Stadium in Ballarat, a new community sporting facility at Miners Rest, upgrades to Bendigo Stadium, BMX trails in Shepparton, Gippsland Sports and Entertainment Park, Ted Summerton Reserve in Moe, and more.

Instead of building temporary facilities for the Games, the government will proceed with constructing the final form of the aforementioned projects and delivering the legacy outcomes.

Harriet Shing, Minister for Commonwealth Games Legacy, said: “We’ll deliver all the housing, sports infrastructure and tourism legacy benefits for our regions – but without the massive extra cost of hosting the Games.

“Communities are really enthusiastic about the local projects and outcomes they want to see, and we’ll be sitting down with councils, regional partnerships and others over the coming weeks to plan the next steps for all of these projects to ensure locals have their say.”